Archive | September 2012

Judas Visited Me This Week

One of the greatest things to me about God’s Word is the constant reminders that God uses ordinary people through which He works in unbelievable ways.  Judas Iscariot is one of those people which we have a snippet of information on but who had a pivotal role in our lives as believers today.  Many of us we are uncomfortable with Judas.  We often judge him harshly.  (Though it is NOT our jobs to judge him, nor anyone else, for that matter.)

I am guilty of thinking “How could Judas?  He was one of the especially picked disciples of Jesus.  He walked with, traveled with, ate with, and experienced the physical presence of Our Savior daily before betraying Him.  Not just any garden variety betrayal either, a betrayal that led to Jesus’ death by crucifixion.”

Then I squirm in my self-appointed judge’s chair for truthfully, Judas’ makes me uncomfortable because I see myself in him.

In searching the scriptures concerning information on Judas some things jumped out at me:

  1. In Matthew 10:1-4; Mark 3:14-19; and Luke 6:12-16 Jesus sends out the twelve disciples and in Matthew’s account Jesus’ gave to the disciples gifts to help and heal those people they came in contact with – there is no mention in either account that Judas was left out of Jesus’ directive, given a different set of instructions or given lesser gifts than those Jesus gave the other eleven disciples.  He gave them all what they would need to fulfill their mission from and for Him.
  2. Matthew 26:14-15; Mark 14:10-50; Luke 22:1-22, 47-48 in these scriptures we’re told that Judas went to the chief priests and ASKED what they would give him to betray Jesus.  Also we learn that Judas ASKED Jesus at the Passover meal if it would be him would betray Jesus.  Judas asked, Jesus said yes. 
  3. Matthew 27:1-10 and Acts 1:16-25 tell us that Judas, overcome with grief and remorse for how he had condemned Jesus, goes out and kills himself.  The 30 pieces of silver the chief priests gave him for his betrayal was used to buy a field for use as a burial ground and given the name Akeldama which means “field of blood”.  Matthew also tells us Judas tried to return the money but the chief priests would not take it back.
  4. John’s account of Judas and of his betrayal is different a bit.  The kiss Judas gave to Jesus isn’t mentioned (John 18:2-11).  In John 6:60-71 we are told that Jesus knew even in selecting Judas to be his disciple Jesus knew Judas would be His betrayer.  John 12:1-17 lets us know Judas is also a thief, helping himself to the group’s funds in the money bag he was entrusted with when he wanted.  Finally John also tells us that Jesus tells Judas that what he is about to do he should go and do quickly.  Judas finishes his meal and goes.  (John 13:1-30)
  5. John also lets us know that despite Jesus knowing all along Judas would betray Him Jesus didn’t treat Judas differently.  At the Passover Supper when Jesus washed the disciples feet there is no mention that Jesus excluded Judas.

I learned a lot about betrayal this week.

Like Judas this person has been a friend to me.  One I would have trusted my life with instantly if the need arose.  Someone that even when reality was staring at me in the face my heart could not comprehend could be responsible for not just stealing something very valuable entrusted to me but who would do so by taking advantage of my physical needs as an amputee.  Furthermore, this person, who before had been a factor in helping me feel safe and capable in one senseless act rendered me back to square one all over again.

Working in a counseling office, though not as a counselor, and having participated in therapy myself through the years, I’ve learned enough to know emotionally I am cycling through the “phases” of being a victim.  I’d like to plow through them and get to the other side but my humanity gets in the way.

For every other awful betrayal in my life comes back to whisper it’s reminders in my heart.  Like the fiancé’ in college who promised to love me forever but who took my money and married another woman.  The doctors who I entrusted to diagnosis and treat me who couldn’t see beyond a number on a scale and see the damaged lymph nodes earlier, who could have bought me more time with a whole body, but who didn’t.  The kids in school who were one day my friends and the next taunting and ridiculing me to the point I would hid in the bathroom to cry.  Another man who promised many things and delivered lies, shadows and mind numbing pain.  The father’s discipline that became life endangering…it’s hard to move on when something like this slams you in the face.

Yet I remind myself, Jesus knew Judas!  God’s Word tells us He knows us before He knits us together in our mother’s womb, that He knows the very number of hairs on our heads (and the number that float down the shower drain each morning).  No exception was made for Judas.  God didn’t not know him because of what Judas would choose to do to betray Him, God knew Judas as well as He knows me because Judas too was a creation of Our Father.   God knew Judas as well as He knows you.

