Month: August 2013 (page 1 of 4)

Welcome to My New Home

I’m sure you have already noticed the change of address and format for this blog.  A few months ago, I decided that it was time to branch out and have a domain of my own.  Now that I have it and I see the dedication and work it will require, I’m wondering what desperate circumstances caused me to make such a terrifying change.  Caffeine? Lack of Sleep? Unprecedented need to fix what wasn’t broken? All probable answers considering last semester.  Whatever the source, the deed has been done, the blogs have been transferred and there is no turning back now.  So bear with me as I learn the ins and outs of what it means to own a website.  Be forewarned, I am an eighty-five-year-old woman trapped in a twenty year old body.  Ninety percent of the time, I have no idea what I’m doing.  The other ten percent is Grandma pretending to know what she’s doing as I push buttons and keys and click on links at random.  So if someday you come to the site and it isn’t working or you have suggestions to make it better, please feel free to contact me either through the comments section of the post or the Contact tab at the top of the page.

 

By His Wounds

When I was registering for my first semester of college, there was a moment when my brain shut down.  For a moment, my most reasonable, most logical brain cells revolted.  And during this brief mutiny, my hands somehow signed the rest of me up for an introductory French class.

That unfortunate event happened almost two years ago.  I am currently in my fourth and final semester as a French student.  And oddly, I still am not even remotely decent when it comes to conversing in this romance language.  So when my professor told our class about a French conversation table on Tuesdays, I decided that I should probably make room for that in my schedule if I ever hoped to be able to speak this language without a text book in front of my nose.

There are only three of us who show up on Tuesdays:  a Croatian basketball player named Jere and another guy from my class named Cody.   A few weeks ago, Cody had just returned from Boston where he had been attending his mother’s wedding.  We began to talk about wedding traditions in the U.S. and how they differ from wedding traditions in Croatia.

Being the sap that I am, I asked Jere to walk me through a Croatian wedding, step by step.  He began to tell the story:

The groom and his party are at one house and the bride and her attendants are at another.  The separate parties eat and drink and get ready for about two hours before the ceremony.  When the groom is ready, he and his group go to the bride’s house to join the female party.  They go in and a small band plays a Croatian folksong in an attempt to get the bride to come out of her dressing room.  She coyly peaks her head out the door and shakes her head “no.”  She shuts the door and the crowd begins performing a string of folksongs, trying to coax the girl out of her hiding place.

“Oh wait! I forgot to tell you the best part!” Jere interrupts himself and begins to backtrack in his story.  “When the groom first comes in, he marches up to the bride’s godmother, holds out money (usually fake money nowadays) and says,” he gives a grand gesture, stretching out his long arms and finishes, “I am here to buy the bride!”

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Later that day, with Jere’s story still ringing in my ears, I attended worship night at the Well.  The band was hidden behind curtains and the only thing we could see was a large cross in the center of the stage.  At the end of the service we all gathered at the foot of the cross and the band began to play Phil Wickham’s song, “You’re Beautiful.”  The last verse of that song says this:              

When we arrive at eternity’s shore

Where death is just a memory and tears are no more

We’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring

Your bride will come together and we’ll sing

You’re beautiful

As I knelt below that cross with 100+ other college students, I was reminded that we are the bride of Christ. A shiver sent goose bumps all along my arms.  I had a vision of Christ, like the Croatian groom, bursting through the gates of Hell with His arms held out, His wounds exposed and dried blood still clinging to His skin, proclaiming in a loud voice, “I AM HERE TO BUY THE BRIDE! Look at my hands and my feet! I paid for the guilt of their sins!  I was pierced for their transgressions; I was crushed for their iniquities.  By my wounds, they are HEALED!”

He is our groom, who came to pay the dowry of our sins.  He took our sin and our shame and paid for them all with His blood.  He became sin, who knew no sin, so that we might become His righteousness.  We are His.  Because our cross was stained with His blood, we are called the beloved Bride of Christ.

Confessions of a Preachers Daughter

Everyone loves a good scandal, right?  Well hold on to your hats ladies and gentlemen, because I’m about to give you some good stuff.

A lot of times, when I am being introduced to someone new, the friend that is providing the introduction will drop the phrase, “She’s the preacher’s daughter…” Why this is inserted is one of the great mysteries of my life.  But I usually add after that phrase, “Don’t hold that against me.”  Now don’t get me wrong.  My saying this has nothing to do with my dad.  But it has everything to do with the stereotype that comes with being a preacher’s daughter.

