Me and Jack Chick

jackchick

Jack Chick, the controversial Christian tract cartoonist died this week at the ripe old age of 92.  And my feelings are complicated.

As a teen during the grunge era, hanging out in downtown Seattle before cell phones and riding public buses everywhere, you couldn’t help coming across a Chick tract at some point in your life. On a bus seat, pay phone booth, or some random guy holding a sign on a downtown street corner handing them out – we got them. And collected them! They were bizarre, weird, corny, sincere and terrifying.

They had a distinct flavor that I think appealed to us a teens. It had that underground R. Crumb feel, and some of the stylization you’d see in Mad Magazine, but it was his sincerity in what he believed, for better or worse, that set him apart.

And he had some strange fringe beliefs mixed into his Christianity that unfortunately got more pronounced and weird the longer he went on.

My own history with the man started as a teen when I would take these tracts home and read them voraciously. At first it was out of irony, but all alone, in the quiet of my room, I read the salvation prayer in the back and prayed the prayer many times out of curiosity to see what would happen. I did this with the mini-Gideon bibles that other street corner preachers would hand out to us as well. Did my life change in that moment? No, not even close. But seeds were planted for sure. Weird funky little seeds, but seeds nevertheless.

Years later, after I had an encounter with Jesus, committed my life to Christ and got baptized at a church, I wrote my own Christian tracts.

It was a natural fit for me. Before my encounter with Jesus, I wrote and drew comic books with a dream of becoming a graphic novelist. Art and writing was how I expressed myself and my excitement about Jesus came out in that expression naturally. The thing was, publishing your own tracts at Kinko’s was expensive and I could only afford twenty at a time. But Jack Chick tracts were relatively cheap to order, but there were very few that I felt comfortable handing out. So, I wrote and drew up my own tract and sent it off to Jack Chick publications to see if they liked it enough to publish it under their publication.

A few months later, I got a letter from his daughter, I believe. She wrote to tell me that Jack Chick liked my tract and would take my idea, tweak it to his liking and draw it himself.

A few months later he sent me a box of 100 of these tracts for free as a thank you.

That particular tract was called, “Gomez is Coming.” It’s barely recognizable compared to my original idea, and full of terrible racial stereotypes. But, it’s hilariously bad, bizarre, terrifying and badly drawn – bearing all the hallmarks of a Jack Chick original.

Among my own Christian circles, Jack Chick tracts are a byword for how NOT to do evangelism. At best, it’s a joke, and at worst it’s worthy of sneering derision. I get it and outside of the mocking and shaming, I agree.

I find it ironic that it was BoingBoing.net that broke the story of his death. Very few Christian sites announced it and those that did, were linked back to the original  BoingBoing tweet.

Of course BoingBoing hated everything he did and the post was more a, “Ding-Dong the Witch is dead!” celebration.

But here’s the thing. Whether we like it or not, Chick Tracts had an impact on our culture.  Jack Chick was flawed, yes, and we may disagree with his methods but he believed and cared enough to warn people about hell.

Penn Jillette, part of the Vegas magician duo, Penn and Teller and an ardent atheist, gave a great vlog about his opinion of Christian proselytizing. (I’d post the video here, but I don’t have the premium plan and it costs money to do so! But click the link to see it!)

If you are a sincere believer in Christ, that is the reality. People die and go to hell. It’s offensive, bizarre, and terrifying this Gospel we believe. It doesn’t make you friends with the status quo. The Gospel is inherently dangerous, counter-culture, underground and weird. We believe in a Jewish Rabbi who was crucified for his blasphemy BUT, rose from the dead three days later. And let’s not get into our beliefs about communion. It’s weird stuff to an outsider y’all!

I don’t think the Gospel was damaged by Jack Chick as much as lukewarm, mainstream, compromised Christianity has damaged it. But that’s my opinion and up for debate.

Ironically, I had no Christians in my life tell me about Jesus when I was a teen. But I DID have a weirdo on a street corner give me a Jack Chick tract, for which I really will be eternally grateful.

Cheers!

R.

