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Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Bell Pepper Parable

My daughter asked for a vacuum cleaner for her twentieth birthday. I wish I'd had a mirror to catch my expression, because I don't know what "are you serious-yeah, I guess you are-and I must have done something right because you just asked for a vacuum cleaner" looks like in a split second flicker across my face. Well it's spring, and strange things happen in the spring. Like blushing strawberries, and a single potted petunia that survived winter at poolside, and lettuce that hunkered down in the greenhouse and grew when ice storms hammered. I ducked into the greenhouse and cut off a head of lettuce right at the base for homegrown salad, in February.

Well, it's not February anymore. The vegetable bed which technically is a fruit bed, is becoming a birthing bed for the bell peppers and they come straight out honest from the open center of the white flower just so unpretentious and unapologetic that I may have turned the shade of the strawberries when I checked their progress this morning. If I had a cloth I'd have draped it there full-length modesty. The tomatoes in the neighboring bed go about the birthing with a decorum befitting the gentler plant as a whole.

In due time, I'll slice in half the bell peppers and white seeds will be clumped at the top of their hollow. The tomato seeds will be enmeshed in fruit flesh tomato red. Too bad I didn't plant yellow zucchini or blackberries, I think as "Jesus Loves the Little Children" song from childhood comes to mind. Only I change the lyrics. "Red and yellow, green and black; they are growing in my life; Jesus loves the little children of the world!" It sort of rhymes if sung with a bit a drawl.


The Holy Spirit produces fruit. Truthfully, I'm glad it's fruit. I'm glad He doesn't produce vegetables because I'm sure I'd look a little less cheerful somehow if holy peace was long tuberous parsnip root with pale skin and, let's face it, broccoli and beets are acquired tastes. I don't once recall my children asking to snack on a beet. Besides, there aren't any seeds hidden inside vegetables or seeds covering the outside, berry style. And, yeah, berries are fruit. I checked.

Fruit is marked by the seeds.

The seed is hidden in the fruit, unless it's a strawberry berry in which case the seed is firmly attached, and that's close enough.

The life is hidden in the seed, and the fruit is produced.

Jesus, formed in Mary, came from holy seed. "Joseph, about Mary," I can almost hear the angel of the Lord clear his throat. "Uh, that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; and she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus."

I make the distinction between reproduction and produce because I've always heard that we've been given the fruit of the Spirit, but there's a difference between the life of Christ being formed, reproduced, in me and the fruit of the Spirit being produced in my life. But here it plain as the ink on the page, "The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love , joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control" (Galatians 5:22).

I have a bell pepper to slice. Knife in hand, I wonder, "How many bell peppers have I sliced in my life?" and "How many times have I read about the fruit of the Spirit?" I could dice up bell peppers with my eyes closed and recite Galatians 5:22 in my sleep.

I halve the pepper. The two halves roll open, expose hollow bellies and something else. There's a pepper growing inside the pepper. Right here on my cutting board. It's "a seed must die and be buried if it's to produce more life" John 12:24 truth. And the truth is that Christ died, was buried, and was raised up to produce more seed-bearers.

I learn the botanical term for a pepper growing in a pepper. It's called, "internal proliferation." The botanists don't know how it happens.

Internal proliferation. "That's it!" I wave my knife around. "Internal proliferation! External produce!" I gasp at the pepper in the pepper, "And no botanist can figure you out."

God overhears. "Ahem." Rats. He caught me talking to a bell pepper. "I, can figure it out."

I take the hint and speak to Him. "How? How'd it get there?"

"I labored in the throes of death, the grave, to resurrect you," He begins to tell the story. It's a bell pepper parable. "I died, a seed. I was buried in the ground and labored for life there. I was raised not to save My life, but yours."

More truth. "Truth is," I hold the knife steady and start again; "Truth is that what I've heard so many times,"  I take a breath and lower the knife, "that You died for me so that I don't have to die," I rest my forearms on the kitchen counter, "isn't true. Truth is, You died and so did I. You died for my sins and I am dead to sin; You are resurrected, and I am alive to You." It's Romans chapter six truth. "And," I puzzle the miraculous that no botanist but the Creator of all botanical and spiritual understands, "You are in me." It's just all pepper in a pepper miracle.

I'm filled with seeds, and with a life that is all mysterious. The life of Christ is being reproduced in me, and I have my life in Him and, I have a term for what I don't really understand. Internal proliferation. I may not understand it, but neither do the botanists, and it's good enough for me to see it just as true and real as this bell pepper on my kitchen cutting board.

Internal proliferation. What happened in Mary long ago, happens now and it's called Holy Spirit spiritual conception. That which is conceived in me is of the Holy Spirit, and it's the life of Jesus. His life is being formed, reproduced, in me. And somehow the apostle Paul, and others, labor in "the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed" in me; (Galatians 4:19).