For years, PKs, specifically pastor’s daughters, have been the subject of all sorts of tasteless country songs and movies.

Our spokeswomen are none other than Katy Perry, Jessica Simpson, and Condoleeza Rice.  One out of three isn’t bad, I suppose.

Preacher’s kids actually have their own Wikipedia site.  This page talks about the two ways a preacher’s kid can go: obnoxious goody-two shoes or rebellious devil child.  There is no in between.

Now, most of you reading this have already put me in the obnoxious goody-two shoes category; but let me tell you, this PK has had her fair share of near run-ins with the law. Watch out.

I’m going to start you out with a mild misdemeanor, just to prepare you for the worst that’s coming.

I’m a fan of exploring the church–otherwise known as snooping.  Call it what you will, but I know my church from top to bottom.  Literally.  One Wednesday night during my senior year of high school, I was wandering the third floor before the youth service.  I walked past a window, stopped, and slowly backed up.  Cue suspenseful background music. I stood, gaping, at the coolest thing I had seen at this church.  Ever.

The fire escape was open and there was a clear path to the roof.

I propped the door open, leaving a way for me to sneak back inside and hoped that no adults would stroll past as I was scaling the ladder.  I spent the next twenty minutes basking in my new found freedom and startling incoming church goers as they glimpsed me walking across the roof.

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking like you don’t even know me anymore, right? Well, allow me to blow your mind even further with my other crimes.

One day, I was driving home from work in the encroaching darkness.  As I approached my street, I saw a little dog wandering around in the middle of the road.  Now normally, I leave the strays to themselves and let their owners take care of runaway issues.  But, for whatever reason, I took pity on this ugly little furball and stopped.  I opened the door and picked him up.  As I shut the door, I checked the tag and realized with disappointment that it did not have his address.

Great.  I was stuck with this smelly dog, and I had no idea where it belonged.

I decided to ride around for a bit and see if I ran into his owners searching for him.  I cruised through the neighborhood, imagining the delighted and grateful looks that would be on the faces of those who had lost this short-legged hairballcherished pet.

Finally, I see a older woman walking back into her driveway.  I slowed down, very creepily, and said in my sweetest, most syrupy, I-just-saved-your-dog’s-life voice, “Ma’am, is this your dog?”  She walked over to my car, looked in, and said, “No, but I know who he belongs to.  He’s so-and-so’s dog.  Her house is right over there.”  As I followed her finger to where she was pointing, I realized that that was the very house where I had picked up Fido in the first place.

I had stolen Mrs. So-and-So’s dog!  I had literally been riding around my neighborhood with a stolen canine.  Talk about your wayward child.

I thanked the lady and waited until she got back in her house before pulling back over to the dog’s home.  Instead of going to the door and admitting my mistake or pretending like I had rescued him from another part of the neighborhood, I just stopped, set him on the sidewalk, and drove away.

My ultimate example of lawlessness is a little more edgy.  I know you’re probably gripping the end of your seat with unequaled suspense, thinking, “What could possibly be more edgy than stealing a puppy?”

Last Tuesday night, I came out of the gym at UNA and made my way through the parking deck after an excruciating loss in intramural basketball.  I had parked facing the gym, close to a set of stairs.  I walked up, shoved the key in the lock and tried to turn it–to no avail.

Confused and frustrated, I did the only logical thing: I called my dad.

As I waited on him to come rescue me, I called a friend of mine to come wait with me.  Alone in the parking lot at ten o’clock at night is not the best situation to be in.  I hopped up on the back of the car, perched cross-legged, so my dad could easily spot us.

My dad pulled up about twenty minutes later and my friend went back to the gym.  Dad whipped out his can of WD-40 and sprayed my key not once, but twice.  After the second try, he paused, and started walking to his car.  He turns to look at me and says, quite forcefully, “Get off the car!”

“What? Is it still not working? Are we just going to–”

“Elizabeth, get off the car!”

I was affronted that he was snapping at me for something that clearly was not my fault.

“Elizabeth, sweetheart, get off the car. Now! That is not your car.”

Sure enough, I had been sitting on top of someone else’s car, moreover, trying to break into someone else’s car for over half and hour.

So there you have it.  My scandal.  A pastor’s daughter who has mastered the art of trespassing on roofs, stealing puppies, and (almost) breaking and entering into other people’s cars.  Now you know the truth: I am a genuine delinquent .

Sign me up for a record deal.  Lookout Jessica and Katy; there’s a new preacher’s daughter in town.

