Archive | June, 2013

Love Speaks . . . Through You

29 Jun

Oh Sisters in Christ, how I love you.  Ones I know and ones I don’t.  I love you because you are fighting the good fight in your homes, in your communities, and in your churches.  I love you because you aren’t perfect but you keep plugging away, confident that God will see to completion the good work He has begun in you.  I love you because no matter how hard-pressed on every side you may be, you cling to the knowledge that you are not crushed and your God has not abandoned you.  I love you because you aren’t afraid to be honest with your God about how hard it can be on this planet while simultaneously thanking Him for the very messy life you lead.  You carry so many loads.  You are responsible for so much.  Your to-do-list never becomes an I’m-done-list.  But you still press on.

So in case no one has told you lately, you are admired.  I’m in awe of all you do, amazed at the love you share, and I know it makes a difference in the lives of others.   I know it seems sometimes as if no one sees you.  No one recognizes all the love you pour into life.  So may I just assure you that not only does the One who has declared you to be the apple of His eye see you, those around you see you too.  Please forgive us for the times we fail to tell you how amazing we find you to be.  Please forgive us for not taking the time to give voice to love.

I know there will be those who read this and want to remind me that if we are doing things for the glory of God it really won’t matter who sees, who mentions, who takes the time to notice.  And I wholeheartedly agree that God sees and is enthralled when we live life for Him; when we love wherever we are in His Name. But, I also wonder if one of the ways God chooses to spur us forward might be through the encouragement, confirmation, and kindness of those around us.  I might even ask you to entertain the idea that there is Biblical exhortation to do exactly that.

  • After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent a message to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it.” Acts 13:15
  • And Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, encouraged and strengthened the brothers with many words. Acts 15:32
  • Therefore encourage one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:18
  •  For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.  Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.  1 Thessalonians  5:9-11
  • And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 1 Thessalonians 5:14

Every one of those verses, and there are many more on both sides of the Covenant Line, exhort us to tangibly love.  Even the word admonish, which might sound harsh if not investigated a bit, is an exhortation to love through instruction.  It means to appeal to the mind with spiritual substance, to exert positive pressure on someone’s logic, and to urge them to choose God’s best.

It seems to me based on the Truth of Scripture that I need to be looking for opportunities to notice and affirm those around me.  False flattery?  No, not ever, no.  That’s the enemy’s deceitful twist on building one another up—ingratiating for gain—Satan’s counterfeit.  But honest encouragement, honest appreciation, honest strengthening. . . done for no other reason than to say to your Sister, “I see you and I esteem you so.”  Girlfriend, this is more than just a good idea.  It’s essential to our doing life together as believers.  It’s what distinguishes us from the dog-eat-dog emotional environment so many women we know are devoured by.

See, here’s what I think.  If you and I were to begin to make a concerted effort to give voice to all the wonderful things we see the Sisters in our lives being and accomplishing, it would draw attention.  If you and I were to make an effort to express appreciation every time we see a fellow Sojourner going the extra mile, others would sit up and take notice.  If we were to come along side one another and celebrate the choices we see our sweet Friends making to serve others instead of being served, heads would turn. Why?  Because only a woman who has been changed by the Unchangeable One lives like that—no one does those things, no one gives voice to genuine love— UNLESS THE VERY PRESENCE OF LOVE IS LIVING IN THEM.

Do you get it Girlfriend?  The love you pour out on others spreads His fame and strengthens His Kingdom. It says to the world that He will not be contained and His LOVE will always change things, even the deep self-serving things that keep us from building up those around us.  Yes, only He can revive hearts and encourage souls, but what if you were the way He chose to do it?  What if Love chose to speak through you?  Doesn’t the idea of it make you almost giddy?  Oh, how I pray you walk away today being encouraged to give voice to love and your path crosses a heart that needs to hear it.

