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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Something Somehow and Pay No Mind To The Dust

A “Come On In” sign painted askew on a slab of plywood hangs in the smudged window of a country general store that has weathered all; well-worn boots have scuffed the floor and yesterday’s conversations hang in the air as comfortably as dust floats in limpid streams of sunlight. Necessities for life are traded here, and this place fits me like the skin I live in.

“Come On In” hangs like an imperfect sign at the entrance to my heart. If my heart had a window, it would be a tad smudged because life settles a little dusty; and if my heart had a floor, it would be scuffed. There is light in my heart and conversations linger there. I know that my heart has a door and steps leading up to it because the steps are worn to the shape of His sandals and every day I hear the “Come On In” sign swing when He opens the door. He doesn’t knock as He did the first time He came in. He knows He’s welcome anytime.

He always brings good news, a little fun-loving mischief, and something to give. Today He asks me if I have a five-pound bag of wheat flour, knowing that I don’t. “And some honey?” He asks with an amused look in His eye. “Yeast and oil?” Is that sheer delight I detect in His expression?

I play along; shrug a smile, “I’m fresh out!”

“Hmm,” He rubs His chin. “Well, just so happens,” He bends down and hefts a sack of flour, jars of honey, yeast, and oil, “that I do!” He casually heaves them onto the counter top.

“Ready?” He asks expectantly.

“Ready.” I have no idea what I just agreed to, but I know it’s a good work that He has planned. A something-somehow work is what it will look like when I get in elbow deep.

I dissolve honey in a bowl of very warm water and add yeast. I watch the yeast sit and feed on the honey, bubble, foam, expand—alive and warm in the bowl. I bend over and wave my hand to stir yeasty fragrance up to my nose. I inhale the scent of what’s living right there in the bowl, what’s already rising.

Strange thing about yeast: it’s living, gives rise to bread. So why, I wonder, is it usually mentioned as a bad thing in Scripture? The bread is good. The risen Bread of Life is good. But the yeast?

“Bread can’t rise without yeast,” I say to the Bread of Life.

“I am risen,” He replies in this kitchen conversation.

And I feel like the two men on the road to Emmaus who recognized Jesus in the bread at the table that night after walking with Him all day. Something in the way He said it reminds me that He compares the kingdom of heaven to yeast.

I stare into the bowl, putting this together. The Bread of Life rose. The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that’s been measured into three measures of meal. The kingdom of heaven is filled with, what? Yeasty souls, risen. And just why, then, is the kingdom of heaven like the yeast the woman measured in till the bread rose?

“Could it be, Jesus,” I say slowly because I’ve never thought of this before, “that You say the kingdom of heaven is like yeast because yeast was required for You to rise? Your own Word speaks of yeast in terms of sin. Could it be the unleavened bread, the sinless one, took on the leaven, the sins of the world, to show the world what the kingdom of heaven is like? It’s where yeasty sinners receive full redemption, and You are Redeemer.”

The thought is fragile, like froth in a bowl. I don’t understand the whole of it, but there’s something redemptive about it that warms me as it bakes here in my heart.

I dip my finger into the honey and taste it, and isn’t Jesus sweet nourishment? I expand, feeling alive in the taste.

I measured out flour and salt hastily. I’m in a hurry now. I knead the warm dough till it’s all smooth and elastic and my hands hold the yeasty fragrance that reminds me of my mother and school days and the bread she baked. Her bread fresh out of the oven for slicing and buttering was the best thing to heal up anything that had happened in the classroom or hallway. The smell is still healing and comforting, redemptive—warm bread, risen bread.

I flip the switch on the Kitchen Aid with a tad too much vigor, and the whirling dough hook sends flour dust everywhere. I’m covered. The counter is covered. The dog at my feet jumps up and chases flour dust settling through the sunlight. Whatever good and perfect work Jesus has planned for me to do will most always look like a something-somehow, never-mind-me kind of work. I promise!

And I don’t mind. I’ve decided it’s best not to because the alternative, minding the dust while it settles, is frustrating.

So I don’t mind.

I progress slowly, and it comes to me like this. That this is what it’s all about. It’s the something-somehow process of a good work that Jesus comes inside to do.

He’s worn a path to my front door. When we walk it together, me throwing flour all over the kingdom, the path isn’t paved, and I’m not all assured knowing exactly what it’s all about. It’s more like a winding dirt road suited to slow travel and worn old boots that don’t mind kicking up dust. I don’t mind my feet being in those boots.

“It’s partly about not minding. Isn’t it?” I brush flour dust off my apron. “Is this part of it all? Not minding what it looks like when You come in and start making me bread?”

He’s quiet while the flour and my questions settle, and something sure and a little gritty rises in me, something yeasty and alive.

