Stacy Voss

See life differently. Live courageously.

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Ashamed of the Gospel

As I sit in one of my favorite spots on my little patio behind by bedroom with twinkling lights I wanted to share a few things that have been on my mind this week. They aren’t anything deep, or perhaps it doesn’t feel like it is, yet I find it keeps shaking me to my core.

Trust has been my key lesson the past few days. It’s a little ironic because if you asked me even a week ago, I’d say I had a lot of faith. Yes, hi Ms. Arrogant. Sorry.

Actually, I haven’t just been schooled on trust (and apparently humility, too!), I’m also learning about integrity in ways like never before. I know someone who had a choice to stand up for her beliefs and worth risking the value of all the houses on my street put together. We’re talking big-time money on the line. I’ve heard stories of people being forced to either spit on a picture of Jesus and live or refuse and die. Her options weren’t necessarily as black and white, at least not in my mind. I envisioned grey. Correction: I encouraged grey. Hoped for it. Even thought she was a little nuts for avoiding it.

“I won’t compromise,” she said. “People need the truth. Jesus is the truth.”

She has no idea how much she’s inspired me. You see, my faith normally is a between God and me thing, something wrestled in the confines of my home without others really knowing about it. But to make it public, to stand firm on it even when it costs everything?

I waited outside the high school to pick my daughter up today. I can’t stand carpool lines, so I park at the back of the school, the place where those kids to hang out. You know, the ones who use that substance that Colorado politicians decided to make legal even though the federal government is opposed to it and the kids who use more expletives in a sentence than I normally hear in a week.

I normally flip a u-ie to park across from this gathering, but I got there a few minutes late today, meaning their party had already started and was pouring into the street, making it harder to turn around without hitting anyone. So I pulled up to the curb, puffs of smoke wafting past my car.

I contemplated rolling down my windows as I waited for my Girlie, but quickly decided against it.

Why?

I wish I could say it had everything to do with wanting to avoid letting their smoke fill my car, but here’s the gut-honest truth: I was playing Christian music.

What will they think? I caught myself inquiring.

Really? Do I seriously care what a group of high school students thinks about me?

Apparently so.

Romans 1:16 says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” I, however, can’t say that I’m not ashamed of the gospel. Oh how I wish I could, but even something as silly as taking my hand off the automatic window lever reveals the true condition of my heart.

My friend doesn’t know the outcome of her stand yet. I won’t say that she doesn’t care what the result will be because she does. Deeply. What she stands to lose will affect her along with many other people.  Despite this, she understands all too well that what she promises to share won’t just affect her, either, for as Romans 1:16 also says, the gospel is the power of God to bring salvation. It is that transforming power that causes her to proclaim her faith with the windows down.

My bathroom light has a wiring problem that causes it to overheat after a few minutes and go black. Joking with my kids, I changed the words to a familiar song and belted out, “this little light of mine. I don’t like to shine.”

But just like I have a work order in with my general contractor (thanks, dad!) to avoid using my camping lantern in the bathroom, I’m asking the Great Physician to do some work on this heart of mine.

Because, after all, lights were made to shine.

Stacy Voss

Transformation through Cleansing

Sometimes I see truth more clearly through nature. Case in point: this picture above (which admittedly doesn’t do it much justice). Bear with me as I explain what the lens didn’t capture. Immediately to my right is a pond, a green, murky body of water that probably has every water-borne disease known to man.

Across the way just a few feet is another pond, this one so clear you can see tiny fish fretting to and fro. Lily pads cover portions of the water, its flowers adding another layer of beauty.

Why are the two ponds so different? Well, it can’t be because of elevation since they’re located so close to each other and the ground separating the two is level. That also rules out water supply. The main distinction is that the clean pond has a filter, as evidenced from the ripples constantly bubbling out of the center, whereas the other is stagnant. Both started as clean bodies of water, but as bacteria fell into each, there was a way for it to be removed in one whereas it was given a way to grow and breed in the other.

Sounds familiar, right?

If I’m honest, I don’t know which pond I’d prefer to be. I’d like to think I’d vote for the prettier of the two, the one that has benches lining its shore so people like me can get lost in thought while gazing at it. But in addition to the filters scattered throughout, the clean pond has another distinction: waders. I saw four women with fly fishing waders walk into the water and pull out the larger debris. They yanked roots of lily pads, not allowing them to overtake the entire surface. They tossed dead wood that fell from the overhanging trees into the trash. Their efforts paid off, but as one who has endured many storms resulting in people wading in to rip out the garbage of my life, the stagnant waters begin to hold more appeal. Well, at least until I recall the odor of the green pool. Talk about foul! Eww!

Let me state what is probably obvious to all but me: growth can occur, even during the mellow times. It’s a revolutionary concept since the periods of calm lasting more than a handful of hours during the previous decade are sparse. It can basically be summed as ten+ years of debris-chucking. The pain made me lean more on God than ever before.

