Is This What Hell is Like?

I have warned my husband off and on over the years of my quickly diminishing interest in the domestic arts. He has ignored me. There is a phrase from William Congreve’s, The Mourning Bride, that says, hell has no fury like a woman scorned. Well, I would like to mention that the results aren’t any better when a woman is ignored.

My kitchen disasters over the years have not been intentional. However, I can’t help but wonder if my subconscious is attempting to take over where my conscious side has failed. Over the years I have put down glass lids on hot burners, left the room and then reacted with sheer shock at the explosion of burning glass flying around the room. The upside was the new kitchen floor I got out of it.

At other times, I have accepted my lot in life as the preparer of food with such enthusiasm that I have fancied myself as Rachael Ray’s twin sister. My fingers rocked the ultra sharp knife back in forth with such rhythm that I lost control and sliced off the tip of a very important digit. It looks so much easier on TV.

At other times, my romantic side has taken over, and I have envisioned my beloved family coming home to a roaring fire in the fireplace of our 1930’s bungalow. But a thick menacing smoke filled the house thwarting my plans. Stupid fireplace! I called a friend. (A call to the fire department seemed a bit dramatic). She walked into the house, walked over to the fireplace and mentioned that maybe I might consider opening the flue next time as she gave it a yank.

If you are friends with me on facebook you will have heard about my latest domestic disaster. I hate to cook. My mom says her perfect house doesn’t have a kitchen, and I’m inclined to agree with her. But there are living creatures in my house that have need of nourishment with some sort of food. It’s a conundrum.

The other day I revisited my Rachael Ray desires and attempted iced tea. We aren’t even talking food here! I could have used the mix, which we had in the cabinet, but homemade is better. So having brewed sixteen cups of water to the boiling point, I poured it into the glass pitcher and attempted to move said pitcher from the counter to the refrigerator. The lid WAS securely tightened onto the glass pitcher. Somehow the glass pitcher separated itself from the plastic lid and crashed to the floor. A very sick joke.

What followed was like slow motion in the movies. I could not move my feet out of the scalding water fast enough. It lapped up layers of skin on my foot with speed and fury. The last time I saw a burn like this was on my then 10-month old son right after he grabbed a hot cup of coffee and spilled it down his front. He was wearing fleece. Fleece and heat are not a good combination. Now I knew how my poor baby felt as he lay flailing in my arms in the ambulance.

My feet will live. The human body has an incredible way of healing itself. Just more evidence for the argument of intelligent design by a very creative Designer. Here’s what I learned:

1). I will never mix glass and extreme heat again. I will use plastic, and I don’t care if it’s filled with BPA’s. It’s a much less painful way to go.

2). Just because your 13-year old son spends more time in his lair than he does in the family room does not mean he has no ability to react lovingly in a crisis. For some reason, my husband is always MIA during these situations. If it hadn’t been for my sweet Nick pouring cold water on my feet and ordering me to the tub, I don’t know what I would have done. He called my husband at work, got me to cold running water and started cleaning up the mess. Great affirmation that his brain is developing normally.

3). I will accept my lot as a half-hearted domestic diva. There are fewer accidents when I’m not trying to be something I am not. Plus, it will give my kids something to tell they’re therapist when they’re adults. “I was so abused as a kid. We ate cereal for dinner” they’ll say. To which the therapist will shake his head with a “tsk, tsk” and a “Shameful.”

4). I’m not kidding when I say that my first coherent thought on the way to the ER was “Is this what hell will be like?” I know, depressing, but think about it. This was just a foot that got burned that was treated quickly with ice, topical ointment, bandaging and some very strong pain medication. There will be none of that in hell, not to mention, there’s going to be more burning than just feet with no end in sight. And that’s just the physical torment of it. It was sobering to say the least.

The moral of the story is that our feet need to be fitted with the gospel of peace (Eph. 6:15). When mine are healed I need to be using them to walk the Gospel message to those who’ve never heard it.

Living in the Liminal, Part Two

We’re talking about waiting, and since I’m a word person, I’ve devised a way to help me remember what God is teaching me about waiting using an acrostic with the word, WAIT. But before I get into that I have to say that I really don’t think waiting well, or doing anything well, for that matter, can be done if we don’t know what we believe about God or even why we believe it. What I mean is this: there have been countless times in my life that I have had to wait on God and have been in such a state of frustration and anger that He has gently taken me by the hand, walked me through the pages of my life and His word, and pointed out who He is and what He has done. Often I will hear Him say, “Do you trust me? Do you believe I am who I say I am? Do you believe that I am good no matter what your circumstances? Or is it all just words?” Ouch.