"I have covered you with My garments of salvation and with My robe of righteousness," He speaks delicately and I know what He's saying.

"I adorn myself with jewels as a bride adorns herself," I respond. We're having an intimate conversation from Isaiah 61:10-11 that maybe He's been waiting to have.

"As the earth brings forth it's bud," He speaks.

The back doors stand open and I step outside. I look around me at all things spring and the thoughts in my heart blossom through petal-like lips, "I praise You. Lord! You fill my hollow and Your fruit fills my life. I praise You, Lord! Four children filled my hollow and life is pepper in pepper mystery." Somehow the mystery is freeing.

I feel it. The mystery. The relief in the mystery. The release, too. Something is felt as release in this quiet realization that the produce of the Spirit is somehow just there; just in my life. That the presentation of the produce of the Spirit isn't for me to present in my life. Maybe this sounds kind of irresponsible, but the word says, "But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives" (Galatians 5:22).

It's done already. By the Spirit.

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are in my life as produce of the Holy Spirit. Whether or not I choose to live according to what is there, the fact that the fruit is there doesn't change as if what I do has power over what He's done. And the One in whom all holy abounds, lives in me; and I am enlarged by Him.


"Thank You."

There's a cluster of bell pepper seeds in the sink. I close my eyes, and see pepper in pepper, a kind of spotty afterimage. I think about God's words and, well, "There's a stem." I know. Obviously. But probably everything that feels like a paradigm shift to me right now is mere bell-pepper plain as the spiritual grocery list to others. But. There's a stem. And the peppers are attached by the stem. And, "Ha!" I point out to the Lord, "The stem's the cord!"

"Ha!" He echos my enthusiasm so gracious kind.

Encouraged, I continue. "It reminds of the three-strand cord You mention. You know, the one that's not easily broken?"

He nods, "Yeah, I know the one. It's pretty tough."

"It's attached." I'm nodding and thinking of the toughest cord I've ever had. "It's attached, belly to belly, life to life; and it's two arteries and a vein three-stranded cord!" This cord nourished the fruit of my womb.

This cord was cut when the fruit was produced into my life.

And then milk flowed. The nourishment of the fruit of my womb, produced into my life, depended on my milk to grow strong, and that depended on what I took in. Something spiritual here, I'm thinking.

I read, "In one Spirit you were baptized, received into one body, and made to drink of one Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:13); and I'm pushing through till I get this Bell Pepper Parable. "You are being formed in me and I am drinking of Your Spirit. I'll drink of Your Spirit alone."

I don't know how it all works any more than the bell pepper in the vegetable bed understands anything at all, but what is produced holy in my life is what He, not I, produces. Is it enough that I drink of the Spirit, spiritually expectant that He will produce the fruit in my life? I hope so.

Shouldn't there be freedom felt in getting straight just what is being formed and what is produced? What's inner and what's outer?

And isn't the fruit of the Spirit produced in my life because the Life of the Spirit is being formed in me?

And what about a life filled with the produce of the Spirit? Filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? If it's the real authentic kind of "You are in Me, and I am in You, and may they be in Us" homegrown fruit raised in the soil of Christ's longing then, yeah, authentic real freedom will be felt because there ain't no law against pepper in pepper mystery.

"How do I know, God, if what's produced in my life is authentic?" I really want it to be.

"Don't you have a salad to make?" He nods at the bell pepper on the cutting board.

"Yeah," I separate the seeds from the hollow. "What do I do with the pepper in the pepper?"

"Eat it."


I pick up the knife and start slicing.

"You know, the joy, is real," He says, to the rhythmic, slice of, the knife, "when it's, cut through, and peace, is there."

I keep slicing.

"And you know the peace is real when it's split open and self-control is there," He's clustering the fruit for me because I can see the seeds clustered that I pulled from the pepper and tossed in the sink. It helps me to understand what He's saying when I glance at the cluster of seeds. It's part of the bell pepper parable.

I'm getting into the rhythm of what He's saying. "I know the patience is real when it's halved and raw, and there's kindness there."

"Yeah, He nods as I slice.

I finish slicing and reach for the salad bowl. He leans in, "You know it's real," He says low, "when it's sliced and tossed and love is there."

Love is the first fruit. Love is raised in the soil of Christ's longing.  Love is the hidden intimacy, the delicate "You are in Me and I am in You and I pray that they may be in Us."

I place the peppers in circular pattern on top of the salad. "They're smiling!"

It's what sliced bell peppers do.

I smile at God.

written by: Carolyn-Elizabeth Roehrig

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Chisel the Clay from my Soul!

