"…for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her." (Proverbs 8:11)
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A Kiss From My Husband

God speaks to me in numbers. It started a couple of years ago with the 444s. I wouldn’t have paid them much attention, except that my pastor’s wife Tara Seidman used to post them on Facebook once in a while. A picture of the license plate with 444, the time on the clock at 4:44 PM. She called it a “God kiss.” His way of letting her know that he was right there, that he sees her, and that he loves her.

A couple of years ago, I started getting them, too. At first just one every once in a while, and then more and more, like a flood. Undeniable. And I wasn’t looking — they would always catch me by surprise. Later, I started to get 333. I heard more than once that this points to Jeremiah 33:3.

“Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.“

Other translations say “great and indescribable things,” “hidden things,” or “unsearchable things.” The 3s in triplicate is God’s way of calling us into deeper relationship. I started to get them all the time, and I was encouraged to press in.

In the last year, our conversations around the numbers have expanded. He shows me times on the clock and calls me to look up Scriptures. Triplicates on license plates speak of his presence. I get 555 all the time, reminding me of his abiding grace. Grace upon grace upon grace. This Spring, Craig started to get them, too. 333 and 444, all the time. It actually miffed him at first — he claimed that he didn’t believe in the numbers. But they showed up with such regularity, he was beginning to doubt his own doubts. He would take screenshots of his phone and text me the picture. 3:33 PM. 4:44 AM. He, too, said he was never looking. He would just glance at the clock, and there would be God, waving hello.

I was delighted at this new turn of events, and told him that the Father sees him and loves him! That God is revealing something magnificent to him, great and mighty things that he does not know. We were both listening attentively, with hope and anticipation. Especially, as the season grew dark.

I slept soundly last night, but awoke briefly a couple hours after going to bed. I glanced at the clock. 1:13am. I made a mental note and fell back asleep.

This morning, I eased into the day with Bible reading and scrolls through social media. Then the grief came, marked by a torrent of tears and heartache. I miss my husband. I feel lost. I journaled at length about how Craig taught me to love better. How we had both learned and grown so much these last several years. We discovered the joy in sacrifice — in trying to out-give one another by putting the other’s needs and wants first. I still failed more times than I care to admit, but I was so much better. We were better. And, we were happy.

I showered and got dressed. Sat on the floor of the closet holding one of Craig’s T-shirts and sobbed. Took the dog for the walk and made breakfast. God reminded me to look up the time on the clock from last night, so I asked Google to find “Scripture 1:13.” The answer brought more tears, and also great comfort.

1 Corinthians 13

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

***

God is faithful. And I have no doubt that He is showing Craig great and mighty things. Hidden things that are unsearchable unless we are in His presence. What He is showing me is that I am still loved — loved more than I can ever fathom. And, in the same way that I discovered the delight in learning to love my husband, there is joy in loving others. In putting others’ needs first. There is joy in loving God and putting His desires first.

Isaiah 54:5 begins:

“For your Maker is your husband—the Lord Almighty is his name…”

My husband gave me a kiss last night, and I am grateful.

August 20, 2018   No Comments

Light, Love and Lifesavers Candy

When I was four years old, I stole a pack of Lifesavers from the grocery store. I didn’t know at the time that it was stealing. I was shopping with my dad and processing the experience through a four-year-old’s eyes. We went into the store and filled our cart with things we liked to eat. At the checkout, a young man put the food into paper bags while my father spoke with the nice woman behind the conveyor belt. And then we left.

I knew nothing about the exchange of cash for merchandise, and with my short stature, I didn’t see the transaction. So, on this particular trip, I put a roll of Lifesavers in my pocket. That’s what I liked to eat. My father discovered the trespass when we got home and gave me a sound spanking before driving me back to the store so I could return the candy and apologize. The lesson was clear—taking something without paying for it is stealing, and stealing is bad.

I learned right from wrong that day, but I also experienced two profound emotions: fear and shame.

