…And Then God Showed Up

Story time again! We often romanticize the prophets and the heroes of the Bible, making them larger than life. But the Bible says they were people just like us (James 5:17). Flawed people. Unworthy people. Hurting people. Just like us. Just like me. Just like you. Here’s a dramatization I hope blesses you that puts some skin on this idea that God calls the people you or I wouldn’t have chosen. Even us.


Izzy was having a bad day. It wasn’t easy running a household in 8th century BC. He’d just had to fire his “best” servants for covertly fleecing him and his sheep. Then he discovered one of his cows had bloated and died in the field overnight—what a mess. Then it started to rain. He had to walk a mile back to his tent in the pouring rain, slipping often in the mud. He was looking forward to changing robes into his favorite comfy wool robe—it would feel so good on this cold, wet day. 

He finally got back inside his tent, just in time to see his 5-year-old son playing swords with a burning fire brand. “What are you doing?!?” Izzy screamed at his son. When he heard his father yell, the boy started, and dropped the fire brand. Right onto a pile of laundry. Right onto Izzy’s favorite comfy wool robe he’d been looking forward to wearing for that whole last, wet mile.

“Are you trying to burn the whole tent down?!? How many times do I have to tell you? Don’t play with fire in the tent! What do I always say? What’s the worst thing that can happen in a tent?” he demanded of his son as he stamped the fire out.

“A fire,” his son responded, in a very small voice. “I’m sorry, daddy!” He started to cry.

“Yes, a fire! And what do you do? Start a fire! And why? So you could play! You burn down our whole tent, everything I’ve worked so hard for, but, hey, you had fun, so what the heck?!?” Izzy was way out of control, yelling at his son like this, and he knew it. But he didn’t care. Shooting off his mouth, swearing and ranting was how he dealt with stress, and this had been a very stressful morning. And besides, they were just words. So what?

His wife came in at that moment. “Oh, sweetheart, what’s the matter?” she said as she scooped up the boy and comforted him.

“Where were you? Our son almost burns the tent down, and where were you?!?”

“Making your meal. Your favorite hot lentil soup is ready,” she answered Izzy. Then she said to their son, “It’s alright now, honey.  But you learned something today, huh?” The boy nodded vigorously. “Now go run along play with something that’s not burning, ok?” she laughed.

Her total acceptance and love of him made it all better. He hugged her neck and ran off to find something to play with that wasn’t smoking.

“Look at this! Just look at this!” Izzy wailed, holding up his favorite comfy wool robe. It had a hole in it two feet in diameter. “Ruined!! Scrabble!” he swore.

“Had a tough morning?” she asked lovingly. “You look terrible.”

“I had to fire freakin’ Jonus this morning! And a gal-darn cow bloated in the field last night! Dag-nab-it, do you have any idea how much wealth I’ve lost today?!? No, you wouldn’t…”

“Please don’t be hurtful,” she asked, ignoring yet another insult. She saw something in this rough, brash man that no one else could. The Lord had shown her years ago that He was going to unlock her husband’s heart. Early this morning He had told her today was the day. She had gotten up two hours early to pray for him. She was ready; she couldn’t take much more of this.

“Why do I even talk to you?” was the kindest, more correctly, the least cruel, thing he could find to say. He hated himself for it. While they were talking he had changed into something dry. “Stupid woman. Stupid kid. Stupid cow.  Stupid servants. Stupid rain,” he complained at the air as he wandered off to eat his lentil soup. It would probably be cold by now.

He hated his wife for the same reason he loved her. Everything could be a mess, their whole life upside-down, and she’d find something to laugh about. He hated it. It was really, really annoying when you were trying to have a bad day. And yet he loved it. It warmed him inside. But he couldn’t tell her.

Not for lack of trying, though. His words were just dark and heavy and vile and… and… well, just unclean. But so what? They were just words. He’d told himself that enough times he almost believed it. Almost. At least he pretended he believed it.

“Isaiah.” Someone said his real name. And it was the freakiest voice he had ever heard. It sounded like a giant water fall making words. He spun around and the tent was gone, or it wasn’t, he didn’t know, care, or even think about it. All he could do was focus, fixated, on what he saw in front of him. Oh snap I am undone, was his only thought.

In front of him he saw something language does not have words to describe. He saw the Lord, high and lifted up on a throne, with the train of his robe filling the temple. The Lord was blazing white with every color all at once, yet every color individually distinguishable and always changing. When the colors shined on him, a different part of him sprang to life with each different color and pattern and shade and hue. The colors were living fabric, and each one reflecting a different attribute of the character of God. The patterns and colors were never the same, they were constantly changing. Yet the Lord Himself was totally constant—as if He wasn’t changing per se but just displaying a different part of himself at each moment.

There were angels flying about. Each time the colors changed, they would sing to each other, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty! The whole earth is full of his glory!” As if they’d just seen another attribute of God they’d never known about before. As if they’d been staring at him for all eternity, and every moment they were still seeing new parts of his character that blew their minds. And all they could do was respond, “Holy, Holy, Holy,…” At the sound of their voices, the doorposts and thresholds shook and the whole temple was filled with smoke.

