Thursday, December 22, 2011

Brandmarks of Christ

In my quiet time this morning, the Lord took me to Psalm 22. I suppose it may seem strange to some that as the joyous day of the birth of our Christ quickly and soon approaches... the Lord carried me to His death. The Lord has carried me there quite often these last few days and even weeks. My focus this Christmas season has not been on the birth itself as much as it has been on what He was born to do. He was born to die.

And ladies and gentlemen so where we.
We were born to die to ourselves.
We were born to die to this world.
And it is only in our death that we live.

Reason with me for a moment.
Jesus was God in the flesh.
Born into this world as baby just like you and me.
Jesus did not stay a baby.
He grew.
He aged.
What would have happened if Christ had refused to go to the cross.

I believe He would be a very sad site today.
An eternally alive Spirit trapped in a 2000 year old body of flesh that has aged with the years and suffered the consequences of this natural world.

Where is the glory in that?

Jesus was the Word made flesh that came and dwelt among us. Dwelt in the Greek is skenoo and it means to tabernacle to abide in a tent. Jesus did not come with the virgin birth to set up a permanent residence. He came just to pop a tent and stay a bit.
He showed us that we were not born to set up a permanent residence in this present body of flesh either. God has been trying to tell us that from the beginning.

 For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.
Genesis 3:19

The grass withers, the flower fades,
When the breath of the LORD blows upon it;
Surely the people are grass.
Isaiah 40:7

As I read Psalm 22 this morning my heart rested on a particular verse.

For He has not despised nor abhorred
the affliction of the afflicted;
nor has He hidden His face from him,
 but when he cried to Him for help,
He heard.
Psalm 22:24

I know many who are hurting right now. Many who are afflicted. Many who are calling out to Him for help... help to just understand. As I was praying for these that I know that are hurting and afflicted this was the direction my prayer went.

Oh Father,
So many are afflicted right now. It's a strange affliction. When we try and compare it with our brother and sisters in Christ who are being beaten, and hacked up, and imprisoned over the declaration of Your name, our troubles, our struggles, our afflictions seem weak and petty... but they are still our afflictions.

Then immediately Job popped in my head and heart.
And I continued in my prayer.

Job is our example... Oh Father, yes, he is isn't he. His struggles are the same hurts we deal and fight in our nation, in our church. Oh thank You, Father for leading me to this book. Thank You for recording his story so that we might know how to respond in our affliction. Oh Father I love You!
My Jesus it's in Your name I pray,

You know I do not if one day God will place me in a position to receive beatings, hacking, imprisonment for the declaration of His name, for my obedience to the name of my Jesus... but I do know that it is by His sovereign design that I am here in this place at this time. And I am none the less called to suffer for the sake of my Christ here than in a nation that would slice my throat in the open street because I said Jesus is Lord.

For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake,
not only to believe in Him,
but also to suffer for His sake,
Philippians 1:29

  that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection
and the fellowship of His sufferings,
being conformed to His death; 
in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Philippians 3:10-11

I will probably never bear the stripes of a whip on my back, the scars of shackles around my ankles and wrist, the weakness from hunger, the sickness from being thrown in a dark, damp prison cell... but I still will know the fellowship of His sufferings.

The sufferings of Christ were more than just the beatings by the Roman soldiers and the nails that bore in His hands and feet... His sufferings began long before that moment. He suffered also with the same sufferings that Job suffered. Ridicule from the religious, hurt from loss, pain from being misunderstood and ignored, and more.

So my brandmarks will not look like yours... but they are brandmarks all the same. And as I rejoice in every suffering... no matter what it might be... I manifest in my body that their is life in Jesus Christ, real eternal life.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels,
so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God
and not from ourselves; 
we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed;
perplexed, but not despairing; 
persecuted, but not forsaken;
struck down, but not destroyed; 
always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 
For we who live
are constantly being delivered over to death
for Jesus’ sake,
so that the life of Jesus
also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 
So death works in us, but life in you.
2 Corinthians 4:7-12

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Nightmare Before Christmas

Me and my dreams... I will never be a Jacob or a Joseph or a Peter... I will never be someone who could trust that a dream was from God. I dream too crazy. I think even the Almighty fears what goes on in this head of mine when I lay down to sleep, (just kidding, I know He fears nothing!)

