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Plastic Apples and The Wrong Side of the Jordan

And do not turn aside; for then you would go after empty things which cannot profit or deliver, for they are nothing. For the LORD will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you His people. 1 Samuel 12:21-22 NKJV

Plastic Apples and the Wrong Side of the Jordan

“It looks funny.” Michelle wrinkled her nose.

I stepped back and looked again. “That’s just because you aren’t used to it,” I told her.  After removing the two center panels from our dining room table, it could still comfortably seat six people, but now it actually fit into the tiny dining room area without looking as awkward as high-water pants that reveal shoes a size too small. Previously, we could seat ten around the table but the long, distressed, dark wood rectangle filled the nook, leaving little room to move about. I liked the new look, but suspected my daughter’s feelings weren’t so different from what I was experiencing. There was a funny feeling in the pit of my stomach. Times were once again changing; a son had recently moved to California and the house was getting emptier, with only two of our six kids still living at home. There really was no need to keep the leaves in the table when many nights the HH and I were the only two dining together. Meals have been much quieter than years past, back when eight or ten of us were jostling for the last piece of Hawaiian glazed chicken, a little more elbow room, or the last word in a boisterous discussion.

I chased away the wistful remember-whens with thoughts of the freedom and fun the HH and I will have in a house all to ourselves. I smoothed the table-cloth then picked up the centerpiece from the kitchen counter where I had set it. Glancing down, I wrinkled my nose.

They are old, the plastic apples in the wrought-iron, cottage country-style fruit bowl that sits in the middle of my table. They have been there so long, in fact, that I tend to forget about them until moments like this, when I am startled by the coating of dust that covers them a dingy grayish hue.  Instead of setting them back on the table, I dumped them into a sink full of soapy water. I scrubbed, rinsed and dried them then placed them back into the bowl, tossing the one with the bite marks into the trash can.

Yes, teeth imprints.

They are quite real looking, these apples, when they aren’t in-dust-cognito.

And tonight, when I was already feeling the conflicting emotions of children growing up and leaving home, when I was already dancing with nostalgia, I remembered back to a time when an older sibling duped his young, naïve and trusting sister into taking a bite. It was the first – but certainly not the last – time that a young person snatched one of the apples, and nearly broke a tooth. Each time this dumbfounded me.

I mean seriously, they look authentic, but once you pick them up, you should be able to tell that they are NOT the real thing. Who would be foolish enough to follow through with an actual bite of plastic fruit?

apples

As much as I hate to admit it, me.

Oh, I’ve not attempted to bite plastic apples that sit on my table, but I sure have tried to find sustenance from the synthetic, from things which man displays as satisfying, even pleasurable, but really leave nothing more than an aching jaw and empty stomach. Yeah, I’ve gone after empty things, bitten into the artificial, learned the hard way.

I’ve learned to be careful and wary, for we are easily duped creatures, so wanting the temporal that we don’t even seek the promises that God has prepared for us. We are like the tribes of Reuben and Gad in Numbers 32; because of lust of the eye and pride of the flesh, we want what looks good and is readily available at the cost of the promises of God.

Now the children of Reuben and the children of Gad had a great multitude of livestock; and when they saw the land of Jazer and the land of Gilead, that indeed the region was a place for livestock…the children of Gad and the children of Reuben came and spoke to Moses saying….”if we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given to your servants as a possession. Do not take us over the Jordan.”  Numbers 32: 1-4 NKJV

When we are willing to settle short of the Promised Land, we are settling for the synthetic, the plastic, the empty. And we eat our fill, but still feel hunger, still sense we are missing out on something. That’s because we are settling for the partial gospel. We are believing in the crucified Christ who died for mankind’s sins, but we are not entering into the belief of our risen Christ and the power of His resurrection! We remain on the wrong side of the Jordan and never enter into the true peace and rest and power of Christ.

Maybe, just maybe, because this entering in comes at a price: a fully surrendered life.

The true fruit, the true filling, comes when we are all in,  rather than skirting around the edges of our calling. We can’t be Sunday believers and then head back to the eastern banks on Monday and expect to see the power of Jesus in our lives.