Isaiah took in all this in a moment. Sound involuntarily came from his mouth. “Woe to me!” he cried aloud in terror. “I am undone! I am ruined! I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty!” They weren’t just words. They mattered. How could he possibly have thought any differently. Oh, no, the pain he’d caused by his words to the precious ones he loved. He saw himself for the first time.

Quick as lightening, one of the angels flew to the altar, grabbed a burning coal with tongs, flew over to Isaiah, and touched his mouth with it. He screamed and quickly touched the place where he was sure his lips had just burned off. Only his mouth was fine. In fact, it felt… well, free! As if, for the first time, he didn’t have to say something ugly. He could choose, for the first time, to speak either death or life.

“See, this has touched your lips,” the angel told him, holding up the burning coal with the tongs. “Your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” And then the freakiest thing happened. The angel smiled at Isaiah.

At that moment the Lord spoke from his throne. “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?”

Before Isaiah knew what he was doing, before his head could catch up, he answered from his heart, “Here I am! Send me!”

The Lord smiled and nodded. “Very well then. Go to this people, and tell them…”

And the Lord gave Isaiah a message to speak to the people of Judah in His name. It was the first of many prophetic messages Isaiah was given to speak for God.

The vision faded but not the change. He was back in his tent, eating his lentil soup that was still hot. How had he gotten to the table with the spoon in his hand? He looked very disoriented. His wife and son were looking at him strangely. “Izzy? Are you all right?” she asked. “You zoned out for a moment there. You look like you’ve been to another planet. 

“You have no idea,” was he all he could say, and then he started to cry. Something he had never done in front of them before. He felt pain, but not just because he was hurting or feeling guilty like always. This was different. He felt their pain; the pain he caused. And he was sorry for their sake, not for his.

He was sobbing now, and couldn’t stop. The rainstorm was inside the tent, flowing down his cheeks. He expressed to his wife and his son things bottled up inside for years that he wanted to say but couldn’t before now. He told them about the vision and they believed him. Then he did something he hadn’t done in way too long. He laughed. And they laughed together. And played. And sang. And lived. Something tangible changed in the tent that day and never changed back.

For decades following, the Lord gave Isaiah some of the most powerful prophetic words He’s ever given a prophet. They are still favorites today and bring healing to wounded people thousands of years later. And it all started with an experience with the Living God. An experience that changed everything.

– Based on Isaiah 6:1-13.


How about you? Have you been undone? I was undone by God’s love a long time ago. One can never go back afterwards. And who would want to? Tell us your story in the comments or shoot us an email. And please share this on Facebook if it blessed you.

The Secret to Repairing a Relationship You’ve Damaged

We’ve all done it. We’ve damaged a relationship we cared about. We know we’re at fault, although we don’t like to admit it. How can we repair that relationship? Some would say it’s like feathers shaken out of a pillow on a mountaintop—you can never put them back in—it’s too late. I respectfully disagree. There is a way to put the feathers back in the pillow.

Relationships are like bank accounts. They have balances. When we damaged the relationship, we tipped the scale away from the other person. From their point-of-view, there’s a negative balance in the account. That’s why the relationship’s damaged. We need to make a deposit.

“Making it right” is not good enough. Maybe we broke or lost something that belonged to the other person. Just replacing the item is not enough, although that technically “makes it right” and undoes the thing we did. But really we just brought the negative balance back to zero. The other person went from a positive balance to zero—they still lost overall in the transaction. They’ve forgiven us at this point, but they still feel slighted in the transaction, which is why the relationship is damaged.

The secret is to make a deposit (or several deposits) great enough to get the other person above their previous positive balance. Once they feel the scales are tipped back in their favor, you’ve repaired the relationship.

Look at it from their point-of-view. Say my neighbor borrows my car, gets in a fender-bender, and has it repaired. He brings it back and says, “Hey, Dave, I got in an accident but I got it repaired. Here’s your car.” I thank him and forgive him, but am I going to let him borrow my car again? Nope. I feel slighted in the transaction. Now my car’s been in an accident. They never quite drive the same. My resale value is negatively affected, blah, blah, blah. While I’m thankful he at least fixed my car, the relationship is still damaged, because I feel like I’m still getting the short end of the stick.

But say he brings my car back and says this instead: “Hey, Dave, I got in an accident but I got it repaired. While it was in the shop, I took out your stock AM/FM radio and replaced it with a state-of-the-art, surround-sound, premium sound system, with a 6 CD disc changer. Here’s your car.” Now can he borrow my car again? Anytime he wants! And I hope he gets in an accident! Maybe I’ll get spinners next time. (Kudos to John Sandford, Elijah House Ministries, for this example.)

You see how this works? It’s called Restitution. It’s the secret to repairing damaged relationships. You have to go over and above to do something the other person views as significant to tip the scales back in their favor. Restitution makes a deposit that takes the relationship balance back above where it was previously, in the other person’s eyes.

