Spilled Perfume

ZOE Story: The Boy Who Cried Out to God

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If I Look Into Your Eyes

Unless I walk by faith, I can’t walk at all.

My sins are too big, and my goodness too small.

 

If I look at myself too long and too hard,

the depression sets in. Can I be dealt different cards?

Could I go back in time? Could I right all the wrongs?

I would do things so differently.  Now, all I have is a song –

a song of regret for the years thrown away,

for the lives I have harmed, for the debt I can’t pay

 

and a song of desperation

in my cry to you, God.

You alone can pay my debt

for you’ve none of your own.

Help me see myself as new;

all I see is just my flaws.

Help me set my eyes on you

or else, how can I go on?

If Paul reflected on his murders,

he would have gone insane

but he kept his eyes on the prize

and glorified your name.

Would you help me do the same?

 

You knew how I would sin,

all the havoc I would wreak

but you made me still (on purpose!)

Now it’s your beauty that I seek.

Would you be my one desire?

Pull my face out of this mire.

If I look into your eyes,

that will silence all the lies.

Give me holiness, renew my soul

and purify my heart.

Here’s my ugliness, my selfish pride

which kept us two apart.

 

I have gathered other treasures,

other lovers, other gods.

I need grace without measure.

You’re the one who knows my thoughts.

You’re the one to make me new again.

You are my only hope.

Hear my desperate cry for mercy

and throw me down a rope.

 

Let me see myself the way you do,

as already forgiven.

You’ve clothed me in your righteousness

and taken all my shame

but the devil still reminds me

of my past and evil ways.

 

So help me walk by faith!

Or else, how can I walk at all?

My sins have been too big

and my faithfulness so small.

But it’s not about me, is it?

It’s about your precious cross!

You’re the hero who has made a way;

you seek and save the lost.

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A Love that is Real (I am His)

I’ve been diving deep into Christ this week and rediscovering who I am in him.  I had neglected my relationship with him, not purposely but by chance, because my time was spent working and doing ministry.  I worked at work, then I worked unpaid hours outside of work. Because I love my job a lot, it never felt to me like I was burning out. But in reality, I was being depleted spiritually.  Giving to ministry and giving to my job and giving to people and giving and giving and giving and giving….

God’s love is not hinged on my activities. I want to be like Mary, not like Martha. I never want activities – no matter how good and worthwhile they may be – to take the place of being at the feet of Jesus and soaking up his beautiful presence and letting his radiance somehow rub off on me.  Ministry has to be second place.  Knowing Jesus has to be first place.  Always.  We were created for good works. After all, we would be bored on this earth if we weren’t doing anything. But first and foremost, we were created to experience relationship with God.

It’s strange that, though I left my old religion so many years ago, I still keep relearning this same lesson again and again: My worth has nothing to do with my performance,  nor does it hang by a thread on other people’s opinions of me. My worth is from being created in the image of God.  Nothing can separate me from his love. Nothing can keep me from his love. Nothing can persuade him to stop loving me and nothing can cause me to withdraw it. He is constant and unchanging.  He is faithful.  And I am his.

I’ve had enough time to learn that love in this world doesn’t come without terms

When I offer something of value to you, then suddenly I become valuable too

But I want a love that looks past positions
A love just because not a love with conditions
I can search the whole world and find all kinds of love
But love that is real is love just because

I can admit that sometimes I reserve and limit my love to the ones who deserve
Still I’m waiting for someone who seeks no returns
A love I can’t lose or do something to earn

I’ve found a love that deserves recognition
So perfect and deep, it is love’s definition
I’ve searched the whole world, but it came from above
It’s a love that is real, it’s a love just because

Just Because” by Scott Phillips

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Don’t Live in the Past

It will sound odd, but as a child I had difficulty falling asleep at night because I was convinced that God was going to murder me during the night.  I have never met anyone else who can say the same thing, but that childhood fear of sleeping has lingered on into my adult life, so that my body generally goes into a state of panic when I lie down and turn the light off.  No matter how tired and exhausted I am, the moment the “go to bed” conditions are surrounding me (lights off, lying down in bed, etc.), my body goes into that fearful state.

While I have grown tremendously, and these panic attacks are no longer so regular, they have returned in the last few weeks unfortunately.

This morning at 6:30, I had the opportunity to pray out loud to God, while no one else was awake yet, and I audibly spoke all the things that are causing me anxiety – things about my future, things about my present, and things about my past.  As I spoke out the future things, my anxiety subsided because God reminded me that he has miraculously saved me from quite a number of dangers, and he will always come through.  Gradually, my anxiousness about present circumstances also subsided, because God is with me now presently, coming through for me and meeting my every need. He is faithful.

Then came the past issues.

The past is something I can’t shake. I can’t trust God to “come through” and solve it, because it’s already over and done.  It already happened.  There is a particular thing in my past that happened, which I grieve immensely. I will not share about that here, except to say that I feel like a failure.

Stop looking back!

Stop looking back!

