the King tells a better story

the King tells a better story

I have an MRI coming up this week. As I was talking with Ryan about the schedule of events for the day – the MRI, the Neurologist appointment, the kids and babysitter, Ryan remarked, “you mean you’re going to be laying inside the MRI tube for an entire hour!? What are you going to do!?” It was a little funny to me since I’ve had long MRI’s before and it just seems normal now, so my response was “the same thing I always do! Grab onto a piece of scripture I’ve memorized and let my wandering thoughts settle on a truth to replay again and again in my mind and heart.”

Not that I do this perfectly. I want to be better at scripture memory. I go in and out of working hard at it or forgetting about it completely. However, I can tell you that those verses I memorized in 5th grade for Bible Drill are still stuck in my brain. I can tell you that if I didn’t have scripture memorized, that first really scary MRI when the specialist said “tumors can cause this kind of blindness in your eye. You need an MRI immediately” I would have been a mess. So it’s become a habit. Preparing for an MRI for me (if I know about it and have time to prepare) means making sure I have an arsenal of truth ready.

I need a rich soil to sink my roots deeper into while I lay still and someone takes photos of my future as the lesions in my spine and brain want to predict it. Whatever story demyelination and active or old lesions want to say, I have a better story. A story that begins and ends with King Jesus who is the ultimate Author of every story and holds me and those lesions and rogue white blood cells in His very capable and tender hands. It’s a story that must be recited to my mind and heart as often as possible through the truth of Scripture.

All that being said, I want to share these words I wrote to a sweet friend, who truly has no choice but to cling to Jesus with everything within her, recently as I gave her a bible marked with all my truth claiming passages. But I needed the reminder of my words and maybe you do to, so her are some of my words to her (and me & you)…..

As I marked and placed tabs on these specific verses just for you, I couldn’t help but think about how sometimes, you aren’t going to feel the truths in these passages, but claiming them as truth and speaking them loudly and clearly to your heart will be necessary. The Word must be preached to our hearts because our hearts will falter. There will be moments when the Word has be to spoken out loud and claimed as true, by you, and also those around you claiming and clinging to the truth for you, even when you can’t.

I have marked verses that lament; verses that cry for help; verses that shout God’s goodness, provision, and praise; verses that allow you to sit in the darkness and trust even when you can’t see….physically or spiritually. My prayer is that the eyes of your heart will be enlightened — that you may know, to the very depths of your being, the hope He has called you to, the fullness of the life He has for you, and the immeasurable greatness of His power.

May you know these things to, friend, as you read this. May you be stirred to sink your roots deep into the depths of His beauty, praise, goodness, glory and promise. Not because it’s a checklist, but because it’s a lifeline.

It’s the greatest story ever told and you, like me, will need to be reminded of the truest and best story as the world tries to write another one for us.

I am tearful, joyful, and convicted as I write this. I need to go get my arsenal of truth and beauty ready, calling my mind to action so that I can behold my Savior, the Author of my story, more fully and clearly. I hope you can too.

 

**I’ll share with you some of my favorites and some I’m working on right now in case you need some fresh ideas or want to join me in this work of abiding:

Psalm 16, 18, 23, 34, 62, 145; Isaiah 26:1-2, 40, 55; Jeremiah 17:5-10; Ephesians 1, 2:1-10, 3:14-2; Romans 8; John 15.

a necessary lament

a necessary lament

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve journeyed the path of burden-bearing, utter desperation for God, and worshiping Him alongside lament, frustration and even anger, if I’m being honest, at the suffering of my friends. I’ve been hesitant to polish up the thoughts of my journaling and journeying and place them here, like I typically do (even though I wouldn’t truly call this blog “polished”!), because I’m about to say that lament is a good thing, even a necessary thing.   We  rarely see lament as a good thing – as something to be talked about. We want to flee, or fix, or hide when the tears turn on and the questions start being asked that have no answer.  But the truth is, we all, even this week, have experienced the sting of brokenness, life, death, limitations, or affliction in some capacity, and probably need to face it.

If you’re around our church at all, you’ve felt this sting communally over the last couple of weeks in gut-wrenching ways. What we do with this is the looming question, even if you don’t dare to ask it aloud. How do we walk out the tension of simply joys and laughter alongside heart breaking news and unanswered questions?

In my crying out to God, weeping, and burden bearing for my friends and congregation, I’ve come again to the purity that is in desperation, the worship that is in lament, and the sweetness of the Lord that is only tasted amidst affliction.

