Swimming in the Jordan

I was reminded yesterday of a dream I had a while back.  I was walking in this huge yawning hallway, reminiscent of a cathedral but empty.  The walls were made of stone and they stretched up to reach the arched ceiling that seemed to be a mile high.  As I walked down this hall, I came to a place in the floor that was open and as I looked down into the opening, I could see water flowing underneath the floor.  The water was clear and I could see smooth round pebbles on the bottom.  As I looked up, there was a gentleman standing there and when I asked where this water came from, he responded, “this is part of the Jordan river.  It flows under this church, you know.  See, look outside.”  As I turned and peered out of one of the tall windows in stone wall, I could see the Jordan sparkling in the sun.  I ran outside of the church and stopped at the bank of the river.  For a moment I just gazed at the water, and then I walked in.  I swam out towards the middle and just floated in the water.  And then suddenly it hit me, I’m swimming in the same water Jesus was baptized in.  And I began weeping at this realization.  I was where Christ had been…in the same water…and I could feel His presence there so strongly.  And so I just floated there in the water with Him.  And it was so peaceful. 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished to have that same dream again.  In this busy crazy world, with all the noise and all the hurry, it’s so hard to find that quiet moment with our precious Lord to just…be.  So imagine my surprise when I heard my Father’s voice above the noise of the TV blaring and my two sons having Wrestlemania 95 in the den and the phone ringing and the Blackberry dinging…

The Jordan is more than just a place of peace…it’s a place of transition.  

Um, what?

Transition.  And transition brings waiting.  Wait with Me?

Wait for what, God?

Shhhh…just float.

It took me a little time to process that.  Thankfully, my amazing husband took my sweet boys to dinner to give me a little quiet time to think…and type of course.  After leaving Egypt and then wandering around in the wilderness, the Israelites finally crossed the Jordan into the land God promised (Joshua 3).  And of course, Jesus was baptized in the Jordan and was immediately led by the Spirit into the wilderness after which He began His ministry (Mark 1:9-13).  Elijah and Elisha crossed over the Jordan just before Elijah was taken into heaven and Elisha crossed back over the Jordan and took on the cloak of Elijah and became his successor (2 Kings 2).  So yes then…it does seem that the Jordan is about transition.  But I’m not so excited about the waiting part.  I’m all for transitions, God.  Um, I mean as long as they end up somewhere good.  Ahem.  But I’m not a good wait-er.  I was then reminded of one of my favorite verses:

But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength;

They shall mount up with wings like eagles,

They shall run and not be weary,

They shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:31

 

Sometimes God has us in places of transition and with these transitions, there must be a time of waiting.  But that waiting isn’t ever wasted.  It isn’t God withholding anything from us.  It’s a time of preparation.  A time for us to renew our strength, to draw near to our Beloved, to sometimes just, well…float.  We aren’t just waiting ON the Lord, we are waiting WITH Him.  His presence is there in the blue-green water, swirling around us.  Spirit and Truth, refreshing us as we swim in His grace.  And as you float with the Ancient of Days in the cool waters of the Jordan, you can know with a peace that passes all understanding that He has a plan for you, a transition that will come…but for now, He may just want to wait with you.  So, shhh…just float.

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Do you know who I am?

I realized after reading over it again that I forgot to mention in my last blog which book I was reading.  Oops.  I just picked up a copy of “Do You Know Who I Am?” by Angela Thomas.  Only a couple of chapters into it, but good stuff so far!

It was actually the title that caught my attention.  I was totally looking for another book because I will be participating in an online study that my friend Mary Kathyrn will be hosting via her blog, Beauty for Ashes, and there on the shelf in big bold letters is this book entitled do you know who i am?  And see this meant something to me because I had just the night before uttered those same exact words in a conversation with my friend Ronda. 

I was kinda having one of those seriously God?? moments.  I have those a lot.  I just can’t fathom why on earth He loves me.  It’s like, Lord do you know who you’re talking to here?  Do you know I’m completely a mess?  Do you know that I am scared to death sometimes? Do you know that I am absolutely clueless most of the time?  Do you know that I am lazy?  Do you know that I eat too much and am overweight?  Do you know that I have inappropriate thoughts?  Do you know that I cuss sometimes?  Do you know that I am a procrastinater?  Do you know that I am selfish sometimes…a lot?  I mean, really God.  Do you know who I am??? 

In her book, Angela had a same moment…and in her moment, after she listed off all these do you know who I am questions she says this:

God spoke in my spirit with a question for me.