“I don’t mind looking like I really don’t know what I’m doing!” I step over the dog and reach for rag. “I don’t mind that most others would say: ‘What a mess of flour dust!’”

And I really don’t right now. I might later. The bread might not rise. Or it may come out full of air pockets. But right now my not minding isn’t me blowing off steam or a bunch of hot air. It’s real in this mess.

I tell Him so. “It’s real, You know! Real that I clearly don’t know exactly how to go about what You came inside to do. Real that I don’t mind.”

Yeah, I’m feeling kinda gritty right now, and maybe I’m rising too big for my bread pan, but I’m all yeasty alive. If the flour-covered dog could talk, she’d say, “Sit!” and then ask what this is all about.

“I don’t know exactly,” I say. The dog cocks her head, all question. “But it’s something, somehow.” I ask the Man, “Is this part of it?”

His eyes twinkle; He’s amused at me. And I’m drawn to Him because He’s just so relaxed about it all.

I brush flour off my face, and what I know for certain is that the old road to Emmaus was fit for dusty feet in worn shoes and two travelers who really didn’t know what it was all about. But the third did, and He knows what this is all about too.

The loaves are in the oven, and my kitchen smells divine. I fill the bowl with hot, soapy water and drop the dough hook in. Suds spray up and apart, and it’s time to listen.

I sit. “What’s this all about, Lord? The honey, oil, flour, and yeast. The flour dust. The bread?”

“It’s about three-day old bread resurrected and served fresh. It’s about living bread rising in you while I ignite your heart until it burns within you. It’s about opening the door of your oven-like heart and My essence wafting from there. And it’s about presenting the loaf to others and serving Me to them, fresh.”

“Hmm.” I pull the loaves out. I slice the bread thick and inhale its steaming fragrance. “Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them” (Luke 24:30).

I hold it in my open hands. He serves the bread, His body.

I serve this bread to my family at the table because it’s about being served the bread and serving His body. It’s about knowing Him in the breaking of bread and not minding what it looks like because it’s messy business.

And it’s always still about Jesus coming in, that “Come On In” sign. It’s about something alive and somehow risen and not minding the flour dust kicked up along the way of the bread.

And it’s about being at the table with family and saying, “Hang the sign up, and keep it up. He’ll come inside and give you what you don’t have. Bread to serve bread.”

He’ll come inside to do something somehow, and pay no mind to the dust.
Never mind that you won’t get what it’s all about.
Just don’t mind all that.
You’ll know Him in the bread.

written by: Carolyn-Elizabeth Roehrig
(adapted from my book, PISTEUO! Connecting with God's Heart)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

What Do You See? (part 2 of chapter 3)

Truth is that I can’t always control what life digs up for me-but I don't have to chew on it, because there's another truth-God is in control.

Truth is, life can't just dig up stuff and hand me a rotten strip of rawhide. My dog does that!

My Yellow Dog

Truth is, sometimes the ground seems to open wide as if to swallow me whole, and sometimes a day feels like a sieve with holes in it and, yeah, sometimes my heart bleeds with every beat, “Prove Yourself to be in control!”

Thing is, He has.

 I don't always see it that way, but that's why I set out in search of the evidence I need to never lose hope. It's there, faith for hope. I just have to look for it, but it is there because I need it and God knows I need it.

Didn't He create me to need the faith He gives? To believe the truth which is, no matter what looks like a rotten strip of rawhide dangling from my dog's mouth? He did.

Doesn't He have the whole world in His hands, as the children's song goes? My whole world, too? He does.

And wasn't everything God created done out of His own faithfulness-because He is the Faithful One-and for the sake of His faithfulness? Yeah, He did.  

God has proved Himself to be in control and proves it every day.

"I was in control when the life bled out of Me," He begins. "I was in control when I slept for three days behind a sealed stone that only angel strength could roll away."

"Amen!" my spirit cheers what the truth is.

I was in control," He starts rolling up His sleeves, "when I kicked hell’s gate open and blasted dragon fire and took the keys and I was in control an eternity before any of that even happened."

So why do I reach for the Gorilla Glue when it looks to me as if someone's got to do something quick before the crisis hits?

I've been there, glue bottle in hand, asking the questions the unglued ask about themselves when they're not sure who they are these days. Or what they're supposed to be doing. Or the, "I've lost track of me, somehow;" and they mean "Where are You, God?" I've been like them.

Sometimes the questions aren’t voiced because there are no words. But they are felt to the core. They burn and tears don’t quench them. And more questions arise. “Who are You anyway, God? And just what do You think You’re doing?” They ignite hot flames because it seems that the powers and principalities that He created are ripping from His hand what He put together, and the things that I would like to keep invisible are gorilla ugly.