Honeysuckle air, and coyote breath. City mowers clad in bright orange vests and black wrap-around sunglasses, curb wild grassy underbrush to a constant even neat along this walkway; this paved suburbia where yellow therapy dog and the likes of me walk. Seems I rescued her two years ago from the shelter because this big German husband of mine was thinking horse therapy was either yay or nay, decided it was an unexpected yay and horses aren't allowed in backyards suburban but dogs are, and that's good enough for me. 

I yanked open the heavy metal door where canine convicts yammered behind bars. Except for this yellow dog just grinning like a fool and she hasn't wiped that grin off her face for two years. Something therapeutic about a grinning dog.

We walk. I talk to God under my breath and move my lips a little chatty because I don't know ventriloquy, and sometimes I think I should walk with my cell phone pressed to my ear because it doesn't look strange to talk to God on the phone. I may do it yet, but for now I just make sure I'm not caught. The dog can grin and wag like she's laughing out loud and no one bats an eye, but let me be caught kind of like that, kind of grinning and sort of wagging my tongue with no phone and yeah, people would eye me from wary distance and they'd cross the street and warn their children, "Stay close, she's batty." 

Honeysuckle air, and coyote breath. And I'm thanking God that I'm on this walkway just now because there's a coyote on the other side of spring's veil all bud and leaf. I peer through the wood and this mangey wild isn't leashed. 

I shorten the leash, "Stay close, girl, he's batty," I warn. She sits and my lips marvel out, "So this is what it looks like." I bend a tad closer to see better and, "This is what 'This is the way, walk in it,' looks like! It looks like me safely on the pavement breathing honeysuckle air, and me not on animal trail with a coyote breathing down my neck. I thank God I'm on this paved and not in that wild. "Well I know," I qualify, "it's a suburban wild. But still."

Yeah, the neighborhood street is right there, but so is the creek. And there are water moccasins swimming in that water. My boys know about them. And there are tarantulas and coral snakes and brown recluse spiders in the underbrush and vine tangle and certainly in the hole left at the foot of the old uprooted tree felled by a wind that shoved it over. And there are bobcats, too. I've seen one. And coyotes bigger than fifty pounds of therapy dog.

I indulge my wild-side curiosity till the nudge of my Father, "Okay, Ms. Wild-at-Heart who has nothing but coyote bait clipped to the leash, time to go." 

The yellow bait dog and I back away slow and smooth. "Thank You, Mr. Maker-of-the-Beautiful-and-Dangerous." I breath honeysuckle air, therapy dog grins, and I thank my Father for "This is the way, walk in it" boundaries. 

"Honeysuckle worship, " I think to myself as hymn comes to mind, "Lead me, Lord, lead me in Thy righteousness; make Thy way plain before my face. For it is Thou, Lord, Thou Lord, only, that makest me dwell in safety." I worship it and I think there must be honeysuckle incense burning in Heaven and wafting over this way I'm walking in. 

The most beautiful boundary is the smile of Life. My Father is the giver of Life and I want to live my life within the bounds of His smile. His smile is wide, "This is the way," and the way is just as plain before my face as it is on His face, all grinning happy; blessed.


I don't do slick mud if I can help it. It clumps like the clay it is till my tennis become as platform shoes. 

The coyote is gone. Rain filled the creek during the night. Water runs just slap happy between the banks, and grinning dog and I slip-slap somewhere between creek wild and cement walk because God grinned, "Come with Me! This is the way!"

"But it's muddy," I falter as yellow dog pulls because it seems she heard Him and the two of them just can't stop grinning. 

Slip-slap. The mud packs inches to my soles, and every step I take I'm taller for it. "Why this way?"

The grinning dog doesn't know and doesn't care why; but God? "Won't you follow Me into the wilderness?"

Ooh. Jesus followed and was in the wilderness forty day and nights. The Israelites followed and were in the wilderness forty years. There is precedence. "Yes, Sir, I will."

I know where the garden hose is. I'll wash clay from my soles. And I know where the hammer and nails are. I'll let my tennis dry and use hammer against nail to chisel clay from the tread of my soles. 

Thing is, I've been following Him nearly forty years and regarding the wilderness, sometimes it's coyote breath and sometimes it's honeysuckle air but always, if I follow my flesh, wilderness clay'll clump heavy to my soul and I'll walk heavy steps burdened by it; if I follow God, well I'll follow the holy precedence and as the Israelites, my shoes won't wear out and the soles won't loose their tread; and my soul won't loose it's footing.

"If you were raised with Christ," I read Colossians chapter three while my shoes dry on the patio step, "set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth." 

The hammer and a nail wait on the patio to be used when the clay is dry enough to break. I'll pick them up and chisel the nail through sole tread. 