The main differences between the two ponds are:

  1. the cleaner of the two has a filter that constantly purifies. We are offered this as believers if we let the word of God and the spirit penetrate and transform.
  2. One stayed clean due to additional forms of cleansing. If a body of water had feelings, I dare say it would have hurt as people walked in and ripped things out. We don’t sign up for the pain and heartache, but when it comes (yes, when), we can let it be a way to clean and transform us.

I’m changing my vote as I want to be a vessel that can be used by God, which most likely means that more of me needs to be cleaned out so that He can move in more powerful ways.

Stacy Voss

When the Light Burst

This week’s eclipse prompted me to share Day 38 from my upcoming book, Reflecting Easter: Understanding and Living the Resurrection.

What happens when the only thing illuminating the darkness is extinguished? It gets dark, of course. Watch as science and faith intersect:

“From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land.” Matthew 27:45

Could it be that as Christ hung on the cross, the light of the world’s flickering flame flickered cast dark shadows across the earth? If this happened late at night, it wouldn’t have been notable, but it happened during the hottest part of the day. It was as if the very earth was mourning the loss of its Creator.

This will come as no surprise to you, but I love me a good story. I don’t just hear the events, but quickly connect each fact with emotions (even when I don’t know what they were). Indulge me as my mind does the same here.

You see, we’re told that it was dark for three hours. In the middle of the day. Strange, right? Absolutely (unless of course you were in one of the places where there was totality this week and you saw the stars come out in the middle of the day).

But what about when it was “un-dark?” Was it a slow warming of the sun, shining beautiful rays of oranges, pinks and purples across the landscape? That wouldn’t make sense since it wasn’t a sunrise at 3 pm.

Some have said there was an eclipse. That very well could be the case, but I have my own theory. It will never be confirmed by theologians, but it stretches my thinking just the same. Take a virtual tour of the temple with me as I present my speculation.

The temple had literal barriers in it. One was a short wall, designating the place where Gentiles couldn’t pass. Another was a more well-known divider, separating the Holy of Holies from everything else. The high priest could only enter once a year on the Day of Atonement—and even then he had a rope tied around his ankle in case the presence of the Lord was too powerful and struck him dead (yes, truly, they would drag the priest out by his ankle to bury him—let that one settle in for a minute!).

I don’t think the barrier was something that most wished to be removed. I mean, if the High Priest might die in the Holy of Holies, what chance did a layman have? Its like when I took my kids to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison several years ago. It’s a magnificent sight, yet touring it stressed me to no end as my little guy ran to and fro on loose sand near the edge of a deep cavern. I grabbed that kid’s hand and wouldn’t let go until I had him safely back inside the minivan.

Okay, let me clarify: he was probably feet from the edge, maybe even more, but in this mom’s eye, that was still too close.

Why? Because death is real.

Same was true with what laid on the other side of the barrier, not because God is mean and punishing, but because He is so  holy that the only way to access Him in that holiest place was to be incredibly clean, too.

Fat chance, right? But that’s the most exquisite beauty of Easter. Our Savior was anything but clean in that moment. Strips of flesh had already been torn off from the whip. Blood streamed from where the crown of thorns pierced the brow and out of the long stakes attaching him to the cross. But that doesn’t begin to explain the filth. The real dirt came from taking all our junk upon himself. With that backdrop, listen in to what happened during those black hours:

“From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

When some of those standing there heard this, they said, ‘He’s calling Elijah.’

Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, ‘Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.’

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.” Matthew 27:45-53

Here’s how my brain sees the pieces that Matthew didn’t record:

Jesus gives up his spirit. He died, paying the ultimate price and in that instant, we become clean. Read: holy (that’s mind blowing, right?).

There wasn’t a need to separate holy from the unholy since Jesus’ sacrifice made us all clean, so the curtain creating the barrier tore. In two. From top to bottom, like heaven reaching down and flicking that thick fabric as easily as I squash a fruit fly.

In that same second as the once-holy-turned-filthy-because-of-us died, that same nanosecond in which our gunk was purchased in the most expensive way to make us clean and the very same breath in which the veil tore, light flooded the Holy of Holies. But it couldn’t be contained because nothing divided it it from anything else. Darkness ceased as light poured out the temple and into the blackest crevices of earth, even spilling into the tombs where once-dead people had resided.

I’ve ventured deep into the realm of conjecturing, but this much we can know beyond a shadow of a doubt: the Light of the World shone bright—and still does.

Pause and Reflect

1.  Think about a time when you were in complete blackness. How did you feel? Were you disoriented? Scared?

2.  What do you think about my theory? It’s ok to say its bunk. If you disagree, how do you imagine the darkness broke?

3. Regardless of any theories of how light came back into the world after Jesus died, the undisputable fact is that the veil separating that which was holy tore in order to allow that which wasn’t holy to enter. That sure seems like something we need to shine the light back on as we pause and thank God for that incredible gift.

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© 2017 Stacy Voss