But I’m not stopping there.  I’m also going before the Throne with one more request. I’m asking Him to send you someone to speak the voice of love straight to your heart. To encourage you. To strengthen you. To  esteem you.  And may I just exhort you Sweet Friend to receive His message with full assurance of His Love and His desire to revive your heart because while I may not know you, I do know Him and I have no doubt, Daughter of the King, that you possess the affection of your Father’s heart and He finds you to be worth every word.

Younger Me, You Were Loved . . .

22 Jun

September 10, 1988 –

  • Brett and Bunny were married in a church but certainly did not exchange their vows before God nor consider Him as even a small part, let alone the center, of their marriage.

April 20, 1993 –

  • Brett and Bunny had their first child.  A beautiful little 7 lb. 6 oz. baby girl was born at 5:21 p.m. in Alma, Michigan.  No praise was given to God for her healthy little body or sweet little face.

May 24, 1993 –

  • Brett finished the electrical work and the three Biddingers moved into their first family home.  No prayer of thanks was offered.  No blessing was prayed over the home.

June 24, 1993 –

  • Brett was in a near-fatal car accident and flown to Grand Rapids.  If someone cried out to God and asked for His intercession, His preservation of life, it was not me.

Brett was in the hospital for 31 days.  Most of it was spent in ICU.   The crash team was called to his room more than once and it was two full weeks before we knew for certain that he would he live.  I can’t really say he slept, more so he floated in and out of consciousness in a room with glass walls for constant observation.  The tubes in his chest and down his throat forced air into the collapsed lung and the halo screwed to his skull aligned what was left of his crushed spine.  The traction apparatus above his bed held his broken femur in the air until he could survive the surgery necessary to fix it.  Still I did not pray.

I slept on couches in the family waiting room for many of the 31 nights. I listened to the doctors explain his paralysis — nipple line down, no use of hands, will not walk. I watched the nurses dump medicine down his feeding tube.  I saw the fear on his face each time he regained consciousness.  I guarded him fiercely and sat for hours in the hard, orange, plastic chair beside his bed listening to the hum of his respirator. I sat. I guarded. I watched. But I did not utter a single prayer.

Our baby girl took up residence 90 miles away from us with my parents.  My Mom bundled her from head-to-toe in the dead of summer because the hospital was so cold and they shuttled her back and forth, with the help of friends, almost daily.  My Dad’s right arm has to be two inches longer from all the miles he carried her crossing that parking ramp and skywalk in her baby seat.  Her visits were the only time Brett showed real interest in being awake.  The change in him was so marked when she was there that the nurses noted it all throughout their charting.  And yet, no thanks was given to the One who had given her to us.

Oh, others were praying and praying hard.  But I was not.  And still He did not leave me.  His thoughts concerning me never wavered from the unfailing love He professes in His Word.  I have no recollection of cognizantly crying out to God during that time.  But He must have been whispering straight to my heart because I found myself standing in line at the hospital gift shop with a Bible study on the Book of Isaiah in my hand.  I wish I could tell you that it was the beginning of a passionate, consistent walk with God but it was not.   I did do the Bible study though and this morning, with the anniversary date of the accident approaching, I felt oddly drawn to dig it out and read through the questions and answers on its pages.

It is so strange to look at my responses.  I know it was me but the young woman who wrote those words is such a dim memory.  I think I’ve worked so hard to leave her behind that I’ve almost forgotten that God loved her too.  Does that make sense to you?  He loved that girl who gave Him no consideration as deeply as He loves the one typing these words.

His affection was as firmly fixed on the woman who wrote “He is powerful and He protects even the weakest follower” 20 years ago in that Bible study book, as it is on the one who desires to write for His glory today.

His heart was just as consumed with the girl who read Isaiah 5:1-6 and scrawled, “God has planted many seeds in my life, from the time I was a small child.  He sent people into my life to tend them, but they were ignored.  Finally, He has let the cows trample me.  Too much sin has left me a wasteland.” as it is with the woman who clings to the truth of Isaiah 61:4 and knows that the ancient ruins and places long devastated in her were destined to be restored.