Here’s a couple more examples:

  • If broke your neighbor’s lawn mower, not only do you buy him a new one, top-of-the-line even if his other one was not, you buy him a top-of-the-line weed-whacker as well.
  • If you lost your friend’s book, not only do you replace it, searching high and low on eBay if you have to if it’s out of print, but you give her a $200 Amazon gift card along with it.

It doesn’t have to be monetary restitution, although those are easy examples. Here’s a non-monetary one.

  • Maybe you’ve said or did something really hurtful to your spouse. So you get up early and do some chore they normally do that you know they hate. Maybe you know they clean the bathrooms every Friday, so you get up at 4:00 AM every Friday so you can do it before going to work. How long? Forever. And you don’t say a word about it. Let them discover it.

Restitution is a sacrifice you make, could be monetary, could be effort, from a place of empathy over the pain you’ve caused them. Not because you’re hurting. Because they’re hurting.

Some caveats here:

  • It has to be something significant from the other person’s point-of-view, not from yours. It has to be something meaningful to them.
  • You can’t ask them—that just comes across as the manipulation it is. This might not seem fair, but think about it. Once you ask, you make it about you: “What box do I have to check to get on your good side again?” But that’s not fair! I can’t read their mind! No, but:
    • The Holy Spirit can, and will tell you the answer if you seek him out about it. God is totally into restoring relationships. That’s what that whole cross thing was about.
    • If you care enough about the relationship, you’ll put the effort into figuring it out. Trial ‘n’ error is ok.
  • You can only do this with the right heart. This isn’t penance. You’re not trying to manipulate them because you want something from them. You’ll truly broken and hurt, not because you feel guilty over what you’ve done, but honestly because of the pain you caused them. You hurt because they’re hurting, and you want to bless them not hurt them.
  • Don’t bother with narcissists. There are people that secretly rejoice inside when you do something negative to them. They hold that negative bank account over your head as a way to manipulate and control you, and no restitution you do is ever enough. I wrote this post with the assumption that the relationship you’re trying to repair is a healthy one. No relationship with a narcissist is a healthy one. Do whatever a reasonable person would accept, but don’t submit to any control a narcissist tries to exert beyond that. If they walk away from the relationship, let them.

The other person may or may not allow the relationship to be restored. That’s on them and their ability to forgive. But you’ve done, and continue to do, everything the Holy Spirit lays on your heart to do. Depending on the offense, restitution can take years. But it’s so worth it.

Does this strike a chord with you? Does this resonate? Tell us your story in the comments. How did you repair that relationship? And please share if you think this would help someone else (share buttons below).

A Sabbath Priority

If you’ve read this blog for long, you know I’ve been struggling to take a Sabbath rest, and periodically I’ve been posting what I’m learning in this process. I’m not taking Sabbaths as a legalistic thing, but as something God’s put on my heart as important. (It did make the 10 Commandments, after all. It’s certainly the one I understand the least, and I don’t think I’m alone here in Western Christianity.) He wants me to unplug partly to spend extended time with him, partly for self-investment by reading the books on my reading list, and partly because I physically need the rest. Anyway, I successfully took a Sabbath rest this past Sunday! And I was successful for one reason. And only one reason. I made it a priority.

I made taking a Sabbath a priority even over this blog, our ministry, which is why this post was posted on Tuesday instead of on Monday this week. In fact, we’re moving our blog posts to Tuesdays for this reason. Allow me to pull back the curtain on our blog process in a moment of honesty.

My goal’s always been to have blog posts queued up several weeks in advance. That has worked only sporadically, for a few weeks at a time, and then I’m back to posting the week I write. The last 9 out of 15 weeks, I’ve written the post on Sunday afternoon. “Egads, it‘s Sunday afternoon! I need a post for tomorrow!” Usually I have an idea at least before then, but sometimes the Holy Spirit’s come through at the last minute. This has put a sizeable dent in my Sabbaths. Which I thought was ok. After all, this is my ministry, right?

Until this Sunday afternoon where I again was needing a post for the next day. And the Holy Spirit spoke clearly to me: “No.”

Then I asked myself the question, “What would happen if I took a Sabbath anyway, and wrote the post Monday afternoon instead, posting Tuesday morning?” I felt the Holy Spirit’s pleasure with that option. It’s something I’d not considered before. So I took a Sabbath rest instead of writing my blog post, and I was so blessed. God was so close. And I was truly refreshed. What do you know, God’s way works!  🙂  I bet it would bless you, too.

What I’ve learned through this is my Sabbath rest is more important to God than my ministry. That’s a mind-blow, huh?

The truth is, I won’t take a Sabbath rest unless I make it a priority, which means guarding it against other good things by saying “no” to them, which is my action step for this week.

Action Step: I am now making my Sabbath rest a priority, and will guard it by saying “no” to other good things.

Does this resonate with you? Do you take a Sabbath rest, or some weekly time of refreshing? Can you do it without being intentional about it? How has it blessed you? Tell us your story in the comments.