In his classic Absolute Surrender, Andrew Murray has this to say:

I am sure there is many a heart that says, “Ah, but that absolute surrender implies so much.” Someone may say, “Oh, I  have passed through so much trial and suffering, and there is so much of the self-life still remaining and I dare not face the entire giving of it up, because I know it will cause so much trouble and agony.”

 Alas! Alas! That God’s children have such thought of Him, such cruel thoughts. Oh, I come to you with a message, fearful and anxious one. God does not ask you to give the perfect surrender in your strength, or by the power of your will; God is willing to work it in you.

Come and cast this self-life and flesh-life at the feet of Jesus. Then trust in Him. Do not worry yourselves with trying to understand about it, but come in the living faith that Christ will come into you with the power of His death and the power of His life; and then the Holy Spirit will bring the whole Christ – Christ crucified and risen and living in glory – into your heart.

Alas indeed! My friends, it is possible to have an abundance of riches, and goals attained, and amazing careers sustained, and relationships we longed for…and still be empty.

But with absolute surrender, it doesn’t matter the external circumstances, whether they are riches or poverty, fame or obscurity, marriage or singleness.

There is such a fullness, such a repleteness, that we can sing with Mary in Luke 1:53

He has filled the hungry with good things

knowing that His heart is to fill us to the full with the best of the best: Himself.

Let’s not turn aside, Dear Ones, and let’s not turn back. It’s so easy in this dispensation of instant gratification and everything at our fingertips, to miss out on the Promised Land, to settle for what looks good instead of waiting for the best.

Let’s be a fully surrendered people, that we may see the wonders and filling of God Himself in our lives and He might be magnified to a watching world.

I know that I’ve already tasted and I want nothing more than Christ Himself. How about you?

Take a few minutes to reflect. What is hindering you from fully surrendering?  What kind of synthetic fruits are you munching on? What are you settling for?  Will you pray with me:

God, nothing compares to You, nothing satisfies like You, nothing completes like You.  I am all in; asking You to accept my surrender, sustain my surrender and bless my surrender. Reveal to me anything empty I am filling myself with and replace it with You. May you be glorified and magnified through it all. In Jesus name.

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Thank you, thank you, thank you!  I appreciate the card orders I received after my last post and am receiving positive feedback from folks who have received their orders. Here are a couple that made my heart happy:

card response card response2

I have completed all out-of-state orders (except one special order)  and am now working on in-town ones. I am praying blessings on all who ordered.

Grateful for this wonderful life,

Marie with a :)

 

 

 

 

 

 


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A Thailand Visitor Cuts to the Core

            “Seriously? You don’t even have any friends in common? You have got be kidding! If I did something like that you would KILL me.” My incredulous, somewhat dramatic daughter did have a valid point and for a brief moment I questioned the sanity of my decision. But it was too late now; Danny and crew would be arriving shortly.

            Although I have had the wonderful opportunity to meet many of my blog followers in person over the past two years, we have always met in a safe place: an airport, a coffee shop, a church, a Christian Retreat. This time was different. I had actually invited what could be considered a complete stranger, from halfway around the world, into my home. Crazy?  Maybe. But Danny and I had been corresponding for more than a year. I knew that he was a musician working with a well-known ministry. He had encouraged me and spoken wisdom and truth into my life. He couldn’t possibly be an axe murderer or thief, right?!

            Still. I spent the last thirty minutes waiting for their arrival with a little more apprehension than I expected. Maybe a part of me was selfishly concerned he would be disappointed with The Real Life Marie. (Remember this post: I Am The Color Gray? ) And maybe part of me was concerned that he would be weird and it would be a really awkward evening.

            But the doorbell rang, and there he was, in real life, looking the same as his photos and with the love of the Lord radiating from him. We hugged and he quickly introduced Gai and Tan, part of his worship team. No time for awkwardness as he broke the ice with a funny story about how he had dialed a wrong number and spoken – at length – to someone he thought was me, about being on his way, before he eventually realized he wasn’t talking to me.