"Chisel the clay from my soul." I say it to the One who felt the nails chisel the very clay-like flesh He was born into, and who was trodden for this very clay that I am.

Tread, according to Webster's dictionary, is "the pattern of raised lines" on the sole. 

Before hammer hit nail heads, before clay-like flesh broke open between the bones of His hands and feet, He was trodden. Were the tread marks on His body the pattern of raised lines marking the Way? 

My soul hears, "This is the way, walk in it," and I will respond, "Tread my soul." 

I will. I do. "Tread my soul," I say to the trodden One because the only tread that will keep my soul from slipping and growing heavy with the weight of this world is the pattern of the raised lineage of Christ traced through Mary and Joseph who helped establish the holy precedence and know well the wild way. 

I'm washed clay and my tennis are dry on the patio. "Chisel the tread of my soul till the pattern of Your soul grips me to Your way." I pound the prayer out as I dislodge clay. "Chisel," I say, "because I don't want to walk the clumsy heavy, the clay-clump; and I don't want to be as clay elevated by this world of clay. So chisel, Lord, chisel on." Only the retreaded soul will ask to be chiseled low. It's humbling to follow His way, but I desire humility.

"Now is the time," I read in chapter three of Colossians, "to get rid of  " and I know what's on this list for me. I aim the nail I'm holding and hammer it on the head along another rubber tread line. I pray it, "I'm stripping off my old nature," and clay dislodges from sole tread. 

"Put on your new nature," I continue in Colossians and, "Uh, Lord? I think I need a new pair of tennis."

"Be renewed as You learn to know Me and become like Me," He answers me in our Colossians conversation as I clean this sole on the patio. Something spiritual about cleaning mud from a sole. 

Dry clay litters the patio step and one sole, the one for the left foot, is renewed. I pick up the shoe for the right foot, turn it over, and begin digging out the tread lines.

The Lord chats while I chisel, "I chose you to be holy; to be a people I love."

I hear what He's saying between the lines. It's lineage language from the lips of the trodden One, and it's like breathing honeysuckle air till I think I can taste it. Sweet, sweet honeysuckle scent clothes me just all, "clothe yourself with tenderhearted mercy."

Tenderhearted mercy is all honeysuckle wild and sweet to me.

"Clothe yourself with kindness."

"Oh with gladness, Lord!" Kindness is sweet honeysuckle. Kindness can strip coyote breath; can just take the howl away.

"Clothe yourself with gentleness and patience." It's as if He were holding out a garment woven from honeysuckle vines, saying, "Here! Put this on!"


I set down the hammer and nail. Once someone reading my book, Pisteuo! Connecting with God's Heart-Becoming Joyful asked me, "When do I get to the part where you tell me how?" I said, "I can't tell you how, but there's One who says, 'This is the way, walk in it,' and that's what my whole book is about." 

He treads real souls to walk without slipping where He says to walk. Walk anywhere else and, well, anyone can slip on pavement when the sole's tread for wet clay. And if the sole's tread for pavement? Well we all know it's easy to slip in the mud, and I know I don't want to be wallowing in mud because I've chosen animal trail when God's said, "This is the way," and pointed to the sidewalk. And I don't want to get scraped up on pavement because God tread, for His own strange reasons that only make sense once there and back, the bottom side of my real soul for the mud. It's a daily walk, and every day's different.

I walk all over this clay covered wild rock called Earth and the One who beckons me, "Time to go," when I've fascinated over a coyote long enough is the same One who, next day, just grins out, "Hey! Let's go walk through the mud!" 

May I wrap my soul in honeysuckle that grows wild while I give my soul to the only One who knows how to retread my soul? I think I may, because He felt the hammer and nails, and because He's the trodden One, and because He's the One holy angels ministered to and I'm quite certain that angels so holy must smell something like wild honeysuckle. 

May I slip not at all? Well, at least not very often? May I walk where He says to walk, today? Sure footed? Till the day when I stand on higher ground? I may, because I'm in the grip of His soul.

There are clumps of clay on my patio.

I don't think there'll be clumps of clay on His patio. 

Just retread souls.

written by: Carolyn-Elizabeth Roehrig

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Into Your Heavenly World-a song I wrote

Your mercy for me, a sinner,
Would be more than I could believe;
But Your love lifted You up to be crucified instead of me.

You were pleased to look upon me,
Though I didn't see You at all;
But now it's clear, Your love is dearer than anything I have loved before.

charcoal by Carolyn-Elizabeth

Oh, the life You lived! Oh, the death You bore!
Your resurrection is my only cure.
Oh, You forgave my debts! One day I'll soar
Into Your heavenly world.

