Trespassing By Permission Only

Wait… what?

Every time I pass this sign on an empty lot I shake my head. “TRESPASSING BY PERMISSION ONLY”

Wait… what?

If you have permission to trespass are you not still trespassing? Is trespassing not a boundary violation thus implying a, you know, violation?

Is this permission to trespass like the greasy grace I hear people talking about, the definition of grace that says sin has no consequences because everything past and future has been forgiven? I met a person who insisted that any effort to live a righteous life rejected the grace of God and proved they had a works-based picture of salvation. She left a broken relationship debris trail in her wake.

Is this a trick or a Mission Impossible set-up? We want you to go do this thing, but should you be apprehended we shall disavow any knowledge of you or permission given. Intrigue may be the stuff of fascinating film plots, but it’s not the stuff of a lifestyle of integrity that earns respect or votes in the next selection of committee chairperson.

Is this a case of the owner of the property and the administrator of the property disagreeing on who is in charge? I’ve had supervisors like that. Boss #1: All forms must be submitted in triplicate, no exceptions. Boss #2: Ignore that policy. It takes too long. One copy is good enough. Here’s an impossible pile of work for you to complete by closing today. It feels like being free to choose your executioner.

Is this the kind of rule that does not apply equally? I know people who think traffic rules apply only to stupid people with slow reaction time, and they, being neither stupid nor slow, are not subject to laws that impede their agenda. Drive the legal speed limit in the left lane and they will let you know which category they consider you to be in. I also know people qualified by knowledge and hazmat suits who dare to go where others do not, but are they trespassing by permission, or those ordained by legal authority are they boldly re-taking polluted territory?

Is this a rule that is actually a valid rule or did someone assume they could stick up a sign any old place and claim squatters’ rights the way an intimidating person with a snarling dog claims a patch of pavement in a part of town Mama told you to avoid? Jesus was not afraid to confront demonic squatters who claimed ownership of suffering souls. “He is mine!” they cried. “No, he is not. Get out!” he said firmly. They left and he destroyed their signs.

Is this the kind of law that made sense in a different time and a different culture but is a source of humour now? We laugh at some ancient rules still on the books for lack of a good clean-up. They may have been based on consideration or expediency at the time, but no longer apply. In the town of Saywhat, Saskatchewan, it is illegal to tie your hog to the statue of the mayor on Tuesdays. Is it always better to remain single or was that advice given for a time of severe persecution in the first century in Thessalonica? Must a woman be silent in the presence of all men forever or was Paul’s advice to Timothy meant to be a temporary measure to establish some kind of order in a place that had no grid for freedom with consideration?

Is this the kind of sign that indicates a significant change in the way we assumed God works? I sympathize with Peter, a life-time rule-keeper, who was given a repeated vision of formerly forbidden food before realizing God was asking him to take the good news beyond boundaries he had always known. How would I respond? I would hope that I had the discernment to be very sure this was God speaking to me, but I would probably want more than three repetitions, an audible voice and a committee knocking at the door.

If I think I have heard the voice of God telling me to trespass, either the boundary is not really a boundary, or it is not really the voice of God.

Or does this sign merely snag the attention of picky people who think too much? Maybe I just need to see it as a reminder that gracious people can glance at a sign, smile, and say I know what they meant. Good enough.

 


Ancient Words: Changing Me, Changing You

The artist who created these masks, a therapist who helps people overcome addictions, gave me permission to share his work. I was deeply moved when he explained their meaning to me.

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As I recall, the first mask represents the moment when demon addiction can no longer be kept hidden behind an everything’s-fine façade.

The second mask symbolizes the honest appraisal of that realizes both a dark side and a light side exist in the same person.

The face in the third mask is covered with words from Psalm 51, in which the broken-hearted writer admits the need for forgiveness and appeals to God to create in him a clean heart and to restore his joy. The promises of God become his new covering. “You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O, God.”

The passage is written in Medieval Hebrew script. It is followed by the Lord’s prayer in Greek. “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”

These are some of the verses in the psalm that stood out to me:

Have mercy on me, O God,
because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion,
blot out the stain of my sins.

For I recognize my rebellion;
it haunts me day and night.

Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;
I have done what is evil in your sight…

Wash me clean from my guilt.
Purify me from my sin…

Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Renew a loyal spirit within me…

Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and make me willing to obey you.

Then I will teach your ways to rebels,
and they will return to you.

Unseal my lips, O Lord,
that my mouth may praise you.

You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one.
You do not want a burnt offering.

The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God…

(Selected verses from Psalm 51 NLT)

 

I believe true change of  heart needs more than an understanding of what motivated us to make the choices we did and gearing up for another attempt at exerting willpower. True change is insight and an effort to change powered by Gods`s grace that heals our hearts and creates an entirely new person through Jesus Christ.