Until we get our heads around who God really is and what we believe about Him, waiting well is a wasted concept. I really believe this is why people like Elizabeth Grant (Click here) cause such a swirl of chatter because we are all so amazed at how they handle their situations. It speaks volumes about their belief in God and the relationship they have with Him.

In Acts one Luke is giving Theophilus a run-down of recent events surrounding the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus and more specifically those whom He appeared to after rising from the dead.

“On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about'” (v. 4, NIV).

This is not a perfect four-point sermon where everything in Acts one goes in order according to the acrostic, but upon reading it, I noticed different things about how the apostles waited for the promised Holy Spirit.

Watch your words and attitude. We can spend all of our time fussing and complaining about our situation or we can do what the apostles did. After two men approached them and asked them why in the world they were staring into space when clearly Jesus was gone, they hightailed it back to the city and started praying. This is never my first approach. I usually don’t feel like it, but once I’ve given in, worship becomes like a salve for the soul. Only God quiet the questions.

Anticipate what He will do. This could not be more clearly seen than it is at the end of the chapter. The apostles knew they had been chosen to bear witness of what Jesus had done. They also knew that they needed a replacement for Judas. So they got down to the business of choosing this person in anticipation of the coming of the Holy Spirit. There was a certain order of events and things that had to be accomplished beforehand.

“‘Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas'” (v. 16, italics mine).

“Therefore, it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us'” (v. 21, italics mine).

“For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection” (v. 22, italics mine).

Ignore the distractions. I’m imagining they had questions beyond whether or not this was the time Jesus would finally restore the kingdom of Israel. I could be wrong. I know for me the nagging questions of when, why, how much longer and everything in between only makes waiting more difficult. We prostitute our hope every time we pander to the tauntings of the enemy. Adam and Eve are perfect examples. So is Sarah, who instead of waiting and trusting that God would do what He said He would do, took matters into her own hands. I think we all know the outcome of that. Why cheapen what we know about God by listening to the lies that Satan throws at us in the form of questions that God isn’t ready to answer?

Thank Him for what He will do. Again, the text doesn’t say that they thanked God for what they knew would come after a time of waiting. However, it’s probably safe to say that they did thank Him: for everything, for the years they’d been privy to, for choosing them to be the first to carry out His message, and for everything He had yet to do with them and through them. At least that’s what I would have prayed had I been in the correct frame of mind!

The bottom line is that we all at some point are, will or have been living in liminal space. How we do it affects everything. What would have happened if the disciples hadn’t stayed in Jerusalem and waited for the Holy Spirit? What if they were just so excited about everything they’d seen and heard that they went ahead and attempted to spread His message without the power of the Holy Spirit? How different the Church would look!

Jesus says, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29, NIV). In other words, the weight of the wait is on Him.

Living in the Liminal, Part One

We do it in the cabin of an airplane. We do it in a car, in the lobby of a doctor’s office, in the line at the grocery store. We do it while engaged to be married, pregnant with a child, applying for that dream job, sitting by the phone in hopes of good news from the doctor. What is it? Waiting. We wait. We spend much of our lives waiting. Sometimes the wait is only as long as it takes for the nurse to call our name for our turn to see the doctor. Sometimes it’s a bit longer as we interview along with half a dozen other people for that job we’ve always wanted. Other times, the waiting can seem indefinite. This is what I call living in the liminal and where I’ve found myself for the past year or so.

Liminal space is that space in time hanging between where you were and where you want to be. It’s standing at the threshold of something bigger than where you’ve been. There’s no getting around it. Waiting is part of life. How we do it is what makes the difference.

…a unique spiritual position where human beings hate to be but where the biblical God is always leading them. It is when you have left the tried and true, but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is when you are finally out of the way. It is when you are between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer. If you are not trained in how to hold anxiety, how to live with ambiguity, how to entrust and wait, you will run…anything to flee this terrible cloud of unknowing. 
– Richard Rohr

This quote by Richard Rohr brings to mind how I envision the way many of us wait for unanswered questions. When we’re little we are taught not to interrupt our parents while they are talking to someone else. If we want their attention, we are taught to gently tap them on the arm so that they know we have something to say and then wait patiently until they are ready to respond. Well, I know few kids, myself included, that get this right regularly. Usually it looks more like this: the parent is standing there having an in-depth conversation with her friend, we tap, tap, tap and get no response. So we resort to tugging on the sleeve of her shirt, ripping out the threads, standing on our heads, making weird faces, yelling, screaming, throwing ourselves on the ground. Anything to get her attention.

Is the mother deaf and blind? Has she not heard our plea for attention or seen the antics we were willing to go to in order to get her attention? No. She saw it all and heard it all. She just wasn’t done talking, and it wasn’t time to address our issue. I do that with God sometimes. I yammer on and on at Him about my pitiful state of discontent as if He’s never heard it before. It’s not that we can’t come to Him with our needs over and over again, but if the request isn’t being answered in our time, there’s a reason. Maybe what we should be asking for is the ability to wait gracefully. We must learn to wait correctly.