When I love my life more than Yours,
It's a tiresome burden to bear;
You rescue me beyond degree;You take the weight of my cares.

written by: Carolyn-Elizabeth Roehrig

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Figgy Grinning Faith

Jesus. A borrowed donkey. Crowds. "Praise God!", they shouted. "Blessings on the One who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessings on the coming Kingdom of our ancestor David! Praise God in the highest Heaven!" (Mark 11:9-10).


How still, focused, His heart must have been. Was He contemplating His last days on this earth? Borrowed, too? The eternal One borrowed the tock of time; yet the Father had given all things into His hands, and somehow His hands were fullest when they gaped wide where the nails gouged through. The hands that held all things, tore holding a nail. And some say that He became sin for us, but wasn't it enough that He held sin for us? That He owned it? Took it into, literally into, His hands and carried it away forever?


Did He look at the crowd as He rode to the temple and think something like, "Some of these will soon become living temples of the Holy Spirit?" And as He rode over the soiled garments and leafy branches that had been cut in the fields, did He think something like, "Some of these will take off the old and be clothed in the new," for it would be written Ephesians 4:17-24. Did He think something like, "Some of these laying down cut off branches will be themselves cut off," for it would be written, "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered" (John 15:16). And did He think, too, "Some of these will befriend Me and lay down their lives and die to themselves to live for Me," for it would be written, "Greater love has o one than this, than to lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends"? (John 15:13).


Well, He passed through the crowds and simply entered the temple. That's all. Oh, and He carefully looked around. And I wonder, "What was that hoopla all about?"

I'm sure most of the crowd really had no idea either. Most get caught up in the excitement. In the loud. But what of those who worshiped in the loud, "Hosanna in the highest"? Did they have an inkling back in their souls what this was all about? Did something stir within those who would themselves become living temples for the holy Christ, inhabited by the glory of His Spirit after He gave it up? Did they, like Mary, mother of Jesus, ponder these things in their hearts after the crowds dispersed and Jesus looked silently and carefully around the temple that had become a short cut for merchants because it was quicker to trample through the holy place than to go around it in reverence on the way to work, and that had become prostituted, defiled?


My Lent Journey-40 candles, 40 days, and the crown of thorns is crown of glory light

He left the temple after looking around, and the next morning He cursed a fig tree. I can't escape the sequence of these things. The sequence of riding into Jerusalem, the crowds and the garments and leafy branches cast down; His entrance into the Temple. And then He curses a fig tree.

"Surely, Lord," I ponder these things in my heart, "You weren't angry because Your stomach was growling and You wanted figs." He's not a spoiled child throwing a fit of divine proportion.

 I wonder about the fig, because there's something spiritual here. I google. Yeah, I know, but this temple that I am is in the iPhone era. So I google and find that the fig symbolizes fruitful abundance and blessing and some called it "the fruit of Heaven."

"You looked around the Temple. Carefully." My pondering continues. "Were You looking for fruitful abundance? Hoping to find a single seed of holy worship somewhere in the Temple? And did You search through the fig leaves with the same hope?"

"I hunger for fruit that blesses the Kingdom of My Father." It's His response.

"I want to feed Your hunger, Jesus." And I do. I want Him to be happy when He looks around my inner life and I'm bold to say it, "I hope to have Your attention when You search the earth to and fro. I hope You may see a branch of fig tree bowing 'neath the weight of the fruit it bears for You. I hope to bless You like that."

He is quiet. He lets me chew on these hopes of mine. He gives me time to ingest them.

I take the time, quietly. Slowly savoring sweetest desire in the way that the gentle flavor of figs is tasted fullest. It's a gentle fruit with mild flavor. It's not a loud, here-I-am kind of fruit, but one that hides under fig leaves. It's a modest fruit. Modest, but full of tiny seeds. Just so full that there seem to be more seeds than flesh.


"Lord!" My mouth is full of fig, "Daa's id! I wan' more tseed an' less me!"

He quirks a brow and, "Mff, fmm hmff!" He sucks His cheeks in, but a smile breaks open and He's got tiny dark seeds caught between His teeth.

I smile back, because I do too, and we grin just all figgy at each other. Swallow.

"I meant," I begin.

"I know," He wipes His mouth with the back of His hand.

"I do want to be full of figs. Full of figs heavy with seed," I explain more to hear myself say it.

"My sweet fig," it's a new nick name, "the words of your mouth and the thoughts of your heart are pleasing to Me."

Aren't the most pleasing words to Him the words that He has spoken? And surely when I speak what He's spoken, He will be pleased to do it. It's true. He says so. And whatever is holy fruit in this temple that I am, is fruit to satiate Christ's hunger.

Jesus went to the temple looking carefully for any fruit, even a seed small as a fig seed. Then He went to the fig tree and looked carefully for even one fig. He found no fruit in temple or tree and overturned tables and withered the tree.