Sometimes the identity crisis in the middle of loss feels true enough to need the glue but, "God, why am I reaching for the Gorilla Glue when the only glue is Your love? 

Gorilla Glue

Jesus wasn't glued to the cross, but nailed.
The nail holes remain in Christ’s hands and feet; and He holds all things in His hands. Nothing sifts through the holes in His hands, and those holes were put there by the very powers He created.

No, I don’t understand.

“No!” I shout, more for myself than for Him. “No! I don’t want nails! I don’t want holes in me. Not in me. Not in my husband. Where’s the Gorilla Glue?”
"I am the God of hope." He speaks truth. "I fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” Christ didn’t need the nails but I do.

"You took them for me," He is in control and I'm in awe of that.
I drop the glue bottle and take His holy wounded hand in mine. It’s a strange glory.

written by: Carolyn-Elizabeth Roehrig
(adapted from my book, PISTEUO! Connecting with God's Heart)

Monday, September 12, 2016

What Do You See? chapter three (part 1)

            I press the place where my soul is wounded. It’s covered in gauze, and I press it urgently while "Must have. Always hope." pulses in my ears. 
“You Yourself said,” I gasp as I inhale, “hope deferred”—another weak breath in—“makes the heart sick.”

He did say it. It's neatly typed on a clean sheet tucked securely in Proverbs 13:12 and it seems to me it's also scratched out on battlefields, in war zones, and on makeshift gurneys that have transported too many sick hearts.
A sometimes hope isn't enough for an all-the-time life.
What I'd like to know is what will keep my hope from being deferred and my heart from becoming sick.
I'd like to know how to hang onto hope when what should be, isn't.
And I'd also like to know what keeps hope full when I don't see much reason to feel it-hopeful.
"What do you see?" My Lord isn't asking me to describe what I hope for. He's already said that hope can't be seen.
"What can I see, Lord?" I turn to Hebrews 11:1 because I know this is where He's given me the answer.
"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen."
"So You're saying I can see faith?" I need the reminder.

"When I give faith, I give every reason for hope." His reply confirms His word and I hear pisteuo, again.
Believe, trust, and never lose hope-pisteuo.
Faith feeds hope till hope is full.

"So," He begins again, "what do you see?"

"I want to see what You're doing, Lord." I know my answer is sort of evading the question, but it's hard to see straight when strapped to a gurney.
Battles are confusing—what is and what isn’t.
Where is hope when hurts blur my vision?
 “I hurt, God. What hope is there for that?” I ask.
“I hurt too.”
My soul winces. “I forgot. Oh, I forgot!” Pain does that.
“You hurt for me. And because of me.” My heart breaks that I forgot, but somehow the reminder levies hope.  

He nods gently. “What do you see now?”
“I see You.” I keep my eyes open and fixed on Him because I believe in Him.
"I see You." Hope soaks up the soul’s bleed.
I press Jesus there.
I press my faith there.
It’s powerful and a mystery to be found out, faith. I'm purposing to find it out, and the first place I look is to Jesus.
"Show me faith, Lord" is becoming my daily prayer. Then I watch and listen and wait till He shows me.
I see morning mist rise as veil, then open to the light.
I see a living veil of buds green, red and pink on backyard trees , and blossoms sweet as peaches from the kitchen window. One day they will split open and give way for what they are and will be.
I see newly born squirrels romp the limbs, pecan wood, over my head.
"Tell me about this faith!" I long to hear Him.
He begins to tell me about the veil that was torn in half when He gave way for life for me and the world. "My life is bud in you. Sweet life." Then, "Do you see peaches?"
I don't. It's too early in the growing season. "One day soon I will."
I will. That's the way it works, and it's the way faith and hope work too.

Yellow dog digs up the rawhide strip I gave her on the first day I brought her home.  It was hard and dry when she buried it, but now? Now it's her treasure, expanded and floppy as shoe leather.
She's just my dog with a strip of raw hide and if I didn't know better I'd wonder if she'd received that strip as faith, buried it in faith, and trusted that it would become what she hoped for. I wonder how many times she put her nose to the ground, checked, and how many times she might have been disappointed (if disappointment is a canine emotion) that her hope wasn't yet fulfilled.
Well, maybe I'm projecting onto her what disappointment I know I would feel-rawhide notwithstanding.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, I think to myself, but maybe this kind of heart sickness is healed when reason for hope substantiates hope till the soul knows something beyond its own wound-true hope may be deferred till one day, but true hope is never lost. It's just ripening.
Yellow dog happily offers me the rawhide. I congratulate her, “Yes, I’m happy for you!” “But, no, I have my own ripe. You can keep yours.” I pat her head.

written by: Carolyn-Elizabeth Roehrig
(adapted from my PISTEUO! books)