So it is... what? Four days until Christmas? Yep, Four days. I have zero, count them... 0... gifts wrapped. Our tree has been up since the day after the infamous Iron Bowl, and it stands all lonely with it's skirt undecorated with boxes, and bags, and bows... I don't believe I have even taken a picture of it this year. December has been one big blur... just like all of 2011 and the end of 2010 has been.

But back to my dream...

Let's see I recall walking in the back door  and turning out of our kitchen and into the dining room to see a big white ceramic bowl that was purchased for my husband's stepmom (this bowl is not a real gift we have purchased, I don't know where it came from).
I ask him why in the world the bowl is out?
He says, I used to it to make the chicken wings. I needed a big bowl to mix them in the hot sauce
Well now he is in the hot sauce!
I come up to him and begin hitting him on the shoulders with the dish towel that I have in my hand while I yell, Now I have to go back to town! You know I hate shopping! Why in the world did you do that! I can't believe you! 
He of course is laughing at me the whole time, which just makes me madder.

So I go and grab all the rest of the gifts and go to hide them so I can get them wrapped before he gets a hold of another, then I can't figure out where to do this without my kids, because I don't want them to see their gifts.
So I find a room at church (yes now I am at church) and plan to hide in there to wrap, but then somebody sees me and asks me to help with something for a minute... I look at my gifts, sigh, and go off to help.

The next thing I know I am surrounded by crying kids who can't find there baseball that was hit into a thicket of pine trees (Christmas trees I do believe) and I have been recruited to find the ball. Somehow I now have the ability to walk around in the tops of the trees and search out the ball. I am surrounded by green pine and then those trees turn into something like astroturf and I am up under it grabbing hold of the ball and pop out triumphantly holding it... although for some reason it is quite squished.

Now I head back to tackle my gift wrapping and remember that I still have to replace the big white bowl!

So I look at my gifts again and sigh and head off to the stores, yet I am in shoes that make my feet hurt, so I am quite grumpy... pouty... and frustrated.

Somehow in the midst of all this I also end up on a road trip with my in-laws and I am refereeing my girls on who is going to get to push the elevator button and all I can think about are the gifts, unwrapped and hid in the room, waiting on me.

Finally, this morning, my husband comes home from his nightshift and wakes me up from my craziness and guess what...

Those gifts are still in a room hid, unwrapped, waiting on me.
And yes I still have one more shopping day I have to take.
And I must ditch the kids in order to do all the above.

I awoke to discover my nightmare was not a dream, LOL!
Tis the season to be jolly?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Gift

A gift is a gift, and it doesn't matter whether it's a crushed bunch of flowers yanked from my own garden, a half-eaten cookie, or color-smeared little hands dropping M&M's directly into my mouth. The presents I receive are always a reminder of how much I'm loved.

We serve a Lord who is the Author of creating and giving gifts. His own Word declares, "Whatever is good and perfect comes to us from God above" (James1:17).

(quotes from Fierce Beauty by Kim Meeder)

Tonight a very sweet couple that I know will be saying hello and good-bye to their 5 month old in the womb child. They will discover if their precious little one is a little boy or a little girl at the same moment that they are stroking a beautiful face that they will never hear laugh or even cry...

But even this child, this moment is a gift from our God, and this little one is perfect. Even this little one will serve a purpose, has a purpose, this little life that grew and developed and lived within the safety of his or her mother's womb for a purpose. However brief this child's life was...this child has impacted the hearts and souls of many.

This precious gift was given to this wonderful couple for them to immediately return back to the One who fearfully and wonderfully knitted the little one in the womb.

This is one of those moments when we ask why...

My heart is heavy for the couple for several reasons...

One, I am in a time of grieving for the children I have not born and will not bear because I chose a permanent birth control that I wish I had not... and I grieve.

Two, I have been there... almost. I lost a child when almost in my 4th month. I still wonder if my child was a boy or a girl... and I miss not knowing my child. My baby that would be 16yrs old this year.