 

 

 

 

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The Boasting Bars of Steel

billets

sgt-international.com

Lately, I’ve had to deal with a very interesting cocktail of emotions that stem from my own pride. Say hello to Anger, Despair and Paranoia. So, there they are, playing like terrible background music, trying very hard to set the emotional tone in my mind. Unfortunately, out of habit, I often find myself unwillingly singing along.

So, to mix things up a bit, when I find myself battling these thoughts, I’ve been trying to turn my energy into something creative, like writing, for example. I’ve noticed when I turn inward it almost seems to feed these voices. Not that I’m against self-reflection, but when it’s my default and no longer working, I need to try some other strategies. And that’s where I found myself today, going through unpublished blog posts, looking for inspiration, when I came across a dream I had recorded 5 months ago. (1/25/16 to be exact) I don’t even remember writing it down, but it turns out it’s like the weirdest dream ever and I’m glad I saved it. Wanna check it out with me?

Here’s the dream:

I was walking down a path and came across two floating bars of steel. They were full of rage and evil. They were resisting being bent and vibrating with a force of strength I could never overcome. One of them began to speak pridefully, and the power in which it spoke caused others to immediately be in awe of it.

The other, bigger more powerful bar of steel bit my bottom lip and prevented me from speaking. The more I struggled the harder it seemed to clamp down. When I finally stopped struggling it let go, but it began to speak boastfully, with a worldly wisdom that was attempting to fool people into honoring it as a god.

The more I resisted, the stronger these things seemed to become.

After I awoke from the dream, I got this verse – James 4:7  “Therefore, submit to God. But resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.”

Weird, huh? I’m so glad I received a verse, because without it I would have been completely lost and dismissed it as a ‘pizza’ dream.

So, how to go about interpreting this dream? Let’s try walking through this together shall we?

I was walking down a path.

So, right off the bat, this dream is about me and no one else and speaks of the direction the Lord is leading me toward (the path of life).

Two floating bars of steel were preventing me from traveling farther down this path

Something was preventing me from going further.

The floating bars of steel were evil, full of rage and spoke pridefully.

The traits of these bars of steel obviously seem to be pointing to the sin of pride. But who’s pride? My pride? Was I angry about something? Yes, actually. I was reminded how angry I’m feeling about perceived injustices or personal slights against my character. Ouch. Bullseye.

The smaller first bar of steel was prideful, the second larger more powerful bar of steel was clamping down on my lip preventing me from speaking.

Two sins of pride are preventing me from moving forward in my life. One is a boastful pride, the other is a fearful pride that prevents me from speaking. The second more powerful one preventing me from speaking is the one that has the most hold on my life, though both of them are present and need to be overcome.

The more I struggled, the harder the sin of the fear of man clamped down on my lip. When I stopped resisting, it let go, but began to speak loudly on its own with a worldly wisdom and attempting to fool others into honoring it.

The temptation in my life is to stop resisting this sin when it becomes too hard and painful. However, if I give up and go silent, it will strengthen this sin and deceive me into to honoring it as humility and wisdom. Oof! Bullseye, again.

The more I resisted, the stronger these bars seemed to become.  James 4:7 “Therefore, submit to God, but resist the devil and he will flee from you.”

At first, this confused me because in the dream it felt like my resistance to these things was making them stronger.  But as I looked more closely at the verse, submission to God was the first instruction, then resisting.

So, now to sum it all up into an interpretation of three sentences or less. Why  only three sentences? Well, as a writer, my personal philosophy is that if I can’t sum up an idea in three sentences or less, it’s a good indication I don’t have a good grip on what I’m talking about and I need to process it more.

Here’s my best guess at an interpretation:

Two sins of pride are preventing me from moving forward in the direction the Lord is leading. For me to move forward I must confront these sins of boastful pride, and fear of man/ false humility.  By submitting more of my life to God  the more these sins will lose its power and influence over my life.

Simple, huh? Most of my own dream interpretations leave me with, “Well, duh. Why didn’t I see that before?” lol

But now the hard part. What part of my life needs the most submission to God to overcome these sins of pride?

I’m guessing it has to do with my thought life.

2 Corinthians 10:5 “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

It’s funny, because I waste a LOT of time having fantasy arguments in my head. And of course, I win every debate. Wow. Not my favorite admission.