“Angela, do you know who I AM?”

Whoa.   Do you know who I AM?  Those words just jumped off the page.  And I had to stop and ask myself, Jenny DO YOU know who God is?  Well, yes.  Of course I do.  He’s the Ancient of Days, Creator, Healer, Mighty Warrior, Strong Tower, Shelter, Protector (just to name a few).  He is El Roi – The God Who Sees Me.  Well, then if He’s the God Who Sees Me, then doesn’t He see all that less-than-desireable stuff about me?

Sure He does.  And…He loves me still.

And He loves you still.

I am reminded of 2 Corinthians 12:9 where the Lord tells Paul:

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

Well y’all ought to know by now that I love words studies, so in this verse I looked up the word “weakness.”  This word in Hebrew is transliterated astheneia which means “want of strength, weakness or infirmity of the body or of the soul.”  Want of strength.  In other words, God’s strength is best used where there is a desire for His strength.  Where there is a recognition of the lack thereof.  If we think we have all the answers, then we aren’t looking to God for anything.  BUT if we recognize our need for Him, we seek Him for the help we need in the places where we are weak (which really is pretty much everywhere), then His power will fill those gaps.  Paul’s words seem to have new meaning somehow…

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you,

For my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses,

So that Christ’s power may rest on me.

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults,

In hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.

For when I am weak, then I AM strong. 

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (emphasis mine)

 

Joseph and Mary: A Love Story?

I would like to begin this blog with a disclaimer:  I am a HOPELESS romantic.  I read entirely too many romance novels in my early adult life and therefore my idea of life and love may be terribly skewed.  My poor husband.  Good thing he’s a bit of a romantic himself or else he’d be in trouble! ha!!  So  anyway, forgive me if I tend to add a bit of romance/love to the mix but I can’t hardly help it. 

Okay, let me make one thing clear first.  This is my speculation according to what I’ve read, what the Bible says, and what I believe.  It’s not that I think that scripture doesn’t say enough…on the contrary.  Scripture tells us everything we need to know.  But I also think that the Scriptures were meant to be dug into and so if we can put flesh on these people’s bones and give them some humanity, they really seem to come alive off the pages.  (Incidentally, Beth Moore is really good at that – if you’ve never read any of her books, I would highly recommend her.)

Now, it is assumed that Mary was probably around 12 or 13 years old because during that time in history, that was about the age that young women would be betrothed to be married.  Being betrothed was sort of like being engaged, only it was as binding as actually being married.  During this time, the bride would continue to stay with her family while the bridegroom built a home for her, which was often an addition onto his family’s home.  Now in the movie my son and I watched the other night, it depicted Mary as not wanting to marry Joseph…that her dad betrothed her to Joseph because of financial necessity.  I’m not sure I really agree with that.  See, I remember how I was at 13 and boys were the bees knees.  That would have been about the time the “do you love me? check yes or no” notes would start going around the classroom and the girls would be writing their new “married” names on the pages of their notebooks.  Although Mary would have been considered almost a woman at 13, she was still 13 and I can’t help but think that she could have had starry-eyed dreams of love.

And Joseph.  I’m willing to bet that his betrothal to Mary wasn’t at all about finances.  I believe with all my heart that Joseph loved Mary and wanted her to be his wife.   (Parents would usually arranged marriages then, but it wasn’t uncommon for the young man to suggest a bride.)  And anyhow, I just can’t imagine God bringing two people together who would bring the Messiah into the world, have them marry and not have any love for each other.  I couldn’t find where it said specifically how long they’d been betrothed, but betrothals usually lasted for about year.  So, Mary and Joseph at this point could have been “a couple” for several months, and living in the same village, could have known each other for a while before the betrothal.  The Bible tells us in Luke that after the angel tells Mary of the Child she will bear, that she left pretty quickly…maybe the very next day?…and went to see Elizabeth and was there for about three months.  Now you know the old saying – “absence makes the heart grow fonder” – so I can imagine for every brick laid in the home he was building for Mary, that Joseph’s anticipation of her return grew.  What would she think of the house I built?  Would she like it?  Does she miss me?  Has her love for me grown cold in this time she’s been gone?  And I wonder too about Mary.  What could she have been thinking?  Will Joseph believe me when I tell him about the angel?  Will he still want to be my husband?  Will he still love me?  Will he think I’m fat in this dress?  Okay, well maybe not that last bit.