Oh, how He loved the one who wrote “God has guided me through many troubles only to receive nothing from me.  For a long time I have used the excuse that you can’t pray when you’re in trouble if you don’t pray when you aren’t” and then finished the thought by wondering, “But what if these things were brought to my life for precisely that reason. Is the Lord trying to get my attention?”  And oh, how He loves the one who now confidently answers, “He will always bring beauty from the ashes– if not on this side of Glory, then on the other. My God is good. My God is faithful.”

I guess the point of all this reminiscing is to say that you, Sweet One, are always and have always been on His mind.  There is no point on the timeline of your life that He has not loved you. No matter where we are on the spectrum of faith, He’s always about the business of loving us.  Rather we acknowledge or even notice Him is an entirely different matter but I assure you based on the authority of His Word that the One who was, the One who is, and the One who will be has always been with you.

And somewhere, in the back of her mind, that younger version of me knew that truth too.  She knew He was there and when she finally began to speak, she knew His heart was listening.  This is the final entry from that Bible study so many years ago:

“My understanding of this changed.  My heart believes that the Lord is listening.  God hears all my prayers and He answers them.  At times not the way I want but all my prayers are answered.  His thoughts are higher than mine . He sees the whole picture.  I don’t.  I can trust Him for the outcome.”

Well said younger me.  Well said.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

so are my ways higher than your ways

and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV

Girlfriend, You ARE the Miracle!

15 Jun




Imagine the resurrection of Lazarus occurring in our no-holds barred tell everything social media society.  Oh, how the twitter birdie would be singing and the hashtags flying. . . . .

  • Martha warns of stench.  Jesus is not deterred! Lazarus lives!#stenchovercome #Christunafraid
  • Jesus frees Lazarus from the tomb!  Death clothes peeled! #rollingstones #outfitchanged

Not to mention the status updates that would be popping up on facebook pages all over Bethany . . . .

  • He seems better than before and I sure didn’t notice any smell! 🙂 –feeling happy
  • Saw Lazarus and Jesus today.  Both seemed in good Spirit. –with Mary and Martha

Funny thing is that even though the internet was still far off, news of the miracle spread!  It must’ve been all the buzz at the market place, at the synagogue, and around every Jewish supper table.  We get our information from the Apostle John and it’s guaranteed to be truth so we don’t even have to visit to see if it’s myth or urban legend.  In fact, the passage in John 11 and 12 is so chocked full of truth that there is absolutely no way to look at it all in this small little blog entry.  So as always I’m encouraging you to go and read the whole thing and count on God to show your heart more and more.

When I’m leading a Bible study and I have a lot of stuff I want to share, I quite often tell the sweet Sisters who are with me what “I won’t be talking about” that night.  So if we were actually sitting face-to-face with the Bible in our hands, I might say something like “I was really torn tonight.  I thought about pointing out the way the Scripture specifically tells us how much Jesus loves Mary, Martha, and Lazarus before it notes “So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.” At a cursory read we might think the two verses don’t fit too well together. But might it be that His love for them was the very thing that prompted Him to give these three dear friends, the ones He held in loving esteem, the opportunity to believe Him more and take part in glorifying the Father?  Could the same be true of us?  Might it be that the purpose in the wait from time to time is so that we might have a part in pointing the eyes of those around us toward heaven?”

Or I might have chosen “not to talk about ” Christ, who was about to raise a man from the dead, having those around Him roll away the stone and remove the death clothes binding Lazarus.  He could’ve just pointed at the stone and told it to move.  He could have disintegrated those linen strips with a Word.  Instead, He chose to let others be involved in shining the light into that very dark tomb and give them a role in setting the dead man free.  Sister, what kind of a privilege would it be to be known as a “stone roller” in the lives of those around us?  And how honored would we feel if we were given the assignment of peeling away the death linens so our friends, family, and neighbors could walk freely in the Truth?