Paper Hearts

Until I was ten, my thoughts on love consisted of pink construction paper and empty shoeboxes.  Love equaled a day without learning and schoolwork.  And I was all for love if that was the case.  It was a competition to see who had the best, cutest, most awesome Valentines.  I usually didn’t win but I liked mine all the same.  Love also meant I had to “love” everybody.   Everybody got a card, everybody got a sucker, which was probably the best unspoken rule of the day.   It was a conflicting emotion of wanting someone to notice me but also wanting to be utterly invisible.  Love was made with tape and glue and paper hearts that were always crooked.

When I was eleven, love was the thing that we talked about a lot in Sunday school.  “God loves me” was still explained with arts and crafts that did nothing but make my fingers sticky.

When I was thirteen, I saw love when I walked past my mother’s bathroom mirror and found words written in lipstick: “I love you, baby.”  And it was just a plain old Tuesday.

When I was sixteen, love was real sometimes and other times it wasn’t.  It became a more fickle creature than I had ever known it to be.  I noticed that it seemed to evaporate left and right and I decided I wanted nothing to do with it.

When I was nineteen, I changed my tune.  I didn’t mind it for other people, I just wasn’t a fan.

Now I am twenty and I think maybe love is not so bad.  If my parents and my grandparents and my great-grandparents and countless others can do it, so can I.  Sure, the tape loses its grip and the pink construction paper fades to mauve, but I think maybe, if you’re willing to accept that, love can last forever.

Light

Whenever the human eye comes in contact with a bright light, it takes a picture.  According to my ophthalmologist friend, Dr. Keith Thompson, this effect is called “afterglow.”  Basically, that means that when the eyelid falls like a curtain over the retina, an imprint of light remains.

I remember the first time I noticed this phenomenon.  I was sitting in the backseat of a gray Cadillac parked next to a gas pump.  My seven-year-old body was sweating in the Arkansas summer heat.  I remember looking up through the window and catching sight of the sun.  No shades.  Just my eyes and the sun meeting for a millisecond.  I blinked and looked away quickly.  I closed my eyes but inside the darkness of my closed lids, I saw the outline of the sun as clearly as if I were still staring at it.  I opened my eyes and noticed that the spot stayed.  It rudely interrupted my line of vision and no matter how many times I opened and closed my eyes it was still there.  It both annoyed and fascinated me.

 

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”

Psalm 119:105

Just as the sun leaves an impression on our eyes, the Word of God leaves an imprint on our hearts when we study it.  His Word is the spiritual sun that shines light into our souls and when we look full-on at the pages of Scripture – no distractions, just our eyes and the Word of God meeting face-to-face – it burns and brands itself onto our hearts.  Even when we close the Book, we can still see it.  It interrupts and adjusts our line of vision so that we start to see the world as He sees it.

A few months ago, I again caught sight of the sun and the spot was again implanted in my vision.  But this time, the Lord was birthing this post in my heart and I had a thought.  Will the eye do the same when it meets with a man-made light?  So, like any genius suffering for a theory, I decided to test it out.  (Kids, don’t try this at home.)  I looked directly into a nearby light bulb for half a second. I looked away and found that, though it left a similar imprint, it did not last as long nor burn as brightly as the imprint of the sun.  When you look at something that is reflectingor imitating the sun, it does not leave as deep an impact as when you look directly at the source of light.

So often, as Christians, we do this to ourselves spiritually.  We feed off of the limited imprint of spiritual light bulbs: church camps, weekend conferences, or the faith of those around us.  But when the lights go out and things get dark in our lives, the electric imprint just doesn’t seem to satisfy.

We forget to look at the source of all light and energy.

Just as He is the one who created physical light, the Lord is also the one who creates a light inside of us when He comes to dwell in us.  And when we, during the lighted times of life, stare intently into the Word of God—soaking it up, memorizing it and meditating on it—we ensure an imprint that will last even in the darkest moments of our lives.

Trust me when I say, the man-made lights can’t last forever.  Even the bulbs with the most energy still need to be changed.  And when that happens, darkness will come.  Jesus told us in John 16:33 that “in this world we will have trouble.”  It isn’t a “maybe” or a “possibly.”  We are assured that at some point, the lights will go out.

