Fragrance of Christ

Was listening to an old sermon online just now (thanks Pastor Dan) and he expressed a concept close to my heart so beautifully and efficiently…

We want to smell like Christ.  To have the fragrance of Christ.  To show forth Jesus, not us.

That expresses one of the secret wishes of my heart, you know – those special things, that you don’t tell people, ’cause they won’t get it?

When I was growing up, there were a few older ladies who just glowed.  Not their physical bodies, but if you got close to them, you could *tell* they’d had Jesus in their lives, and for a good long time, too.  I always wanted to grow up to be someone like *that*.  Someone whose relationship with the Lord just shone, no matter if they were discussing their grocery list or how to trim the dog’s toenails.   They were saturated in the Spirit.

I want that.

I want to go around my life and have people see Christ and smell His presence about me, even if I’m at the vet or having the oil changed in the car.  And as I’m sitting here, He’s just spoken to me about why I try *so hard* to be noticed.  I’ve been trying to make *myself* sparkly so that people might get interested and somehow see Him.  But that’s the wrong way of going about it!!  That’s making the colors in the stained glass more vivid and getting in the way of the light that shines through the panes.

I’ve always wanted to make a difference.  To change things.  To change hearts, to change lives, to show forth the glory of God.

There’s a couple of characters in literature that describe the temporal and eternal nature of this desire – I am so GLAD for Art, because Science can’t get ahold of this descriptor.  And I am shy of admitting these, because they are so very far above me that I am ashamed – as if I dirty the hem by even dreaming so high.

The first is the priest in The Ball and The Cross by Chesterton.  So pure in his faith… ach.  To be so blessed.  The second is in Lewis’ The Great Divorce, the character of Sarah Smith.  Far too grand, either one of them, for a girl like me… but this is the call of my heart.  This is what I want.

2 Corinthians 2:14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. 15 For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; 16 to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things?

And now I have succinct words for the prayer of my heart.

Lord, let me have Your fragrance today.

Study Notes: A change in prayer

I have been changing my prayer style lately, which I’m going to talk about in a sec.  First, these were part of my devotional reading for the day, and I’ve bolded what hit me between the eyes.

2 Corinthians 10:3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, 6 and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.

Psalm 55

Prayer for the Destruction of the Treacherous. For the choir director; on stringed instruments. A Maskil of David.

1 Give ear to my prayer, O God;
And do not hide Yourself from my supplication.
2 Give heed to me and answer me;
I am restless in my complaint and am surely distracted,
3 Because of the voice of the enemy,
Because of the pressure of the wicked;
For they bring down trouble upon me
And in anger they bear a grudge against me.

4 My heart is in anguish within me,
And the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
5 Fear and trembling come upon me,
And horror has overwhelmed me.
6 I said, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest.
7 “Behold, I would wander far away,
I would lodge in the wilderness. Selah.
8 “I would hasten to my place of refuge
From the stormy wind and tempest.”

9 Confuse, O Lord, divide their tongues,
For I have seen violence and strife in the city.
10 Day and night they go around her upon her walls,
And iniquity and mischief are in her midst.
11 Destruction is in her midst;
Oppression and deceit do not depart from her streets.

12 For it is not an enemy who reproaches me,
Then I could bear it;
Nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me,
Then I could hide myself from him.
13 But it is you, a man my equal,
My companion and my familiar friend;
14 We who had sweet fellowship together
Walked in the house of God in the throng.
15 Let death come deceitfully upon them;
Let them go down alive to Sheol,
For evil is in their dwelling, in their midst.

16 As for me, I shall call upon God,
And the Lord will save me.
17 Evening and morning and at noon, I will complain and murmur,
And He will hear my voice.
18 He will redeem my soul in peace from the battle which is against me,
For they are many who strive with me.
19 God will hear and answer them—
Even the one who sits enthroned from of old— Selah.
With whom there is no change,
And who do not fear God.
20 He has put forth his hands against those who were at peace with him;
He has violated his covenant.
21 His speech was smoother than butter,
But his heart was war;
His words were softer than oil,
Yet they were drawn swords.