Dreams for me are beneficial in several ways. One, it bypasses my rational mind and gets through the defenses of pride. They cause me to seek after God and his Word for an interpretation. Once interpreted correctly, they speak to me personally and specifically to what I am facing.  They give me clarity, remove the fog of war, and provide a compass for when I lose my bearings. And in this case, it affirmed the path I was on even though it was blocked by an obstacle of my own making. The dream was corrective in nature, but not condemning, it dealt with the bitterness of my sin, but followed it up with a sweet spoonful of hope. If there is a characteristic of the Lord’s voice in my life, this dream bears all the hallmarks.

“In a dream, a vision of the night,
            When sound sleep falls on men,
            While they slumber in their beds

         Then He opens the ears of men,
            And seals their instruction,

         That He may turn man aside from his conduct,
            And keep man from pride…,”

Job 33:15-17

 

Cheers!

R.A.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Balcony

falls-from-balconiesI had a vision the other day.

Is it okay to say that?

I know it sounds weird and maybe some of you are like me and you came from a background where people might have abused that word and now it has become something that causes skepticism.  Or maybe you came from a background where the word ‘vision’ in the metaphysical sense was never really used and so when you hear it, I might as well have said, “I had my palm read” or “I cleansed my aura.”

So, what do I mean by a ‘vision’?

For me, it’s really not as mystical as it sounds. I believe that God speaks to us in many ways. One way is through the bible, another is through other believers that make up the body of Christ, another is through circumstance or providence, impressions, inspiration, dreams and visions. Taken all together, and used to check and balance each other, I believe it’s just simply the ‘normal’ Christian experience.

For example, God has spoken to me a few times through dreams. More often than not, theses dreams are ‘corrective’ in nature and usually warn me that I need to either change my attitude, actions or heart about a certain things. There have also been dreams that helped direct me in my life, and some that have been really encouraging. But I could also say all those things about a bible verse and how it has spoken to my life. I also could have said the same about a particular sermon or a good Christian friend. I try not to value one way over the other too highly, (though, I do give preference to scripture because that’s what I judge everything else by) because as Apostle Paul said, “ There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.” 1 Cor 12:4-5

Basically, it’s all Holy Spirit to me. Can I get it wrong sometimes? Sure. Just like I can misinterpret a scripture, or have a person give a bad teaching of the bible. But let’s make the assumption that one is trying really hard to follow the direction of the Holy Spirit and is open to correction, okay with getting it wrong and learning from the experience. What I can’t afford to assume is that if at one time I misinterpreted a scripture then I should give up on reading the Bible altogether or if someone misled me and gave bad advice then I should no longer let people speak into my life.

So, what’s a vision? For me, it’s like having a dream, but I’m awake. I see a moving picture in my mind of something and it’s so sudden and out of the blue that I actually think to myself, “Where did that come from? Why did I just think that?”

At this point, I can dismiss it altogether and go about my business, or I can stop for a second and pursue it a little farther. For a really long time, I used to dismiss those weird out of the blue thoughts and go back to whatever I was doing, and soon, after a while they went away completely and I stopped having them.

But as I’ve been really pursuing prayer this year and have been in the habit of asking God to help me hear his voice in my life, they started coming back. And so now, when I get these strange word pictures I ask, “Lord? Is that you?” And more often than not I discover that these word pictures are like personal parables the Lord is giving me to help me understand biblical truth.

How am I doing so far? I hope this is all making sense!

So, the latest vision I received was corrective in nature and the reason I’m sharing it is because I believe there are some of you reading this that are having dreams and visions (Acts 2:16-18) and are hearing from the Lord through ways other than sermons, hymns and bible verses and I want to encourage you, that if pursued with humility, it can be extremely fruitful in your life as you realize just how intimately the Lord knows and loves you and desires to speak into your life.

So, here’s what I saw.

I was in Manhattan and I was falling from one of the Twin Towers during 9/11.  I was terrified – a cold dreadful terror like we all felt on that day. As I was falling, I attempted to grab for anything that would stop my fall, window ledges, cables, balcony railings until finally I landed safely on a balcony.