Recently my daughter came home from driver’s ed and declared with unbridled confidence that I am an aggressive driver. Well…it’s true. I can be in a perfectly good mood, and the moment I get behind that wheel it all goes out the window. Thankfully, salvation is secure because if it wasn’t I would lose mine every time I get behind the wheel of a vehicle! I just want to know, how green must a light be before the person in front of me deems it prudent to accelerate and move?!

This is how I wait, with aggression. It’s ugly and usually involves the over-talking of my issue, living my life with frustration and anger, snapping at those around me and just generally not being very pleasant to be around.

Another way we wait is to just lie down and die. Give up. What’s the point? This behavior falls into the self-pity arena. When I was a kid we lived up the street from this little grocery store called Frank’s. When I say little, I mean little. It was the  convenience store on the corner. I can still hear the squeak of the old screen door as it opened and shut behind his customers. It was a very big deal to take loose change and walk the few feet down the street and buy candy. Frank stood behind his old counter wearing his white apron and hat and patiently waiting for us to make our candy choices. One day he found out he had cancer. He closed his shop, sold everything and stayed in his house and waited to die. The sad thing was, he lived that way for years missing out on so much of life. He just gave up.

Finally, we wait by taking matters into our own hands. This is what I used to do with my credit card when I got tired of waiting for things I wanted or thought I needed. I figured if God wasn’t going to provide for me, I’d provide for myself, credit card in hand headed for wreckless spending. This often involves manipulating circumstances to get what we want or simply settling for something less than what God had in mind for us.

The one thing that God has been driving home to me is that I have a choice as to how I will wait. In my next post, I will share with you what He has been teaching me about waiting correctly. In the meantime, what are you waiting for? How are you waiting? What does your liminal space look like?

Dress For Success, Part Two

Today we finish our two-part series on dressing for success based on Ephesians 6.

I did a little reading on shields, and what I found was interesting. Depending on the culture, time frame and material they were made from, a shield did little more than absorb a blow by the enemy. But in Ephesians, we read that our shield, our faith, is not meant to merely absorb Satan’s attacks against us. It is meant to “extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (v.16, NIV). There’s a big difference between absorbing and extinguishing. One implies protecting what you can and dealing with the blow you’ve been dealt. The other implies snuffing out the fire altogether with the weapons you’ve been given.

In my search for significance through materialistic means, my shield did nothing more than absorb the blows of Satan. The constant mental berating from the enemy that I was nothing because I didn’t look a certain way and didn’t have an account full of retirement money ready to support a lifestyle in Florida weakened me to the point of becoming a warrior completely exposed to Satan’s attacks.

In ancient times a shield was the mark of a warrior. Our shields are only as strong as our faith. There’s a reason the New Testament is full of verses that talk about the need to grow in our faith, stand firm in our faith, live by faith. It’s not a suggestion. The stronger our faith grows, the easier it is to ignore the lies of Satan and live in victory.

Last summer was a particularly difficult time for my daughter spiritually. I spent weeks watching her battle the lies of Satan in her head, a fear so crippling she became been physically sick. I watched as she, for a time, allowed herself to succumb to the enemy’s devastating claims on her.

We are made up of body, soul and spirit. It’s in the soul part of us, our minds, that battles are won and lost. Just like a motorcyclist has a much better chance of surviving a crash if his head is protected with a helmet, so too will we as Christians be better able to withstand Satan’s attacks if our head is covered with the helmet of salvation.

What I’ve come to realize is that the helmet of salvation is more than knowing where we will go when we die. As God’s saved, chosen people there are certain promises that come with that salvation; the promise that if we resist Satan, he will flee (James 4:7); the promise that “greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world (I John 4:4); the promise that “He will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast” (Is. 26:3); the promise that “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37, NIV). The promises are endless, and they belong to us. With sonship comes the benefits of being a child of a King, The King. God has reminded me that He doesn’t just save me and leave me to figure it out until I finally reach heaven. With salvation comes protection, strength, and power.

“But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet” (I Thes. 5:8, NIV, italics mine).

As my pastor put it: Whom will you believe? God or Satan? Put on the helmet, girl. You don’t have to listen to the junk.

The last weapon, the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, is our only defensive weapon. In battle, the warrior protected vital organs with his belt, helmet, breastplate, shield and with his feet ready for battle. None of those things were weapons meant for attack. They were for protection only. The sword on the other hand, now that was a weapon.

Instead of reminding Satan that God supplies all my needs, I will still, at times, recoil in fear in the form of worry and stress. If I were dressed for battle, I could come back at Satan with countless verses about God’s love for me, His provision for all my needs, His plan to prosper me.

