Archive | April, 2013

The Engraving of God (Part Two)

28 Apr

As you come to him, the living Stone

—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—

you also, like living stones,

are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood,

offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 2:4-5

Baby Dog

Baby Dog

Well, we have taken some time to consider our God being God in both the Old and the New Testaments.  We have seen Him reveal Himself to be the Holy Engraver of the stone tablets as well as the Living Stone so that His children on both sides of the Covenant line could see His perfect holiness, perfect freedom, and perfect love.  Isn’t it funny how we always return to the fact that our God does not change?  Are you beginning to appreciate the security in His unflappable Godness?  That’s one of my prayers for you all.  I want you to know that to your bones because grabbing a hold of that particular truth changed my faith dramatically.

I have to wonder what you have been thinking in the time that has passed between this posting and the Engraving of God (Part 1).  Might it be that in this time of consideration you have thought to yourself, “Kinda cool, Bunny, but how does that apply to me? And . . . what in the world does your dog have to do with anything?”  I find both of these to be good questions.  I hope to give you answers, based on the authority of God’s Word, which will show you that for believers in Christ this particular Old Testament/New Testament parallel could not be more significant.  Having God be true to His promise to show those who seek Him great and hidden things has convinced me that part of my destiny, and may I suggest part of yours as well, is to be a chip off the Almighty Rock.

It’s not hard for us to wrap our minds around God carving each character into the stone tablets until His perfect message was completed and presented to His children.  It’s tangible and concrete.  But grasping the carving Christ underwent might be more difficult for us because of the abstract nature of it.  It’s my feeling though that the etching Christ endured was every bit as real.

Consider our Jesus, hungry and thirsty after fasting 40 days, doing battle in the desert with Satan.  How deeply do you think coming face-to-face with evil, especially in such a vulnerable state, would have cut?  Imagine the heart of perfect compassionate being confronted with a sea of sickness and need, knowing that this was not the time for physical restoration to come to all.  How might that have etched His heart of Love?  And what of the engraving He experienced as all the disciples deserted Him and He heard Peter say, “I do not know the man.”  Perhaps we could picture the very real marks He bore across His back and the blood that ran from His head as the thorns carved their way into His temples.  And the ultimate etching of the nails in His hands as He willingly surrendered to the Cross.  Yes, our perfect Savior, fully human underwent the pain of being engraved for our benefit.  Remember, Jesus was perfect.  His character was flawless and He knew that He needed no refinement, no engraving.  His Father knew it.  And yet, Father and Son joined together to complete the carving.  Why?  For whom did the Father allow His Son to go through such agony?  Who did Christ find worth the suffering?  Who needed to see Him triumph over every obstacle and endure every etching?  WE DID.

We, who are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another, needed to see the Living Stone emerge in victory from the sadness, pain, and difficulty of life.  It was essential for those who are destined to be conformed to the likeness of the Son to witness the purposefulness of the carving as well as His triumph.   We needed to see Him come through as the Conqueror displaying the message and glory of the Father because as those who are “like living stones” I fully believe we can expect to go through the engraving process too.   There is a purpose to the hurt and loss of this world just as there was a purpose to the suffering of Christ. For me, this truth began to wear my name at the passing of our sweet little cocker spaniel.

Britt and Baby

A Special Gift

Baby Dog had been a part of life on Biddinger Boulevard for a long time.  Britt got her for a birthday present when she was just a little girl but truth be known, Baby , without a doubt, placed herself above Britt in the family hierarchy.  And our Puppy Girl was definitely absent the day the memo announcing that she was a dog circulated.  She ran the house and had her little black nose poked into everybody’s business.  There wasn’t one thing in life that she didn’t leave her paw print on.  So after she was gone, there was just this immense hole in everything.

Baby died in September of 2012 and her death was kind of like the exclamation point to a lot of other loss that had taken place for me.  It started with Britt leaving for college the previous year, and though I don’t want to dramatize what is a very natural part of life, I honestly felt physical pain in my heart when I watched her pull out of the garage and leave for Florida.  Like a chunk of me was cut away.  Several other things took place and then, a sweet Sister and warrior Friend completed her race and went home to be with Jesus.  It was painful to say goodbye even though you knew her faith had become sight.  In August of 2012, Brett began battling these new health issues and it took so much of his independence.  It was like watching the accident steal his freedom all over again. … and … and…and it all hurt.  And when I looked around at the people I have the honor of doing life with, so many of them were walking through absolutely agonizing situations.  The hurt of a sick child.  The pain of lost health.  The grief of a lost home.  The uncertainty of aging parents.

So when Baby Dog passed away, the floodgates opened and I began to cry.  I swept up dog hair and I cried.  I got Brett’s breakfast but not her Beggin’ Strips and I cried.  I pulled out of the garage and saw the freshly mounded dirt in the yard and I cried.  I am still crying, even in the card aisles at Walmart.