And, of course the last thing that wouldn’t be discussed is Jesus calling Lazarus to life by NAME.  Oh, don’t you love to entertain the idea of what it must be like to hear LOVE say your name.  Maybe we’ll hear that very thing when we finally look Grace in the face.  And maybe it will sound something like this

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;

I have summoned you by name;

and you are mine.”

Isaiah 43:1 NIV, 1984

Dear One, I so pray you take Him at His Word.  This is personal to Him and it’s meant for you.  Hear His heart . . . “Don’t be afraid Bunny.  I have rescued you and called you out of your sin.  You belong to me.  I won’t let you go.”  Now, you do it:

“Don’t be afraid _________.

I have rescued you

and called you out of your sin.

You belong to me.

I won’t let you go.”

Doesn’t that give you glory bumps?  Hear Him speaking right to you?

So if these are all the things we wouldn’t be chatting about, what in the world would we be considering?  Well, it would be those tweets and those status updates that would have our attention.  It would be the news spreading from ear-to-ear that would be at the center of our discussion.  Why?  Because people of all kinds are going to hear about the miracle Jesus performed in your life.  They will be absolutely a twitter about the new life that they see in you.  You will be modern day evidence of the miracle.  Living proof that Christ still raises people from the dead.   Indisputable confirmation that the Author of Life still revives hearts today.

The change in you, the transformation from walking dead to abundant life, will be beautiful.  Your entire life will be a testimony to His power, just like the life of Lazarus.  So, what of Lazarus the man brought to life in full view of those who believed and those who did not?

When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there,

they came, not only on account of him

but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.

So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well,

 because on account of him many of the Jews

were going away and believing in Jesus.

John 12:9-10 (ESV)

That’s right.  The last mention we have of Lazarus in the Bible is under the heading “The Plot to Kill Lazarus” and the truth is, the headline over your life, if you are a believer, is similar.  Beloved, don’t you dare think for one moment that your enemy does not notice the difference you are making in the world around you.  Don’t you let yourself believe for an iota that living out the miracle every day is of no significance.  You may not be under the threat of flogging or crucifixion but the battle that rages is real.  The arrows slung in your direction may take the form of isolation, cruel words, and intimidation, but believe me when I tell you based on God’s exhortations to be aware, to be suited for battle, to be alert that they are part and parcel of “The Plot to Kill the Miracle.”  There is no doubt that your enemy, the devil prowls like a lion looking for someone to devour.  That’s truth, flat out.

But Girlfriend, here’s the bigger truth– the One who redeemed you, the One who called you by name, is not about to let you go.  FEAR NOT, the will of the Lion of Judah will prevail.  The Miracle will live!  And live to the full. He has summoned you by name, and YOU ARE HIS!

And just as certainly as the news of new life could not be contained in Bethany, news of your transformation will spread like wildfire.  I find that to be worth a status update.  Maybe even a change in my relationship status ♥– feeling loved.

Are You Brave Enough?

4 Jun

signsI stand at the crossroads and look . . . and I try to imagine what life might be like if I do things in a way I’ve never done them before.  I try to conjure up the best and worst case scenarios that might be catapulted into existence if I step out into unfamiliar territory.  What will I find if rather than pursuing the path of “what I know” and “where I’m comfortable” I take God at His Word, believing that He will always lead me in the good way, and I step out in HIS NAME?  What if instead of being limited by what my finite mind can see, I trust the Infinite and allow Him to unfold a God-sized vision concerning me?

Honest answer is, “I don’t know.”  Full confession is, “I might not be brave enough to find out.”  I often pray for a spirit of contentment to settle over me.  To be certain that my days, no matter how secluded or contained within the four walls of Biddinger Boulevard they might be, are spent pursuing His agenda and not mine.  There are days when other than one another, we don’t come into contact with anyone.  So at times, it’s hard to imagine that there is a vision that includes us, let alone to conceive that a God-sized vision might be in the works.  But I firmly believe that this time of “quarantine” has come straight from the hand of God and it has come for a holy purpose.  I don’t want to miss it.  I don’t want Brett to miss it.  I want us to heed the words of the Lord to be “strong and courageous” and to take every opportunity to seize the cities He sets before us–even if it appears that we are the only ones occupying those city streets.

