BLOOD RED LOVE

i-love-you-for-all-eternity

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.    John 15:13

The leather straps of the scourge cracked as they whisked through the air. The metal tips clanking just before they tore open the innocent, unmarred flesh. Blood droplets erupted in a shower across the sadistic, but ignorant crowd. Their ugly faces twisted in anger. Pitiful really that their fear possessed them to the point of murderous desire. They didn’t know. Not really. Their ignorance and unbelief clouded their wisdom and true understanding.

As I stood by watching this horrific scene, wincing with each slice of His skin, questions pelted my brain. My biggest question: why?

A warm, almost burning, droplet of blood hit my face and jarred my mind back to the ghastly scene unfolding before me. Several more droplets spattered across my face, onto my clothes and hands.

Tears, mixing with His blood, began to stream down my face. He looked up at me. His sad eyes pierced to my soul and He seemed to know all my sins. I wept. Did He just smile at me? A smile that seemed to beckon me to receive His invitation of love?

Love? Surely, He didn’t feel love for his accusers, not for me. While I didn’t partake in the physical violence, my black heart was guilty just the same.

How many more of these lashes could His body endure? And then, it got worse. The soldiers jammed a crown of thorns into the tender flesh of His scalp. Streams of blood flowed across His eyes and down His cheeks. Blood continued to pool on the dusty earth at His bare feet.

I couldn’t fathom the excruciating pain He endured. Why did He hold still for them to abuse Him? I’d seen the power in His miracles. He could stop this madness. He could call a thousand angels for protection. Why didn’t He exert His power to stop the brutalization?

The people around me were laughing, spitting, saying vile words, and even pummeling this blindfolded Man with their fists. Wasn’t the physical pain enough? Why did they want to induce emotional agony too?

The same innocent blood that was pouring out for me was pouring out for them too. No brick wall was preventing them from running to Him to receive life; only the hard walls of their loveless hearts.

The scars on my body faded away as the holy blood showered across them. Miraculous! Healing blood! A deep yearning stirred my heart.

As I watched them nail Jesus, King of the Jews to the cross, I loved Him. How could I not? Because He loved me first. My guilty heart was in desperate need of His cleansing blood. I longed to know more about this innocent Man whose boundless love caused Him to endure the cross and scorn its shame.

I fell to my knees and lifted my tear-stained face to Him. I believe, Jesus! Please, Jesus, wash me clean—whiter than snow. You are the sacrificial lamb Who came to take away my sins … the sins of the world. Thank you for the blood red love you offer to me—eternal life through the shedding of Your blood.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us 

and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.   I John 4:10

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Dear Younger Me Part 6: Embrace Your Who

Well, we have reached part 6 and the last day of my guest blogging at My Journey of Faith. Thank you so much for joining me these last several days.

What are your life’s cornerstones–those foundations that are crucial in a strong faith? If you haven’t listed them on paper, I urge you to do so. You will receive many blessings as you recall what God has been, and is, doing in your life.

Click HERE to go to Part 6 of Dear Younger Me: Embrace Your Who.

  • Cornerstone 1: Connect with God
  • Cornerstone 2: Be Thankful in all Things
  • Cornerstone 3: Trust the Master
  • Cornerstone 4: Pursue Forgiveness
  • Cornerstone 5: Embrace Your Who

If you have enjoyed reading my posts on Yesterday to Forever–Telling Yesterday’s Stories That Change Our Lives Forever, would you take a second to click on the red follow button and sign up with your email address. It will bring my posts directly to your inbox. As always, I love to read your comments and stories.

Dear Younger Me Part 5: Pursue Forgiveness

As you may already know, I have been guest blogging at My Journey of Faith. Have you been enjoying the blog posts in this series? I’d love to hear your comments and stories.

So, let’s get to it. Click HERE for Cornerstone 4: Pursue Forgiveness

  • Cornerstone 1: Connect with God
  • Cornerstone 2: Be Thankful in all Things
  • Cornerstone 3: Trust the Master
  • Cornerstone 4: Pursue Forgiveness

Dear Younger Me

This week I’m guest blogging at My Journey of Faith. I’ve written a six-part series called Dear Younger Me. Would you jump over to My Journey of Faith to read today’s post? Each day I will unpack the cornerstones of my life, shared below.

  1. Connect with God.
  2. Be thankful in all things.
  3. Trust the Master.
  4. Pursue forgiveness.
  5. Embrace your who.

I invite you back tomorrow to My Journey of Faith or this blog page to read part 2, Connect with God.

 

Do You Experience Fence Aggression?

Gracie  Gracie, our three-year-old Border Collie/Labrador, loves her back yard. She lies on the patio and looks over the yard as if surveying all she owns.

Fence Aggression picWhen she was a puppy, she dug holes in the flowerbeds and torn up the landscape fabric from under the mulch. Being a type-A personality, I guess she thought that was her job. It was a relief when her focus turned from the flowerbeds to a new game.

