Loser’s Guide to God’s Grace 11: Scotlandville

I am so sorry to be so long between posts! You cannot imagine what has been happening in my Loser Life!!! But that’s not important right now. Let me finish my story …

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So the worst the world can do to us … God will use to bring us love, joy, peace and grace. The bigger the Loser we are, the bigger the Winner we can be — because the fewer attachments we have to this world that stand in the way of our receiving God’s love. This means no matter who you are, no matter what you’ve done, no matter how bad things are for you right now, right now can also be heaven for you.

I think about when our little dog was lost. Because I am a loser, a lame, childless loser, I invest way too much in our dog. He is like a child to me. I was out of my mind with distress about him — when he was found, I was so happy, happy, happy to have him back — all the other stuff in my life that would normally have stressed me out seemed terribly unimportant. Because I was so filled with joy to have our dog back safely! That was the only thing that mattered to me at the time.

It’s the same in your life in close relationship with Christ: because you have Him with you (because your life is hidden in Christ, really — Colossians 3:3), all the normal stuff that should bother you just doesn’t matter because you’re so happy in Jesus! I call this joyful, hidden place where we live in Christ “Scotlandville.”

Scotlandville, Louisiana, is a poor suburb of East Baton Rouge and sits on Highway 190, if I remember correctly. One nasty day my sister and brother-in-law were passing through, and a poor old man with a handicap was trying to cross the highway in the pouring rain. They stopped to let him get safely over, thinking, “How horrible to be a crippled, old man with no car trying to cross a highway to your home in Scotlandville in the pouring rain …” From that time on, when things went badly for them, they would remind each other, “At least we’re not that poor old guy in Scotlandville.”

But no. That’s the wrong way to look at Scotlandville.

My sister began this intimate walk with Jesus, the contemplative life, she calls it, before I did, and arrived at the same places I did, before me. We were discussing this idea that “in Christ” we have all we need, and heaven is here and now for us on earth, no matter our problems — in fact, perhaps because our problems had propelled us to seek Jesus … and we realized: that crippled, old man in the pouring rain in Scotlandville might have been as happy as a lark, as joyful in Jesus as we are now. For all we know, Scotlandville, for him, is paradise!

This is what the grace of God does for you; this is what immersion in Christ does for you: it makes anywhere that He is, paradise. And He is everywhere. He is always with you. Whenever you can settle your mind and reach for Him, He is there, and you are with Him in paradise.

Now for my sister and me, “Scotlandville” doesn’t mean a thundering Gulf Coast storm and a poor crippled man. It means paradise. What can be better than that?

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Thank you for reading — I hope it makes you realize how truly love you are.

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 More blog soon — thank you for sticking with me.

Loser’s Guide to God’s Grace 10: Easy for ME to Say?

Sorry to be so long between posts! Busy busy busy

Now you know: coming to know Jesus as your intimate Friend, Brother, Savior, King — doesn’t get you a bunch of material blessings. I must also tell you: it doesn’t even fix all your problems. Here are a few of the horrifying things which happened to me during some of the most close and wonderful moments I was sharing with the Savior:

  • Our beloved little terrier died, and my husband went on a week-long drinking binge, leaving me terrified that he was actually going to be one of those people who drinks himself to death. If you have not walked this path, let me assure you, it is dreadful!
  • The economy tanked, so in addition to losing a quarter of the income from my job when my hours were cut, we lost a big chunk of income from my husband’s commission-based salary — with his two grown-up girls relying on us for college loans.
  • My mum started showing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, got lost in the Arizona desert, had to move into an assisted living home and promptly set it on fire. Again, if you have not faced this disease attacking someone you love … I pray you never have to. If you are facing it now, my heart goes out to you.
  • I developed a very painful (and humiliating) medical condition that required surgery, lengthy recovery, and yet persists to this day.
  • A hurricane hit our house!
  • My husband became fixated on my last boyfriend I had before him, and spent a solid six weeks drunk and terrorizing me regarding a night 20 years ago that I couldn’t even remember — before he went into rehab, came out and started drinking again.
  • Our new beloved terrier got lost (and found, thank God!), suffered bladder stones and had to have surgery, and nearly died from liver failure after being poisoned by a sago palm in our yard.

