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.

The Women’s Conference with Sheri Silk and Kim Walker Smith

This is my attempt to basically journal about this weekend when I visited Church of the Hills in Austin. April 17, I was so excited ~ and arrived at the church with my friends, Athena and Debbie. We had a wonderful sweet worship time lead by Kim Walker Smith and her husband, Skyler. As the songs went on, a sound from overhead became louder and louder & I asked Athena, “is that the vent system?!” She repied, “no, I think it’s rain!” And it was. A storm was rolling by. About between song 3 & 4, the rain was so loud, especially in contrast to the quieting music as they transitioned. And then…a huge thunder roared and Continue reading

Nov. 24th ’09 ~ Movie-Scene Day of Mercy

Tuesday, Nov. 24th, I woke up, knowing I had a full day ahead, but really, had no idea. After sub-teaching a class of sweet lil toddlers, I headed home to change & doll up for an interview…in downtown Austin.

I Googled directions to this location, wrote them down right, and proceeded on my way, asking my hubby to pray for me. Interviews can be nerve-racking for me. I go I-35 (1st mistake) and after 30 min.s, my gas light comes on. After 45 min.s & hitting traffic, I realize I may be late & I call to ask about parking (& to let them know I was almost there).

The General Manager who was about to interview me, answered, &  told me there’d be plenty of parking & asked me where I was. When I replied, she compassionately told me Google gives the wrong directions & then she gave me the right ones…as I scrambled for a pen, paper & a spot I could squeeze between two vehicles at the on-ramp, while scribbling…yeah…on the phone. Wow, I could have so easily been in an accident at least twice.

18 minutes and a U-turn later, I pulled up on fumes and was greeted with a warm smile and a firm handshake, “…it was actually good timing! The other gal interviewing alongside you just finished observing a class! How about if you two fill out these applications, and we’ll just get started!”

The interview went really well (at least in my head!) considering how in my head, I kept freakin’ out about how the heck I was gonna get home with no gas, cash, debit card or clue where the nearest Chase Bank was.

So, after I was invited back for a 2nd interview (yeah!) I walked out & sought out any unsuspecting stranger (particularly a young male) so I could hit him up. And there he was, 20 ft. away, suckin’ on a Marlboro.  I gave him the most honest gut-wrenching story I could get out along with a head-tilt and smile, a price I paid for just a smile in return, “I’m so sorry. I’m broke.” But he continued to look around and think aloud for some type of solution for me. I thanked him graciously and went on my way – to sit in the Scio XB, swallow another helping of pride & call my hubby…and cry. He gave me a simple answer, “You’re all dolled up, right? Use your good looks!” Hmmm. Thanks?

Three minutes later, as I tried to keep back the tears, I heard a faint knock on my window. With Ricky on hold, I rolled the window down and saw that same man, holding out a $5 & a $1 bill, “Hey, this is all I got. I saw you had an “XB”, so hopefully the gas mileage on that’ll get you back to Hutto”.

Wiping away any possible mascara smears, I hopped out, grabbed the cash, & actually hugged this tall strange figure. I didn’t even want to know how the funds appeared. I jus’ thanked him profusely and drove off…barely making it to the nearest gas station.

AND NOW… Pt.2 (feel free to go pop some corn & grab a soda…)

After scoring a quarter tank, I had to remember how to get home a new way, which of course, included two U-turns, driving backwards on the highway at one point, but eventually landing on Mopac, which came to a near-stop within minutes. I called my girlfriend to tell her all, & while conversing, turned the wrong direction on the next toll road 45, turned around to go the right way, & then realized too late that I missed my exit for Hutto. Almost.

I mean, I could still see it, but I’d have to drive through this valley with sparse long grass and a few tire tracks from the one paved road to the next – the exit I was supposed to be taking. I had HAD it with U-turns. I was risking it. So I eyeballed someone else’s tracks, and gunned it. Until I got to the middle, where, beneath the deceiving grass there lie 5 inches of sticky mud, awaiting my demise. I was STUCK. Wheels-spinning-stuck. “Oh, nooooooooooOOooooOOOOOOOO! NO! NO!”, I yelled at my girlfriend. Then rang my husband, a-gain.

He had a good family friend, Ben, come to my rescue (as Ricky was @ home w/the kids & no car). But before Ben could find me, a Texas Dept. of Transportation man spotted me & stopped. He just stood there, bothered, & said I’d better figure out how to get out or he’d call for a tow.