And the loss didn’t stop with Baby.  It continued to roll through the Thanksgiving Season when a sweet friend was taken from us far too soon.  I can’t describe the pain I saw on his Momma’s face and his sister’s face.  It was anguish I haven’t seen up close and personal before.  And I hurt for them and I grieve the loss myself.  And it feels like another trench has been etched into my heart.

I would look around and think to myself as I watched people hurt and grapple with pain, “How are they getting out of bed in the morning? I didn’t even want to face losing the dog.”  Everything I saw people go though would come back to the pain of doing life without Baby Dog and I would think,  “What in the world is that in comparison to . . . losing your home? . . . losing your Mom? . . .losing your son?”  And  the things people were enduring and walking through was almost unbearable to me and that is when I really began to weep.  To weep for their hearts and their hurts and their loss.  God used that little dog, who brought me such joy, to carve out my heart so that I could begin to love other people.  To understand in a small way the loss in their lives, the need in their lives, and the hurt in their lives.  I have experienced loss and hurt before but never have I seen it produce fruit in my life.  This time was different.

The death of the Dog brought every cut, every mark, every engraving to the surface.  It brought me closer to reflecting His character and made me want to look more like Jesus–no matter the cost, no matter the carving.  I care more now.  I try to listen better.  I hope I comfort more and that I do so abundantly.  I pray I LOVE like I never have before in my life and I absolutely ache to be filled with the LOVE of Christ so I can love those around me like they don’t deserve to be.  That wasn’t a mistake.  I meant to say that.  I want to love others like they DON”T DESERVE TO BE because that’s the way HE LOVES ME!

I want my love for them  to depend on my love for Him, not their personality, not their status, not their faith profession.  I want love to be all that is left because everything else has been stripped away.  I want to transformed to the image of the Son.  I want to be an imitator of God.  I want Life Outside the Tomb to be marked, engraved, and shaped by Love.

Don’t you want that?  Don’t you ache to bear the marks of Christ so vividly that the unmistakable message of God will be clearly seen and understood by others?   We, who are like living stones,  cannot be afraid of the hurt – it’s the very thing that will enable us to do what we say we want to do.  Sister, embrace the engraving.  Cooperate with the transformation.  Fulfill your destiny.

You, Baby Dog, continue to be a good gift to me!

The Engraving of God (Part One)

15 Apr

This blog post is going to have to be broken down into two parts.  It’s got some depth to it and we really need some time in between to chew on the first bit before we try to consider the Dog (yes, the Dog).  The connections that God revealed, and I’m certain there are so many more He is yet to unfold, are just too much to take in while at the same time trying to explain how it hooks to “Life Outside the Tomb” and “The Love Life.”  So, I’m asking for a little stick-to-it-tiveness for these next couple posts.  I think if you will snug up your hiking boots and keep moving up the mountain, you’ll find it to be worth the work.

Eventually, I’m hoping to share with you the way God used our family pet to perform open heart surgery on me.  You know, the kind that separates joints from marrow and divides spirit and soul. Like all my stories do, this one begins quite a while ago, back in May of 2011.  This was the beginning of what I have come to affectionately call my “season of loss.”  It began a period of heart reconstruction that as necessary as it was, has been the most painful of all my life – including the accident in 1993.  I’ve recognized God beckoning me, disciplining me, challenging me, and even sitting me in the corner but this is the first time I have recognized being carved out by His hand.  Engraved by His Holy touch.

That is what I intended to write about today; the lessons of love that God has taught and continues to teach me through losing our beautiful, bossy cocker spaniel–Baby.  That was MY plan.  His is ALWAYS BETTER!

Imagine yourself settled into your favorite reading chair consumed with the material in your hand and suddenly, Someone (capital “S” intended) comes in and hands you a new book.  Same subject but a deeper exploration than you might have anticipated.  That is exactly what happened to me as I began preparing this post.   I sat down with my laptop along with a vague notion of the verses I might reference and God unfolded beauty that I simply wasn’t prepared for.  It’s taken me well over a week to just begin—and I cannot stress “just begin” enough—grabbing hold of it and I’m so praying that I can articulate it with some clarity because it’s just so . . .well, it’s just so Him.

I don’t know if you write in your Bible or not, but I do.  I put question marks beside things that pull at my heart but I don’t understand.  I draw arrows to verse references I feel like connect to one another and in many margins you will find definitions of words my soul has gravitated toward.  After I make these marks and notations, I pray off and on over the verses for God to give me clarity and explain it in terms that even the heart of this very thickheaded woman can understand.  I’m convinced that in His timing, He’ll address each one and if not on this side of Glory, on the other.