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The song, Ancient Words, by Michael W Smith is playing in my mind.

Holy words long preserved
For our walk in this world,
Oh let the ancient words impart
Courage, peace, a loving heart.

Words of Life, words of Hope
Give us strength, help us cope
In this world, where e’er we roam
Ancient words will guide us Home.

Ancient words ever true
Changing me, and changing you.
Oh let the ancient words impart
A moving, quick incisive dart.

 

 

 

 

Robed

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Everything in the department store that had been such a part of my life growing up was discounted. Changes. The store was closing. I had time between appointments in Calgary so I dropped by the mall for the close-out sale. I left the North Hill neighbourhood long ago and unexpected memories hit me as soon as I passed the bus stop outside the door. As I picked up a few items (in what my mother would have called the foundation department) I had a flashback to when my friends and I spent our emerging freedom hanging out at the mall.

Fashion is about change. The marketing and design managers probably switched the fitting rooms’ location many times over the intervening decades, but suddenly I heard the laughter of teenage friends as we tried on clothes.

“Does this suit me?” the girl who used to be me asked, checking herself out in the three-way mirror.

“No! You look like a missionary!” Ruth blurted.

She tried on a clinging satin dress with a plunging neckline. “How about this?” she asked, trying to keep a straight face.

“Now you look like a tramp!!” Lois answered, feigning shock. “Your mother would hate it! Yes! Get it!”

They giggled and gave the next girl their judgment as she struck a pose in garments decorated with dangling price tags they ignored. It’s like the girls put on a new identity with every new item of clothing.

We came from a culture where the standards of modesty made it difficult to find fashions that fit everyone’s criterion. Our mothers often sewed our clothes themselves. My grandmother called mini skirts “worldly.” When my mother, who learned English from reading Dickens novels, joined me in the fitting room she would say, “It behooves one to dress in a manner more befitting to a girl with higher standards. This is unbecoming.”

Unbecoming. I did not like the word unbecoming. She used it when my summer shorts were too short, or when I didn’t sit like a lady, or when my voice was too loud, or when my silent sulking fits had all the subtlety of a this-week-only salesman with a megaphone. She was right of course, most of the time, which is why she was so annoying. “This is not the direction I have in mind for you.”

I’ve been meditating on the connection between righteousness and peace this week. I looked up antonyms of the word righteousness because sometimes considering the opposite meaning helps me understand – and I’m trying to see beyond the negative parameters of rule-following that make me want to run in the opposite direction. One of the words listed caught my attention. Unbecoming. I can almost hear it in Mom’s voice. Then I read this passage about being clothed with righteousness.

I will rejoice greatly in the LORD,
My soul will exult in my God;
For He has clothed me with garments of salvation,
He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
And as a garden causes the things sown in it to spring up,
So the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise
To spring up before all the nations.
(Isaiah 61: 10, 11 NAS)

Unrighteousness is a destructive attitude. It does not help us to become. It does the opposite; it unravels the beauty God intended for us to walk in. There is a great deal more to righteousness than obeying rules. In fact, clothing ourselves in manufactured rules of conduct that change behaviour but not the heart may not be befitting at all. When we choose to follow the folly of false distractions we fail to choose life. We un-become.

We can choose instead to let wrap Jesus wrap his robe of righteousness around us. Our own home-made efforts embarrass by comparison. They are also unbecoming because they do not represent grace-empowered transformation that enables us to blossom and be all God intended. Righteousness is right thinking, coming into alignment with the Creator’s plans for us (the one who loves us perfectly, understands the future and our potential perfectly and is much better at this than our moms who had their own agendas mixed up in their motives).

A line from an old song comes to mind, “Dressed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before His throne…”

 

 

 

 

Grace-fountain Strength

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But Lord, your nurturing love is tender and gentle,

You are slow to get angry, yet swift to show your faithful love,

You are full of abounding grace and truth.

Bring me to your grace-fountain

So that your strength becomes mine.

(Psalm 86: 15, 16 TPT)

You can’t give what you have never received. If the message you have been hearing is that you are a disgusting wretched sinner who (in spite of years of failed efforts) needs to gather up the shreds of your tattered will and try harder, you need to step into the grace fountain and soak up some love.

Let the Shepherd nurture you with His tender, gentle love. Let His strength become your strength and his grace flow through you, not around you. Let the Holy Spirit living in you transform you from a wretch to royalty.

There is a war going on. Hostages of the evil one are believing his lies and acting on them in the streets. You see it.

You are not a victim. You are not without hope. You are loved by the King of the Universe.

You were born for such a time as this.