Do you know what I’ve been really, really—really learning? It will take a minute for you to read it. I think it’s worth it.
Yesterday, listening to a couple Tim Keller sermons, seemingly quite different topics, but within both hour-long topics he encourages his listeners to ask large. In the first, he quotes a portion of a little known John Newton hymn. SO Powerful!
“… Thou art coming to a King,
LARGE petitions with thee bring;
For His grace and power are such,
None can ever ask too much;
NONE CAN EVER ASK TOO MUCH….”
I count this hymn as glorious as John Newton’s “Amazing Grace”
But, of course, you know how deeply I value prayer.
Then, on second sermon, seemingly not related, Dr. Tim Keller recounted a story about Alexander the Great’s generosity.
“Alexander the Great had a general whose daughter was getting married. Alexander valued this soldier greatly and offered to pay for the wedding. When the general gave Alexander’s steward the bill, it was absolutely enormous. The steward came to Alexander and named the sum. To his surprise Alexander smiled and said, ‘Pay it! Don’t you see–by asking me for such an enormous sum he does me great honor. HE SHOWS THAT HE BELIEVES I (his King) AM BOTH RICH AND GENEROUS.’
Tim Keller sermon “The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World”
~ JESUS, OUR King, is supremely both Rich and Generous!
Then TK said a portion of the John Newton verse again…
Thou art coming to a King,
Large petitions with thee bring…
~(my thoughts then are) He it is that made it clear to me that I am not fitted well enough for the job I’m in. HE it is that will change/improve/answer that!
~He it is that spoke to me Joshua 1:9. He it is that will make me strong and courageous, not terrified nor dismayed. HE it is that will never leave nor forsake me!
~~ He it is that knows I need this, yearn for that, hope for good in this situation or for that person , and especially “A to Z” for my husband and children…… friends, neighbors, hurting and oppressed and SO MUCH more.
And, here is a ‘failsafe’ regarding understanding God’s Omniscience and God’s answered prayer: “God will only give you what you would have asked for if you knew everything he knows”
― Timothy Keller
I do like that “God will give us what we WOULD have asked for…” Relief from performance prayers – no worries about forgetting to ask this or that — NO worries about having to say ‘the perfect prayer’. As well, I like knowing that what He gives IS really what we would have asked for had we known. Had we known how GOOD IS God’s Way!
So, I was on the bus today. Saw this sign which basically says that “It’s the Law that you be thoughtful enough to stand up and give your seat to the handicapped, elderly and children.WOW! REALLY?!?!? I never saw this sign in the 60s, 70’s, 80s nor 90s (last decade in which I rode a bus.)
Why do we need this sign; why is a law necessary? Because folks have left behind the “Fruits of The Spirit (God)” – See there is no need for a law – no need for ANY law – if in our hearts we would have the Law of God which is seen in the Fruits of The Spirit (God) – Galatians 5:22-23 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.We don’t need laws when we live in love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
This way to live is impossible without God Who IS That Spirit Whose Fruit is created within our hearts.
New laws are voted into legislatorial existence every year in every city, county, state and nation. ” Why? because we as a people do not let His Law rule in our hearts. For what a person thinks in his or her heart, that is what he or she is,” to paraphrase proverbs 23:7.
So, what are we thinking? Here, take my seat and I’ll let you tell me.
This story is about how uncontrollable events scar deeply… and how scars are never the end of the story.
“You’re nothing but a whore, a Devil’s Daughter! How dare you wear that short dress to church! Just you be sure to stay away from all my sons. I don’t ever want them influenced by a girl like YOU!”
It was 1969, during a well-attended Sunday evening Baptist Church post-service reception in the fellowship hall famously known as After-glow times (certainly not ‘parties’). The evening service had been superseded by a hymns recital sung by the elementary-aged choirs for whom my mum was the volunteer director. The pastor, deacons, music minister, youth leader, women’s leader – you name it, the home team were all watching the tall, full-figured imposing –and most influential woman in that church – spew these hot, angry words at a twelve year-old girl.
Yes. Me. In front of everyone. Loudly. Hotly. Making certain everyone’s eyes were on me. Indignant at my misbehavior. 12-years old. My sin? Shorter hemline than what she felt proper girls should wear and my hair was parted in the middle, not on the side like ‘proper girls’ should.
Mini-skirts had arrived on the teen-scene. My mother refused to let me have one. I was teased at school for my “Pilgrim’s Smocks” so much so that I had finally gotten her to reach the hem compromise of just BELOW my knee. Still humiliating, but a salve to my new-girl-at-school soul. As for the middle-parting hair, I was so proud of it because my super popular sister loved to style my hair in the latest fashion. Who knew that the way one parted one’s hair was indicative of deeply flawed wickedness within one’s soul? Within this actually a virgin 12 year-old’s soul?
