Friday, March 22, 2013

My legalism card

Man oh man... I have been walking around for days feeling like I could burst into tears at the drop of a hat. It's like something is completely broken inside, and I could not be more pleased.

I didn't come to Christ like I was doing Him a favor.  On the contrary, I came to Him devastated and broken, completely aware of the si8n and shame in my life and desperately aware of my need for a Savior to pull me out of the much and mud that was my existence. When the "Lifter of my head" drew my eyes upward to the cross of Christ and all He had done for me I experienced a level of gratitude that I am hard pressed to find the words to describe. The grace of God radically and completely changed my life. It changed me.

I've been thinking back a lot on that girl.  I can see her standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes when a song called "Free" by Steven Curtis Chapman began to blare through the house...

"And with repentance in his voice he told me of his tragic choice
That led him to this place where he must pay the price
But then his voice grew strong as he began to tell
About the One he said had rescued him from hell, he said...
I'm free, yeah, oh, I have been forgiven
God's love has taken off my chains and given me these wings
And I'm free, yeah, yeah, and the freedom I've been given
Is something that not even death can take away from me
Because I'm free
Jesus set me free"

A song about a convicted criminal waiting on death row for his punishment literally drove me to my knees right there in my kitchen, crying out in gratitude.  I was a murderer too, I'd killed my own child through abortion, and although it wasn't a criminal offense, I have lived with the certainty of my condemnation, and then.... Jesus set me free. 

And I knew, KNEW, to the depth of my very being that my freedom had come at great cost. I had looked upon the cross and I understood His suffering, the passion of Christ, was truly at my hands.  And I was grateful.

I don't know when it happened exactly, somewhere along the line my knowledge of that grace, it's power, it's blessing and it's cost faded back into a memory, and somewhere I started to live like I had done something for Christ, rather than like He had done something for me, something I did not deserve and never could earn. 

In the beginning I wanted to change my life out of a grateful heart.  I wanted to live for Him, and live a righteous life BECAUSE of what He had done for me. But somewhere along the line I think I actually removed the cross from the equation.  Instead of recognizing the mercy and grace, the unmerited favor and free gift out of the goodness of the Giver's heart, I got caught up in some perceived goodness of my own.  I looked around and wondered why other people weren't living the same kind of life I was "for Christ." And I judged people.  Not just inside the "body," but outside the body too.  It wasn't a willful decision, but one I slowly slipped into, losing love for others with every step further. 

I don't know exactly when or how, but I exchanged my "grace card" to become a "card carrying" legalist instead, and it wasn't just how I lived my own life, but it was an expectation I put on others.  And I can't help but realize, because of it, people had to have stopped seeing Jesus in me-- or worse, the me they saw, must have made them not want to look toward Jesus at all.  How the thought of that breaks my heart. 

There is another line from another Steven Curtis Chapman song that has been resonating in my mind and heart.  In the song "Remember Your Chains," Chapman sings these lyrics:

"There's no one more thankful to sit at the table
Than the one who best remembers hunger's pain
And no heart loves greater than the one that is able
To recall the time when all it knew was the shame"

God forgive me, I had forgotten.  I had forgotten what it was to remember "hunger's pain" and the sea of shame that rightfully consumed me before I stood at the cross of Christ, where His blood flowed down and covered my sin... healed my heart... gave me a hope greater than myself... a blessed assurance that what He did for me was everything, and it was enough. 

I don't know how I forgot, but I did.  And I don't want to ever forget again. 

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves;
it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. 
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:8-10

For He will deliver the needy when he cries,
The poor also, and him who has no helper.
He will spare the poor and needy,
And will save the souls of the needy.
He will redeem their life from oppression and violence;
And precious shall be their blood in His sight.
Psalm 72:12-14

Here are both the songs referenced above if you're interested.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Have you ever found the sense of God's presence has a very similar physical manifestation to anxiousness and fear?  Maybe it's just me, but there are days when I can sense the nearness of the Holy Spirit and it causes a flutter in my gut and a tightness in my chest that makes me feel like it's all I can do just to catch my next breath.

I'm feeling exactly that way right now as I type this into the computer. The only difference being that rather than the "fight or flight" response I have when those feelings are rooted in fear, instead I feel like I would simply like to collapse to my knees and worship the Father.  Why don't I?  Well because I am at work, in the middle of my day and it just doesn't feel appropriate.

This feeling is one that can both be pursued and can sneak up on me.  I have at times been just walking through the grocery store and very suddenly in the midst of walking up an aisle, it's all I can do not to fall on my face and weep in His presence.  Sometimes when I am on a long walk the same desire will arise, the need to just worship.  I will sometimes raise my hands, but I try to make it look as much like a "normal" stretch as I go, just in case anyone is watching.

Sometimes in church service these same feelings will come upon me and feel interrupted.  This past Sunday, I found myself very caught up in worship (which is actually unusual for me) and my eyes were closed and my arms stretched toward the heavens, I was completely caught up in pursuing the presence of the Lord when the music stopped and the pastor began to speak announcements.  Even in church I found myself pulling my arms down quickly, embarrassed.

I can't help but wonder, why do I do that?  And how would my life be different if I didn't let myself refrain because of what other people might think.  What am I missing out on because in those moments of overwhelming desire to worship and connect with God I let myself focus on the thoughts, approval and opinions of others.

I am honestly just thinking "out loud" because I don't know how I could dare to do anything any differently.  What would people think?  Yes, there might be grace if I was lost in worship in the middle of a church service, but if I drop to my knees at Ralph's someone is likely to make a phone call to bring an ambulance or worse to tend to my apparent mental health issues.

James 4: 8a says "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." And I honestly imagine that these love bursts of worship, reverence and awe are probably symptomatic of exactly that, the Lord drawing near.  I can't help but wonder if there isn't some serious opportunity being missed by not just stopping and basking in the presence of my Savior.

I have been thinking about Him, and my relationship with Him a lot lately.  I mean, I have always found him to be in the center of my thoughts, I am always wondering what He thinks or feels about my actions and choices, but I have been thinking with more intention, reminding myself of the things He has done for me, and the parts of Himself that He has revealed to me through those experiences.  I am trying very purposely to remember exactly who I was when I came to Him-- broken, lost, desperate, hungering and thirsting for someTHING more only to realize that the answers to my needs were in a Person, in a someONE not a someTHING.

It's never been religion that had the answers to my lack, pain or loss, and I am sad to admit how many times in the years since I came in to relationship with Christ how many times I have let it be about the religion and lost all focus on the relationship.  It sounds cliche to say "Christianity is a relationship not a religion," but it's so completely and profoundly TRUE.  Oh God how desperately I love You.  How is it I so often forget the greatness and passion that is at the very root of our relationship? 

I am so thankful that God has not forgotten, and that I am sure is why when I least expect it He very suddenly comes up upon me and sweeps me off my feet-- like a passionate lover who takes me into His loving embrace until my heart flutters and He makes me swoon, wanting only to fall into His arms and be embraced by the amazing love that will consume my very existence, and beautifully so.

Lord, let me lay aside everything that is in and of myself and any concern for appearance or judgment, just simply, allow myself to swoon in Your beautiful presence.  Lover of my soul, how desperately I long to love you with the very same abandon with which you have so completely and selflessly loved me first...

David was afraid of the Lord that day and said, “How can the ark (presence) of the Lord ever come to me?” He was not willing to take the ark of the Lord to be with him in the City of David. Instead, he took it to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. The ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite for three months, and the Lord blessed him and his entire household.
Now King David was told, “The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark (presence) of God.” So David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing. When those who were carrying the ark of the Lord had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.
2 Samuel 6:9-15