CROSSING THE LINE

By Lisa Huddleston

“Therefore, brothers, make every effort to confirm your calling and election, because if you do these things you will never stumble” (2 Peter 1:10).

When I was a kid, my sisters and I had a weird ritual when we traveled to visit my grandparents who lived in another state.  We would try to be very nonchalant when we noticed that we were approaching the Ohio state line so as not to alert the others, and then just as we crossed the border, we would do everything in our power to be the first one across the line.  Now I can’t believe that my parents put up with such crazy behavior, but back then it was every girl for herself.  We would dive over the front seat, reaching and stretching to be first.  We didn’t care that my dad was driving, and we didn’t worry about causing an accident.  We were focused on one thing and one thing only—getting across that line.  It was totally crazy!  (And it was a whole lot of fun.)

Oddly enough, this memory came crashing back on me as I sat in my Theology II class the other night.  We were discussing salvation and attempting to put in order the work that takes place when a human being gets “saved.”  It was an orderly, systematic approach.  Begun by the election of God and ending with a believer’s glorification in heaven.  Steps 1 through 10.  Just so.  But as this memory hit me, I realized that my progression has been less perfectly ordered and more like that chaotic leap my sisters and I used to take.  It is less clear to me exactly when I crossed the line.  However, I am certain that I am on the other side.

There are times when this lack of definition has really bothered me.  When someone would share the exact moment of their salvation down to the date, the location, and the time, it used to make me worry.  I even heard some believers go so far as to say if you couldn’t remember those facts then you weren’t saved.   It troubled me for many years and often caused me to doubt.  But I remembered the feel of God’s drawing me to him.  I recalled many times of getting to know him more (both little and big epiphanies!) and times of struggling to submit to what I learned.  I could recount many of the steps my teacher enumerated, but not in perfect order with perfectly recorded accuracy.  But just as I knew when we’d arrived in Ohio, I know that I have crossed that line.

And that’s the important thing.  I would be happy to have my spiritual birthday circled on my calendar.  I would like to be able to say with absolute certainty when I was baptized and exactly how old I was—17 or 18—but no one ever wrote it down.  And the date isn’t what really matters.  It’s what happened in me that counts.  And I know that I am his.

I know that I have a present-day trust in Jesus Christ as my savior.  I believe that he alone is the author and finisher of my faith and that when I die I will be with him in heaven.  He has promised that he is preparing a place for me, and I know that is where I will be when the ache in my heart is finally eased.

Also, I can see the evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in my life.  I can testify that he is completing the good work he has begun in me.  Every good and selfless thing in my life is from him alone.  Whenever I receive encouraging words from my brothers and sisters, I know that it is he they are praising, and I am assured.

Finally, I can look back at my journey and see that I have been caught in an ever-increasing pattern of growing more like Jesus.  Don’t get me wrong—I am far from being perfect.  However, I am being perfected, and thanks to my God, I can see that I am maturing in my faith.  Yes, I have a long way yet to go, but progress is being made.  Of this I am sure.

Therefore, it is with wild, crazy joy that I can know that I have catapulted across the line.  With total abandon at times and with carefully chosen steps at others, but I now know where I stand.  And, hallelujah, it is with him!

SKIN CRAVINGS

By Lisa Huddleston

 

SKIN CRAVINGS

 

Today is one of those days.

I’m feeling the pain of living in the flesh

and longing for your touch.

“Fear not” just doesn’t cut it right now—

I need some skin.

I need to feel your hand on my cheek

brushing away the tears and

lifting my dripping chin.

To feel the warmth and weight of your arm

around my shoulders

drawing me to your side.

I need to feel what I know—

 that you hear

and are here.

 

Touch my heart, Lord,

and let me know again.

Even without sensation,

pull me to your chest

and let me feel you close.

So that without feeling,

yet knowing and trusting,

I can come again

to you.

 

Until the day comes

when I can run in perfect skin

into your perfect arms.

 

Until then

I’m left with skin cravings

and desire.

THE TIE THAT BINDS

 

By Lisa Huddleston

 “He is the radiance of His glory, the exact expression of His nature, and He sustains all things by His powerful word” (Heb. 1:3).

