Monday, November 15, 2010

Changes Happen

Dear Friends,

God has a way of intervening in one's life and such is the situation with mine. For almost three years my husband and I have been ministering in a conflicted church environment. It has left us weary and exhausted but we have also grown through the experience. As of Sunday, November 14 we are no longer part of this congregation. In the meantime God had opened up another ministry opportunity for me as Executive Directore of a pregnancy care center.

What this means for On Crooked Knees is a needed time to regroup and pray. It doesn't seem possible, but I've been writing weekly devotionals for On Crooked Knees for almost three years! Thank you for joining me on the journey.

I'm going to take time off from writing for the next two weeks. Your prayers are appreciated and hopefully on December 1 you'll see a new devotional in your e-mail box or on this site. I am open to however God leads. May you all have a Thanksgiving filled with visions of all the blessings you have received this past year - even if it has been a year of challenges!


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Traveling to Ninevah

But Jonah got up and went the other direction to Tarshish,
running away from God.

Jonah 1:3 (The Message)

I can remember exactly which road I was driving when I uttered-- “Lord, I want to really know what it means for you to live in me and me in you.” At the time I thought it a prayer of honesty and perhaps, a point of "discussion" with God. He apparently took me at my word because since that day there have been more times than I can count that I have wanted to do a Jonah—get up and go in the other direction.

Jonah wasn’t ignorant of what God was asking him to do. He knew the politics of Ninevah and that his life could be in jeopardy if he went with God’s “message.” To follow God’s direction, to live in him, would be a dangerous delivery. Ultimately, he valued his life more than God’s control.

When God lives in me, control over my life is lost. And I can plan on hardships along the way that ultimately will draw me further up and further into the Kingdom of God. Ninevah was a hardship for Jonah but he didn’t control the ending.

Years later I realize that God has answered my prayer. In the beginning I fought my Ninevahs because, like Jonah, they were too difficult, too risky, too challenging, too dangerous. I have never gotten to Tarshish. But many of my Ninevahs have turned out better than expected. Of this I am certain, each visit has drawn me further into the Kingdom.

I hear your voice calling, God.
Help me to not run away in fear.
My desire is to move in the direction of each Ninevah you send my way.

Image - Jonah heads to Tarshish

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Don't Be Silenced

Don’t be bluffed into silence by the threats of bullies.
There’s nothing they can do to your soul…Save your fear for God,
who holds your entire life—body and soul—in his hands.
Matthew 10:28 (The Message)

Chinese Christian Brother Yun, is acquainted with bullies. As part of the growing house church movement in China for over forty years, he has been beaten within an inch of his life numerous times and suffered persecution beyond what any healthy mind could imagine. He has never, however, allowed the bullies to silence him.

Inside and outside the church there are an abundance of bullies. Unfortunately, there are even more who have been bullied into silence. Although seeing injustice and mistreatment the silent ones turn their heads away hoping that it will go away. Afraid that if they speak up and take action they’ll lose friends, lose their position or just plain lose the fight they remain silent. As a result, people get beaten up and destroyed because the silent ones are more afraid of the bullies than of the One who holds in His hand their entire life.

Power and control are the food for bullies. But Jesus is the only One who has complete power and control. When I am bullied or see others bullied I cannot be afraid to speak the truth. Bullies are detrimental and destructive but their effects are mild compared to God’s response if we don’t fight their efforts, in boldness and love, with God’s truth.

Jesus, you never allowed the bullies to silence you.
When you saw shameful actions, heard damaging words,
and witnessed abuse you spoke boldly about who God wants us to be.
Help me, Jesus to no longer be silent but to speak your gospel truth.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

No Excuses

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

Psalm 51:3

Growing up I heard all kinds of “personal” testimonies. At every “come to Jesus” worship service there would always be a speaker who mesmerized me with stories of their “life of sin.” My life seemed depressingly boring by comparison. I loved hearing how God had reached down and pulled them out of their sin pit. Somehow it gave more meaning to the concept of being “saved.” I loved Jesus, but I didn’t really know what I needed to be “saved” from! At least that is what I thought, then.