22 Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you;
He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.
23 But You, O God, will bring them down to the pit of destruction;
Men of bloodshed and deceit will not live out half their days.
But I will trust in You.

So you know I’ve been talking lately about the difference between trust and control.  How this has played out is learning to pray differently.  From the experience of change after I trusted God completely in His way and time, not my own, I decided that instead of doing the normal thing where I pray for specifics, I’m praying situations.

I mean, it’s not like there’s not a long list of stuff that I haven’t had on the prayer request list for years.  I’ve already ASKED.  So, when things bug me, it’s like, “God, I’m sad/angry/concerned about this today.”

It’s very counter-intuitive.  I’m not saying, “I pray X for this situation” and figuring out on my own how God should best fix something or what He should provide.  Not how I learned to pray, believe me – I mean, how often have you had someone ask you to pray for a certain specific thing instead of the big thing?  We have such small ideas about what God could do.  I think our lack of faith must make Him sad sometimes.

I thought the line about “being restless in my complaint” and “every morning I will complain and murmur” sounded a lot like me lately.  But that’s being honest with God and not trying to pretend that I’m happy while I’m waiting.  Trust is a choice, not an emotion.   Lying to God, including hypocrisy, where I pretend like I’m not in the headspace that I most assuredly AM in, is pretty stupid.  I do it anyway, and I’m trying to unlearn that.

Prayer is so powerful.  We (me?) like to think our actions are more powerful than our prayers, but what does Scripture say?  The weapons of our warfare (aka prayer and scripture, Eph 6) are divinely powerful.

And then listen, which isn’t something we talk about much… I mean, doesn’t everyone hear God when He wants you to do or say something?  So, you obey that still small voice.  That’s important too.

Or why I’m babbling out this very disorganized blog.😀

But I want to see God work wonders.  I should let Him get on with working them, instead of micromanaging the Creator of the universe.

What did you get?  What’s God been speaking into your life recently?

Faith and Patience/Trust and Control

One of the big realizations that I had while I was at the retreat was that patience is a very large component of lived faith.

Hebrews 11:1  Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval.

Hebrews 6:11  And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

When you think of the patriarchs, you realize that patience + obedience = faith.  It’s not an emotion.  (God never asks us to generate emotions.  Thinking we have to generate a certain emotion to be “good Christians” is one of the fast-tracks to hypocrisy.  Let’s start by lying to God about how we feel!  Yay!  Good plan!  Not.)

Abraham is the first example of faith in the Bible… God said, “I’ll give you descendants like the stars in the sky” and “leave home and go here”.  Abraham left.  But no kids.  No kids.  No kids.  Eventually Sarah passed menopause and said, “Well – clearly no kids with me.  But I have a handmaiden…” which shows you how “helping” God generally works out.  Only a few thousand years of war in the Middle-East.  Ja.  No prob.

God reiterated His promise to Abraham, and Sarah had Abraham’s child.  Obedience + patience = faith.

How about David?  How many years did he wander around and hide in caves after he was anointed as Israel’s next king before Saul finally died?  Patience.  And obedience – because he could have offed Saul and catapulted to kingship decades before the crown came to him in God’s time.   But he didn’t.  He waited, and God blessed him beyond his wildest dreams.

That’s a crazy thing about faith… it is interwoven with trust.  Trust that God will provide.    And there you get another component – this time, an opposite.  Trust wars with control.   I might trust God perfectly to give me exactly what His will for me to have is, but sometimes I want what *I* want (and in my time too, thanks).    Have you ever heard it preached that God answers our prayers with three possible answers?  “Yes”, “Later”, and “I have something better for you”?  *

There’s trust.  Trust that God will come through in good time.  Trust that God’s ways are better than our ways.  Just … having faith that God will handle it, whatever “it” is.