In addition to the “failure” that I feel so heavily, there is also the weight of the prostitution. Both of these things are things I cannot travel back in time to erase. They really happened. I realize that my present potential is being thwarted because I am somehow holding onto my past.  God longs to use me for his kingdom, which is the reason I was created, so that I may be free and live a full life, productive and meaningful, sowing seeds that will last on into eternity.  People will be in heaven because of my witness, who would not have otherwise known Christ. God has strategically placed me in people’s lives for that very purpose – to point them to him.

But Satan sneaks along like an unnoticed shadow and plants seeds of doubt, condemnation, reminding me of the past, and distracting me from the kingdom work I am so passionate about.  If I listen to those subtle messages, my focus shifts off of the kingdom and onto my own self – which brings captivity rather than the freedom I was experiencing – because it goes against our design as human beings to focus on ourselves. We were made to worship GOD alone, and have no idols.

We are advised by the apostle Paul to “take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16).  Trusting that what God says is true, that he is who he claims to be, and that he will always come through, is what protects us from the distractions of the world and of the enemy.  We were made for a bigger purpose than what our minds can even comprehend.

Our spirits were not meant to live in this world. They were meant to live in a resurrected Eden-like body in a place we can’t come close to imagining – in the presence and paradise of the living God.

As beautiful as this earth is, with its purple mountains majesty, fruited plains, and shining seas, we were not saved to live here. We were not created for this place. We are just passing through this world on our way to God’s heaven. I can’t wait.

– Steve Berger, “Between Heaven and Earth”

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What is Impossible

All the things that are impossible are actually possible.

Let me explain.

With God, anything can happen.  Thus, we should expect God to do impossible things in our lives.  He is always doing the impossible in my life and in the lives of believers all around me, and he has been doing so all throughout human history.

“What is impossible with man is possible with God.” – Jesus (Luke 18:27)

I have always tried tying my identity and worth to my “work” – whether an actual paid job or simply tasks I accomplished or ways I helped other people.  Anyone in any kind of emotional pain or crisis would be a magnet for me whom I would bend over backward for in order to try to “rescue”. I was the incarnation of co-dependency.

Not so anymore! This fact alone proves that God does impossible things!

I know God has changed me because I have been in a position of powerful influence in the lives of some teens going through crisis this week, and I have not responded in panic or despair. Rather, I have reached a point of asking God in each scenario, “What role do you want me to play in this? Show me what to do, what not to do, how to help, how much to help, how much to separate myself. Give me the right words to say, and tell me when I’m about to say something that you don’t want me to.”

God has given me specific guidance in each unique circumstance, and because of following his lead rather than mine, he has used me very powerfully this week.  Impossible things are happening more and more because I am practicing two things: 1) Trust God 100%, and 2) Obey God 100%.

He is the one who created everything and sustains it, so I can safely assume that he is big enough to help me in all things and in all ways. Since he does not need me, this takes the pressure off of me to “save” any people in crisis. Rather, my role is only to listen to what God is telling me to do and just do that only.  Nothing else.  This is good practice for me and is helping me to grow my Faith muscle.

God has created me uniquely, with unique abilities and gifts, for the purpose of bringing glory to him and being a blessing to the world around me. Hopefully many, many people will come to know Christ through my testimony and witness. God does not need me, but since he created me on purpose for a specific task, I will be greatly missing out if I do not obey him and accomplish whatever he has prepared for me to accomplish.

I don’t know all my future. I have plans, which I hold in open palms so that God may remove them at any time, but I am living in a new kind of purposeful way which is not centered around plans so much as it is centered around faith.  My daily mission is to be in prayer, be in the word, listen to whatever God says, and do whatever he tells me to do.  If I can be consistent in those four things, I will be living my life purposefully and fruitfully because God will be doing everything that he wants to do in me and through me.

I am very shocked when God gives tasks to me which I am not able to do.  Instead of panicking though, I remember that he gives impossible jobs to me because he wants to get the glory.  He commands me to do things I cannot even do, because I am then forced to rely on his power and his presence to accomplish it.  This removes all fear from me and questions of “How is this even going to happen?” and instead gives me excitement and joy as I look forward to what each day will bring, with God at work in me and all around me everywhere.

I am not worthy of the attention of a holy God.  Sometimes I feel insecure and wonder if God understands who he chose to be in his kingdom. I wonder if he really knows how inadequate I am. But he does. He does know and he did choose me, because with him all things are possible and he has throughout history always chosen sinful, inadequate people to be in his kingdom and be made into holy new creations through whom he powerfully is at work.

The apostle Paul mentions this power working in us in his letter to the church in Ephesus so long ago.  God was the same powerful, loving God with the apostle Paul that he was with Moses and Abraham so many generations prior and that he still is now so many generations afterward, and that he always will be forever.

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Ephesians 3:16-21

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So Many are His Plans!

My favorite story in the entire Bible – though it is tied with two others – is the one of Joseph (in the book of Genesis) who was sold into slavery and later imprisoned for years for something he never did, then forgotten about, and eventually released and he became second in command to the nation’s leader (in a foreign country, no less!) and ended up saving that nation, as well as all those surrounding, from a seven-year-famine which no one even knew was coming other than God, and God revealed it to Joseph.  That was his plan!