Acknowledging sin is usually the snag that trips up Jesus followers. When a “good” life has been lived it becomes particularly challenging – what exactly should be “confessed?”

It’s easy to focus on the “biggies” when faced with confession. But the Bible doesn’t mention the “biggies” nearly as often as those behaviors we don’t always consider “sin”—bad tempers, irritability, meanness, profanity, dirty talk and lying (Colossians 3:8-9a The Message). A reasonable, plausible excuse can usually be found for any one of these “sins.” But sin is sin and no excuses are available.
When faced with “no excuses” sin there is no escaping confession. Whether they are conscious or unconscious sins, confession opens the door to a saved life.

Generous in love—God, give grace!
Huge in mercy—wipe out my bad record.
Scrub away my guilt, soak out my sins in your laundry.
I know how bad I’ve been;
my sins are staring me down.
Amen. (Psalm 51:1-2 The Message)

Image - The Blasphemer

Monday, November 8, 2010

Wash Me! Restore Me!

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin.

Psalm 51:2

Loving God, who sees and knows all, even those things that I think I have safely hidden away, forgive me. I need your confronting hand to show me behaviors, speech and life choices that fall painfully short of what you want from me. It is only in your confronting that I see how I am living versus how you want me to live.

The world today is angry and mean. People fear losing everything they have gained and in their fear lash out. In their meanness they say and do things they perhaps never thought possible. I discover that too often instead of being a light in the midst of this darkness I am infected by their spirits of anger and fear. My response is to do in kind as I have received. Forgive me, God! Help me to not succumb to these dark spirits!

Let me see the joy of my salvation and know again the pleasure of living in your presence. Pour your cleansing water, like a flood, over me and with the pouring, I pray all that stubbornly clings to me would be washed away.

I pray for your shield to protect me from all that seeks to co-op me!

Let my words be your sweet honey to all with whom I speak. Let my actions reflect the love you give to me daily. I am your creation. In your washing, restore me to your beautiful original. Amen.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Mercy on Me

Have mercy on me, O God…

Psalm 51:1a

I know people who live out their “Christian” life in this way—God helps those who help themselves. They can't comprehend that the God who gave them life also wants to help them. I believe that God is intimately acquainted with me. But for me to be intimately acquainted with God takes humility. The God helps those who help themselves approach doesn’t allow room for humility. The emphasis is on the individual, the power of “me.”

Humility is the defining characteristic of an unpretentious and modest person, someone who does not think that he or she is better or more important than others ( This is the attitude of a Jesus follower coming to confession. When I ask God to have mercy on me, it is the first step in acknowledging that my life is nothing without God’s presence and this moves me towards repentance. True confession, honest repentance cannot begin without this stepping.

“Helping ourselves” isn’t the Jesus way. God didn’t create us so that we could “go it alone” or “make our own way.” By asking for God’s mercy, I identify him as the Creator of my life. It is at this point of our saying, have mercy on me, O God that humility overtakes my pretentions and he can continue finishing the good work He has begun.
Have mercy on me, O God.
I cannot help myself and my life is nothing without you.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10

I've been thinking a lot about confession and the steps that are necessary to come to that place of a “right spirit.” Confession is at the heart of our Christian faith and yet in our prayers, in our relationships, in our Christian communities confession isn’t practiced very regularly. I once read an article about the increasing number of web sites that offer "anonymous online confession" and the number of "hits" they were receiving. Given the high number of “hits” it would appear that as individuals, as a church, as a culture we are in desperate need of God's confronting Spirit.

There’s a reason why genuine confession and repentance is so difficult, it entails coming to God, silent, listening to what he has to say about what he sees and knows isn't right. Generally I don't like being confronted even if I know I'm wrong! Quite frankly, it's a painful experience. Consequently, being confronted by my Creator is particularly intimidating because of His x-ray vision that sees beyond the superficial, looking at the heart, which is “deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9 ESV).