Last week I turned 49 years old.  I know that 49 doesn’t quite carry the significance of turning 50, but being the early bloomer that I am, I’m already looking ahead to that monumental date.  Fifty years is a long time.  It’s half a century.  It’s five decades.  Come on now—it’s truly approaching what I always used to call old.  Yes.  I am almost old. 

Now I know that those of you who are already 50—or in your 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, or even 90’s—will probably laugh at my premature designation.  But you have to admit it.  You begin to feel it around this time.  The wear and tear is beginning to show, and I have to coax my body with some TLC to get it going some mornings.  I’m almost 50, and I know it.

I’m also amazed to find that two of my kids are in their twenties now.  I remember being their age.  It was a time of big transitions.  I was out of my teens, finishing my schooling, beginning my career and family, and actually realizing some of the dreams of my youth.  It was a time of several physical moves and many more emotional adjustments, but it was a good time of life.

As I entered my thirties, I remembered the saying, “Never trust anyone over 30,” and I was shocked to find myself an adult.  When I visited my college campus to attend a football game, I noticed they were now admitting children—the students looked younger and younger!  I was a mother of two and then three babies, and I had already altered my dreams a bit and put my whole heart into the role of stay-at-home mom.  We made a big move during that decade in order to allow my husband to be more involved as a dad, and we began to plant our lives into a new community.  It was a challenge, but it was definitely a good time of life.

By the time I turned 40, things were rolling right along.  The kids and I were into a comfortable homeschooling routine.  Chuck was established in his career, and our family was thriving.  Wouldn’t you know it?  Just when we were safely in our rut, everything changed.  Did you know that kids grow up and leave you?  They do.  And as one after another graduated from high school (the last one this June), my world was rocked.  To top it off, Chuck kept being promoted right out of the work he loved the most until he found himself in an administrative role he hated.  We both hit what felt like a bonified mid-life crisis at about the same time.  Ka-boom!  I frantically scrambled to redesign my identity and recover some of those earlier passions I had once pursued, and Chuck also went through a period of rediscovering his natural strengths and passion for hands on work.  Thankfully, with help from people who God placed around us and more than a little direct intervention from Him, we both were led to satisfying resolutions and have seen the settling down of our trauma with little to no PTSD (post traumatic stress syndrome).  Despite the mid-decade travail, I learned a great deal in my 40’s so I must admit that it also has been a good time of life.

And now I face 50.  Ok, the face that I face it with is getting a little weathered.  There’s quite a lot of gray in my hair now, and the aches and pains nag me a little more each year.  I know there will be many more transitions ahead.  Soon my children will be starting their careers and raising their own families, and bringing me grandchildren to babysit (I hope)!  Chuck and I will face more career changes—perhaps retirement or reassignments.  But I have to say that I can’t help being excited by what we will learn in the next ten years.  Through it all, there have been rich discoveries, new revelations, and a true deepening of our faith in the One who holds it and us all together.  It is exciting to ponder what the future holds. 

Despite the fact that I know there will be trials and challenges and times of great stress, I also know that my God will carry me through those time to a greater understanding of His ways.  And the learning will be worth it!  I am certain that I can say in advance that the next decade, as well as any more that I may experience, will bring ever increasing growth, and it will be a truly good time of life.  After all, it’s Jesus who holds it all together—in the past, in the present, and in the future.  He is the author and sustainer of my life, my faith, and my next ten years, and because of Him, I know it will be good!

EVERYTHING IN ITS PLACE

By Lisa Huddleston

“I am going away to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2).

I’m one of those people who love having everything in its place.  It may not always be evident in the sometimes chaotic condition of my home, but I really do like the security of knowing that things and people are right where they should be.  I like my books on the right shelves, utensils in the right kitchen drawers, my family safely home by the right time, and my day’s goals clearly defined.  Although I am not an over-achiever by any standards, it makes me feel good at night to know that things are where they should be—it just helps me to sleep better.  In fact, during our last move, I almost wouldn’t let my husband go to bed until he had hung all the pictures on the new walls.  I just couldn’t rest without my nest snug around me, and, therefore, neither could he!