Hebrews 1:3 is just such a verse for me and when I originally typed “recognized being carved out by His hand ” it popped into my brain because I remembered the definition I had scrawled in the margin of my Bible beside it years ago. (I wish I would remember to date entries in my Bible so that I would have a tangible reminder of how patiently He works with me when I’m tempted to lose my patience with others!)  I have revisited that definition many times but never really felt I got the significance of it.  Sister, I could not have been more correct!

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory

and the exact representation of his being,

sustaining all things by his powerful word.

After he had provided purification for sins,

he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

Hebrews 1:3 NIV 1984

So I had all these thoughts rolling through my brain about Baby Dog and being carved out and I was trying to come up with a cohesive way to put them on paper.  I jotted Hebrews 1:3 down with the intention of drawing your attention, as He had drawn mine, to “exact representation”  in order to give you the definition of the Greek word before I moved into the bulk of the post.  See, this particular Greek word is only used once in the entire New Testament and since it isn’t a definition I have worked with a lot, I thought I should flip to it in my Bible just to be certain I had the right meaning in my mind.

exact representation

Bunny’s Wonderings

You can see the Bunny paraphrase in the margin:  “to carve; something engraved, cut-in or stamped; refers to Jesus Christ as the perfect expression of the Divine essence.”  I thought, yep, that is exactly what I remembered, but I couldn’t shake the nudge to confirm it further.  So I got out my Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible just to make certain I hadn’t written something down wrong and turned to the Lexical Aids in the back where I located the Greek word and definition:

Charakter:  to carve.  The –er suffix signifies agency, hence the word originally denoted an engraver or engraving tool.  Later it meant the impression itself, usually something engraved, cut in or stamped, a character, letter, mark, sign.  This impression with its particular features was considered as the exact representation of the object whose image it bore.  In the NT, representation, expresses image. Occurs only in Hebrews 1:3, where it is translated “exact representation,” referring to Jesus Christ, who is the perfect expression of the divine essence. (#5917, Pg. 1686, HGKWSB)

I was happy with the accuracy I had noted it with in my Bible, but the thing that caught my attention was the appearance of the Greek word:  Charakter.  Doesn’t that bring a very familiar English word to your mind?  It sure looks like “Character” to me.  And I started to roll over in my mind all the verses that talked about looking like Jesus, living like Jesus, showing Jesus to a watching world, and Him being made perfect in suffering.  I thought about God being much more concerned with developing my character as a Kingdom citizen than the Kingdom work I might do and I decided to look up the origin for the English word.

Character (noun):  the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing early 14c., from O.Fr. caractere, from L. character, from Gk. kharakter “engraved mark,” from kharassein “to engrave,” from kharax “pointed stake.” Meaning extended by metaphor to “a defining quality.”

I didn’t want to rest on just one source for the origin so I went to one more sight and read down through it.  It gave much the same information but I hadn’t realized that I had stumbled onto a Bible based dictionary and right at the bottom there was an additional note:  Strong’s 2801 with the reference Exodus 32:16.  Now if you’re not familiar with the Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, it’s a wonderful, enormous reference book that lists every occurrence of every word in the King James Bible according to a numerical system that is linked to the definition of the root word.  You can find it online but I prefer my big, old, clunky hard copy.  Not just because I love the feel of the pages but more so because of the hearts that blessed me with it. So I got out my KJV and looked up the verse:

And the tables were the work of God,

and the writing was the writing of God,

graven upon the tables.

Exodus 32:16

Now, certainly the word “graven” is used in other verses, but this verse, according to Strong’s, stands alone.  This particular Hebrew word, harut, is only used one time in the whole Old Testament (sound similar to exact representation?) to describe what appears to be the first recorded account of the writing of God.   The short definition is to engrave.  There are about five other words that mean simply engrave.  So why might God, the Creator of language, have chosen that particular word, to use this single time in the Bible? Might I suggest to you that it is the relationship that it shares with the Hebrew word “herut’ which means liberty and freedom.  My Jewish Study Bible beautifully described it as “there was freedom upon the tablets.”(Pg. 185, JSB-JPS)

So, it seems accurate to me to say that what we have upon the stone tablet, engraved by the Divine Hand, is the perfect expression of His love and His will for His chosen people.   Are you tracking with that?  Little “s” stone is displaying the message of God.  He has carved His Holy character into the stone, by His own Hand, to plainly show Himself and speak freedom to His people.

I know I’m getting long but oh, if we can keep plodding forward, I think He will show us new ground outside the tomb that we want to claim as our own. Read over the following verses and see where your heart lands. (I’m going to add some bold-type and capital letters.)

Exodus 24:12 KJV

And the Lord said unto Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them.

Exodus 32:16 KJV

And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables.

Psalm 118:22 NIV 1984

The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.

Acts 4:11 NIV 1984

This JESUS IS THE STONE that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.