When I was 13, I stole a brooch from a small boutique. Did I know stealing was wrong? Absolutely. Was I afraid of the consequences if I got caught? Yes. But I was more afraid of losing face in the eyes of my friend, Tanya, who had dared me to swipe the jewelry. She reveled in my bravery and rebellion when I showed her the prize. I had won her admiration, but there was no joy. I felt only shame.

My freshman year in college, I stole a candy bar from the student union. Again, the deed was done on a dare. Here I was, entering adulthood and venturing out into the world on my own, yet still doing stupid things because of peer pressure. Five years had passed, but nothing had changed. I was still operating in the same paradigm. I was driven not by the desire to do right, but by the desire to be accepted and avoid the mockery of my peers. The fear and shame that I experienced at four years old colored my thinking far more than the knowledge of the law.

Fear and shame do not inspire change. Love does.

My Facebook feed is filled with the vitriol of friends and acquaintances pointing fingers of judgment at people they have never met but who hold positions of authority and power. They post angry rants about the trespasses of politicians and actors and journalists whose moral failings have been made public. I suppose their finger-wagging gives them a sense of control and bolsters feelings of moral superiority. But it’s all a distraction. I know these people—we have done life together, and they have failings of their own. I know about the binge drinking, the sexual abuse, and those trips to the strip club. I know about the decision to sleep with a married man to stave off the loneliness and self-doubt. I have heard these friends say utterly hateful things about people they care for; witnessed addictions to food, wine and pornography; and mourned their broken relationships and broken homes and broken hearts. I know their stories. I have mine, too. We all do.

Judgment does not inspire change. Love does.

A few years ago, I began doing prison ministry with my husband. Every Wednesday, we drive two hours to a unit in Palestine, Texas, to meet with the 200 men attending a program called Alpha. After a time of praise and worship, someone from our ministry team gives a short teaching related to the current book study. Then, the men circle up in groups for an hour of small group discussion. And things get real.

They talk about their families. They talk about their failings. They talk about knowing right from wrong and making bad decisions anyway—the same bad decisions over and over, that continued to put them back behind bars. And they talk about learning to trust, learning to be authentic, and learning to take accountability. Most importantly, they talk about learning to walk in their identity of who God created them to be, and accepting the love of a Father who is perfect beyond all measure. Through teaching and prayer and fellowship, they discover who they are in Christ. And that changes everything.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us,
that we should be called children of God! (1 John 3:1a)

I have seen hardened felons become kind and compassionate men as they experience God’s love for them. I have witnessed men who committed unspeakable crimes become gifted leaders and teachers, encouraging and edifying their brothers in Christ as they walk out their journey of faith. These are no jailhouse conversions, where the men drop their Bibles at the door as they head home. No, this is lasting change—powerful, soul-quenching change born solely out of love. The majority of men we met behind bars who since have been released are gainfully employed, in committed relationships, reconciled with their families, and actively involved in their local church. They are thriving.

For we are God’s handiwork,
created in Christ Jesus to do good works, 
which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

These men stay on the straight and narrow not out of fear of shame or judgment or consequences, but out of gratitude. Like the prodigal son, they chose to live a life of debauchery, finding only fleeting joy in the sex and drugs and approval of their peers. Feeding their fleshly desires ultimately led to greater despair, but no matter how depraved their actions, God loved them anyway. He loved them so much that He sent His Son to bear the punishment for their sins and welcomed His lost children home with open arms. He did it for me, too.

I have seen broken men transformed through God’s love. I have seen women once cloaked in shame discover their true worth through God’s love. I have seen my own heart transformed and experienced inexplicable peace through God’s love.

We can point the finger of judgment. We can spend our days attending rallies and posting rants about the unspeakable acts of others. Or, we can be the light.

Share happiness. Applaud the peacemakers. Bring encouragement and laughter. And soak in God’s love. When you discover how precious you are in His sight, and how deeply He longs to provide for you, comfort you, protect you and raise you up to great heights, you will know your true identity. You will find your purpose and can guide others to healing. You will be a true changemaker, because you walk in love.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9)

January 5, 2018   2 Comments