But right now, things are out of place.  My kids are nearly grown and scattering.  One is moving away for a year so I am wrestling with thoughts of finding and furnishing an apartment for him.  Another has some pressing medical decisions to make and all I can do is wait.  The third is in the throes of choosing a college and transitioning from youth into young adulthood.  My husband and I are pushing 50 and seeking to find our place in this new structure for our family.  And, last night at church, as I sat in a meeting for the parents of youth, I realized again that I had just about outgrown my place in that group and that it was time for me to reevaluate my roles even in my church.  Not a comfortable position for someone like me.  How can everything be in its place if I don’t know what my place is anymore?  No, I didn’t sleep well at all last night.

Times of transition can be tough on someone like me.  That’s just the way it is.  But, as I tried to share with my equally frustrated and controlling son, it’s during these times that I know I need to draw closer to God.  He is the only steady relationship in our lives.  He is the One who will be with us wherever our journey leads.  And so, I know I need to run to him. 

Do I always do it?  No way.  My pattern usually begins with a whole lot of frustration, restless nights, tears and complaining.  But, eventually and thankfully, it most often leads to him and a new place of service in which I can settle down and nest for a while.  That’s just the way it is.  Nothing here is permanent—a very hard truth for those who like a rut and a place of their very own. 

That’s why I find it good and comforting to know that Jesus has gone before me.  He has faced the difficulties of impermanence and change in this temporary world.  He has experienced the same trials and the same temptations.  And he has overcome.  And the good news for a hobbit-hole loving soul like me is that he has prepared a place for me.  I can rest assured that when I arrive at the end of this constantly changing adventure of life, I will have a place waiting.  A place prepared just for me. 

And even now, I can rest in him.  Even as my roles change and the people in my life find new places to fit, I can borrow from the future and rest in him.  Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!

RESPONDING TO GOD

By Lisa Huddleston

There are those times when things seem to be just a little more out of control than usual.  Everyone experiences them, and it’s during those times of our greatest need that we struggle to pay attention to the very things that would help us most—specifically God’s direction through his word.  The more things spin, the less likely we are to take the time to listen or to respond.  Sure, we’re throwing out those “God, help me” prayers left and right, but we aren’t quite as diligent in paying attention to his answers.  And that’s what God showed me this morning as I read chapters 4-8 of 2 Kings. 

Truthfully, I was kind of in divide-and-conquer mode.  I have several assignments that need attention today, but since I didn’t get to it yesterday—my normal writing day—number one on my list was to write this devotional.   It’s lame (and futile) to approach that task without some input from the One about whom I hope to write, so I dutifully sat down on the couch to read today’s section in my Daily Walk Bible.  As I read without much expectation, I began to notice a common thread between the stories contained in these chapters.  All had to do with the prophet Elisha and all recorded the varied responses of different people to God’s word. 

Here’s what I saw:

  • First, there was the Shunammite woman who built a room for Elisha to stay in whenever he visited her town.  When Elisha told her that she would finally have a son, she replied, “Don’t mislead your servant, O man of God!” (4:16).  Later, she stated the same response as, “Don’t raise my hopes” (4:28).  Sometimes I feel the same way.  I don’t even dare to ask God for little things let alone big things, because I’m afraid even to have hope.  It hurts too much when my dreams don’t come true.  But the Shunammite’s dreams were realized.  She had a son and even had him restored from the dead.  God was able to meet and even surpass her hopes, because it was his will to do so.  After all, it was his idea!
  • Next, there was the man from Baal Shalishah.  He brought twenty loaves of barley bread to Elisha who thanked him by telling him to feed all the rest of the people who were there.  The man replied, “How can I set this before a hundred men?” (4:43).  It was an impossible assignment, and his question seems very logical to me.  Yet, he set the bread before the men, “and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the Lord” (4:44).  I can imagine his surprise as his “How?” was answered!  Sometimes the tasks I face seem to be impossible, too.  Either I feel that I don’t have the skill to accomplish them or there just isn’t enough of me to go around to do all that needs to be done.  But God can multiply my abilities and accomplish whatever he chooses—if it’s according to his word and his will.
  • Then, there was Naaman, the commander of the army of the Aram.  “He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded … but he had leprosy” (5:1).  On the advice of a servant girl, Naaman goes to Elisha to be healed, but when he gets there Elisha doesn’t even come out to see him.  Rather, “Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, ‘Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed’” (5:10).  Rather than running to the Jordan to wash, Naaman’s pride is hurt, and he goes away angry (5:11).   God’s assignment was too simple for such a great man.  After all, weren’t there better rivers in his own country?  Who did Elisha think he was?  Naaman almost let his pride keep him from being healed.  Thank goodness, he heard his servants who begged him to follow the advice, and he was restored.  I wonder how often I let pride keep me away from the blessings of God?  How many times have I let hurt and anger stand in the way of God’s will being done in and through me?