Imagine being Joseph at any step along the way.  Would you not assume that things were not going right?  Would you not wonder if God really loved you at all?  Would there be no subtle doubts creeping in?  Frustration?  Even anger perhaps?

Looking back, my life has been strange and confusing and painful most of the way.  I will not rant about my past, because this is a new blog and this is my new decision – to have my past as a point of reference and not a point of residence.

God met my biggest need this week.  He gave me a permanent job.

God has actually planned this out for me for a very long time; I just was completely oblivious to it.  I was like Joseph, thinking “What in the world is going on here?” when all the while God knew exactly what he was doing.

One version of Psalm 140:5 says, “So many are your plans for us that it would be impossible to number them.”

A lot of my tears in the past several months have been tears about not having a stable job – and also tears about not being able to go to the country I’ve been equipping myself to go to for a year and a half.  Now God has answered both prayers in one.  He is giving me both of these things, which I have prayed and wept for over and over.

I thought the cycle of poverty would keep continuing forever, but God has lifted me out of a dark past and shined his light on me.  I have questioned and argued and pleaded with God, not understanding that all the while he had things under control.  All the while he loved me.  The whole time, in the background, he was shaping me to look more like Jesus while bringing glory to himself through every situation – the fun ones as well as the painful ones.
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God has not only met my needs, but he has also gone above and beyond what I even expected. The job is something I never wanted, and yet it is a job I am a perfect fit for.  I did not even know what I was signing up for when I applied there.  Everything in my life is different from what I ever imagined or planned for myself.
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Everything is different, and everything is better than what I planned, because God is having his way.  Since last year, late summer, God has been having his way in my life, rather than me living my own life my own way and in my own strength.  It has been a very unfamiliar adventure, this one I’ve embarked on.  Yet, it’s brought me a freedom from slavery – both slavery to sin and slavery to fear.  This is a freedom I never fully experienced before last year.  I experienced it in small doses here and there when I could momentarily surrender my life to Christ.  But I always took back my control of my own life, and so the freedom was short lived.
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Now God is having his way in me, and I am learning to trust him and obey him fully, and God is doing miracles right and left!
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In I Samuel 2, Hannah prays (or sings) in response to God’s giving her a baby, after years of praying for one:  “The Lord sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts.  He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes…”
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I feel like Hannah felt – that God has lifted me out of the dust and the ash heap, and made me like royalty. And like Hannah, I have been singing and singing and singing praises to him!
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A Precious Little Boy

Dear Jack,

Not a day has gone by
Not a day
Since I met you
That you haven’t been on my mind.
How your story perplexes me!
I have wept
I have prayed
I have spent sleepless nights
Trying to understand
But I cannot understand
How men can rape and torture
A tiny, innocent child.
You were so small, so young,
A precious little boy.

And where was God
While all this was happening?
That has been the burning question
Eating away at my heart
Ever since I met you, Jack.

God hasn’t answered me too much
Except to remind me of eternity.
He sees things I can’t see.
He sees all the years
In which you’ll be dancing,
Singing, playing your guitar,
Laughing, enjoying friendships,
Praising him, and eating great food.
He sees those future days
That I can only dream of.
He sees those precious moments
When every tear will be wiped away.

I don’t understand the evil in this world,
The evil that took over your unsuspecting life
And effectively destroyed it forever.
Oh, but it’s NOT forever!
Evil does not have the final word.
The same darkness that tortured your tiny body,
The darkness that screamed at you
Is the same darkness that tortured Christ
And ripped apart his flesh
And killed him.

BUT HE ROSE!

Jack, the resurrection of Christ is your hope
Because it is the evidence
That darkness does not have the final word,
That death has been beaten!
It temporarily reigns in this world,
But not forever.
Death doesn’t get the last word.

Since the body of Christ was never found, Jack,
Since the tomb was empty,
YOU HAVE HOPE!

When the darkness threatens to overtake you, Jack,
When the body memories fill your throat
And try to suffocate you,
Try to make you feel like you are still in the past,
When all you can hear are the ugly, hateful voices
Of those sick animals who tortured you,
Remember the empty tomb, Jack!

Cry out loud to that Jesus,
That same Jesus who KNOWS your suffering
Far better than I ever could.
Cry out to that Jesus who died
And rose
And prepares a mansion for you in heaven.
Cry out to the lover of your soul,
Because your life was no accident, Jack.
God has already used your life
To make a powerful impact on my own;
I can only imagine
What else He plans to do
In you and through you!

May your heart be flooded to overflowing
With a peace you’ve never known before,
With a peace
That transcends all human understanding
As you cry out to Jesus
As he reveals himself to you
In bigger and more beautiful ways.
May you discover him to be your healer,
Your sustainer,
Your provider,
Your protector,
Your redeemer,
Your restorer,
Your Father,
Your salvation,
Your hope,
Your friend,
Your future,
Your strength,
And your peace.

And may you be free
To be that precious little boy
Once again,
Free from all harm this time around.

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