So in all his anticipation of Mary’s return, can you imagine how heartbroken Joseph would have been when faced with the reality that she was pregnant and the child certainly wasn’t his?  I would guess his emotions were running rampant…anger that she would betray him, humiliation at possibly having thought that she loved him, anguish that she would so flippantly toss his love aside for another.  He may have even been disgusted when she told him the story of the angel and wondered to himself if she thought he was that much of a fool to believe such a story.  The Bible says Joseph wasn’t willing to disgrace her publicly, that he would just divorce her quietly – that is until the angel of the Lord came for a visit (Matt. 1:19-25).  Can you imagine Joseph’s relief when the angel told him that everything Mary said was true?  That she really hadn’t been unfaithful?  That she hadn’t given her heart to another?  And then can you imagine the knot in his stomach when he realized that she’d been telling the truth…and he hadn’t believed her.  I’ll bet he couldn’t get his yarmulke on fast enough.  I can imagine him in an all out sprint to her house, pounding on the door, calling her name.  And when she appeared at the door, I can hear him rambling, out of breath, about the angel in his dream, asking for Mary’s forgiveness for not having believed her and praying to himself that she’d still agree to be his wife.  Can you feel the energy between the two of them as they realize that God had ordained this marriage, that God had an amazing purpose for them?  I like to think that at that moment, their hearts were bound together as one.  At that moment, the two individuals became one unit as they embarked on the journey of a lifetime.

Joseph: Husband of the Year

My oldest son and I watched the movie The Nativity Story a couple of nights ago.  I can’t really attest to the accuracy of the movie – particularly because it portrayed the Magi as having been at the stable/cave at the same time as the shepherds and it is more commonly believed now that the Magi didn’t actually arrive until Jesus was a little older.

But at any rate, it did get me thinking a lot about Joseph.  The Bible doesn’t have a whole lot to say about Joseph.  In fact, he all but disappears after the incident when Jesus was 12 and was found by his parents teaching in the temple (Luke 2:42-52).  And actually, we don’t that hear much about Mary either after then until the time of the crucifixion.

But back to Joseph.  Given the lack of information we have, we could make all sorts of assumptions about Joseph.  In the Catholic church, it is believed that Mary and Joseph never had “relations” and she remained a virgin throughout her entire life.  Along with this assumption is that the siblings of Jesus that the Bible refers to were either Joseph’s children from a previous marriage or else they weren’t really siblings but rather were cousins or just “brothers and sisters” in the faith.  It is thought by some in this case that if these siblings were from a previous marriage, then it was possible that Joseph was quite a bit older than Mary (so I guess then that would explain the lack of sex/children between M and J?).  Personally, I think the idea that Mary remained a virgin her entire life is questionable and you know, either way it doesn’t take away from the miracle of the birth of Jesus in any way.   And if she and Joseph had 20 other kids besides Jesus, it doesn’t take anything away from the fact that God chose her out of all the women in history to be the mother of Christ.

But again, back to Joseph.  So I never put a lot of thought into Joseph before.  I mean, yes he was a great man – obviously there must have been something to him for God to have chosen him to be the earthly father of Jesus.  And inasmuch as God chose Mary, He chose Joseph too.  Never really considered that before.  I know, I know…duh.  But it wasn’t like out of all the eligible bachelors in Nazareth that God just lucked up that it was Joseph that Mary wound up with.  God wouldn’t have left that one to chance.  He handpicked Joseph.  God saw into Joseph’s heart, just as He did with Mary, and knew that this man would be upright and obedient before the Lord. 

So anyhow, Mary’s pregnant and Joseph knew it wasn’t by him…at most he could have had her stoned for adultery and at the least, she and her family would have been disgraced by her “sin.”  But Joseph really was a good and decent man.  He planed to divorce Mary quietly.  God, however, had other plans and He made those plans known to Joseph in a dream.  So Joseph tosses the divorce idea and takes Mary as his wife.  You can read all about that in the first chapter of Matthew.

So in thinking a minute about Joseph’s character, he most assuredly was a man of grace.  To just let that thing go like that.  To not demand retribution for what he at first deemed to be Mary’s unfaithfulness to him.  (Remember, his decision to divorce her quietly was before he’d heard from God.  His immediate response was grace.)  And too, you have to think now that not only did people most certainly taunt Mary and call her all sorts of names behind her back (well, and probably to her face) but I image that many people who were close to Joseph probably thought he was nuts for marrying what they believed was an adulteress.  They probably talked about him behind his back too.  Maybe they called him weak or foolish.  Maybe they said he wasn’t a real man since he didn’t even stand up for his rights.  One can only speculate, but I would guess this was the toughest yet most blessed decision he ever made in his life.