God gifted mankind with the freedom of making our own choices.  We can choose to cultivate a relationship with Him or not.  We can choose to walk in ways that honor and obey Him or not.  We make our choices.  We also have to deal with the consequences.  Sadly, all of us are Judas’ at various times in our lives.  We betray Jesus.  We betray one another.  We betray those we love the most.  We even betray ourselves.  We choose.  We sin.  We hurt others, ourselves and Jesus.  It is OUR choice… Judas chose…I choose…you choose.

Perhaps that is the most bitter of pills to swallow.  People who betray us CHOOSE to do so.   Why?

Does it really matter?  Had I known this person needed anything I had I would have given it.  They didn’t give me that choice.

I’ve long believed that anyone of us has within us the capacity to do the unthinkable under the circumstances.  Would I harm someone who had my child or husband in harm’s way?  I know I would.  That scenario is the extreme.

Does it help how I feel that perhaps whatever the circumstances in my betrayer’s life that led to their making this decision seemed to them the extreme?  No, not really, but the wonderful thing is, God is working on that with me.  I pause to pray even now that God moves me out of the way so He can to advance quickly to forgiveness, otherwise I betray my Savior again.

I surely can’t say I’m at a place of “forgiveness” yet, or understanding and it’s hard to even want to be in that place.  But going there is a requirement.  I must get there and I must come through for the other betrayal experiences taught me that holding on to the pain and anger and hate destroys only one person – and that person is me and the relationship it destroys is the one I have with my Creator.

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The Quilt – Part 3

Had it not been for Ally I would have huddled beneath Grandma’s Quilt the rest of the day.  Todd’s note of confession shattered something in me.   “We were so happy, weren’t we?”  I thought. Now the very foundation of the life we were building together seemed to have been shaken.  I wondered if it would withstand this assault.

With the quilt wrapped around me I knelt in prayer but found all I could do was weep and moan before God’s throne.  I watched Ally as she slept. She was so tiny and so innocent.  She was totally dependent upon Todd and me for her every need and she didn’t even know she was she just did what all babies do.   I knew God was doing the same for us, watching over us, He knew what happened and He knew what was still to come.  It was hard to trust my own emotions to help me make a decision about what to do or say about the betrayal I felt from Todd’s actions.  I tried hard to trust God.

My mind tried to rationalize Todd’s behavior.  “It was ONLY a kiss.  What’s a kiss compared to our lives together?” and “His needs must be unmet with me or he wouldn’t be seeking this outside our marriage.”

I also began to blame myself.  Had I become so consumed with first being pregnant and then with Ally that I had neglected Todd?  Since I had never seen a marriage on a day to day bases that would help me know how to handle marriage I must be missing something.  How inadequate was I?

The four and a half hours from the time I read the note from Todd and he arrived home were some of the longest in my life.  By then I had managed to stop crying and I sat in the rocker feeding Ally when I heard the garage door opener.  I tried to force myself to relax so Ally wouldn’t sense my apprehension and I offered Todd a weak façade of a smile when he came into the nursery and kissed us both.

The conversation we had to have I didn’t want to have in our house.  It felt defiled enough already.  Todd had brought home Chinese food so I suggested we eat outside on the deck.  I could put Ally’s monitor out there and we’d hear her if she needed us.  Todd agreed and as I moved the monitor Todd grabbed the quilt and the bag of take-out.

Silence was our companion as we first went about the business of setting out the food and arranging the chairs.  I went back in for sodas and when I returned Todd had removed the two separate chairs from the table and moved our two seater glider to the table.  Grandma’s quilt was also there and I allowed Todd to help me sit down and wrap us in the quilt.  We held the take-out containers in our hands but neither of us could eat.  The silence between us was so heavy I expected to be able to see it.

“I’m sorry.”  Todd said, putting his food down and taking mine from me.  He reached for my hands and held them.  “It was a stupid thing to do Honey.”

The tears made their way back into my eyes and rolled down my cheeks.  My voice sounded weak and shaky as I replied, “How have I failed you Todd?”

He moved closer to me and completely enclosed us in the quilt.  “Oh my love you haven’t failed me.  This wasn’t your fault in any way.”

The man I’d married and whom I thought I knew began to confess that Satan had a stronghold in his life.  “Babe, you know how much this quilt means to us, right?”

“Sure.  It combines all of both our lives up to the point we were married.”  I said, puzzled as to how this had a part in Todd kissing Lisa

“Some of the things and clothing your grandma used and then you used to make this quilt remind us of great things and loving people.  Right?”  Todd quizzed.

“Yes.”

“A few of these patches from clothes you got from my mom aren’t happy memories for me.”

