Numbers…

I received a number today for a young man I’ve known since birth.  It broke my heart.  It was a prison number. I wept looking at the number after his name.  I thought of the significance of this number and what it meant in Jail and what it will mean moving forward.

I pray he lives beyond that number.  I’m praying prisonfor the number to become a memory.  Praying that number which represents a mess, will become part of his message.  This child I held as a baby, who grow up with my kids side by side, diverged and now  he isn’t a name, he’s a number….for this season.

What are numbers?  They are a symbol or word in a series  for identification.  For now, he will identify and be identified by this number.  But God calls him still by name.  God sees him as son, not number #31-68734.  His family still calls him by name but where he lives, they shout out his number.

450px-NumbersBookCover.svgNumbers play a major role in our lives.  From our chromosomes to our vertebrae to the number of bones in our hand and the muscles it takes to frown, our bodies are connected and identified by numbers.  Here in the United States we are issued a Social Security number at birth that is used for a variety of purposes like taxes, insurance and education, that number defines and unlocks information we need.

Phone numbers, credit card numbers, bank account numbers are all crucial to defining our communication with each other and our wealth.

 

Numbers are used in the bible from the 10 Commandments to the days 40 days of the floodBundesstraße_40_number.svg
and 40 days and 40 years in the wilderness and the 12 tribes of Judah…all of these events and issues defined by a number.

Numbers-Chapter-SummariesThere is even a book with the title “Numbers” in the Bible.  Ironically or perhaps not, the book of Numbers explains how Israel prepared to enter the promise land, but sinned and was punished. The title refers the two population censuses Moses took during that period.

There are four themes in Numbers.  The beginning depicts the preparation for the journey  to the Promised Land. The second portion talks about the Israelites travel and grumbling and how God continued to provide for them.  numbersThe third portion discusses their disobedience and severe punishment for being unfaithful to God. The final theme addresses the new generation and their victorious conquests, more disobedience and finally the entry into the Promised Land after 40 years of wandering in the desert.

The book of Numbers recounts God’s unfailing direction in the lives of his people. It shows the ways God tested their endurance and their faithfulness. Though they sinned, God remained faithful to guide them on their journey with the pillar of fire by night and cloud by day.  God never left them alone in the desert. He never ventured far from them in the wilderness.

barbed wireI pray this for number #31-68734.  May this wilderness experience be his NUMBERS moment.  May he come to see God and feel His faithfulness and sense a new direction in his life. My prayer is that if you are experiencing a Numbers moment, you to would feel God’s presence and recalculate your destination with HIS help.

 

POINT TO PONDER: Are you called by a number? Are you experiencing a Numbers Moment? Call on the Name of Jesus. There is power in the name of Jesus.  Struggling? Turn it over.  Here’s some inspiration about God’s ability to take your Number and give you a name.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=upLBLppWTj0

 

 

Frozen : The Lenten Challenge

We drive through the crowded parking lot, mountains of gray snow at the edges hogging up much needed DSC_0277spaces.  Rachel says, “look at that disgusting snow its so gross and dirty. I am so ready for spring. I hate wearing coats, hats and gloves.” 

Quietly I pray for a new layer to cover up the gray.  White to cover the black.  It was Ash Wednesday. I thought of the significance.  It was the ashes on the plowed lot that made the snow mountains gray and dirty.  Ash mixed with winter white.

Our denomination doesn’t celebrate Ash Wednesday but my Methodist roots and the Catholic neighborhood I grew up in filled me with memories and meaning of what that day commemorates.  Like advent…it is a time of preparing our hearts.

It’s been a long winter here in Western PA.  I heard someone say the other day it had been a long winter in her heart. blog heart ice

Ironically one of the hit movies this year is called Frozen.  I pondered all these icy metaphors and thought about the cold heart.

DSC_0260Like the tiny shoots of grass and daffodils beneath the layer of snow, the cold heart harbors tiny invisible seeds of hope.  What does it take to melt a cold heart?

Love. Forgiveness. Grace. Mercy.

These are all things we can give or offer to someone who  is frozen

DSC_0275

 

People ask “What are you giving up for Lent?”  I ponder is it really about giving something up or pouring something out?   What if we use the 40 days to try to thaw the frozen hearts around us? Bathe their hearts in the warmth of mercy. If they are brittle from bitterness … foster them with forgiveness.  Love the lonely and wrap the stumbling with grace.  Take a 40 day challenge to thaw the frozen.  What will you give up for lent?  A bit of yourself?  A bit of your time?

Is your heart the one that is Frozen?  Are you chilled to your soul, unable to pray, seek or ask?  Are you wrestling with the ashy dirty feeling of sin, fear, or regret?  Are you brittle from reaching out and being rejected? Are the windows of your soul frosted up ~ blocking out the SON ?  Do you long to bathe in the warmth of … something…anything?

James 4:8  “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”

Take a 40 day challenge to thaw your frozen heart. Write one thing each day that you are thankful for. Do one small kind gesture for someone else. A smile, open a door, … gratitude will help thaw the edges.

Comment to me or message me and I will commit to pray for you during lent. Let it go.  Allow God to resurrect your life before Easter Sunday.  Are you up for the challenge? Your Creator is waiting to make your story HIStory and your time of testing, your Testimony. Remember, you were worth dying for…that is what Easter is really all about.

100_4001

One of my favorite Easter Hymns: For Those Tears I Died.

You said You’d come and share all my sorrows,
You said You’d be there for all my tomorrows;
I came so close to sending You away,
But just like You promised You came there to stay;
I just had to pray!