At first I thought I was safe, but then I noticed that this balcony had no windows or doors but was just cement all around.  Across from me were other blank skyscrapers and I was very high up – so high I couldn’t see the ground. I noticed how lifeless this place was, there were no people and no one could reach me, especially the balcony I was on. Though it offered me a temporary relief from falling, it was lifeless, cold, and terribly lonely. It very quickly began to feel like a prison.

Then the vision ended.

So, what did all that mean? Context is key.

Before I had this vision I had heard a teaching from a guy named Todd White. Check him out on youtube, but be warned, Todd White is not easy listening. Everything he says basically challenges me or offends me – but in a good way. After listening to his testimony, and hearing him talk about living a fully surrendered and sold out life in Christ, I was conflicted and scared. It wasn’t that I didn’t understand what he was saying, it was that I did. I knew exactly what he was talking about and I didn’t want to do it.

I had also been haunted by a recent conversation with a friend where I jokingly replied, ‘Well, we can’t be all Jesus all the time, can we?’ But then right after I said it, a thought came to me that made me shudder: And yet, when the Lord was on earth that’s how he lived for you.

It’s one thing to go on a mission trip and be on ‘active duty’ as a Christian for a week or two, or to say ‘well, if I was a pastor then it would make sense to be all-Jesus-all-the-time’ but that’s not what Jesus said, he said, “ Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.”

I felt like I was in the cross-hairs and I had nowhere to run.

So, in that context what I got from the vision is this word from the Lord to me:

Look Rachel, you’re scared. I get it. Obeying me by walking in faith always feels like leaping from a great height and not being able to see the bottom. I don’t offer you security from ever being scared, or feeling pain nor do I promise to protect your dignity. You can choose not to ever feel this kind of fear, or suffer for my sake, but you will be stuck in a place that offers you no life, no comfort or way of escape. This false sense of security will become your prison, and it will end up being worse than any fear of suffering you imagined from following me. There is only one way down and as scary as it is, you will be with me and in the process of letting go, you will discover the life that I paid the price to save. This life is so worth it. I promise you. Follow me.

Two things I hope you take away from this: talking with God and having him talk to you is the normal Christian life and I hope you are encouraged to explore it. In this adventure you get as much of Jesus as you want.

And second, being stuck on a balcony to nowhere sucks.

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The Old Gardener

hose It was the old man’s favorite time of day, the cool of evening, when the light of the setting sun gave everything a glow of ambient pinkish gold. It was also the time of day when he went to water his garden.

He dutifully unwound his hose and began to drag it out across his spacious back yard to his prized vegtables. As he turned on the nozzle, nothing came out but a drop of water. He frowned and when realizing he forgot to turn on the water back at the spigot, he laughed at his forgetfulness. He walked back to the spigot and turned it on.

He picked up the hose a second time and turned on the nozzle. Water came out it a great spurt and then quickly trickled down to nothing but a thin stream of water. A little annoyed, he looked down the length of hose and sure enough, the middle section had gotten itself in a huge tangle and had created a kink. He sighed, and went to work untangling the hose, making sure it was straightened out and free of kinks.

He picked up the nozzle once again and turned on the water, and again, it sputtered to life but quickly reduced back down to a weak trickle. In frustration he dropped the nozzle and walked down the length of the hose making sure he didn’t miss anything, he checked the spigot again making sure the water was turned on and it was.

Now he began lightly pulling at his beard, a sure sign he was thinking through a problem. Finally, he frowned, turned off the water at the spigot and walked back to the nozzle and checked to see if that was where the problem was. He looked it over and saw nothing wrong with it on the outside, so he decided to unscrew it and see what was going on inside. And sure enough, it was clogged with small rocks and clumps of grass, he cleared it out and was about to screw it back on when he glanced into the hose. It too was packed full of little rocks, grass and mud.

“How in the world?” he mumbled as he tried digging it out with his finger. He realized pretty quickly he would need a tool to pull out the clog because it was packed so tight and clogged so far back into the hose. He went to his tool shed and found an old steel wire that would do the trick. He began poking and prodding, loosening the packed-in clump of debris and pulling it out. But it wasn’t enough. He needed some help from the water itself. He walked back to the spigot and turned on the water and with the help of the water and the poking and prodding, the clog was finally loosened and flushed completely from the hose.