Anger welled up inside me.  I was trying to follow Todd’s reasoning but so far I was just confused.  If there were unhappy memories in some of the fabric provided from Todd’s clothing and things through his childhood I was sorry, obviously his mom didn’t know or she wouldn’t have included them.  But they were from his childhood and adolescence.  What did they have to do with the here and now?  With his kissing Lisa?

“Todd what are you saying?  I’m not understanding.”

He sighed deeply.  “I never told you that for about a year when I was in junior high my parents split up.  They were going to get a divorce.  That was the year I played football for the first time, the jersey – the purple and gold one – that reminds me of that year.”

Again if felt as if the foundation of our lives was shaken.  “How come you never told me?  You always said your parents had a wonderful marriage.”

“After Dad came to have a relationship with Christ they did but before then it was pretty rocky.  Dad moved out for a year and I spent one week with him and one week with Mom.  It was crazy.”

“I can see that.  I’m glad God came into your Dad’s life and your parents salvaged their marriage, but Todd how does that year relate to your kissing Lisa?” I begged to know.

The silence again grew oppressive.  I fought not to fill the silence with my own words of hurt and anger, but I succeeded in remaining quiet.  Into that silence and stillness Todd’s next confession dropped like a boulder into the middle of our lives and the ripples would never cease.

“My dad had me…well…his girlfriend…” it seemed he couldn’t speak around a lump in his throat then the words gushed out as if a dam had burst, “Dad had me sleep with Cathy so he would know who she was with when she wasn’t with him when he was away.  It was like she was my part-time girlfriend too.  Ever since then I’ve found it impossible to stay away from women who offer me quick thrills.  I thought when we married it would be behind me.  I think I was wrong.”

When we married Todd had told me he was a virgin too.  He never gave a hint his parent’s marriage wasn’t always solid.  He even told me he wanted a marriage just like his parents had.  What about all the stories about his Dad being a deacon in their church and how they went to church as a family his whole life?  What did he mean “impossible to stay away from women who offer…quick thrills”?  Was everything a lie?  How much had Todd deceived me?  Even more important, how much was he going to keep deceiving me?  How deep did Todd’s problem go?

To be continued…

Radio Rewards with Lesson Relearned

The radio station of my choice (local WDJC-97.3) is a Christian station.  Every Wednesday morning Roxanne and Chris host a prayer time, inviting different believers from across a wide variety of ministries and denominations to join them in the station for the purpose of prayer.  The group hears, reads and responses to needs for prayer from listeners who call in or key in their requests on Facebook.  This particular Wednesday, (September 19, 2012) from the moment I turned on the radio until I turned it off I was overwhelmed with God’s provision.

The past few months I have felt like a hay wagon barely crawling to a rest area, broken and used up.  Though I listen to WDJC every morning, this morning it seemed every song was a song I needed to hear…the kind of morning that made me long for a playlist so I could purchase and download each and every one.  They were reminders of a Father God who would never forsake me, of a Savior God who died and defeated death for me, of a Spirit God who comforted and consoled in times of deepest distress and need.  A God who answers prayer.

Sitting in the drive through lane at McDonalds for my “usual” (medium coffee, eight creamers, no sugar) I was able to text a request for prayer on WDJC’s Facebook page.  The final words of that request were “I can’t go on like this…I can’t”.  Before I reached work, that all too familiar nearly 50 mile trek the coffee wasn’t the only thing gone…so was a huge weight inside of me.  Somebody was praying.  I knew this even though I didn’t hear (so I have no clue whether the request made it on air or not) a word of prayer on my behalf.

It’s been a while since I felt the results of prayer so instantly…Since I KNEW someone was  PRAYING for me…

Only one of the straws that overloaded me yesterday and earlier this morning have gone away…God has stopped the rain but the weight of the other straws has changed.  Today, I didn’t go on like I’ve been going, the effort to get through this day wasn’t quite as all consuming…and as I waited to get out of my car I bowed my head to pray along with a caller for who had her own reason for calling, God allowed my spirit to lift…

As I rolled up the ramp into our office building a song to floated through my mind and stayed with me throughout my day,

“What a friend we have in Jesus,

All our sins and griefs to bear!

What a privilege to carry

Everything to God in prayer!

Oh, what peace we often forfeit,

Oh, what needless pain we bear,

All because we do not carry,

Everything to God in prayer…”*

It’s difficult for me to say to those around me the words to tell them how discouraged I’ve been, how much I am struggling, how dark it seems, that I keep hearing myself saying, “THIS is not what I want to be doing!  Not what I’m meant to do!”  Difficult to find the words to tell someone how oppressive the physical exhaustion is by Friday when the work week is over…how a simple trip to the grocery store and to get my nails done on a Saturday saps the last bit of physical and emotional energy I have…how most weeks I have to choose between making five days in the office and doing anything on the weekend, including going to church. It’s especially difficult to say these things to my husband who takes on so many of what were my responsibilities

So I keep quiet (yes, believe it or not I do), for I have…

…my pride…what will people think?