There is a paved walking trail on the other side of our back yard privacy fence. Many people use it to walk their dogs, run, or bike. As they go by, neighborhood dogs bark. Alerted, Gracie sights the people between the fence slats. Game on! She runs along the fence, around the pool, behind holly bushes, around the shed, springs off of the side fence, spins in several circles, and repeats the dance again.

The Problem

As long as she’s having fun… That was our reasoning until three months ago when she started holding up her back leg. The vet indicted rest for several weeks should heal the probable hairline fracture.

Fearing another injury, we tried to slow her speedy laps. As she ran toward us, we tried to capture her, but she darted around us. We called her, but she ignored us. To get her attention, we splashed water on her. She stopped dead in her tracks and looked at us as if to say, “What do you need?” It was then we realized she becomes laser focused—almost as if in a trance.

The following month, Gracie began to limp again. This time she had completely torn her toenail off with the flesh exposed. Ugh!!! After a 4-week recovery, a new nail appeared and she was back to routine. Yes… well… it was short-lived.

Gracie is currently recovering from a broken toe. Four to six weeks of weekly splint changes by the vet. No walks, no swimming, no dog-friend play dates—just chilling on a leash. She’s really bummed out.

After three injuries and lots of vet bills, something needed to change. Research revealed she is not actually playing a game. She is stressed. Fence aggression is the term for her behavior. She defies the limits of the fence to try to get to the stimuli on the other side.

Lessons Learned

I also said to myself, as for humans, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. (Ecclesiastes 3:18 NIV)

As if awakened from my own daze, I began to draw correlations between Gracie and me. I want something on the greener side of the fence, but God has limited me for my own good. I don’t understand. Feeling constricted, I stress and mentally ram into the fence. Many times I get hurt because my trust in the Master is weak.

When the Master calls, the day’s distractions drown out His voice. Calamity strikes. My trance is broken. I fall on my knees and seek His help.

The Solution

Yahweh your God is among you, a warrior who saves. He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will bring you quietness with His love. He will delight in you with shouts of joy. (Zephaniah 3:17 HCSB)

They say in research that to break fence aggression, an owner needs to practice recalls with the dog:

  1. Tie a leash or rope to the dog’s collar. Call them and gently pull them toward you.
  2. Give praise with a happy and excited voice when they get to your side. Pet them and demonstrate your great love for them. This will quiet their stress.
  3. Offer a high-value treat like chicken or cheese.

Of course, we are not dogs, but if you will indulge me, here is the correlation:

  1. God gives us enough rope, but only to go so far. When we have hit the end, He gently tugs and says come to Me.
  2. God rejoices over us, brings quietness with His love, and delights in us with shouts of joy. Our stress melts away.
  3. He offers us a high-value reward—peace and joy through trust in the Master.

 

 

The Portrait

Artists-Palette-And-Brush-2400px

 

 

She was painting a remarkable picture. When he asked about the portrait, she invited him to sit down. She recounted her memories of the man with many occupations.

magical moments

“As a magician, he would produce bananas and quarters from behind my ears. Amazing what was tucked in my head, and I didn’t even know it. Using his magic rope and blocks, he demonstrated the story of Jesus and the sacrifice He gave in exchange for my eternal life in heaven.

be a cheerleader

As a fisherman, he took me to the ocean, cold streams, lakes, and ponds looking for the best fishing holes. Thankfully, he always baited my hook. He taught me to yank on the fishing line at just the right time to set the hook. If my fish got away, he was sad for me. He also cheered when I caught the big one. When we set out on our chartered ocean fishing trip, he brought my favorite: Italian hoagies and orange soda. Regretably, as my stomach roiled from the waves, lunch was tossed overboard. He compassionately held me.

don’t sit on the sidelines

As a coach, he taught me how to swim, play baseball and tetherball, and how to ride the monkey swing he made. Actually, he was more than a coach; he was also a participant. Oh the fun we had dunking and splashing each other in the pool, or playing catch in the backyard. I was always tired first, but my coach never quit.

winning is good, but being a good sport is better

As a master game player, he taught me how to play Rook, Parcheesi, Flinch, checkers, ping pong, and pool. (As a result, Rook has become the game of choice with my children.) Sometimes, he would beat me soundly, but he would also purposely loose to make me laugh. By example, he taught me the value of letting others have the pleasure of winning also. He taught me that winning is good, but being a good sport is better. Teasing was his favorite game, and he never missed an opportunity. Shoving a frozen ham under his tee shirt was the best prank I played on him. Even though he was startled, he laughed hard. He lived by his motto: Don’t dish it if you can’t take it.

laugh

As a Santa-moonlighter, he perpetuated a belief in Santa. As my siblings and I got older, we began to doubt the validity of Santa. So, he secretly hid a mask of Santa outside the window and pulled down the shade. That Christmas Eve, we sat on his lap while he read a bedtime story. When the story was finished, the window shade snapped up and there was Santa staring right into our surprised faces. Next, we heard Santa command, ‘You’d better get to bed or I can’t come with presents.’ All three of us clammored to get up the stairs at one time. His jolly Santa’s belly still shakes with laughter as he remembers that Christmas.