My mind tells me that sin is anything that goes against what God desires. But defensively I tend to put a "value" on sin which helps me avoid culpability. Surely, a little “constructive criticizing" of my church leaders isn't nearly as "sinful" as murder. Passing along information that in the passing loses it’s truth and perhaps isn't mine to share--well, come on now, "gossip" can't possibly be held to the same standard as breaking my marriage vows!

There are an endless number of excuses that I can generate for my sins. But whether it be gossip or slander, selfishness or willfulness, murder or adultery, it all has the same “value” to God. Unfortunately, sin is sin. God just doesn't see sin with my “creative” nuances.

In order to experience spiritual growth and maturity, along with spiritual health, a willingness to hear God's confronting voice is necessary. I'm bound to be surprised at what He points to because it will probably be those little “sins” I thought innocuous, that I did in "love", I thought didn't really hurt anyone or believed, self-righteously, that I was doing the “right thing.”

Little or big, sins are destructive. Restoration, transformation, healing begins when I and my fellow believers humbly fall on our faces praying,

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Untangle Me

When he was alone with his disciples,
he went over everything, sorting out the
tangles, untying the knots.

Mark 4:34 (The Message)

I’m here to tell you that my husband can untangle anything! Early during our dating I found him with a coed’s tangled mess of necklaces on a table before him. Sometimes the process took longer than others but his patience always paid off, he never failed to unravel the knots. He was the “go to” guy for sorting out all sorts of tangles.

Getting into a knot is much easier than getting out of one. Like a pile of tangled necklaces, the life choices that I make can suddenly knot me up. The harder I try to detangle myself, the more tightly knotted I become. I need a patient hand to unravel me.

Jesus saw a lot of tangled, knotted up people. For some their knots were of their own making. For others their tangles came about due to illness, cultural estrangements or political decisions. But all of them needed the patient hand of Jesus to sort them out and he never failed to unravel every single knot. There were those, like the Pharisees, who in their panic tightened their knots, but for those who wanted to be un-tangled Jesus spoke, “Your sins are forgiven.”

It doesn’t matter how my knots came into being. But I have to stop running around trying to untie them myself! My feeble efforts only make them tighter. The patient hand of Jesus will take my tangled messes and unravel them to beauty.

Jesus, time spent with you
makes things far less complicated and tangled.
Help me to remember that whatever the situation,
Your patient hand will unravel it.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Inside Out

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and
slander be put away from you.

Ephesians 4:31

My eyes, actually my whole face, usually tells everyone exactly what I’m feeling! I wish it wasn’t so but I just can’t seem to hide what lives inside. When I sit in an airport I like to people watch and I’ve stopped being shocked at what I see. I’ve seen plenty of fearful eyes, bitter eyes, empty eyes, angry eyes. But occasionally I have seen eyes whose obvious contentment has refreshed me.

Whatever I have set up house for in my soul, whether anger or bitterness, peace or joy, it ultimately finds its way out the door of my eyes as well as my mouth. God created me as a living being with my physical, emotional and spiritual lives intricately connected. It is impossible to keep hidden whatever I take in on a regular basis. It’s like overeating! Eventually I don’t need the scale because the results are all too obvious in the mirror.

Jesus was surrounded by Pharisees angry about how he was upsetting their traditions. But he never succumbed, even to the point of his death, to their anger. Paul reminds me of this truth. To be a follower of Jesus I have to throw away all those emotions that make my eyes and mouths less than satisfying to see or hear.

Bitterness, anger, clamor and slander are everywhere. But I have the message of the Kingdom! I pray I can make a difference when the Kingdom Message is all that people can read on my face. Let my eyes shine!

Jesus, You brought the message of the Kingdom--
bringing joy, promise, hope and love.
Help me to evict all that prevents your
Kingdom message from being seen and heard.