There’s lots more to say about Joseph so I’ll save the rest and do some more tomorrow, but just one more thing about Joseph.  We are blessed to know the whole story…we know who that Child was that Mary carried in her womb.  We know about the calling God placed on her life.  And she knew it too.  She knew in her heart she had nothing to be ashamed of.  And you know, even if somehow it had been demanded that she be stoned for her infidelity, God would have protected her.  She carried The Christ inside of her.  But isn’t it sweet just the same that God sent a man who would cover her, be her husband, and care for her so that she would not bear the shame of being pregnant, unmarried and alone?  I think that’s pretty awesome. 

No one whose hope is in You will ever be put to shame… – Psalm 25:3

To be continued…

Randomness at 1am…

Almost two weeks since I sat down at this keyboard with a blog in mind.  My how time passes when you aren’t paying attention.  But please don’t hold it against me.  See my brain currently isn’t functioning at its highest capacity.  And well, time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future.  I thought, well for the sake of letting anyone know who might have an inclination to care, I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth.  Just haven’t really had anything to say that I thought was worth sharing.  Still don’t really.  My day-to-day life…well it just isn’t interesting enough to hold my attention, much less yours.  So I guess I’ll share with you just a few random thoughts that are currently floating around in my mind.  Here goes…

Why is it that in many of the mainstream clothing catalogs, all the women that are modeling plus sized clothing are not “plus sized?”  I mean come on.  If I’m gonna order that dress, can I at least see a realistic idea of what it will look like when it’s on my body?

Am I the only one who is just about exhausted with Christmas music this year?  If I hear Clay Aiken doing “Mary Did You Know” one more time, I think I will just scream.  Don’t get me wrong.  I absolutely love Christmas.  It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  (dangit, that’s a Christmas song isn’t it???)  The reason for Christmas – Immanuel – God’s plan of redemption being set into motion is the most amazing thing!  A new mom, holding this wrinkled little baby while the man who will call himself this child’s father stares in awe.  And a crowd is gathering outside…shepherds who have seen the most amazing thing just now – an angel, Gabriel, a heavenly messenger who shares the good news of this new life – this little child, who will grow to a man, who will be a Savior for us all.  Ah yes, the bleating of the sheep, the smell of the hay, the sound of Mariah Carey in the background.  Wait, what? 

I love ginger-ale. 

So, the Bible says in Genesis 50 that when Jacob died, Joseph had him embalmed.  Now keeping in mind that Jacob was in Egypt when he died so it was the Egyptians who “embalmed” him…did that mean that he was made into a mummy?  And if so, does that also mean that there’s a chance that someone could run across his body at some point?  I mean think about the Egyptian mummies that have been recovered.  Most if not all have been in such a well-preserved state that you can still get a good idea of what they looked like.  How nuts would that be?  To actually get to see what the father of the 12 Tribes of Israel looked like???

Why is it that when men age, the hair on their head starts to fall out but their eyebrows and nose hairs go insane and then hair starts growing out of their ears.  Is this some sort of dementia on the hairs’ parts that they forget where exactly it is that they are supposed to grow but know they are in the general vicinity?

Why is it that Leo DiCaprio has to have at least one scrunched-up-face, crying-while-screaming, vein-popping-out scene in almost every movie he makes?  He’s so handsome until he makes that face. 

I don’t know who it was that came up with the idea of the non-bleeding dry highlighters, but they were some smart folks.  I can just highlight away in my Bible and won’t get confused about which page/verse it was that I had marked.  If you don’t have one of those, you really should get one.  Neat little thing.

Do you think Jesus has a favorite color?

The federal government recently redesigned the one hundred dollar bill and fancied it all up with some new high-tech security features.  However, once the bills went to print, they were in fact so high-tech that the printing presses couldn’t print them properly and so 1.1 billion bills were involved in a misprint and they are currently being quarantined until somebody can figure out how to separate the bad bills from the useable ones.  Mind you, it cost our government  somewhere in the area of $120 million to print these bills that are currently unable to be circulated.  Can somebody explain this to me?  There are people in this country with no jobs.  There are people all over the world starving to death.  But we have $120 million just lying around to waste on reprinting bills?  Seriously?  Read more about that one here.

My husband is from Panama.  I once asked him during Thanksgiving how they celebrated that particular holiday in Panama.  I’ll let you think on that one a moment.