And Jesus said, “Come to the water, stand by My side,
I know you are thirsty, you won’t be denied;
I felt ev’ry teardrop when in darkness you cried,
And I strove to remind you that for those tears I
died.”

Point to Ponder: Seek out the Frozen. Look in the mirror. Is your soul ready for spring?DSC_1006


 

 

 

Do you have a “fooljita” scale?

Our Creator has given us many things that we classify like plants and animals which are divided by genus and species. 

Our weather is classified by severity.  Warnings and watches are issued based on the ferocity of the storm.  The Fujita Scale is the official classification system for tornado damage ranking storms by classifying the devastation created. The more powerful the tornado, the higher the assigned number.

Hurricanes are measured in strength by the  Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale which determines how ferocious a storm can be by how intense the winds are within.

Quantifying and classifying weather is productive and the systems in place are often helpful when giving advanced notice of incoming natural disasters.

How many of us have our own scale for measuring the intensity of sin? Perhaps it’s the Fooljita?

 Yes, we have the list of the 10 Commandments.  But they are not listed in their 1-10 order by their intensity or the punishment they merit.  If so, saying OMG is worse than Murder.  Murder is less offensive than say, stealing or coveting.

There is no gauge for sin listed in the Bible, except for the 6 the Lord detests and the one he finds an abomination see below:

Proverbs 6:16-19 

 16 There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him:

    17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue,  hands that shed innocent blood,

    18  a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil,

    19 a false witness who pours out lies.  And a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.  (um..Gossip-just sayin’)

This does not mean that the ones listed in the Ten Commandments not mentioned here don’t matter, because Creator God himself wrote them on the tablets. 

We often withhold forgiveness based on the “level” of offense committed against us.  Jesus died for all sinners and their sins, not just certain sins. Often Christians ascribe their own fujita scale to offenses.  We think that taking the Post It notes from the office isn’t as serious as Bernie Madoff’s $50 Billion Ponzi scheme.  Both offenses are stealing.  Both are sin.  God is not determining which is worse, why should we?                                                 

In the parable of the talents, the master forgave the servant an unpayable debt.   That servant turned around and demanded repayment of a debt owed him.  When the master found out he sent the unforgiving servant to prison.

Matthew 6:14-15 is talking to believers it says:    

14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Is there an unforgivable sin?  The Bible doesn’t mention one that I can find.  John Bevere in “The Bait of Satan “ study series talked about how  the love in our hearts when we become saved is what equips us to be able to forgive. We have a choice we are equipped through the love that is deposited in us at the moment of our salvation. “A person who refuses to forgive is a person who has forgotten what he’s been forgiven of.” – JB.

The key to being forgiven by our Creator, is to forgive those that have committed offenses against us.  Forgiveness means we release that individual to God to discipline.  The “Bait of Satan” study makes it clear that a person who refuses to forgive will not inherit the kingdom of Heaven because they are living with unforgiveness which is a sin according the scripture.

Forgiving isn’t all about forgetting it is about releasing.  Often people will say, “I can’t forgive them, because I can’t ever forget what they’ve done to me.”  Forgiveness is not conditional of forgetting.  Forgiveness is a choice, the forgetting is a detail God can work out, but only after a choice to forgive and release the offender. 

Are you wrestling with unforgiveness and an unproductive prayer life? Hint: They are connected.

Point to Ponder:  Is there someone in your life you need to release and forgive?  Is there someone you need to seek forgiveness of?  

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Erosion of the heart

Photo Courtesy of Linda Jackman Photography
http://lindajackmanphotography.com/

The other day I watched rivulets of water from melting snow trickle down my driveway creating ruts. Today in the freezing temps, those water filled ruts have frozen and widened. I watched my daughter navigate these obstacles trying to avoid them on the way to bus.

According to the dictionary….. Erosion is the natural process of weathering and transport of solids (sediment, soil, rock and other particles) in the natural environment or their source and depositing them elsewhere.

Recently, I used the following analogy about erosion to draw a word picture of how our hearts can be eroded by our loved ones, specifically our family members.

Often our loved one never “intends” to hurt us. Reality is though eventually they do actually wound us. They do things over and over which causes ruts to be carved on our hearts. Rarely do we bring this up. We just react. We pull back, hurt back or just ignore both the issue and the offender. We get over it and move on, but the rut grows deeper with each hurt.

Gradually all their stuff (words/actions) washes over our heart and trickles down the eroded grooves widening them. So we hear or feel things based upon it washing over the grooves and picking up remnants of the hurts that are deposited in the troughs.

Eventually everything they say or do…is covered in baggage and offensive. The result is defensiveness which is divisive.

Watching flood ravaged areas, one sees sandbags to prevent erosion and trucks backfilling things as earth is washed away. I pondered how to fill the grooves in my heart left behind by others whose words or deeds have gradually etched my heart and wounded my spirit. People I am forced to interact with daily.

Backhoes would destroy my heart. A sandbag would squash it. Avoiding people is not an option especially when you are related to them or even live with them. How to fix it?

According the Mayo Clinic: “Generally, forgiveness is a decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge. The act that hurt or offended you may always remain a part of your life, but forgiveness can lessen its grip on you and help you focus on other, positive parts of your life. Forgiveness can even lead to feelings of understanding, empathy and compassion for the one who hurt you.”

Our Creator’s word says:

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Colossians 3:13
Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, But a good word makes it glad.
Proverbs 12:25

Forgiveness is an act we do without any action on our offender’s part. It is giving up our right to revenge. It’s our choice and it would seem forgiving is heart healthy for us.

Point to Ponder:
Does the erosion of my heart affect my relationships? What can I do to heal my heart? What choices do I need to make and whom do I need to forgive?


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