Ben was able to locate me in spite of my lousy directions, & after I pushed my petal to the metal back & forth 6 times, designing a make-shift mud track, he literally pushed me out of that ditch, single-handedly… in spite of the fact that it was a front wheel drive and the front wheels were shellacked with a layer of mud just thin enough to render any traction useless.

Yes, Mr. TDOT just stood on the pavement with his hands on his sides & watched, first telling me to stop revving so much or I’d wreck my trans, then yelling at me that I needed to gun it for a while whenever Ben had me drive forward, or I wouldn’t get out at all.

Well, it wasn’t long before all 4 tires reached the other side, & can I just say, I was elated & exhausted & emotionally overwhelmed. I started sobbing as I gave Ben a big ‘ol embrace. I think he let a tear or two out as well. He then told me that a parole car had come, which I thought he meant TDOT. No, he meant a parole car – the police…had pulled up behind Mr. TDOT. Thank GOD we had Deathtrap Valley between us. I had had enough of this day & I needed to get on my way. So on my way I went…looking in the rear view every 30 seconds or so, to find no one behind me. Not even Ben.

I stopped by the closest Starbucks & told the lady, “you would not believe the kind of day I’ve had”, then just sat w/my Tall Americano w/cream, for a bit. Sometimes he’s the best kind of company. My phone rang & it was Ben asking me if I was ok. Then he told me that he saw that cop turn around, pass him up, & put his lights on. “Girl, he was after you!!” he said in his Spanish accent. My eyes got as big as two coffeecup lids. “WHAT?!” then at a lower volume,”am I like, a fugitive?” He laughed.  But seriously, even though I’d seen NO 5-0’s in pursuit of me, I thought, “what the heck have I done?”.

About then, the Starbucks lady came by offering me a free sample & saying she couldn’t help overhear how I might be in danger, “we would be glad to provide security to escort you to your car, if you need it”.

After the longest 8 minutes on the road EVER, I pulled up into my driveway to hug my loud & happy 7 & 3 yr old, & my quiet husband.  As I bathed Angel, I kept picturing a police raid at my house, being taken away just before Thanksgiving, getting a mug shot & pushed into a tiny cold cell…all with smeared make up on my tired face.

And as I lay in bed (with a truly thankful heart), Ricky & I talked and realized together, that for everything that went wrong from 3:30 til 8:30pm, God had provided me a greater redemption.

Happy Thanksgiving.

“Jesus” – a song about seeing my reflection in Living Water

Jesus!

By, Chelan Rene’ Russ

10/2006

The way I lived last week, even last night

Has not been a reflection of you, Lord

The very things I claim are so important

I’ve put myself above and just ignored

::

Oh, let everything I do

Let everywhere I go

Let every word I say

Seek your glory and your fame

::

Jesus!

Jesus!

Jesus!

Oh the power in that name…

Jesus!

Jesus!

Jesus! (Repeat)

::

The power in my life is seeping out

I’m … finding myself so dry and thirsty

I don’t know what my purpose is; I doubt (but I believe)

The sun came up this morning with new mercies…

::

So let everything I do

Let everywhere I go

Let every word I say

Scream out your holy name…today!

Here’s my attempt to video this song; I think I tried it a few keys too high 🙂 oh well!

Cover Me – a song I wrote; a plea to God for protection

Cover Me

By, Chelan Rene’ Russ

‘05

Cover me, with your loving-kindness; pull a blanket of mercy

Up and around my neck

Tuck me in cause I’m all tuckered out from the tops of my shoulders

Down to the tips of my toes

::

Run your fingers through my hair, number them for me again

Make me forget every worry and care, take my hand, lift…my…chin, and

Remind me, I am the apple of your eye and you smile when I smile

And you cry when I cry

Hide me under the shadow of your wings for I’m giving up trying

To shelter myself

::

Repeat vs.1 & 2

Oh, please hide me under the shadow of your wings!! For I’ve given up trying

To shelter myself

::

Then A Capella:

Yes, I’ve given up trying to shelter myself


Intro:

A great memory I have from when I was a little girl was getting into bed and waiting for my dad to tuck me in. He’d make me laugh, and then he’d tuck the covers in all around my whole body – & then leave me there, mummified! I don’t know why, but I loved it.

Somewhere between then & now I’ve built emotional walls to protect myself. I just realized that by doing that, I’ve shifted my trust from Jesus to me. It’s left me unsure in relationships, especially when they start to get deep – like I could fall through a thin layer of ice & drown at any moment. One thing I’ve learned is that when this happens, I can realign my trust – straighten it out. There must be a dozen requests of God in this song!