Three I have given birth to two beautiful ones and I know how hard it would be to have had to say goodbye to them... to lay them alone... my youngest still hates sleeping by herself.

So my heart breaks... I have been crying for this couple and praying for this family since the news hit my cell phone in a prayer request.

And I think about the gift.
This beautiful gift of life... of a soul.
And now more than ever I rejoice that my God so loved the world that He too gave a gift.

 For God so loved the world,
that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish,
but have eternal life.
John 3:16   

Martha then said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.  Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:21-26

Oh yes I believe this!
Thank you God for sending Your Son.
Your Only Begotten Son, to this earth knowing that He would die.
Knowing that He would suffer.
Knowing that His life would be brief here, but eternal still.

And this is our hope in death.
Death is not final for those in Christ.
Because He lives, we live.

I will hold my child one day... I believe that.
I will meet them and this is not a final goodbye for this couple, they will see their baby again.
This beautiful one has been rejoicing with the angels for hours... yet we cry.
And that's okay.
We cry because we are the one's standing and waving goodbye while the one we wave too is grinning from ear to ear as they wave back because they are going home, they are going on the greatest adventure to an exotic destination beyond any of our wildest and most magnificent imaginations. The presence of God and the Paradise of the King.

For from Him
and through Him
and to Him
are all things.
To Him be the glory forever.
Romans 11:36

Monday, December 19, 2011


I sat at the table. Pete took a sip of his wine. There was no plate and no cup in front of me. "I wanted to introduce you to someone," he said to me. "She and I are having Communion. The Lord's Supper. The Table. The Passover meal."
"I'll take it with you."
"No," he said, "For you, Communion is tiny, tasteless wafers and a little plastic cup full of grape juice. Someone reads a few verses, you swallow the bread, you throw down the juice, and you think to yourself, Jesus, thank you for dying for my sins. You put the cup in the pew holder, and you're done. Later someone comes by and cleans up the leftovers."

"What do you think 'Communion' was like at first, Matt?
I shrugged. "I've never thought about it, I guess."
"That first year after he died, do you think we threw back our cups, took five minutes to say thanks, and then moved on?"
He made a good point. I could spend more time than that reminiscing about a good meal. "Probably not."
"We knew him, Matt. He changed our lives. Our thankfulness wasn't some theological construct. It was deep and true and unstoppable."

(excerpts from Imaginary Jesus)

I am not sure about you but I have to sadly admit that I have noticed that many see Communion Sunday as skip day... "Oh yeh, we can leave after Sunday School, it's just Communion today"

Perhaps you are one of those.

How much more special would communion be if instead of waiting on a piece of cracker and a taste of grape juice,while sitting nicely in our pews, we instead chose to sit around a table... with bread and maybe even wine... and we truly spent that time focusing on what our Savior did for us.

Would you really have to worry about drunkenness if when you looked at that wine what you saw was Jesus blood shed for you, for your sins?
Would you really over-indulge in the bread (or the wine) if when you looked at it you truly saw our Savior's body broken for you, for your transgressions?

Therefore whoever eats the bread
or drinks the cup of the Lord
in an unworthy manner,
shall be guilty of the body
and the blood of the Lord.
1 Corinthians 11:27

What if instead of a Sunday potluck fellowship, when the church gathered together to partake in a meal it was simply the Passover meal, the bread and the wine?
What if we gathered together and we simply remembered Him?
What if we sat and talked about the day we met Him?
What if we shared about how He had changed our lives?
What if we shared how He has walked with us and carried us since we met Him?
What if we purposely went into a joint Passover meal with a fellow church filled with a people of completely different background and ethnicity than ours and we united in Christ?
What if Communion Sunday was not "church skip day"?

What if instead of uniting to pick-it the abortion clinics, or uniting to fight legislation, or uniting to demand prayer in school, or what ever other political agenda we have at the moment, we united for the sake of simply remembering Him?