Don’t you think it’s just amazing how our sense of smell is tied to our memory?  You know, how you can smell a smell and it will remind you of a place you’ve been or a person you love (or loved).  And that whole deja vu bit where something happens and you just know it’s happened before.  Isn’t that just the craziest thing?

Hey, do you ever feel lost?  I mean like restless or misplaced but you can’t really explain it.  Like there’s no real rational reason for you to feel that way because you have a great job, great family, great life but somehow you just feel like you don’t belong?  I might not have all the answers, but this one I know (thanks to Beth Moore for pointing this out).  If you feel lost or restless, but just can’t put your finger on why…well it’s because you don’t belong here.  This temporary dwelling will never fit exactly right because it’s not where we are meant to stay.  We are built for eternity and our souls long for Home.  Our spirits ache to be with Him, to lay eyes on His glorious face.

Welp, I guess I’ll save the rest of my random thoughts for another time.  Oh and by the way, did You know that God loves you?  I don’t mean that trite little “smile, God loves you!” kind of love.  I mean that kind of love that is deeper than the ocean, that spans time and space, that covers a multitude of sins.  Well, He does.

The most foolish thing anybody ever tweeted.

Okay, first let me say that honestly I have no idea about Steve Johnson’s football career nor do I really care to.  I’m not a sports fan.  I mean, at all.  The only reason I know anything about this “incident” is because it was on the Yahoo home page.

Apparently this guy dropped the ball (literally) and missed a touchdown that could have won the game against Pittsburg on Sunday.  So I suppose in an effort to shift attention away from his embarrassing fumble, Johnson tweeted God (although I wasn’t aware God had a Twitter account but anyhow) expressing his frustration with the situation.  In his tweet, Johnson reminding God of his 24/7 praise and questioned God’s response to said praise.  To quote Johnson, “And this how you do me!!!!!” 

Were I Johnson, first off I would get myself a grammar book and second off, I’d be on the lookout for lightning.  Nah, just kidding.  About the lightning I mean.  We know God doesn’t work like that.   I don’t really think God’s number one priority is football either.  Just sayin’.

I also wonder how God feels about fair-weather friends.  As long as things are going along to suit us, we are tight with God.  But the minute we bounce a check or fail a test or catch a disease or well, drop a football I guess then God didn’t fulfill His end of the bargain, right?  I mean if I have to go to all the trouble of praising Him all the time, and spending all my Sunday mornings in church, and giving Him MY money, and doing nice things for other people then the least He could do is make my life easy and do the stuff I want Him to do.   When you put it that way, it makes you cringe doesn’t it?  I hope so. 

Since when did we come to the conclusion that God owed us anything?  I mean how arrogant could we get to think that the God of the Universe should be expected to succumb to OUR demands.  Seriously?  Have we gotten to such a place that we have no reverence for God at all?

Many of us literally drag ourselves to church if we even make it at all, we offer Him half-hearted prayers while our minds are in a thousand other places, we write notes to our friends all over the bulletin during the sermon, we hardly ever crack open our Bible, and we actually go some days and barely even acknowledge our Creator.  Yet we stand there with our hands stuck out waiting for the Great Sugar Daddy in the Sky to fill them but the minute we come back with empty hands, we turn on the Lover of our Souls and accuse Him of withholding blessings.  Do you see how absolutely jacked up that is???

Put it like this.  Think of something that you may have prayed about lately.  This might even be something that you’ve prayed about many times.  Maybe for years even.  Now, suppose God never answered that prayer…ever.  Would that make Him any less worthy of your praise?  If your answer is yes, then it may be time to examine this “God” you’ve been worshipping.

We don’t praise God because He does stuff for us.  Praise doesn’t have anything to do with stuff…or at least it shouldn’t.  We should praise Him because we can’t help ourselves.  If we have any kind of grasp on how good and loving and just and full of grace and mercy and strong and big and awesome and mighty and wonderful God is, our only response can be praise.  Because He is worthy of our praise.  He is deserving of our praise.  All glory and honor belongs to Him and Him alone.  Always.  Forever.  No. Matter. What.

speechless…….

I stopped and took this picture the other day on my way home from running errands.  I glanced out the window at the sky and thought, this day is too beautiful not to capture on film.  As I look through the lens of the camera at the blueness of the sky, the way the clouds just floated in mid-air like big fluffy cotton pillows, the expanse of the green field and the trees that stood between the sky and the ground, I was utterly speechless at the beauty and majesty of God.  Sometimes, there really just isn’t anything to say.  We can only just stand in awe of Him…

The heavens are telling of the glory of God;

And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.

Psalm 19:1