Matthew 6:29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31 Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’

My pastor keeps a picture box of items of faith – times in his life where God has come through for him.   I’ve always thought of it as a good witnessing tool, but at the moment, I’m thinking of it as an assistance to remember to be patient and obedient and honest – and to trust.

When I think about my own life, I could fill a box myself.  The provision when I couldn’t see a way, after our son was born.  My wedding ring.  The t-shirt my husband wore to be re-baptized in.    The screws from my foot – and a picture of me lifting 265lb, barefoot.

When I think about that and remember, the very first thing I want to do is beat myself up for not having the emotion of faith and not “feeling like” being patient.  But I’m stopping myself.  Because I remember, in those moments of struggle, I wasn’t peaceful and zen – I was sobbing at the foot of the cross.   I was naked and honest and real – and I trusted, because there was no possibility of me taking control.  The problems were insurmountable by human hands – and in every case, I was blessed beyond my wildest dreams.

So now, when the problems in my life are problems that the World (and my own human nature) encourage me to seize by the horns and wrestle to the ground, I have a choice.  I can continue to try to take control – or I can learn to obey, be patient, and trust.  It won’t be by human means.  It won’t be in my time.  And I *will* be blessed beyond measure.

And so, to God be the glory, great things He has done.




*I don’t know how that relates to praying for someone’s salvation, btw.  How could there be something better?   Is everyone whose salvation is requested eventually saved?  If so, we need to start handing out pages of the telephone book at church services.



Am I Enough?

The question at the heart of the folly of hypocrisy and the need for control is, “Am I enough?”

We know that the Law is a schoolmaster, and we know that it’s a fool who goes his own way and starts adding 2+2=5 simply because he’s not under authority.  But what else did the Law serve to teach us?

Romans 3:20  because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.

The Law teaches us that we are sinners.

And the Law is written on all hearts… because even the unsaved know that they are sinners, and seek to be evaluated as truly good.  Simply because the unsaved don’t accede to the Torah does not mean that they don’t set up rules for themselves.   Humans like rules.  Ever more complicated rules, ever higher standards for purity and holiness – regardless of what we consider the mark, we make it hard to achieve.

Colossians 2: 21 “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!”22 (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men?  [Note – “commandments and teachings of MEN” – humans.  We do this.  It’s us.]

We continue to seek after this enoughness, even though we know that we are *not* righteous in and of ourselves.  We still want to *be* righteous in ourselves.

Romans 3:10 as it is written,“There is none righteous, not even one; 11 There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God;12 all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one.

It’s confusing, because after salvation, we neither become temporally perfect (I know that we’re positionally pure before God, washed clean in the Blood – but that doesn’t mean I never exceed the speed limit) nor are we returned to our unsaved condition.  We know that we don’t *have* to work, yet we’re supposed to surrender ourselves.   I mean, if you’re not after cheap grace, you care about this.  You care that you’re glorifying God and doing right by Him.

Romans 6:12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

It’s not as if Paul didn’t get this.

Romans 7: 14 For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 16 But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. 17 So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

21 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

Romans 8: For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Well enough – the mind set on flesh (the Law – any law) is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life.  But now we’re going back to “present your bodies a living sacrifice”?  How do I do that?

Romans 12: 1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

The very next verses discuss the gifts of the Spirit.   I have two main gifts and have used others as it has suited the Lord.  (Exhortation, counsel – and I guess mercy, though I’ve never really thought of it as a ‘gift’, more as a ‘fruit’.  Sometimes I have a Word for someone, usually that’s in groups).