There were many more responses in the chapters I read today:  fear (6:15), impatience (6:33), doubt (7:2), selfishness (7:9), and shame (8:11).  All immediately focused on what they could see, but each one had his or her eyes opened to the supernatural power of God.  Nothing is impossible with God! (Luke 1:37).  A simple message—sort of like Elisha’s directions to Naaman—but just as deceptively deep. 

What is your response to God’s word today?  Are you afraid to hope?  Do you wonder how it could be?  Are you insulted by the simplicity of the message?  Are you impatient, doubtful, selfish or ashamed?  Yes!  I am … but God will work anyway.  My hope is not in me or in anything I do, but my hope is in him!  And, thankfully, he will never let me down.

THE GIFT OF EASTER

By Lisa Huddleston

Fluffy white and yellow bunnies and chicks.  Baskets of colored eggs and confectionary delights.  Jelly beans and tulips.  Pretty pastel dresses with trimmed bonnets and white gloves.  And Sunday morning, after the basket and before the ham, an empty cross.  That is how I remember the Easter of my childhood.  The strange juxtaposition of getting new clothes, stuffed animals, and candy with the deep and sacrificial giving of Jesus on the cross.  What a joyful jumble of thoughts.  What a mix of doctrines.  What a jelly beaned conglomeration of confusion!

But I can see where all this “new stuff”-ology came from.  Easter—the death and the resurrection—offers us new life.  The possibility to be restored to God.  Because of His sacrifice, we are made new!  Thus, new dresses, new shoes, colored eggs representing new life, and so on.  (Please, let’s save the pagan influences discussion for another day.)  I have to admit that it makes some sense.  But I also have to gently protest that the getting seems to be overshadowing the giving, the gift, and even the Giver.  Even in church, the dressing up of the sanctuary, the clothing of the choir (along with its music, of course), and the cramming in the service between the baskets and the big family dinner—something seems to be missing.  Without cynicism or self-righteousness—yes, I bought new clothes, too, and I know our worship will be filled with His name—but, humbly and carefully, may I suggest that we may be missing Jesus?

For the next few minutes, let’s ponder the Giver and His gift.  From Isaiah 53, we read:

He grew up before Him

like a young plant

and like a root out of dry ground.

He had no form or splendor

that we should look at Him,

no appearance that we should

desire Him.

He was despised and rejected

by men,

a man of suffering who knew

what sickness was.

He was like one

people turned away from.

He was despised, and we didn’t

value Him.

Yet He Himself bore

our sicknesses,

and He carried our pains;

but we in turn

regarded Him stricken,,

struck down by God,

and afflicted.

 

But He was pierced because of

our transgressions,

crushed because of

our iniquities;

punishment for our peace was

on Him,

and we are healed

by His wounds.

We all went astray like sheep;

we all have turned

to our own way;

and the LORD has punished Him

for the iniquity of us all.

 

He was oppressed and afflicted,

yet He did not open His mouth.

Like a lamb led to the slaughter

and like a sheep silent

before her shearers,

He did not open His mouth.

He was taken away because of

oppression and judgment;

and who considered His fate?

For He was cut off from the land

of the living;

He was struck because of

My people’s rebellion.

They made His grave

with the wicked,

and with a rich man

at His death,

although He had done no violence

and had not spoken deceitfully.

 

Yet the LORD was pleased

to crush Him. 

Pleased to crush His Son?  How can we accept such a gift?  So much more than white chocolate and pink and yellow clothing, this gift—this terrible wonderful sacrifice—is the gift of Easter.  Because of Jesus, amazing love and grace in flesh, we can be made new from the inside out.  May we not despise and reject this Jesus.  Not candy coated or beautiful in pastel colors, but willing to suffer in the flesh for all who have turned away.  This is Jesus.  This is Easter.  This is why we sing and celebrate this Sunday.  There is a Redeemer!  His name is Jesus!  Hallelujah to the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world—and even of me.