Then the third day He said, "Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain," I stop here mid-sentence, because He's pointing to the mountain of fruitless and now dead fig tree.

"Dead faith?" I ask.

"It's a mountain," He responds.

I continue the sentence, "whoever says to this mountain, be removed and cast into the sea." I say this and, "Lord, I don't  doubt." And I don't. I don't doubt when I pray His word. It's His word.

And this is how a mountain of fruitlessness is cast out all withered.

"I can't doubt in my heart, but can only believe that those things which You say will be done." I confess this, and somehow this confession is found growing in the fold of living forgiveness just as figs grow where fig leaves enfold the fruit.


Resurrection Glory

I know this is true. It's why I pray His word.

Remember the hour when I chose to pray Your word?" I had run out of my own words.

"Oh, I remember it clearly," He just laughs with a Father's delight when a child begins to sound like Him.

"And You remember when I chose to forgive. When I just said, 'I choose,' even though I didn't know much more about the choice than it's what You said to do."

"And you did choose. Again and again and again." He remembers.

"I know," I sort of laugh about it a tad embarrassed because forgiving is a hard learned and oft repeated practice and in those days, 'I forgive' was what I said. It's just what I said.

"And now?" He prompts because a glance back is all that's needed. Just a glance

"And now!" I exclaim. "And now, truly, my prayers are answered. Just answered like You said they would be.

Well, I say "my prayers," but what I mean is "His word." He answers His word; and I make His word my prayers because His word's gotten into me just as miraculously as seeds somehow get into the flesh of the fig. For me, if "No" is the answer then I figure I prayed not in His name, but in mine; because God never says "No" to His own word. Never says "No" to His own name and character.

"My dear," He says it with that tone of knowing tenderness, "you need not feel apologetic for how it sounds to say that I have answered every prayer you've prayed, believing because you don't doubt My word."

"Thank You." He's said this before I need the reminder. "You have changed my heart's desire. My desire's are mercifully upended and withered.

"Keep chewing on faith! And you are most attractive when you speak with your mouth full of fig and seeds stuck between your teeth." He's laughing outright.


I grin figgy.

Carolyn-Elizabeth Roehrig

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

When You're Ninety Percent in Deep Water

I pat heads and hug necks. I rub soothe into shoulders and stroke hair tangled by tears. And pray. Sometimes silently and sometimes not because sometimes someone is over ninety percent in some deep water and the remaining ten percent is bobbing like the tip of an iceberg just trying to breathe without pitching under. But God? He  hugs the heart and soothes the being. He prays and His words reach soul-bone and spirit-marrow. His words reach depths far deeper than ninety percent of anything and everything. His reach is one-hundred percent of His depth and requires not a shave more. 

He keeps my head up.

He keeps me from going under.

He liberates me till my captivity isn't ninety percent in deep water, but one-hundred percent in Him. 

He tips me into His depths till I'm captivated by freedom. "I declare this about You, Lord," I say and it's Psalm Ninety-One I proclaim; not my own proclamation. 

His depth is shelter wild.

I think about Adam and Eve sheltered in the garden of Eden. I wonder where God led them as they walked with Him in the cool of the morning. Did He take them to the rivers Pishon, and Haddakel, Gihon, and Euphrates? I used to know what the names of these rivers meant. I've forgotten, but I've got google. I look them up. 

Pishon means, "Freely Flowing." I wonder if they stopped to sit and quietly talk while absentmindedly fingering the grass and tiny wild flowers on the banks of the Pishon River. Did the three of them recline on the fragrant soft earth? Did the conversation flow as freely as river flow, and as the River of Life flows right out from the throne of God Himself? Did He surf the River of Life just for fun and land on the banks of the Pishon to walk with the man and the woman He made?

I wonder if they laughed and ran alongside the Haddakel river as if to race the rapids? Yeah, Haddakel means, "Rapids." 

 And what was the mood when walking with God by the Gihon? Maybe joyful? Maybe the kind of joy that bursts forth just clearest from the bottom of the heart kind of laughter plash as Gihon means "Bursting Forth."

And the Euphrates, "That Which Makes Fruitful." Man, woman, and God. Was there a more fruitful threesome on this earth? Surely the man and his woman would partake with no shame of the sweetest fruit God gave to them alone to taste. And what about the fruit of God's Spirit? Isn't He the One who makes fruitful even now, so far removed from the Garden of Eden? He is. And aren't man, his woman, and God still the most fruitful threesome this earth can know? I think so.


By the River

I wonder to God, "Did the man and his woman ever ask You what was on the other side of the rivers? Or were they so freely and joyfully consumed by Your presence and the life they lived within the river boundaries whose names describe Your name that they never thought to question?"

"The serpent hissed." He need say nothing more.