Romans 12:6 Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith;7 if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; 8 or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

The gift of exhortation… I don’t like it when people praise me for it (especially since it isn’t ME – it’s God, and so that’s just totally weird), but at the same time, I do look at lives to see if there is change.   Same with counsel.  “Have I done enough?  Have I said enough?  Was I enough?  Should I go back and do more?  Say more?  How can I affect change?”  If you have the gift of evangelism, you *know* when your gift was “enough”.  If you serve, well, a clean room is a clean room.   My gifts are nebulous.  They aren’t quantifiable.   “Did I talk to the right people today?  Did I talk to enough people?  Who else needs a little encouragement?   Did I let X down? ….”  Believe me, this goes on and on and ON.

And that brings me to where I started… the way God works with seeds and harvests.  (Honestly, exhortation is more like watering, which only adds to the confusion!)

I Corinthians 3: 5 What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.

Consistently, throughout Scripture, God says that it is HIS job to increase/decrease the harvest.  My gifts don’t even really lend themselves to harvests, if you want the truth.  I’m wandering off somewhere else with a watering can and a ball of twine to tie up loose vines.  Continually trying to evaluate myself in the flesh is pointless and painful.  So, how do I fix this empty “enough” box?

  • Continue to study and apply Scripture to my life, daily.  I can’t possibly allow myself to go rogue – staying in Scripture is mandatory.  As is seeking good, solid Bible teaching.   More Bible = More Better.
  • Pray and seek God’s will.  Lots of prayer, lots of being real with God, not allowing hypocrisy to sneak into my relationship with the Almighty.
  • Remain in the Spirit.  Ask the Holy Spirit, every day, to enable me to do what needs doing, say what needs saying, and direct me to where I need to go and to whom I need to speak.
  • And the hard one… Let Go. I know too much to think that “let go and let God” means that I sit on my tail and laze about, that last is HARD.  And I *want* to be able to evaluate myself in the flesh.  But I can’t.  Mind firmly set on the Spirit and on the now – these are not my strengths, people!

So, where does that lead me?  It leads me to the Spirit, to leaning on God, to not leaning on my own understanding.  It leads me to a very uncomfortable place, where I start learning what faith and patience *really* mean.  But that’s for another day…

Leaven of the Pharisees

I had a rush of brains to the head last night, and I wanted to write it down before it left again.

Why is the leaven of the Pharisees so tempting?  (It’s hypocrisy, btw).

Because.  It’s so much EASIER to deal with the outside than the inside.   And you can check off outside stuff on a list of, “this is what makes me a good person”.   Did the thing?  Check.  Said the right words?  Check.

It starts out as a way to self-judge and feel halfway competent, but like yeast, it grows into a place where you only check the outside and ignore the inside.

It’s tempting ’cause we want to know how we’re doing – and focusing on outside stuff tells us how we’re doing.


That’s not really the point of our lives, being shiny on the outside.

Be not weary in well-doing

Those of you who follow my assortment of blogs know that I’ve been pretty frazzled of late.  This weekend I had an opportunity to go to the annual women’s retreat that our church runs, and I got de-frazzlified.  Sort of, at any rate.  :D  (This introvert has had enough crowds and strangers for a **while**.  Always remember that anything that CC runs is extrovert friendly, so for “retreat” read “conference”).  I have my center re-centered, the “why are there PEOPLE everywhere, and why are they so noisy” will die down in a bit.

Anywho.  One of the myriad (intersecting) lessons I brought home was, “be not weary in well-doing”.  Totally not the theme of the conference.

I’ve been working hard in several different veins this spring and summer, and it seems for all my hard work, nothing is happening.  There is a very long list of souls that I pray for … and I don’t see change.  Just, there’s a lot of stuff.  I’m a busy rabbit, always trying.

This was the first verse that God sent my way this weekend:

Proverbs 3:5-6  Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

Trust.  I do trust God, but … my trust was being worn thin.  I was trying to control the Almighty, control His timing, control His works.   Why do we seek control?  Because trust is waning.  Whatever your mind might say, the grasping for control is a sign that your heart is moving away from confidence.