So wherever you are, night or day, go to the source of light, the God of the Universe.  Seek out His lantern, the Word of God.  Read it. Memorize it. Stare at it. No shades. No bulbs.  Just you and the Son of God.  Face-to-face. Because when the lights go out, and the world gets black, the Word of God will be carved on your heart and will guide you through every part of your life, dark and light.  He will be the Lamp to your tired and dirty feet and the Light to your rough and bumpy path.

 

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’”

–John 8:12

Rain to Wash It All Away

Yesterday, running late as usual, I flew out of the front door only to about-face quickly, returning to grab an umbrella. The rain was just starting to drizzle, but I knew I did not want to be without that umbrella all day, even if it might make me late. By the time I parked, the rain was pouring. I clambered out of my car getting wet despite the open umbrella in my hand. I climbed up the newly installed waterfall that had once been a set of stairs outside Flowers Hall. By the time I reached my classroom, I could already tell my tennis-shoes were a little damp. My cold legs and arms were already chastising me for not putting on more than shorts and a T-shirt. I shrugged the small discomfort away, however, because I had already decided it was going to be a great Monday. The rain couldn’t last that long, right?
Wrong.
An hour later, I stepped outside expecting nothing more than a light drizzle of rain. What I got, however, was a monsoon.
I stuck my little umbrella back in the air and began my trek to the Communications building. I arrived a little cold, a little wet, but still thinking positive thoughts. How long could this torrential downpour last anyway?
A long time, apparently.
By the time I arrived at my last class a few hours later, I was very cold and wet. My shoes and socks were soaked all the way through. Drops of water stuck to my arms and legs. My poor little umbrella had started to let water through, thus making my hair damp. By the time I began walking to my car, the campus resembled the Ocoee. There were streams of rain water flowing from one end of campus to the next. At that point, I had just accepted the fact that my shoes were now boats and the reality was, I could not avoid the water.
I watched as the mini rivers ran past. The current carried leaves and pieces of dirt as passengers. In some places, the water had turned a tomato soup red from all the dirt that was being washed away. The earth was being cleaned. The rainwater was washing the summer dirt away, leaving behind a clean space for the autumn leaves to fall.
I have heard it said that rain is good for the soul. I don’t know if that’s a science or a theory, but in that moment, watching the dirt float past my feet, I believed it. I began to see how God cleanses us with His Word, the Living Water by pouring it over our imperfect lives. Every day, He is chiseling away the dirt caked around us, rinsing us with water and making us clean and whole again.
When it comes to God’s Word, don’t step around the puddles. Don’t avoid the rivers of cleansing water. Find the deepest spot and jump in. Splash. Dance. Be soaked all the way through. Because it is not enough to have just one drop of His love. Once you have tasted a single drop, you will open wide your mouth to drink in all He is.
Monday did all he could to wash away my positive attitude, but it could not be easily purged from me. The thing is if nothing else had gone right yesterday there were a few things that were enough to keep me smiling.
“I am alive.
I can feel the rain on my skin.
I can breathe in the scent of rainwater turning over the earth.
I am clean.
I am whole.
Because the Living Water has been poured out over me.”

Out of the Shadows

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past month and a half, you have heard all the hype about the latest Batman movie.  Maybe you even had the opportunity to see it.  Maybe you were like me and saw it twice.  If you haven’t seen the movie, don’t worry I’m not going to spoil it for you.  And I’m not here to give you a review or an opinion, just a simple observation.

Our society is obsessed with the concept of super heroes.  For the past few months the craze has heightened with the release of “The Avengers,” “The Amazing Spiderman,” and of course “The Dark Knight Rises.”  The basic plot is simple.  Normal people with extraordinary talents are living average lives until an enemy arises.  This enemy has formed an intricate plan to either take over or destroy the world around them.  Of course, normalcy is put aside and cape and tights are donned as the heroes take off to save the world.  After an hour and a half of battles of the mind and body, the hero manages to, just barely, thwart the plan of the enemy.  Our hearts swell when we see our beloved hero come out on top.

But sitting in that theatre for the second time, watching the world being put back together, I noticed something.  The people, the extras, emerging from their homes and peeping out their front doors.  And I thought to myself, “Where have y’all been? There has been a war going on for the past hour and a half.  How have y’all missed this? They could’ve used your help.  Why come out now when it’s all over?”

I wanted to know what they had been doing all this time.  Had they been cowering in a storm shelter for days?  Had they been able to sleep or eat?  Did they have children?  Did they play board games or rearrange their closet while a war was raging just outside their door? Why didn’t they come out and fight? Were they physically disabled? Were they ignorant of the situation?  Or were they just cowards?  I could not get that image out of my head.  The image of those people, timidly stepping out into the deserted, but now safe streets, looking around as if in some kind of daze.