            We broke bread together, these no-longer-strangers from Thailand and my family and me, devouring pans of lasagna followed by coffee and yogurt cake.  We shared testimonies and stories above the bellows of the grandbaby, who was been suffering from ear infections. I was amazed by Tan and Gai’s English, and mesmerized as they told how God had drawn them to Him in very specific ways. Later Danny played the piano while Tan sang in a language my mind couldn’t translate but my spirit could. Gai danced a lovely Thai dance for us. We ended the evening in prayer.

0

00No, Danny surely wasn’t a crazy axe murderer.

But he did come wielding the sword of the Lord, and he did unwittingly slice through my veneer of rebelliousness, the one I pretended wasn’t there, the one coating me all slick and shiny but rendering me motionless. Useless.

It was a painful and convicting cut.

“Hey, I’ve really appreciated your blog. You have such an anointing on your words, and they speak to me.  I know Scripture, and I don’t need just more preaching of the Word – though that is quite important – but to see how it looks in real life. I can relate to so much of what you write.”

It was the second or third time he had said something similar.

Innocent enough words. Kind enough words.

 Should have been encouraging words.

Instead, God took that one word, anointing, and began to slice through my rebelliousness.

See, I haven’t been writing. Oh, not because I haven’t wanted to.

Butbecausetheannointingwasn’tthere.

Sigh.

Saying it quickly doesn’t make it any less painful. I haven’t been writing because the anointing hasn’t been there.

The anointing hasn’t been there because I was walking in rebelliousness, refusing the commands of God.

Oh, I can dress it up all pretty and say that I wasn’t in outward sin, and I wasn’t really doing anything wrong. If I told you what my rebelliousness was, what I was refusing to do – or stop doing – you might even laugh at me and say, what’s wrong with doing that?

Friends, the commands of God aren’t just in Scripture, though there are plenty there. In Jeremiah 36 we are told:

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God.”  26-28 NKJV

 It was prophesied that the commands of God would no longer be solely in Scripture, or written on tablets of stone, but when His Spirit dwells in us, He will also speak to us through His Spirit. Specific words into our hearts.

His Word for me is not gonna be the same as His Word for you.

And it is only when I walk in the commands He has given me that His anointing is on me; it is only then that I am able to dwell in the place He has created for me. In my life, that place involves keypads and dictionaries, and vulnerability and sweat, and laborious hours in a recliner as I strive to pen the message He places in my heart. That is the ONLY time His anointing really shines through; the rest is just sounding brass and vanity. Empty words on a page. Or silence. Worthless.

When I choose to rationalize away His whispers to me, (Surely God, You don’t mean THAT?) I am in rebellion, choosing my own way rather than His way and it always leads to death.

There is a story in 1 Kings 13 that pierces me every time I read it. Every. Single. Time.  Because I know how prone I am to be like the man of God written about in this chapter, standing solid in faith one moment and then giving in to the wiles of my own heart at other times.

This man of God, this prophet-without-a-name, the one who may very well have been the color gray, just like me, began his task, his ministry if you will, with this powerful phrase: by the word of the Lord. When we go forth according to God’s plan, amazing things happen!  Annointing happens.

We are told in 13: : A man of God  went…by the Word of the Lord. Then we read that this man of God (whom I personally refer to as The MOG) delivered a powerful message and performed some unbelievable signs. So astonishing, in fact, that afterwards King Jeroboam asked The MOG to return home with him, have a time of refreshing, and receive a reward for what he had done:

Then the king said to the man of God, “Come home with me and refresh yourself, and I will give you a reward.” But the man of God said to the king, “If you were to give me half your house, I would not go in with you; nor would I eat bread nor drink water in this place. For so it was commanded me by the word of the LORD, saying, ‘You shall not eat bread, nor drink water, nor return by the same way you came.’“ So he went another way and did not return by the way he came to Bethel. 1 Kings 13:7-10

Some pretty powerful obedience and faith, right?  I mean, he was willing to give up material blessings FROM THE KING to walk according to God’s Word to him! See his ministry began with that little phrase in verse 1, by the Word of the Lord.

 Oh, if only the story ended there!

It doesn’t.

The MOG was hoodwinked.

He was hoodwinked, and he died an untimely death because he didn’t continue in what the Lord had called him to. We read that another old prophet apparently wanted to know the secret of the MOG’s power and deceived him into disobedience.