"Why do the whispered suggestions get to us so?" The question may bob just above water, but the answer plumbs depths of holiness. For there is holy whisper that silences any other whisper and the thing is that the only One who never fell is the only begotten Son of God. 

 The thought stops me. Angels fell. Lucifer, the most luminescent angel, fell and became the most ugly snake that ever was. He was a walking snake and maybe since then snakes have been shown some mercy because they glide now. Or maybe the mercy's been shown to the likes of me because I just cannot, cannot imagine a walking, talking snake in the tomato bed.

 Well, God made man a little lower than the angels and that says a lot. "So," I venture, "what did You mean when you said, "It is good" every time You made something; including man? And what about when You said, "It is not good" when man didn't have his mate, and then "It is good" once You brought forth woman?"

 I'm thinking His definition of the goodness of His work is based on nothing but His plan, which is perfect. That the definition of His goodness is based on His perfectness. Could it be that, "It is good" meant far more than the goodness of all He created? That it meant, "All this good is for the sake of My plan"? 

 Maybe His plan is far larger than man and woman never bending an ear to the unholy whisper, or never falling into sin. Maybe the fall is actually part of His perfect plan because wasn't the plan always for redemption and salvation? For hope that He alone can fulfill? And how can such a plan be completed if creation and we ourselves, have no need of it? 

 I don't know, but I do know that the fall was of glacial proportions and splitting and that the echo of it still rumbles through pages of scripture that I plumb till I'm over ninety percent submerged in the word and wanting more.  I hope toward the Day when, Lord willing, I'll be one-hundred percent submerged in the depths of heaven's heights just freest within the boundaries of the depth and height of His perfect plan. 

 His perfect plan is freedom and boundary. I long to plumb it, and be buoyed by it, at the same time. 

I trust this holy wild. I do. But I have questions and some of them sort of bob at the surface kind of like the tip of an iceberg. 

 How do I love the heavenly One while I'm still just so clay? I wonder to myself while I pat heads and give hugs and murmur empathy just so warm, "There, there; it'll be okay." I say it as I stand on feet of clay in my own wilderness because I am, you see, still in this body on this earth hoping that something of the presence of the God I'm making my home in will land on the heads I pat and enfold the necks I hug and maybe His home address will  be whispered in the ears I murmur comfort into.

 But He murmurs Psalm ninety-one against my ear, "Do not dread the disease that stalks, nor the disaster that strikes." 

 I think about the first man and woman in the Garden of Eden. 

 "These evils will not touch you," he continues the Psalm and I have to think that God is a realist but sometimes what He says seems removed from earth-bound realities. 

 "What do You mean, 'These evils will not touch you?'" I ask because Eve touched the fruit. Then picked it. Then tasted it. Then swallowed it; and every blood-pumping heart, and reasoning soul, and cellular fabric of strength has been stalked and stricken since. 

 And now the Garden is guarded. And now on this side of Eden wall there are slums and open sewers, and gangs, ghettos, disease that stalks in the darkness, and disaster that strikes at midday, and danger breaks in at night and a sunny day is hungry for light. 

 "Does Psalm Ninety-One dare to pre-script, prescribe even, the very words Satan himself would use to tempt the Son of God in the wilderness?" It's a tip of the iceberg kind of question that answers deep. God is silent while I just bob for answers.

 "Is the way, within the boundaries not of Eden but of wilderness, prescribed to and by the perfect begotten Son of God the same prescription against the touch of evil?" All I know is what the word says. "Do not dread." And how Jesus answered the script. "It is written."

Do not dread what befalls in the wilderness, because Jesus didn't dread, and didn't fall, in the wilderness. 

 Do not dread because, well, wasn't it good that the perfect Son of God was tempted in every way we are? And that in God's strange sovereignty, the deeming of "It is good" is the champion of what is redeeming? Of what is perfect plan of God? 

 Do not dread, because the celebrated and the dreadful doesn't revolve around me as if I were the center of the universe. 

 Do not dread because, yeah, creation and man are not the center of the universe.

 Maybe the slap-slosh is the knock-knock on the door of the deep and doesn't deep call to deep like this? Doesn't a deep knock on the door of the deep call forth more deep?  

 Do not dread the icy wild. 

 Do not dread the restrictive pressure and kick against it to be free, because freedom is in the depths of God.



 Well, I'm a warm water gal adverse to water temperature below body temperature. Was I not formed within the watery boundary and press of womb? And maybe I kicked, but that's not the pressure that delivered me into this wild, and kicking all dread doesn't deliver me into the depths of the Living Water, a holy wild to be sure. 

 In flesh womb, God made Jesus in flesh. Surely God said, "It is good."

 His head crowned, and Mary felt it sear hot ice when the King of kings was born. 