After mulling over that image, here is the conclusion I’ve come to:  I don’t want to be an extra.  I don’t want to be the person that retreats back into a hole somewhere while others fight my battle.  I don’t want to come out on the other side, knowing that I did nothing to win this victory.

Every day, we live in the middle of a spiritual war.  Every day, we wake to another day in battle.  Every day, we walk through a world full of people who are one heartbeat away from an eternity in Hell—people who are losing the battle.  And every day, we have a choice.

We can sit inside the four walls of our spiritual comfort zones.  Or, we get up and fight.

There is no middle ground.  You either battle or you don’t.

And when the day is done and the credits roll, you can either crawl out of your storm cellar and celebrate a victory you had no part in.  Or you can stand in the middle of the rubble, with dirt on your face and sweat on your brow and say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

–2 Timothy 4:7-8

Calling Me Into the Sunshine

It has been a little over a month since my grand adventure in Africa came to a painful halt.  Rarely does a day go by when I do not think of that sweet place across the ocean and the beautiful people that live there.  There are moments when all I want is to be able to share stories and laugh until my sides ache with my host family.  There are moments when all I want is a cup of coffee made by my sweet friend BK.  There are moments that I wish, more than anything, to be back beneath the Botswana sunshine, teaching a crowd of smiling African children how to play basketball and showing them the love of Jesus.

But for each moment of sadness and longing to be somewhere else, there are ten more moments when I rejoice about where God has placed me now.   Right now, I am here.  I am a resident of the most beautiful town in Alabama, about to start my second year on the near-perfect campus of UNA.  I am here.  And God has something He wants to do in and through me—here and now.  I can feel Him stirring.

God taught me a lot in the beautiful country of Botswana and in the journeys there and back, but the one thing that rings true in this moment is that He can use me anywhere.  Last fall, I had already made up my mind to go to Senegal with the Well college group.  No great calling on my life, it was just something decided to do—a decision I made.  But God had an entirely different plan.  Chris Underwood approached me just after Thanksgiving, asking me if I’d be willing to serve 4-6 weeks in Botswana with one or two other students.  I told him I’d pray about it, but inside I was thinking, “Was that a joke?”  You see, I am the queen of homesickness.  The thought of leaving my family, my friends, my house for 4-6 weeks was like watching a horror movie unfold.  I was terrified.  But at the same time, I could not shake the feeling that maybe God was calling me way outside my comfort zone.

When I think of my conversations with God during the following months, I can’t help but think of the conversation Moses had at the burning bush.  After witnessing three miracles and audibly hearing the voice of God calling him out to be a prophet to the Egyptians, this is what Moses said in Exodus chapter four:

“Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”

My words were shockingly similar.

“Father, You know me better than anyone and You know how panicked I get when I am far from my family for a long time.  I’ve always been that way.  Also, I’m a writer, not a coach.  I’m not sure if I’ll be able to do this kind of ministry.  I don’t think I’m the right person for this job.”

Though my words and Moses’ words were slightly different, God’s answer was the same for both of us:

“The Lord said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?’”

So many times, Christians are called by God to do something “hard” or “uncomfortable.”  We panic because in that moment, all we can see is our failures and shortcomings and we lose sight of who God is. We get comfortable, nestled down inside ourselves.  We lose sight of the fact that He did not call us out of the darkness only to sit in a dimly lit room.  He called us to the sunshine.  He called us to step out of our comfort zones and into the blazing light of a life filled with purpose.  That purpose?  Acts 20:24 says it best:

“I consider my life worth nothing to me that only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”

There is change coming.  He is stirring among us.  Calling us out to a life of purpose.  As college students, young adults, in school or out, everyday is new day filled with one more person who needs to know the name of Jesus.  So take a deep breath.  Remember how powerful God is.  Remember what He has done for you.  Step out, and follow His calling.

Because, no matter how scary or uncomfortable you feel, all you really have to do is trust Him.

“But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.”