Never be afraid to ask…just as David did in Psalm 17:7…for that kind of security again from your Heavenly Father.

Inspirations:

* Ps. 17:7,8

Show your marvelous loving-kindness by your right hand, O You who save those who trust in You from those who rise up against them. Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me under the shadow of your wings.

* “…he is unstable in all his ways”

* Bruce Bebb, a.k.a. “Pops”


shattered glass

what happens when your world, as peaceful & good as you think it is, falls apart almost suddenly? what do you do when you hear the news – the kind of news that not just changes your year, but your entire life? you can try to move on, do your best to reconcile your feelings of disappointment & confusion. you may find it easier, in the moment, to skirt around the issue or even ignore it. have you ever had a child stand 2 inches from your face, staring at you? it seems impossible to not look back. ignoring never works. looking back is ok until we can say “i’m doing everything i can do to let God work.” looking back as a means of facing your own short-comings with humility & honesty so that you can learn from them, is different than “dwelling in the past”. looking back for short periods with a heart of thankfulness and self-examination is crucial. remembering triggers, thought patterns, habits & lures can be hugely instrumental in keeping us from making poor choices in the future.

and yet, even when we believe it’s been pretty well worked out, reminders have their way, don’t they.

my son helps with a few things around the house like dust-busting the kitchen floor, cleaning, and emptying the dishwasher. tuesday he was moving all the cups to the counter and trying a shortcut by stacking them. just as i saw him stack two glasses, i chimed in, “woah, there! you shouldn’t stack glasses!” quickly, he pulled the top one out of the other. “…they could br…” and it shattered. thin shards flickered all across the floor.

5 years. pornography and a messy affair threatened to obliterate our unity as a family. oh, that’s not how long it lasted. that’s how long ago it happened. both our lives were terribly affected by the lies. there is hope!! but trust is so slow moving. even after this long… after so many boundaries and kept promises, after our marriage has seriously grown, & we are restored, i can still step on a sharp piece of broken glass. it’s few & far between, but we still struggle. we haven’t done all our learnin’ just yet.

a strange text message or email, a late poker night with work friends…they can lead to lies in my head. those bastards (the lies) can stab my sole and make it bleed ’til of course, we talk it out like grown-ups. me & my husband…and me & my God. and i’m healed again.

trust breaks. it happens with abandonment, or the death of someone very close. it happens with verbal or physical or sexual abuse or when a parent lets you down. it happens when your son looks you in the eye & lies.

but i continually find comfort in this truth: His mercies really are new every morning.

have you ever committed to building trust again after it was shattered? how long did it take to restore? do those stupid tiny pieces of broken glass ever really go away…completely?

does the blood of Jesus cover the blood of suicide?

thanks, dad, for your permission to write about gramma.

my gramma was so wonderful to be around. she was kind, always had a hug. she loved “the peoples’ court’ and ‘hee-haw’ and ‘mama’s family’. we used to camp with her in her pop-up at wallowa lake & roller skate on her wood floor. she nursed my first bee sting i got (in my belly button) while lounging in a hammock in her backyard. she baked us a bunny shaped coconutty cake every easter. she wasn’t afraid to speak her mind & boy, could she be blunt (i got that gene). she doted on her weiner dog, trudy (sister to ours) was devoted to the Lord & loved her husband. she lost grampa ted after over 50 years of marriage. that next year brought with it the greatest test of endurance.

emotional stress turned physical & chemicals in her brain started getting off-balance. no one knew her depression had gotten severe. no one knew about the thoughts. not the cuban refugee family she took in to her home, not her pastor, not even her two sons. they would’ve removed the guns from the home.

i was called with the request to drive to her house as “there had been an accident”. i pulled up in my white vw jetta & my mom held me & told me then…gramma was gone. i was confused. i sat on top my car hood with my knees up to my chin & rocked back & forth. there was no accident. she’d stripped her life from herself probably not b/c she wanted to die, but b/c she no longer wanted to live…and in doing so, stripped her life from everyone else who loved her. the tears just streamed as i watched her pastor & the elders haul off the carpet they’d ripped out of that tiny room. i’m just glad it was dark out. i’m even more grateful i wasn’t the one to discover her. i loved my gramma & respected her. i honor her even today. i just wish she was still with me & i could share my life & family with her, like we do w/rick’s grandmas (that seems like a selfish reason, doesn’t it). she sure loved family. there are so many great memories i can recount, that the awful details are usually overshadowed in my mind…

but for the sake of discussion, honest reflection, & hopefully peace to a reader who’s lost someone this way, let’s bring the topic out into the light.