Soon, the gardener was back doing what he loved to do and that was watering his garden.

In case you didn’t notice, I really love parables. When Christ spoke in parables, I feel like he was speaking my language.

My little story above is my attempt at trying to relate a spiritual truth God has been teaching me this past year. Here’s the keys to understanding it:

The old gardener: a follower of Christ

The water: The Holy Spirit

The hose: Faith

The Garden: The work that God has for us to do while on earth.

The steel wire: The Word of God, (Truth)

Thanks for indulging me!

Cheers!

R.A.

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Mama Bear Prayers

i.perezhilton.com

i.perezhilton.com

My pastor last Sunday gave an excellent sermon on the parable of the Persistent Widow (check it out, here) which goes like this:

 “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

Apparently, this little widow was also a fierce mama bear even this particular judge was afraid of.

And what’s even more astounding is Jesus used this firecracker of a widow as an example of how we should pray.

It’s almost as if God wants me so fed up and desperate about an injustice that I throw caution to the wind, all the pleasantries are done away with and I just get down to business.

And when I think of most of my prayers in comparison, they seem subdued, cautious, wishy-washy and borderline Laodicean.

“I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.”

Replace the word ‘works’ with ‘prayers’, and it hits a little too close to home for me. Apparently, God likes things at a certain temperature, maybe even my prayers.

I read an article a few years ago about a soldier who had come home from Iraq and was explaining how different the culture is from the west. He gave an example of a simple trip to the convenience store and wanting to buy a candy bar. He said, if you went up to the store owner and didn’t bother haggling the price, you were not respected and therefore charged more money every time you went in.  The soldier said he got so good at haggling the prices the store owner began to love him and gave him outrageous discounts – even throwing things in for free.

Compare this to my shopping trips which are planned by convenience and how efficiently I can get in and out without making eye contact – not to mention my allergic reaction to coupons and the hassle that goes along with them and we get a stark contrast of values.

In the middle east, the value is placed on the interaction with the owner of the store – in the west, the value (for me, at least) is convenience while keeping the teller at a comfortable distance.

When I think back to the time where I didn’t really value prayer it was when I was coming to a distant God I hardly knew with a list of requests. When I began to change and start looking forward to times of prayer, it was a direct result of my relationship with God having been reinvigorated.

When prayer became more of a relationship and less of a transaction, it became alive for me.

When I’ve had the most breakthrough with God, it usually came after a time of prayer where I laid it all out before him.  Whether it was seething anger, bitter disappointment, paralyzing fear, pain, anguish; it was in that place beyond words, where prayers were in the form of tears, runny snot and a red, swollen face. It wasn’t pretty. It was ugly and messy but brutally honest.

So, where is prayer like this modeled in Scripture? Prayer that is on one hand bold as lion, ugly and honest, yet asserts a deep intimacy with the Creator?

Psalm 22 is a great example.

1.)He begins with honesty.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.

He tells God what he is feeling, his fears, and what he is experiencing. He isn’t concerned if what he is feeling is right, true, or doctrinally sound. The point isn’t to be right, it’s to be honest.

2.) He remembers who God is. 

Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the one Israel praises.
In you our ancestors put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.
To you they cried out and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

Yet you brought me out of the womb;
you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
From birth I was cast on you;
from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

This is where he proclaims aspects of God’s character, where he remembers past stories of God’s faithfulness, and his own history with God.

3.)He explains in detail what is happening.

But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
“He trusts in the Lord,” they say,
“let the Lord rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
since he delights in him.”

Many bulls surround me;
strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
Roaring lions that tear their prey
open their mouths wide against me.
I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted within me.
My mouthd is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death.

The problem or need is described here. He tells God how desperate he is, how vulnerable he is to the problems he is facing.

4.) He makes his request.

But you, Lord, do not be far from me.
You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
Deliver me from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dogs.
Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
save me from the horns of the wild oxen.

David, out of his intimacy with God, born out what God has done historically, or past personal rescues, he makes his request.

5.) Prophetic announcement of what God will do.