1 Corinthians 1:27-29

A Piece of My Heart

The human heart is a resilient thing. It can withstand operations and transplants and can endure violent flutterings and poundings. But the most brilliant thing about a heart is its ability to survive after it has been broken and torn.
Today, a little piece of my heart was torn off and placed in the hands of small, bright-eyed Africans. They took it without knowing and as hard as I tried, I couldn’t seem to get it back. With every passing day, I see another portion of my heart handed out to someone new. With every hang-out, every dinner, every worship service more of my heart is gently placed in the palms of the beautiful people of Africa.
I thought I might have prevented it, this splitting of my heart. With every piece of love I passed out, I remembered that I didn’t have to. No one was twisting my arm or begging for my affection, but the smiles and the love that were given to me were such that they had to be returned.
I also know that this shredded heart of mine will hurt when the time comes for me to board the plane. When my back is turned to the sweet desert of Botswana the pain will be excruciating. But I can’t help loving; I can’t stop.
Though the joy of being reunited with the portions of my heart owned by my American family and friends will be sweet, I know that I shall never be the same while fractions of my most important organ beat in another part of the world.
This ache that I speak of, though painful, is not a bad thing. Like I said, it is a beautiful thing – the human heart. Though it is torn to pieces and divided among many, it is still beating and is somehow always able to give a little bit more. How unpleasant my trip should have been had I hoarded all of my love and kept it quietly to myself. Love was meant by its Creator to be shared. I have learned that the only way to experience true love is to freely give it away.

Clean

Home

I left the house this morning knowing that today would be the day Chelsea and I would join another mission team and leave for a rural village outside of Gaborone to help with a VBS.  More specifically, I left the house knowing I was clean andcomfortable.

Unfortunately, this feeling of comfort did not last long.  Drew (our fearless leader) had informed Chelsea and me that when we go to the village we should wear a long skirt.  If you ask him, he will deny ever saying any such thing.  The matter of if he said it or not will forever be argued but the point is, Chelsea and I arrived at the missionaries home only to discover that no one else is wearing a skirt. No one. 

When we arrived at the site, we were put in charge of groups consisting of about 60 children.  For the next few hours, we herded our kids from station to station, laughing and singing with them as we went.

By the time I arrived back in Gaborone, I was covered in dirt.  My hands and feet looked like they had recently been given a very uneven spray tan.  There was sand in my eyes and my hair and I had a permanent taste of dust in my mouth.  I was filthy.  Chelsea and I were both filthy and all we wanted to do was get back to our host homes as quickly as possible, take off our stupid skirts, and wash all the dirt away.

Unfortunately, when we phoned our host family we were informed that no one was home, they were all at the church.  We were sorely disappointed at having to postpone our baths.

When we stepped out of the car, I remember experiencing a distinct feeling of ‘grossness.’  I didn’t want anyone to look at me, smell me, or even come within a ten-foot pole of me.  We walked in the sanctuary where we heard our friends laughing and singing.  They responded to our arrival with handshakes and fist bumps despite our warnings of our current state of sanitation.  One guy in particular, BK, approached us with a huge smile and greeted Chelsea with a big hug.  When he turned to me to do the same, I shook my head and said, “No, no BK! I am filthy and I smell awful! You do not want to hug or touch me, I promise!”  I felt like no one should touch me until I was clean.  But BK simply shrugged his shoulders, told me it really didn’t matter how dirty I was, and wrapped me in a huge bear hug.

I choked back an overwhelming feeling of gratitude because in that moment, through BK’s simple display of love, I was brought to a deeper picture of Christ’s unconditional love for His children.

So many times I leave the house feeling spiritually clean and comfortable.  I have spent time in the Word, I have committed my day to the Lord, and I am ready to face the day fully focused on Him.  But somewhere along the way, I get distracted.  I get dirty.  The dust and stench of life stick mercilessly to my hands and face.  I become filthy.  And at the end of the day, I return feeling disgusting and untouchable.  When God leans in to comfort me I wave my arms and shout, “No, no Father!  I am filthy and I smell awful! You do not want to hug or touch me, I promise!”  I want to purge myself of all the dirt and all the grime before I come to Jesus.

But here’s the amazing thing.  God shrugs and tells me that it really doesn’t matter how dirty I am; He wants to hug me anyway.

Most of the time, these moments frustrate me.  I think, “How could I have started the day off so strong and then come home exhausted and covered in filth?”  But just as you expect a child to come back dirty and tired after being allowed to play outside all day, God knows we will always come back with another spot of dirt or another scar.

Life as a believer is a new challenge every day.  Every day we walk into another desert, another mud pit, another sand storm.  But despite our filth, we don’t have to wash before we come to Christ.  We come before the throne just like we are, dirt and all, with our hands outstretched asking to be cleansed.  This is the beauty of His grace: that no matter how filthy we are, God’s blood will always be enough to cleanse us again for a new day.

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