Not everyone is given a time in life when they are required to limit their activities and I so pray that we are faithful with the gift we have been given.  I think the worst thing that could happen is that Brett would finally be healed and we would look back to find that physical restoration was all that had occurred.   To whom much is entrusted, more will be asked.  Perhaps the God-sized vision requires the more.  Maybe it’s in the unfamiliar territory that we will truly begin to see.

I recently shared with a friend that God has turned me upside down by diligently shining His light on all the places I would rather just keep hidden.  It hasn’t been exactly unpleasant (it’s actually been exciting) but it has had a feeling of “are you kidding me?  There’s more?”  I’ve said aloud on more than one occasion, “Marilyn, will you ever get to the bottom of yourself?”  (I grew up with Marilyn being my trouble name and I’ve carried the tradition forward 🙂 )   Just when I think all the self-serving goop has been dug out, I start to smell a not so pleasant aroma emanating from my heart and I realize . . . more goop has bubbled to the surface.  Another bastion of judgementalism is uncovered.  Another stronghold of haughtiness brought to light.  Another fortress of jealousy is revealed.  While somewhere in my mind I understand that all that goop dredging is a required part of the process, it doesn’t always make cooperating in the whole thing come any more naturally. I tell myself that that’s probably true for almost everyone.  It makes me feel better to think that feeling exposed and vulnerable with all your goop laid out on the Throne Room floor would be a little difficult no matter who you are.  Exposure.  Vulnerability.  Sounds risky to me.  Are you ready for that?  Are you that brave?

What if only a handful of us were to answer that question with a resounding “YES”?   We would, undoubtedly, turn the world upside down.  If only a few were committed to truly make Jesus the Lord of their lives, life as we know it would cease and life, true living, would really begin.  Henry Blackaby writes that you can’t say “No, Lord” because it presents an oxymoron.  If you say “No”, He’s not your Lord.  Plain, simple, true.

I’m praying to be one of the handful.  I’m asking God to make me one of the people you’d be pleased to join with in taking the world by storm.  I’m petitioning Him to make me into a warrior who does not flinch in her belief that the victory is already won.  Girlfriend, the battle that rages over you in the heavenlies is huge.  I want to be the one you want at your back.  And I want that life of tenacious commitment for you too.  When people meet us, they ought to see something different.  Something more.  Something Divine.  They ought to see Christ in the unique way that He displays Himself through each one of us.  I might even be so bold as to say, they ought to glimpse glory.

So what do you say if for the next week we live as if we are unafraid? We obey the small nudges from God rather than talk ourselves out of acting because we aren’t absolutely, 110% sure, convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt that it was God’s voice.  We look undeterred at the dark places He reveals, repent, and take the path He leads us down.  If it doesn’t contradict Scripture and it’s consistent with God’s character, what say we throw caution to the wind and err on the side boldness?  Err on the side of obedience?  Why not do the good thing?  Corny as it may sound, we’ll never pass this way again.  So, let’s just see where the God-vision goes.  Even when it’s unfamiliar.  Even when it’s uncomfortable.  And especially when it doesn’t fit within the confines of our finite imaginations.  I have to believe that the Divine of God, the All of Elohim, who has entrusted us with much will never ask for more than He has given. Sister, the way of the Ancient One is good — let’s be brave enough to walk in it.

“Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.”

Jeremiah 6:16 (NIV, 1984)

(Here’s a secret wish:  I wish I could be peek in at the lives of the Sisters who choose to take this challenge.  What a thing of beauty I would behold!  — You go Girl!)

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