No, I wasn’t delirious with joy over any one of these events, but here’s the thing … each one nudged me closer to Christ, which is to say, closer to love, closer to joy, closer to peace. Each one forced me to a better place in God!

My painful heartaches led me to a place where I am more filled with joy, vitality, hope and love than ever before. My problems were there for my promotion. What Joel said was true, and in a much bigger way than he could even have imagined. Trust me. I’m a loser. And I’m telling you this.

I can honestly say, despite the bullets above — or maybe because of them — these days with Jesus, these past eight years that I have been coming to know Him, have been the happiest and best of my life. I can see now that my problems and struggles are where Jesus does His best work, and I would not change things.

Happy moms with plenty of money and healthy children have their little piece of heaven in their home … but I have heaven all the time, always with me, in Jesus, who holds my life in His.

Most winners have neither the time not the impetus to pursue God in this way. But we lucky losers do! Our lives didn’t turn out like we wanted, so we have nothing better to do than wait in silence and darkness for Jesus to meet with us and heal us. And when He does … WE WIN! We come into the fullness of relationship with Him, we come to know the One who is everything and the only thing!

Loser’s Guide to God’s Grace 09: What You Get

So if what you get by God’s grace is so much better than the “blessings” we’ve been praying and asking for, what is it? What do we get? I don’t know what you will get, but here’s what I got:

  1. LOVE. Love. Love. Love. It really shouldn’t be any wonder, because 1 John 4 tells us that “God is love.” Love is not an attribute of God’s, and love is not something He does, but Love is Who He Is. It is His very substance and being. When you sit still in God’s presence and ask Him to meet with you, it is love which comes seeping under the door and through the cracks in the caulking and flowing in any other way it can get in until it floods the room and carries you away. LOVE.
    And love that doesn’t end, that every time you think you have found the limit of it, you find there’s a new depth to it, or another facet of it, another way it illuminates your life and brings joy to your world. I don’t even know how to explain it, these levels, these depths, these ways you continually discover love. You become like a miser sitting with your hoard of gold, letting it tumble through your fingers, only it’s love that you’re running through your mind … God loves me incredibly, endlessly, overwhelmingly, completely, amazingly, strongly, deeply, everlastingly, transformatively, powerfully … on and on it goes, just love, love, love — and love that will carry you and assure you it is carrying everyone else, too. (Isaiah 9:3 says that because of Christ we rejoice “as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.” Yes, yes, yes! We are telling all our riches in Jesus and rejoicing in His love!)
    You find love for you flowing down from God, love deep and rich enough to flow out of you onto others.
  2. Joy. What a giddy sensation it is to discover that YOU are the object of divine love. To find that love has made His home in you and will never leave you. This is a joy that doesn’t depend on any circumstances, a joy which is your foundation even when times are hard, even when things hurt. You really can be happy just to be alive. It’s like being in love all the time … because you are in love. It’s joy. Joy. Joy.
  3. Peace. When you come to experience the love of Christ, you come to understand that He holds you so dear, He will let nothing befall you which will ultimately harm you. He will use even the things which do harm you to bring you to a deeper knowledge of His love. At least, this is how I have experienced it. Whenever a gnawing worry crops up, I hear His voice. “Do you trust me? Can you trust me?” And I do, and I can. If you can trust that no matter what, He is holding you fast, you will have peace, no matter what. What a promise!
  4. Compassion. In my former loser life, I was like old Scrooge, self-contained and solitary as an oyster. There were few people I loved, and fewer with whom I cared to share any close day-to-day relationship. I was closed-off and uncaring about the mass of mankind. But when you experience God’s love in a real and intimate way, it opens your heart to long for others to receive that love, too! I now find that God’s heart for others is pouring into me, and I have so much more patience, kindness and gentleness with others.
  5. Freedom from fear. Looking back at my loser life from this place of peace and security in my Beloved, I can more easily see that so much of life before was motivated by fear. Fear of course that people would find out what a loser I was, fear that I would piss my husband off, fear that we would run out of money, fear that America was a generation away from complete godlessness and bankruptcy. Some were reasonable fears, others not so much. But now, firmly founded in the love of Christ … none of these fears bother me. No fears bother me. It’s all love, joy and peace here … what is to fear?
  6. Grace. God gives you His unmerited favor … and you find yourself able to extend the same to others. Realizing that God has given me a big break, I am now able to give others a break, too. (This is not always as great as it sounds. My poor husband, I think, would like it much better if I were quite as crabby and sick of humanity as he is. But I don’t have the energy for any of that complaining and shouting and hand-waving. My energy is all reserved for loving, approving and including. Grace-giving. Even to him!)