I will declare your name to my people;
in the assembly I will praise you.
You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
For he has not despised or scorned
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.

Out of his intimate knowledge of who he knows God to be, David begins to prophetically declare what God will do and what David will do when God helps him.

6.) Triumphant praise.

From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows.
The poor will eat and be satisfied;
those who seek the Lord will praise him—
may your hearts live forever!
All the ends of the earth
will remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before him,
for dominion belongs to the Lord
and he rules over the nations.
All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
those who cannot keep themselves alive.
Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord.
They will proclaim his righteousness,
declaring to a people yet unborn:
He has done it!

Now David is pumped up. No longer is he focused on his problems but he is caught up in a prophetic ecstasy. You can actually feel him soaring above his problems now and has begun to see the bigger picture of God’s ultimate triumph in which David is destined to share.

David’s model of prayer is a model born out of desperation and the trenches of war.

Whether I find myself in deep affliction or persecution, a feisty widow crying out for justice, or a desperate neighbor in need of provision, I need to get honest with God. In the end he just wants what’s in my heart. Even if it’s just poison and pain, or shattered into a million pieces, he’ll take it and turn it into something beautiful. If it’s dried up and dead and there’s no love left in it, and it barely beats for myself let alone anyone else, he’ll take that too. I can let it all out. I can rest in knowing that not only can God take it, but he wants it as well.

~R.

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Lost and Found … and Lost Again.

legalgeeks.com

legalgeeks.com


It all started with a wedding ring.

Twelve years ago my husband and my newborn baby went on vacation with family in California. We were privileged enough to be able to stay with them at a beautiful lake side cabin somewhere in the Sierra’s, and the first thing all my nieces and nephew wanted to do was to go swimming with their uncle, my husband.

During that swim, my husband’s wedding ring fell off due to the cold water shrinking his fingers. (I guess it’s common.)

When he came in to tell me, I was determined not to cry. But it was hard. It wasn’t an expensive ring by any means, but it was hand crafted by a friend of ours with a design I helped create. It was one of a kind and irreplaceable.

My in-laws, who are devout Christians all gathered together with me and my husband and we prayed God would help us find that ring.

Then, in spite of our protests, the in-laws spent the next six hours combing through the sand looking for the ring to no avail.

I allowed my self one crying session and then determined to be grateful instead for a wonderful husband, my beautiful new baby and really awesome in-laws.

We moved on and resigned to the fact that we would have to put a little money aside and buy a new ring. But every time I looked at my own ring which bore some of the same design of my husbands, there was an ache and a silent prayer for a miracle.

After our vacation, my mother-in-law took it upon herself to go back to the lake and put a little flyer up on a bulletin board in the community center asking if anyone found the ring, to give her a call.

A year later, almost to the day she got a call. Apparently the lake was man-made and had to be drained for maintenance that year and a couple walking along the beach stumbled across a green, slimy corroded thing in the shape of a ring. After rubbing it a few times, they saw the gold and remembered the flyer in the community center and called my mother in law. She described the design on my husbands ring and it was a match.

Soon she met up with the couple to get the ring and to give them a monetary reward, but they refused and handed her the ring they had taken to a jeweler to get professionally cleaned at their own expense.

It was a miracle.

And a story our family tells often to remind us of our faithful Father in Heaven, the power of prayer, the goodness of family and the kindness of strangers.

And it was a story I told my daughter again just last week.

She had lost her latest tooth she had worked so hard during school to wiggle out and was crying in her bedroom. I told her the tooth fairy would understand and besides she had a bazillion other teeth that were going to be falling out within the next year. But she crossed her arms and said, “I don’t care about the tooth fairy, I wanted to save my teeth and make a necklace out of them!”

“Where was the last place you saw it?”

“In the bathroom.”

“Did you look all over the bathroom – even the floor?”

“Yes!”

“Okay, well, we’ll have to look tomorrow because it’s your bedtime now.”  (It was way past her bedtime at this point)

She started crying again. My daughter is very sentimental and hates losing things and her cries were beginning to be unconsolable.

“You want to hear a story?” I asked.