It had been such a sweet night for mum. Newly and painfully divorced, music and teaching music to the little ones was her one solace from stress-filled days at work and broken, angry, torn hearts at home. She’d even persuaded my brother Richard to come with his girlfriend. Quite a feat considering how angry he was at this congregation that had behaved so coldly towards the demise of her marriage. In those days, the woman was always at fault. You know, she should have tried harder to keep her man. My sister and brother, by now in their older teens felt they did not have to suffer watching this behavior Sunday after Sunday and had stopped. I had to keep attending with mum.
After Mrs. Stephens had spent her voluminous anger on me, no one said a word. Not the pastor, music minister, youth pastor, Sunday school Coordinator, bible class teachers, other adults and parents. No one. Not.One.Word. Not during the tense moments of silence while I stood numb. Not in any Sunday nor Wednesday that followed. Not ever. From leaders to parishioners. No one said a word. Ever. Not even my mother.
Livid and in apoplectic rage, later that evening at home my brother berated her for letting such a vile scene play out unchallenged and vowed never to step foot in church again. I was later to learn, during my own divorce, that my mum was barely coping. Her mother had died two weeks after dad left and he had only been gone just over a year.
This, and the lack of anyone at the Afterglow coming to her aid that night, and my poor mum was a beaten woman. But my siblings and I did not know that at the time and it affected us badly to feel unsupported by her and no dad to come to our aid. Nor church leaders. Nor, God, we thought.
I plunged into six years of denying God–all for hatred of His people.
Coupled with two other devastating neighborhood physical events -which are stories for another time– within this same month, I did sin and sin grandly. Bad Girl? YOU BETCHA! At 12 years old, I had been trying to be a good girl, but no more. Mini-skirts? Ha! FOUR inches ABOVE my knee! No one could stop me. My poor, dear mum… To this day– to this day– I pay for the scars I added to the scars of people like Mrs. Stephens, relatives and neglectful church leaders. Yes, I added scars.
My reaction, my choice, my foolishness……But the story does not end with scars.
Mum kept going to that church. I could not figure out why. She would tell me, “Bethie, the church is a HOSPITAL. SICK people attend. Jesus came to HEAL SICK-in-the-soul people. And, those who remember that they’re a fellow patient —and not the doctor—are the ones who fare best….We’re here to take each other to the Healer, not try to be the healer. Like the friends who cut a hole in the roof and lowered their disabled friend into the presence of The Healer. ”
I was about 16, with a toddler a baby and a rarely present husband, when mum called me to say that Mrs. Stephen’s daughter, not barely a teen, had been killed in a car-accident. An oncoming car broadsided the passenger side when Mrs. Stephen’s, at the wheel, was taking a curve around a mountain on the way to their luxurious cabin in Marble Falls, TX. The wreck so bad that the young girl’s casket had to be closed during the funeral. Busy with two children to raise now that I had quit my follies wherein the resulting consequences were an unplanned pregnancy and difficult marriage, I felt sympathy mother to mother, but cared little else for Mrs. Stephen’s sorrows.
More years pass. My mum and I have kept in touch, things getting easier as real life helps me understand and sympathize more with her scars that left her psyche with a permanent limp. She calls me excitedly early one Monday morning. It was as if she had waited all night for the earliest polite time to call me. Breathless she exclaimed, “Bethie, Mrs. Stephens got up in front of the WHOLE church last night and wept and wept and asked forgiveness!”
Really. Who cares. Why?
It turns out that the day her daughter died so began Mrs. Stephen’s days of reckoning with God. In her tearful, repentant speech she told of how in her grief, she cried out the “Why, God, Why?” question. God’s tender response, “She is with me now and you’ll see your daughter soon. … But, I want to see My other daughters whom you are turning away from Me.” God then said to her, “You see the pain it feels to lose your daughter to someone else’s uncontrolled behavior? You are killing My Daughters. Stop it.”
Mrs. Stephens that tearful Sunday eve told the congregation that she had spent the intervening years privately opening her heart to God’s conviction and by the time God was done reckoning with her, she had counted 64 –SIXTY-FOUR–young girls whose relationship with their Father (Father God) she had killed. Shewas asking forgiveness from whom she could find, but she could not talk to all the girls; me being one of them. Then, God nudged her to publicly confess and publicly ask for forgiveness.
And here I am. And here’s my Mum, too. Healed. God did this and it was marvelous in our eyes.
So began my way back. The journey to Wholeness continues to this day.