Loser’s Guide to God’s Grace 08: What Finding Jesus Did

Now Jesus had healed my broken heart and fixed me up just fine. Or, rather, He healed my broken heart and is fixing me up just fine. It’s an ongoing thing. We still meet every day. And of course we walk together every moment of every day. And every now and then He does another little tweak inside me.

But this is all internal, right? It is healing happening inside me. What meeting with Jesus and receiving His love didn’t do was

  • Get me the baby I wanted.
  • Get me a better job or the respect of my old job back.
  • Make my husband want a baby with me or consider adoption.
  • Make my husband desire me more sexually.
  • Get me a car with a great stereo and a home by the sea.

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So I am still the loser I was. Except everything is different! I am not a desperate loser who looks at the next 40 years with dread because there is no point to living! I am a happy loser with a song in my heart who shares every moment with the One who knows me fully, loves me completely, and every moment is transforming me into the image of Himself, or I would say, into the very substance of Himself, which is love. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE! This is what you discover in God’s grace poured out on you.

God is Love. He loves YOU. He’s not mad at you! He’s not punishing you! He never dreams of punishing you. He was and is willing to give up everything just to be with you. Oh my goodness! If you really experience this, directly from Christ Himself, you cannot stay a sad and broken-hearted loser.

I know it sounds stupid. If what you want is a cool car, a great house, a good-looking mate … and what I offer you is the intimate knowledge of God’s love … well, you can’t eat it or show it off or sell it for something better. I mean, it’s nice, but what good is it, right?

That’s exactly why this is so difficult to explain to someone who is not experiencing it. It sounds like it’s all ethereal and spiritual and nothing you can touch and hold in the here and now. But it isn’t! This love, this experience of God’s love, it turns out, is more REAL, more SOLID, more ENDURING than any mere car, house, lover or bankbook. In fact, it freaking liberates you from longing for the car, the house, the lover, the bankbook. It sets you free to live like a king no matter what your circumstances. This is why the Apostle Paul could say that he knew how to live in plenty or in want (Philippians 4:12) … because when you are experiencing the intimate love of Christ, you have, already, everything you need.

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Back to the question: What good is this intimate experience of the love of Christ if it doesn’t get you what you want? Here’s the thing: it does get you what you want. Because the more you experience Him, the more you realize, Jesus is what you want. He becomes your passion. And He is willing to give Himself abundantly to you. You don’t get all the cool stuff you want right now— you get something so much better, it’s not hardly even possible to explain the distance between them.

C S Lewis said it this way, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Far too easily pleased! Yes! If you would choose a cool car, a hot spouse and a great house over infinite joy, then you really are a loser. Just kidding. But I don’t want you to think that apprehending the joy of intimate relationship with Jesus is necessarily going to get you a lot of material blessings. It will get you something so much better and beyond material blessings, your whole perspective will be transformed, and your life will feel like it’s beginning again.