think through a problem to find the resolution

As a teacher, he believed there was an educational value in all things. Whether lessons on how to buy and sell antiques, how to wire the new church for electricity, collecting coins, or constructing and repairing with tools, he shared his knowledge. This dear teacher insisted that I think through a problem to find the resolution. He would not give the ‘right’ answer until you demonstrated a valiant effort.

give a piece of yourself to others

As a craftsman, he loved the wood shed. I’m not referring to spankings, although he did lovingly provide one or two of them. He had a superior ability to create unique designs. As I look around our home, I see his gifts everywhere: coffee table, sofa table, lamps, shelves, pictures, and tray tables. He has been know to encode sentimental words and symbols into his creations which add to the mystique of the gifts.

enjoy the tracks of life

As a train collector, he was exuberant. I can remember watching his eyes light up as we would go to the train museums. He would tell me about the different gauges of trains, how he owned this railroad crossing sign or that water tank in his personal collection. Each Christmas, we set up the trains. First we covered the platform with rough paper, then made the mountains and sprayed them with snow paint. We built a tunnel through one mountain. Then put on the finishing touches with signs, houses, and churches. To this day, I can still hear the click-clack of the trains as they whistled around this miniature playground and emitted smoke from their stacks.

demonstrate a love for Jesus

Lastly, as an artist, he liked to paint with oils. I remember several paintings, but my favorite is the one he helped me paint as a 6-year-old. Because the three crosses on a hill were vivid for me, he helped me paint my love for Jesus on canvas. First, he taught me how to paint the sunset. Next, we added the crosses on the mountainside. When it was finished, he said, ‘an artist must sign their work.’ Since it was hard for me, he added C. Keen 1961 to the bottom right hand corner of my first masterpiece.

As you can see, he had many occupations. This portrait is of that one man,” she concluded.

With the story finished, the storyteller got up from her chair and gave the listener a big hug. Then, she turned the easel toward the man. He saw himself—through her eyes.

Dear Dad

psst…You Deserve More

No complaining

“I think you just like to complain,” my husband declared to me.

The fiery arrow whistled through the air and straight into the center of my heart. Life blood gushed, releasing with it angry venom. I felt like I had been punched in the gut. I wanted to spew words back that would feel painful, but only weak words formed in my mind: I do not.

Have you been here too?

Maybe God brought Solomon’s wisdom to my husband’s mind:

It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman. (Proverbs 21:19)

My wound was deep; not just from an introspective evaluation, but also because I didn’t feel that my concerns were heard. After all, I was trying to fix something that, from my high-justice vantage point, was wrong. Complaining justified, right?

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1

I softly and self-righteously responded, “Well, maybe I do.”

Then silence, as I pouted and invited every thought to my private pity party. Hiding alone in a quiet place, tears ran down my face. I cried out to God for a verse to tell me that I was right, and He was going to exact vengeance. And God answered!

Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord, and when he heard them his anger was aroused (Numbers 11:1)

“You’re right, God. But couldn’t he have delivered that news better? Couldn’t he have understood what I was complaining about? Please remove this pain from my heart. Return a smile to my face and joy to my spirit. Please hurry. The pain is more than I can bear.”

I thumbed through the Bible searching for relief. And God gave it to me:

a time to break down, and a time to build up;

a time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance; (Ecclesiastes 3:3-4)

Well, God did not provide the instant relief I was seeking. Instead, it was more like: “wait to see the wonderful things I’m teaching you now.” I was not into learning right at this moment. Just respite from pain.

In Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts (a gem that should be read at least annually), she identifies complaining as a root of ingratitude.

give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (I Thessalonians 5:18)

Regardless of whether my concerns were understood or not, sadly, the point remains—I am a complainer. Sometimes I compare myself to the Israelites: God does miracles and provides, but it’s not enough. If only I had…, then I would be happy. I bought into the enemy’s lies that whisper, “What you have isn’t enough. You deserve more. You are entitled you know.”

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

 Can I say this wound is suddenly healed this morning? No. I’m soul searching; digging deep for all the roots of complaining. I don’t want to slap a sorry-about-that-bandage on this wound and then revisit this painful issue again.

As Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 3, there is a time for everything. This morning I’m hiding—not alone, but in God’s arms of forgiveness. I bring a repentant, thankful heart eager for a time of healing and change.

My husband is wise. He is gentle and kind. Sometimes, he is the tough love that I need. He is brave enough to say what needs to be said—what a gift from God!

Father, it is so hard to hear negative words about myself. It is also hard to be thankful especially in the middle of a wounded spirit. But it is worse to arouse Your anger; You have heaped many blessings upon me throughout my life. Thank you especially for my husband who loves me enough to deliver your message. Please forgive my complaining. Please revive my spirit of gratitude to You. Put a guard on my mouth and thoughts so I will focus on the things that are excellent and praise worthy.