Very much like Toad in this children’s story ( I had forgotten that it might be me who sows the seed, but it is GOD who gives the increase.  Completely.   And I’ve had some fun with that metaphor and gone deep, and I’m planning to go deeper still.  Not today.

I can’t judge my “goodbunnyness” by the harvest, because harvest time isn’t now.   How am I supposed to know if I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing?  By knowing the Word of God and the Will of God, which I do.

Galatians 6:Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. 10 So then,while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.

For me, it’s been a weekend to refresh and remind myself to trust in God.  Not just with my head, but with my heart.  My Heavenly Father will take me where I need to go – and it’s not ALWAYS the dentist, I can loosen up a bit.  I need to relax and return to a sweet expectancy.  I am reminded that God is the One who gives the increase…

I Corinthians 3: 5 What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.

This weekend was a time of refreshment, a time to remember to look to God, not this (extremely) fallen world.  And not to worry about the harvest, just to keep doing what I do, what God puts in front of me to do, and get on with it.  God’s got this – and He is blessing me greatly.  (And to not get stressed out and get in the way of blessings either, because I don’t feel worthy.  Whatevs, God does what He wants and I’m just going to enjoy).

More trust.  Less control.  More joy.  Did you know that a lack of trust strangles joy?  It does.

It was a good time.  There will be more.

A deficiency in vocabulary: various topics

Various snibbets with the same theme:  When our vocabulary deteriorates, so does social discourse.  This is not helped, of course, by carrying out most of our discourse on twitter or FB in 50 words or less.   Some things that have been running through my head, explained at length.

Wholesome vs. Grotesque (thanks wiki)

Grotesque:  Since at least the 18th century (in French and German as well as English), grotesque has come to be used as a general adjective for the strange, fantastic, ugly, incongruous, unpleasant, or disgusting, and thus is often used to describe weird shapes and distorted forms such as Halloween masks. In art, performance, and literature, however, grotesque may also refer to something that simultaneously invokes in an audience a feeling of uncomfortable bizarreness as well as sympathetic pity. More specifically, the grotesque forms on Gothic buildings, when not used as drain-spouts, should not be called gargoyles, but rather referred to simply as grotesques, or chimeras.



Lately, in popular culture, the grotesque has been more and more embraced.  One might debate the whys of the popularity of grotesquerie, but the fact that it is the art of the moment cannot be debated.  Art exists to convey emotion, and to express the truth that cannot be put into words.

Wholesomeness, in contrast, is largely left to foodstuffs these days.  Wholesomeness in aesthetics, in people, in nature, is considered a bit reactionary and old-fashioned.  In the tug of war between grotesque and wholesomeness, public favor has turned firmly towards the grotesque.

I don’t care for the grotesque, although I can appreciate the various artforms in which it appears, and can appreciate the statement that is being made.  Perhaps it is because I do care about the statements made by public display that I dislike grotesquerie so much?  Distortion is not health.

When I see wholesome beauty, I am so struck … it is so uncommon… truly I am filled with emotion, usually awe and appreciation for the Master Artist’s work. It just makes me happy.


Foreboding:  (

noun – 1.a prediction; portent.2.a strong inner feeling or notion of a future misfortune, evil, etc.;presentiment.

adjective – 3.that forebodes, especially evil.
When I say that I’m filled with a sense of foreboding about the future of our nation, about the election and the fallout therefrom, I’m not saying that I’m afraid.  I see bad things coming, this makes me sad.  I mourn, I do not fear.  Well, not for myself.
Just generally, I look around and I see so many trends that bring me great sadness.  I know that this is how it’s going now, and my job is to continue to be salt and light until my dying breath, but being flesh, I wish for fleshly good.  I wish for prosperity and peace and community, the laughter of babes, and craftsmanship.  Beauty.  Beauty affects me, and ugliness causes me to retract my heart.
Tonight is Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Jewish New Year.  I wish you all a good year, regardless of my forebodings.  At least, it shouldn’t be boring…