What if we had a Call to Remember and every church in our community, our county, our state, our nation, the nations... what if we called all our individual local congregations to come together at the same day at the same hour for Communion, to simply remember Him.
Nothing else.
No political agenda.
No pity party stories.
No martyr talk.
Nothing but a call to remember Jesus and to proclaim Him, His life, His death, His ressurection.
All and only about Him

How seriously do you take Communion?

Is it just something you do or does the weight of it sink deep into your soul and lift your heart and eyes to His beautiful sacrifice for your ugly and deceitful heart?

Is it a time for you to search the tray for the biggest cracker and the most full tiny cup while you whisper until you see everyone take their bite and drink their little cup and see your own cue, so you stop chatting with your neighbor long enough to absentmindly pop in the cracker and throw back the juice and then complain about how dry those crackers were and you need some more drink to wash it down?

After this,
Jesus, knowing that all things
had already been accomplished,
to fulfill the Scripture, said,
"I am thirsty."
John 19:28 

Maybe some make a joke of Communion so that they don't really have to think about it...
Maybe some make Communion "skip day" so that they don't have to remember and don't have to examine...

I can ask all these questions because I have been there.
I know.
I have walked into the door and seen the table and thought "man, if I had known this was today we would have went on home... or just stayed home."

I've been there so busy whispering to my neighbor that I have paid no attention to the reading of the Scripture, and I certainly was not examining myself, and I definitely was not remembering Him...
I was doing a formality, a religious duty, pass the tray grab the cracker, get the cup... 1-2-3 eat... 1-2-3 drink, let's sing and go get some real food.

That's never, ever, again the way I want to take Communion.
How about you?
Have you ever thought about that first Passover after the ascension of our Lord?
Is there any way it could look and feel like the miniscule communion cracker and miniture communion cup that we purchase in bulk at our local christian supply store in order to make it as quick and easy as possible?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Ladies Only

FYI: the Ladies Only warning is for mine and my husband's young men of God that we claim as our own who sometimes check out my blog... just a little heads up for them that this is gonna be a major girl post and they should proceed with caution or not at all :-) 

Well I sit here at the computer at 3am debating on whether or not to go to the Emergency Room. There just is nothing like getting woken up to the need to pee a half a dozen times and then finally getting aggravated enough to turn the light on and discover that you are passing blood clots...

At first viewing, I thought, great! I have started my period again! Really? It's not even been  two weeks and I have never started in the middle of the night, never in my whole life do I recall that happening. Then as I get more woken up and wonder why in the world it is hurting so bad to pee, I realize that maybe I have not started my period.

After several toilet paper checks to confirm my suspicions I come to the computer to google blood clots in urine. And it says seek emergency care now... ugh.
Hello it's 3am!
And I have church in the morning and I teach a Precept class in the morning...
And I hate the ER...
Who wants to leave their warm house to sit in an ER where they are going to treat me like I am an inconvenience and just had nothing better to do than drive to the ER at 3am.

So I have sent my husband back to bed and told him I would be fine.
I deem to be woman and wait on urgent care to open.

I mean what if my toilet paper checks have been faulty and really it is just my period... we women get accused of that alot you know... like we are so stupid and have only experienced a menstrual cycle every month for the past how ever many years, that we can't tell which area the blood floweth from... geez louise!

Then what if it is something embarrassing...

Or you know I did fall off a stool not long ago and hurt myself pretty good. I broke a toe and my tailbone... and I have googled to learn that I could have hurt my kidneys as well...ugh.

Or what if it's nothing and I have already done all the hard work myself here in my bathroom at 3am and I pay an ER copay and doctor's bill for some stranger to pat me on the back and say, well Mrs Vaughn, your on the downside, take some tylenol or motrin for the fever, you'll be fine.

So I sit here now, with fever and chills, that I thought was just the result of being really cold... because I flat out get cold to the bone and can't get warm sometimes, but nope tonight it's a fever with chills. And debate on whether or not to suck it up and head to the ER or wait on Urgent Care to open, or suck it up and wait on Monday, so I can go see my regular doctor...

I reckon I shall let pain be my guide.

Right now, pain says, I can tough it out until urgent care opens. 
I might can even try to nap on the couch until the next "urge" hits...