It didn’t take long for my daughter to learn this lesson last summer. After a few days of Satan’s nonsense, she started fighting back. For weeks she walked around with a Bible always in her hands. She slept with it opened on a pillow next to her. I could hear her reciting verse after verse while she walked around the house and went about her life. None of this was done out of a superstitious belief that somehow an open Bible would ward off Satan’s blows. Instead, she was gaining an understanding of the tool God has given us in His Word. She wasn’t going down without a fight, and she did eventually win.

This life is a battlefield, and to live it successfully, there are certain wardrobe essentials we must have on.

We wouldn’t leave our house without a pair of shoes or pants. So why would we even think of going into a spiritual battle half-dressed? What piece of armor do you regularly forget to “put on”?

Dress For Success, Part One

You must travel with your swords always drawn, and you may as well throw away the scabbard, for you will never want it.”

Charles Spurgeon

“Our Life, Our Work, Our Charge” August 4, 1867

 Dress for Success

It’s cheesy, I know, but I love to watch the Golden Globes and the Oscars. I can’t help myself. All of those beautiful gowns and beautiful shoes draped on those beautiful people dripping with blinding bling. It’s like candy for the eyes! It’s not that I want to be one of them. I don’t. It’s not that I’ve seen the movies they’re touting. I haven’t. It’s not even that I approve. I don’t. But for us materialistic fashionistas it’s hard to resist. At one point in my life I could look at a designer gown and with stunning accuracy tell you who the designer was, not because I’d worn the clothes, but because I had studied fashion magazines like my life depended on it and followed every major designer I could through books, the internet and TV.

While my arsenal of design knowledge increased, my knowledge of Christ, His Word, and the power that is mine through the Holy Spirit, tanked. I became wrapped up in who I was externally completely ignoring who and what God had called me to be as His child. Though I looked completely put together on the outside when I left my house everyday, on the inside I couldn’t have been more ill prepared for whatever the day had for me. Countless books have been written on the armor of God. I’m not sure I could tell you anything new on the subject so instead I will show you how doing the opposite affected my life so negatively. This is the first in a two-part series on the armor of God taken from Ephesians 6.

If the truth sets us free, as Jesus says in John 8:32, then the opposite holds us captive. Instead of the belt of truth wrapped around my waist, I had bought into the lies of Satan that I was only as good as my reflection in the mirror and the number in my bank account. In my teenage years I spent precious gray matter obsessing over the cover models on magazines, wishing and working to be something that I found out later didn’t even exist. Airbrushing. I will admit as I get older a little bit of the magic of airbrushing would go a long way in compensating for my serious lack of being photogenic.

Financially speaking, over the years I’ve had plenty of money at times and none at all at other times. In both instances the desire for it quietly and seductively slithered to the throne of my life making promises it could never fulfill. If I had more of it I’d be happy. If I had it invested correctly I would be safe financially. The truth is, my financial security comes from God.

In the Easy-to-read version of Ephesians 6, verse 14 refers to the breastplate of righteousness as the breastplate of right living. Right living means many different things. In my life it meant reigning in the spending and chasing that which is deeper than skin. Instead, I spent money like the prodigal. When I finally ran out, I had nothing to offer God but my repentance and the begging for mercy.

In verse 15 it says “and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace”. Practically speaking, my feet spent more time walking through stores than they did carrying the gospel to my neighbors. I realize that a good pair of shoes can transform an outfit, but feet that bring the good news of Jesus can transform a life.

“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news” (Isaiah 52:7, NIV).

“Through him we received both the generous gift of his life and the urgent task of passing it on to others who receive it by entering into obedient trust in Jesus. You are who you are through this gift and call of Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:5,6 The Message, Italics mine).

In the movie, Confessions of a Shopaholic, the main character is among hundreds of women standing outside a huge department store waiting to get in for the sample sale. The doors open, and madness ensues as they push and prod their way to the racks hoping to score the deal of the century on some designer threads.

Sometimes I feel like that’s how I go through life, spinning my wheels, rushing around at breakneck speed. For what? Not only do I find myself at times with my breastplate of right living dangling loosely from its intended spot, my feet aren’t carrying the gospel with nearly the amount of urgency they do when pursuing selfish ambitions.

In the next post we will finish our study on the wardrobe essentials needed to live this life successfully. In the meantime, some food for thought: the breastplate of righteousness belongs securely fastened across the chest, covering the vital organs it protects, the heart and lungs. Where’s yours? Is it securely fastened in place? And what about your feet? What are they pursuing, selfish ambitions or lost souls?

“The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the unfaithful are trapped by evil desires” (Prov. 11:6, NIV).