do people who do this go to heaven? to seek some answers (cause i know i have far from all the answers), i went to the Bible, God’s Word. it says that to be absent from our bodies is to be present with the Lord, and there are so many that display his abounding mercy…but i didn’t take much comfort in this passage: he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple. ~ 1 Corintians 3:15-17.

this is the only place in the Bible where it refers to what may be suicide, although, it doesn’t even state it as such, specifically. no where else in the Word {Christians’ one & only true source of God-breathed, Holy Spirit inspired ancient text} does it state or even imply that suicide in & of itself, is a sin worthy of eternal damnation…an unpardonable sin. sheesh, even in judges 16:28-30, samson is granted by God the strength to do this. suicide, if unpardonable, would be not just mentioned as such, but woven throughout text.

i know from experience about the kind of God i serve. i don’t care if people call me biased or subjective. everyone of us is, really. God is just & merciful & kind. he is the essence & exemplification of love. he reaches to us beyond the point of our carnal death & gives us a chance to be judged, for the good, bad & ugly. not one of his kids will escape accountability. committing suicide? yeah, that too. they’ll have to answer for it to their Creator himself. sin cannot go unpunished. it was his life to make, & his to take, in his time. but for him to ‘sentence’ hell because of this would be unjust & uncharacteristic.

our lives are so valuable…often underestimated…& extremely important to God! read Psalm 139. to me, suicide can be the ultimate act of selfishness…but i think our Father looks beyond the sin at the time of death, & sees what mere man cannot: the whole person, their lifestyle, their love for him. he takes into account their suffering from mental illness or severe depression & applies the blood of his Son, Jesus to that final sin. so what if they aren’t alive to ask for it!?! his grace reaches beyond that technicality. his grace always looks at the heart.

his blood is not partial. it does not flow down our hearts full of sin avoiding a few choice acts. it cleanses all. that’s why i love to sing songs about it. the suffering & the blood of Jesus is worth squat if we humans can determine that some sins it does not cover (“how could he forgive a child molester or murderer?” “how could he forgive one who doesn’t ask for it because they’re dead now?”), & some it does cover. what if i’m saved, (i’ll use a lame example for lack of time) i’m driving & completely envying the person driving next to me. i end up rubber-neckin’ & crashing into a pole & i die? would a gracious God just look at my last sin of envy & say to me at the throne, ‘well in spite of your life of obedience & humility and your heart of love toward me & toward the least of these, you never repented of that last sin…so, since the wages of sin is death…’

absurd. that clearly goes completely against his character displayed throughout the entire Bible.

we all tend to ‘heirarchy’ the wrong we commit to help us feel better about our ‘little pet sins’, but to God, it is what it is ≈ that which separates us from him, and calls for a perfect atonement. envy, greed, suicide, homosexuality (sexual sin is different, but not worse to God. see 1 corinthians 6:18-20), disobedience, slander, drunkenness…you name it, it’s all sin. if we live this way, refusing to acknowledge/accept Christ’s atonement, it is serious business (see 1 corinthians 6:9-11).

the Word states there is o n e sin that’s unforgivable, unpardonable & results in hell: blaspheming the Holy Spirit ~ (my paraphrase: completely & permanently denying Christ, even after you know the truth in your spirit). this may seem contradictory to the scripture above naming many sins that can lead to eternal separation from God, but this one refers to a blanket statement, covering all of those listed, as examples. hell is for the unrepentant of heart that denies Christ. anyone who has guilt for their sin, confesses with humility & repents…(“such WERE some of you” oh, please don’t miss that part!)…he is immediately restored to right standing with God. my heart leaps for joy to read this again.

Christ words on this sin can be read in mark 3:22-30 & matthew 12:30-33 . dr. henry morris & author & theologian, dr. f.f. bruce shed some further light on that ‘unpardonable’ sin ~ to read their insights on the subject, click here (but come back!).

so yeah, i’m biased here. i miss her. but not so biased, i’m blind. i have faith (evidence of what i can’t see) that the saved don’t have to worry about heaven vs. hell when they die. they are free of every pain in their new bodies, enjoying the gift of eternal life. in my humble opinion, this is the bottom line: whether it was a life of a Christian taken by God in his timing, by someone else or by their own hand, that life…that blood is covered by the blood of their Savior. period.

oh…my gramma’s name?

grace.

now, as for whether or not we know if someone’s really saved before they die?! …well, that’s a topic for another day. i’m way past my wordcount on this one, but i’d loooove to read any comments on today’s.