She shook her head ‘no’ but I pressed in and told her about her Daddy’s ring. Soon she stopped crying and hope filled her eyes. “You want to pray and ask God to help you find your tooth?”

She nodded.

“The thing is, when you ask him, you have to give him the tooth first before asking Him to find it.”

“I don’t get it,” she said.

I tried to explain, “What I mean is, you have to be willing to give him all the ‘want’ feelings and sadness about losing the tooth first before you ask Him for it back. Do you understand?”

She nodded again. I tucked her in, shut off the light and left. In the back of my head a thought came.

What if she never finds her tooth? You might destroy her faith.

I told the voice to go away and said my own prayer.

An hour later she came running into the living room with a big grin on her face and holding her tooth. “I found it!”

“Yay! Where was it?” I asked.

“I had to go to the bathroom and it was on the counter. I just couldn’t see it because it was white.”

I laughed then asked her, “Did you pray?”

She nodded, smiling. We hugged and told her to go back to bed. (It was really, really late now!) I silently prayed, “Thank you, Jesus.”

Two days after that, I got a text from my husband. “I lost my wedding ring. I just noticed it  wasn’t on my finger. Did you see it in the bathroom?”

Seriously? He never, ever takes that ring off, mostly because we remember losing it the first time! I was at work and texted him back telling him I’d look for it when I got home.

I felt that familiar ache again but this time it was different. I didn’t ache for the ring, I ached for the story of the ring. A story I had just told my daughter not two days before!

In the back of my head, I heard,

Is God really going to help you find your ring a second time? You’ll never be able to tell that story again. 

That voice was really starting to piss me off.

I remembered what I told my daughter about having to give God all the ‘want’ feelings and sadness about her tooth before asking for it back.

I prayed and told God how I felt about the ring being lost again. That I wasn’t sad for the ring but for the story of his faithfulness behind the ring. As best as I could, I handed all that over to God, asked for his help and went back to work.

I came home from work and looked everywhere I could imagine the ring to be. I gave up the task for the evening and decided to look again the next day because, to be honest our house was a disaster area! and I hoped to find it in the cleaning process.

Then I got sick and didn’t quite get back into cleaning the house as deeply as I wanted. Two days later, after looking everywhere with no luck, I was sweeping the kitchen and in a corner of the floor next to the recycle can covered in dust bunnies was the ring.

I laughed and thanked God. I laughed partly because it was right under our nose the whole time (and if I had just swept the darn kitchen would have found it the first day!) and thankful because somehow it hadn’t fallen in the recycle can which I had just dumped the day before. I can’t imagine how it got there without Brian noticing it falling off.

But mostly, I was just thankful for getting the story back.

Apparently, God loves a good sequel.

Cheers!

~R

 

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Dreams, Wheat and Tares

Last weekend I had the privilege of attending The Worldview Apologetics Conference and two of the guest speakers were Dr. Norm Geisler and Ravi Zacharias. I thought to myself, Norm is getting pretty old now, and this might be an opportunity to see him speak while he’s still alive *grin* and Ravi, well, I’d been listening to him on the radio and podcasts for years, it would be nice to see him in person, too.

I’m glad I went, but after the first night I had an unusually disturbing dream. I dream normally. I don’t claim to have a special gift or anything. If I do dream, it’s only in remembering a sense of some muddled images, or pieces of a dream, but rarely do I remember the details after brushing my teeth in the morning. However, this dream was one of those crystal clear dreams that wakes you up and sticks with you for days, maybe even weeks after. It’s these types of dreams I find myself asking God, is there something you’re trying to tell me?

Here’s the dream: I was given a dead child of about a year old. She was beautiful, and perfectly preserved, but she was ice-cold and dead. I was instructed to set her into a baby bath like tub, sit her up and try to bring her face to something that looked like eye glass frames. It was depressing work and morbid. The baby, being dead couldn’t even sit up long enough to get her face to the eye glass frame. She kept falling over, and I’d have to catch her and physically hold her, but nothing changed. She was still ice cold, and dead. As I continued to struggle the baby slipped out of my hands and fell back into the baby bath water.