Hebrews 1:3 NIV 1984

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

  • The stone ( Exodus 24:12) engraved, carved out by God, His Word given to His children to display His character (Exodus 32:16).
  • The Stone (Acts 4:11) engraved, carved out by God, the WORD given to His children to display His character (Hebrews 1:3).
  • The stone and The Stone bore the writing, the carving, spoke the Word of the Holy Engraver and expressed His Divine essence:

Perfect Holiness

Perfect Freedom

 Perfect Love

On display for all in Heaven and Earth to see!  The Holy Engraver was shouting love from the MOUNTAIN TOP to the hearts of His children and, Girlfriend, He still is today.  Oh my goodness Beloved, that we could grasp how high, how deep and how long is His love for us.

Engraved by God (Part Two)–Lessons from Baby Dog on the way.  In the meantime, chew on this (no Dog reference intended but it did make me smirk), leave me a comment and let me know if you’re tracking with me.  And I’ve had some questions about following the blog.  On the sidebar, you’ll see “Follow” underneath the calendar.  Just click it and follow the instructions.  Happy to have you along for the ride!!!

Life Outside the Tomb

2 Apr

I have found myself in the last few days residing in a place I don’t often visit.  I am at a loss for words.  Not just a lack of what to say, but really more of a holy hush.  Every Resurrection  season I try to articulate the overwhelming love and gratitude I feel toward Jesus, my fully human and fully Divine Savior, and every season I am woefully inadequate.  How exactly do you put into words what it means to be rescued from yourself by the One who has overcome the world? How do you say thank you for being ushered into the Most Holy Place by the Promise wearing flesh?

I ask these questions of myself as I fully celebrate the Empty Tomb and know that life outside those walls of rock is meant to be lived to the full.   John 10:10 is so clear.  The thief, the prince of the air, seeks to kill and destroy, but our Jesus has dealt him the death blow.   He has purchased life, abundant life, for those who will believe.  (Everything in my heart is shouting Amen!) But even as I engage my mind in the freedom dance my Savior has bought for me this is the question I sit with:  What would I know of the abundant life, what would I see of Him, if I truly began to live life outside the tomb?

If you have been reading the blog you know that I have such love for Rahab and I think, when we consider that the “innkeeper” became the great-great…grandma of the Savior, she illustrates “the inheritance that we cannot conceive or imagine” in living color.  But my kindred affection is not limited to the Old Testament.  No, it crosses over the Covenant line and falls with awe on the head of Mary Magdalene.  Some suppose that she and Rahab shared a common profession, I have no idea if that is fact or historical surmising.  The Scriptures never say what Mary Magdalene did for a living.  But what the Holy Writ does say about her is that she was a tormented, afflicted soul who was held in complete bondage by seven demons and the Savior set her completely free.  Doesn’t that make your heart dance?  The redemption of Rahab and the release of Mary Magadalene – have you ever gazed upon two more beautiful women?

Well, Sister this is what I believe – you and I were meant for that same radiance.  They reflected His grace and His mercy and we, when we dare to live life outside the tomb, will undoubtedly do the same.  Mary Magdalene did not simply say “thanks for the healing!” and go about her life.  Her whole life after meeting Him was consumed by Him.  Think about it.  She followed Him wherever He went.  She was the last at the Cross and the first at the Tomb.  She pursued Him!  She looked for Him!  AND HE WOULD BE FOUND!

Then the disciples went back to their homes. But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb.  And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned and said to him in Aramaic,“Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).  

John 20:10-16

Oh, Girlfriend, please don’t read that last verse too quickly.  Let the moment settle on you.  The One she came to anoint with burial spices, the One she thought she had lost, the One she called LORD was saying her name. . . And as the Shepherd spoke, she recognized His voice.  Put yourself in her sandals as she turned her face to meet His.  Hear His voice say your name and let the comprehension that He KNOWS you flood your heart.  You have to believe that as much as we might want to grab a hold of that moment, anything we can imagine about the love that passed between the two of them, the Healer and the healed, would fall dramatically short.  Does the sight not take your breath away?  That is the first encounter Mary Magdalene had with Jesus outside the Tomb.  She had heard His voice countless times.  She had seen His face daily.  But never like this. And then He entrusted her to be the first to spread the Good News – He is Risen!

See that’s who I want to be.  I want to be the woman who realizes the depth of her healing so profoundly that she refuses to return to her home and stays just a little longer.  I want to be the one who weeps because my heart cannot stand the fact that I am not near Him.  I want to be the one who desires to see Him so badly that I stoop down and strain my eyes in hopes of getting just one more glimpse.  I know that one day He will say my name in Glory, one day He will say your name in Glory.  We will recognize His voice and Beloved when we turn, oh the love that will pass between the Healer and the healed.  But in the meantime Sister, for the redeemed and the released, there is life outside the tomb – abundant life.  Live it to the full Girlfriend.  Live it to the full.

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