Now an old prophet dwelt in Bethel, and his sons came and told him all the works that the man of God had done that day in Bethel; they also told their father the words which he had spoken to the king. And their father said to them, “Which way did he go?” For his sons had seen which way the man of God went who came from Judah. Then he said to his sons, “Saddle the donkey for me.” So they saddled the donkey for him; and he rode on it, and went after the man of God, and found him sitting under an oak. Then he said to him, “Are you the man of God who came from Judah?” And he said “I am.” Then he said to him, “Come home with me and eat bread.” And he said, “I cannot return with you nor go in with you; neither can I eat bread nor drink water with you in this place. For I have been told by the word of the LORD, ‘You shall not eat bread nor drink water there, nor return by going the way you came.’ ” v 11-17

Again, The MOG reiterates what God had told him to do.

Pretty simple, pretty clear.

Drinking water and eating bread with another prophet seems like a GOOD thing to do, but it wasn’t what God had for The MOG.

Sigh.

Oh, MOG, how I can relate to you.  The story continues:

He said to him, “I too am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the LORD, saying, ‘Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water.’” (He was lying to him.) So he went back with him, and ate bread in his house, and drank water. v18-19

GAH!  Hoodwinked!

Oh, MOG. How I understand.

I don’t even need a lying prophet;  I can deceive my own self, arguing that “that’s not really what God wants me to do,” or “maybe He didn’t really speak to me about such and such…”

Hoodwinked.

And

then

comes

death.

There may be a temporary satiating of the appetite first, but ultimately doing it my way means death:

Now it happened, as they sat at the table, that the word of the LORD came to the prophet who had brought him back; and he cried out to the man of God who came from Judah, saying, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Because you have disobeyed the word of the LORD, and have not kept the commandment which the  LORD your God commanded you, but you came back, ate bread, and drank water in the place of which the Lord said to you, “Eat no bread and drink no water,” your corpse shall not come to the tomb of your fathers.’ ” V 20-22

And sure enough:

So it was, after he had eaten bread and after he had drunk, that he saddled the donkey for him, the prophet whom he had brought back. When he was gone, a lion met him on the road and killed him. And his corpse was thrown on the road, and the donkey stood by it. The lion also stood by the corpse. And there, men passed by and saw the corpse thrown on the road, and the lion standing by the corpse. V 23-25a

Have you ever known that God had called you into something, only to see the dream die?  Or seem like it’s not gonna happen?

Perhaps it is simply a matter of waiting on His timing.

Or.

Perhaps it is a matter of deceiving your own heart.

Ouch.

Been there more than once.

The amazing thing is that sometimes God extends the grace to give us second and third chances.

But let’s not risk it, my friends.

Let’s not be heart hoodwinkers.

Let’s be doers and not hearers only.

Let’s walk by the Word of the Lord.

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Dear readers, I am so sorry if I have let any of you down, as I have struggled over such a silly little issue, persuading myself that it wasn’t anything that even mattered, yet unable to write. I’m sorry I haven’t been able to work on the book.

Pray for me, as I strive to continue walking by the Word of the Lord.

And I’ll pray for you.

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And in other news:

CARDS CARDS CARDS

I may have mentioned that, much to my surprise, I absolutely LOVED my public speaking class. And my teacher took me aside to tell me I had a particular gifting in that area. (Again, I was completely taken aback, but also, I confess, thrilled.)

I have been once again asked to pray about speaking to a ladies’ group, at a retreat. I am excited about the opportunity, because God has been whispering a message that goes right along with the theme of the retreat.  However, it is a small church and I will need to pay my own way. Finances are tight with me in school and my daughter about to graduate, so I was thinking of creative ways that I might make some extra funds. Besides writing, I also have a passion for paper crafting and am planning on selling some of my greeting cards. If you are in the Denver Metro area, or if I know you from elsewhere, please consider making a purchase. I am creating nicely packaged sets of 10 (variety pack) and selling them for $15 per set. My husband says that is a ridiculously low price but I want to be a blessing while I see if this is the next thing the Lord has for me. You can check out my papercraft facebook page here: Isom Cre8tions.

Grateful for this wonderful life (and the Grace of God!),

Marie with a :)