 His head was crowned, and the crowning seared hot and pain chills goosebumped down His body and the King of the Jews was crucified. 

 When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, did it feel like a knife twisting when Satan wielded the sword of the Spirit, that sharp word of God, against Him? 

 "You were touched, but not conquered." I see this. 

 "It's impossible, isn't it," I ask, "to be conquered by evil when sheltered in Your depths?"

 "Make Me your shelter; no evil will conquer you," He answers. "No plague will come near your home," He continues from Psalm Ninety-One because that's the conversation we're having.

 I have to think that God is a realist. He sees real and His answers to reality aren't "There, there, chin up; it'll be alright" accompanied by a pat on the head kind of answers. No, His answers are one-hundred percent kind of answers.

 "I have made You my home; but  I'm still bobbing a bit on the surface of the depths" I say this because really, He is so big that I wonder if I've stepped much past the front door of Him.

 "You entered my gates with thanksgiving in your heart, when you were most grieved," He reminds me of how I've been making Him my home, and we pick up the Psalm Ninety-One conversation again. 

 "I chose." I did. I chose because sometimes the heart can't take one more flogging. 

 "The flogged either fight or forgive," and the One who forgave from the cross knows this best. 

 "I entered Your courts with praise," I continue His line of thought. And I did praise. I do praise. Isn't forgiveness to praise what His gates are to His courts? 

 "Enter forgiveness and step into praise," He puts it together for me, and I realize something. I'm not standing just right inside the front door anymore.

Is He smiling? Because I am. It's a happy realization. "God?"

 "Yeah?" His voice is real low. He shares the happy quiet with me alone.

 "I used to be plagued by nighttime fears and noonday destruction. I used to stub the toes of my soul till it throbbed. And I used to feel snake bitten and prowled," I talk to Him  right off the Psalm Ninety-One scripture page I'm on. "I used to but, God?"

 "Yeah?" He's reading His word over my shoulder.

 "I don't anymore! I've chosen; I choose even now and I will say of You, 'He is my refuge, my fortress, my God, my dwelling place, my home.'"

 "No evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling." I don't understand everything He says, but the further I move beyond the front door of Him, and the deeper I plumb the depths with questions that bob at the surface, the more I understand. 

 Are His eyes moist with joy? Because mine are. 

 "You are my dwelling. No evil shall befall me" I get this part. There's a lion who still prowls, and a serpent who still tries to bite venomous, but I'm not felled anymore. Not be-fallen. Because I've made Him my home and I'm getting settled in. oh, I've brought some baggage with me that I don't need, but that's getting sorted out. 

 "God?" I'm ready to ask, "What about the 'Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling' part; but something happens. He speaks!

 "Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling, for I shall give My angels charge over you;" says He. 

 And my complaint, "What on earth are You talking about" leaves me because, truthfully, I am plagued with this and that but my dwelling is in my God; and though my outer body is wasting away all mortal, my inner being is being renewed day by day and I am more in earnest about what He says than about what I think I see, and the more earnest I am, the clearer I see what in heaven's name on earth He's talking about; and yeah this is a run-on sentence because my earnestness doesn't know what a period is.

 "Make Me your home." I hear what He's saying. I'm making the adjustments I need to make to settle in. It's earth-bound reality, heaven-bound hope, for the likes of me who digs through holy word with hands of clay. 

 Evil flogged Him to the bone, but did not fell Him. His angels were given charge over Him, and His own love befell Him. And fell on me. And His love fells me, not death or grave or hell. 

 I fall into His love and His love is the wind at my back. 

"Can you see the wind?" He helps me find words for my hope.

 "No," I can't see the wind. "But I remember," I begin.

 "Do you remember," our speech overlaps and we yield together, "You first!"

 "The wind? When I was a little girl?" I know what He's reminding me of.

 "At Portage Glacier," He affirms.

 I exclaim remembrance, "I haven't thought of that in years!"

 Portage Glacier. We went to Portage Glacier when I was but a sliver of a girl with dark hair and toothless gappy smile and sometimes the wind was so strong I could lay back on it in defiance of gravity.

 "I am the wind at your back. Lean like that onto Me," my wild Shelter answers; and "portage" means "the cost of carrying." 

 The lyrics, "I'll never know how much it cost to see my sin upon the cross," comes to mind as I lean on Him. I can't see Him, but to me He's the wild steady Alaska wind stronger than gravity,

"When you make the Most High your portage no plague will come near your home." It's how I read Psalm 91:9-10.

 I would read later, in Psalm Twenty-Six, "Lord, I have loved the habitation of Your house."

 And I would write in the margin, "I love living in Your house, wild Shelter."


 written by: Carolyn-Elizabeth Roehrig