At first I felt clumsy and irresponsible for letting her fall, but as soon as she hit the water and the water washed over her face, her eyes opened and she took in a deep breath. I quickly grabbed the baby and tried to get her out of the water because I didn’t want her to choke. But as I pulled her out of the water she went unconscious again. Again, being wet, the baby slipped from my hands and fell into the water. As the water washed over her face her beautiful, piercing, life-filled eyes opened and she took another deep breath. Still concerned that she might choke on the water, I was about to take her out again. But as I watched the water swirl over her mouth, she again opened her eyes and took a deep breath. Encouraged, though a little confused why she was able to breath despite the water, I urged her on. “Breathe!” I yelled, “Breathe!”

Then I woke up.

I found the dream disturbing mostly because I don’t like being around corpses. And if that baby hadn’t come alive, I would have dismissed it as a nightmare. I also had the unshakeable sense that the dream wasn’t just for me. But that I needed to tell someone or write it down. Again, this is pretty unusual for me but God has used it before in my life so, I prayed, “Lord if this is from you, and you want me to share this with someone, you’re going to have to make the signs so obvious I can’t ignore them.”

The next morning at the second day of the conference as I was waiting for a friend to arrive, I sat down in the lobby to drink coffee and people watch. Soon, two ladies sat down next to me and we started chatting. One of them was a fairly new believer of about two years old and I asked her if she would please give me the short version of her testimony. She told me she had a Christian friend who shared with her for years but she never really took anything she said very seriously and thought the idea of needing God as silly. But one day her friend mentioned that her church was having a question and answer session for skeptics and she, believing she had nothing to fear from being allowed to ask questions, decided, “Why not.”

As she told me this, she leaned close and said, “But you know what? None of their answers changed my mind, as well thought-out as they were.” Tears began to mist her eyes and she said, “It was the presence of God I felt when I walked through the doors. It was in the worship.”

I nodded.

She said, “Remember what Ravi said last night? He said you can have all the answers, but if you aren’t spending time in the presence of God, and having your life touched and changed by being in relationship with Jesus, no one will listen.”

Now my dream made sense to me. The problem wasn’t that I couldn’t make the dead child see. The problem was, she was dead and she needed to be made alive. Only God can do that work. I’m just there to bring the presence of God near to those that are dead, and watch him do the miraculous.

“Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good, but dead people live.” – CS Lewis

‘Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.”‘ John 3:5

After the young believer told me her testimony, I felt safe enough with her to tell her my dream. Afterwards she said, “You need to write that down.”

Our next conference speaker was interesting. And I say that with much respect knowing this particular speaker is well known, a professor of Theology and Philosophy and knows his stuff. But his talk disturbed me. It felt out of place at this conference, mainly because it was going after a movement within the Church that he felt was dangerous and not biblical. I took careful notes and on some of what he said, I completely agreed with him, but much of his concerns could be turned on any church in any denomination or movement and none of it went into any sort of apostasy – at least in the stuff that he presented in his 50 minute talk.

During the talk, I kept thinking about the young believer I had chatted with earlier that morning. To be honest, I was concerned for her and wondered how she would take the last message, knowing her testimony and how she was touched by God. (Some teaching within the movement the professor was criticizing have a big emphasis on the presence of God and the miraculous.)

As I made my way to my next workshop, I saw the young believer again and tried to make my way over to talk to her. I noticed tears in her eyes as she was talking to her friend and I tried to say, ‘Hi,’ as I passed her, but there were quite a few people around and she was in a deep discussion with her friend and didn’t notice me. But I did pick up on a little of what she was saying as I was trying to get her attention. She was disturbed by what the last speaker said, and was confused by some of his broad brush-stroke criticism and seemed to be doubting her own experience. Before I could turn around, the crowd was getting too big and I had to move along. I hoped I’d run into her again, but I didn’t.

Needless to say, that experience soured what was an amazing weekend of equipping us to defend our faith for me and probably that young believer. I worry that sometimes our critique of movements within the body of Christ doesn’t actually do more damage than the movement itself.

‘Jesus told them another parable:

“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?

“‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’” Matt 13:24-30

graceforlife.com

graceforlife.com

It was a good weekend, for sure, and I’m privileged to have been able to go, but the lessons I learned were much different than what I was expecting. ~R.

 

 

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