…my stubbornness…I will NOT give in!

…my fear of failing…but this is what I have fought so hard to do!  Give up my job?  No way!

…my fear of falling…what if I break my “good leg”…or my arm…how WILL I GET UP?

…my sin…lack of faith…doubt…fear…failing to trust my Creator and His plan for me.

…my lack of confession…God I have sinned against You.

I’ve held it in and swallowed the bitter bites…this morning I asked myself, “When will I learn?

This morning I was given the provision of relearning this lesson through a radio stations desire to be more than a place that plays music but that ministers to their listeners, being willing to involve themselves in the everyday lives of the wounded in the most powerful way they can.  Prayer.

Instead of mourning NOT being able to stand during worship when everyone else does, I have only to lift a willing spirit to worship.  Instead of mourning NOT being able to kneel and pray I have only to humble my heart, mind and spirit and cry out to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Perhaps what I fear most is what I must go through in order to follow the path God has laid out for me.  I do not know.  I do know I can’t keep going as I have been and I can’t know the rest until I let go and let God.

“Are we weak and heavy laden,

Cumbered with a load of care?

Precious Savior, still our refuge;

Take it to the Lord in prayer:

In His arms He’ll take and shield thee;

Thou wilt find a solace there.”*

*Words, Joseph Scriven, 1855.  Tune CONVERSE, Charles C. Converse, 1868.

Today the Hay Wagon Made a Pit Stop

It could have been what seemed like the 400th phone call in three hours.

It could have been the smeared, greasy fingerprints on the bathroom wall I just scrubbed while balancing in my wheelchair in the bathroom a week ago.

It could have been the downpour just as I pulled my car into the parking space this morning meaning I would have an 8 hour wet and cold day until I could get back into the car this afternoon and crank the heater on high.

It could have been yet another problem at work.

It could have been my daughter’s frantic search for a lost item that was right in front of her the entire time that meant we were off schedule for the morning.

It could have been that it seemed as if every person who sets my teeth on edge felt the need to come into our department this week.

It could have been the broken cap and spray nozzle on the brand new can of air freshener just placed in the restroom.

My mind wanted to reason it was the air freshener being broken.  But, even as I fought to reign in my temper and not throw the entire can of air freshener into the trash, or at the nearest head I could find, I knew it wasn’t the cap on the air freshener getting broken that was breaking me.  It was all the straws.  If ever I needed a few “mental health days” these are the days, yet taking them now is out of the question.

God seems to be speaking to me through these straws.  For today is little different than any other day lately, except for perhaps the rain.  I know I’m speaking to Him about them.  Sometimes I’m not so sure whose question is whose.  Is God saying, “It is enough yet?” or am I?  Is God saying, “Come to me and rest” or am I asking, “When can I just throw up my hands and say, “That’s all folks!”?  Is that voice in my heart His or my own?

So I quiz myself.  “What is it I need and I’m not getting?”  The list starts to itemize itself and I stop because it’s frightening.

It occurs to me, with another heavy thud from an even heavier piece of hay that each need is a straw too.  It also disturbingly occurs to me that I’ve become a hay wagon instead of myself.  The road I’m on is familiarly unfamiliar.  There are many things about this leg of my journey I am unclear about.  There are so many things and people begging for my attention that I can’t give anything or anyone what it or they need.  I hear only an echoing mantra; “Get in line, get in line, get in line!

Pulling off this highway an aged sign beckons me:

The Valley of Decision

Arrival Date & Time: 9/18/12  12:51 p.m.

This is where I am to be today.

The tires on my straw laden wagon make a swishing noise on the rain slick pavement as I wheel down the off ramp.  The hay burying me beneath its weight and sliding into every conceivable part of my life makes me irritable and miserable because it scratches and itches and invades; demanding an audience!  The tires plop on the road now as the air seems to ooze out in a final rush of hissing.  Steam pours off me even as rain chills me to the bone.  As I chug gingerly through the storm I see that piece by piece it seems I am leaving either a bit of my transportation or myself along this lap of this leg of the journey.  Yet the straws remain though the winds furiously howl and whip around me.

This is only a pit stop…a refueling station…a rest area…just the departure date and time are left open…and God knows not only that but the next destination as well…