Here’s where the Psalms come in. They are full of honesty and reality; beauty and pain; worship and lament. They give words to our hearts, because I think, if we’re honest, we avoid grieving and loss at all costs. We avoid our limitations and fears. And yet, David teaches his people to lament, and even tells them to learn how to lament well in 2 Samuel 1.  What is it in us that wants to hide from it?  In regard to this, Eugene Peterson exhorts us:

“Pain isn’t the worst thing. Being hated is the worst thing. Being separated from the one you love isn’t the worst thing. Death isn’t the worst thing. The worst thing is failing to deal with reality and becoming disconnected from what is actual. The worst thing is trivializing the honorable, desecrating the sacred. What I do with my grief affects the way you handle your grief; together we form a community that deals with death and loss in the context of God’s sovereignty, which is expressed finally in the resurrection….We don’t become mature human beings by getting lucky or circumventing loss, and certainly not by avoidance and distraction. Learn to lament. We’re mortals after all…Take up your cross. It prepares us and those around us for resurrection.” (Leap Over a Wall, but I read it here: Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: Day by Day)

I long more for heaven for myself and those around me as I desperately cry for God to heal even here on earth.  When I’m desperate, Jesus does this purifying work in me and those around me, when I persist in prayer…again and again…and with others! He purifies my desires and reminds me that this isn’t all there is, and yet, He cares immensely about the physical as well as the spiritual – He did weep for his friends and raise Lazarus, after all.

There is a work God can do only in the desperation and only in the loneliness it may bring. I long for my friends and pray for my friends, but I cannot do a work in them like the Holy Spirit can. I am burdened for the Lord to work, heal, and meet them right where they are. For His power and presence and goodness to be felt and tasted. I am burdened; and yet, I don’t shoulder it alone. And God works in me as I am burdened for others and myself. A deeper work. A work we didn’t ask for but we need. A work that is done as we see and say: God is good; no matter what. And as we say that, we let our lament become worship and we mysteriously taste and see that the Lord is good in new and deeper ways. He will do more than all we ask or imagine.

I pray you worship Him in your lament, and not apart from it; to feel the sting of pain, and yet feel a deeper comfort that the Lord promises to bring; to know that God is only ever good, and is ultimately The Victorious One.

another year begins

another year begins

Mystery. That was my “word” for the year 2017. While I’m not settled on a word yet for 2018, I am reminded that this word, mystery, has been transforming and formative this past year.

God has reminded us this year that though we live in a state of mystery, He knows no mystery. He, who is mysterious and yet allows us to know Him, is not surprised, confounded, or caught off guard. Matt Papa in his song “I Have A Peace” says,

“I don’t know what the future holds, but I know Who holds the future”

What a grace. May we know that our Who is greater our “what”. In His grace and mercy He doesn’t allow us to see the path laid out ahead of time – we aren’t who we will be when we get further down the road and don’t have the grace, the manna, for that later time yet, whether it’s tomorrow or thirty years from now. I struggle here. I am fearful of the far-out future. And I realize when I fear the far out future, or anything, that I’m not looking at Jesus. Because if I was looking at Jesus – not looking at myself, not looking at where I think I will be in the future – I wouldn’t fear. I would fall more in love with the One who holds the future securely in His perfect, loving, stable hands.

This leads to a conviction – I have a tendency to idolize myself, thinking more of me than of Jesus. I easily forget what Jeremiah calls us to remember:

“Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm! Nothing is to hard for you.” (Jeremiah 32:17)

Instead, I’m more likely to resonate with the prophet’s bold and soul shocking words from the Lord,

“But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit. Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” (Jeremiah 2:11-13)

That’s some bold language that I have, previously, skipped over. I’ve skipped over the truth that God calls the heavens to be absolutely shocked and desolate about that staunch reality that His people choose themselves – their limited knowledge, their apparent control, their unquenchable idols – over Him. His perfect peace, His unfathomable power, His unlimited knowledge, His magnificent beauty…He alone is immeasurable in all these things. He is infinite and yet His people, in their finite knowledge, wisdom, power, and ability, chose themselves. This is me – no finger pointing here. Thankfully His grace knows no bounds and His chain-breaking, darkness-rescuing, unrelenting love breaks through by convicting me and inviting me to Himself over and over again.

Robert Murray McCheyne  sums up the invitation beautifully:

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jer. 17:9. Learn much of the Lord Jesus. For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ. He is altogether lovely. Such infinite majesty, and yet such meekness and grace, and all for sinners, even the chief! Live much in the smiles of God. Bask in his beams. Feel his all-seeing eye settled on you in love, and repose in his almighty arms. . . . Let your soul be filled with a heart-ravishing sense of the sweetness and excellency of Christ and all that is in Him. Let the Holy Spirit fill every chamber of your heart; and so there will be no room for folly, or the world, or Satan, or the flesh.”

Ten looks at Christ for every look at self. I think on this quote often, desiring for it to be a reality in my mind and heart, looking always and often for Jesus – the fountain of living waters, instead of creating broken cisterns for myself. Maybe that’s my word for 2018 – watch.

To watch for the Light.

To gaze upon Jesus.

To look for Him in all the moments that will come.

And in seeing Him more, worrying about me less. Idolizing my comforts, fears, and sense of control less. Letting my soul be so overwhelmingly filled with Him that there’s no place broken cistern making.

Whether its my word or your word or not, may we all watch for Him – trusting Him more, loving Him more and resting in His all-sufficient power, love, and grace.

watching for the Light

watching for the Light

It’s the first Sunday of Advent or maybe next Sunday is and we started early…regardless, and the hustle and bustle and treats and presents and crafts are beginning to hit us full force! My goals for this season are on a never-ending mental checklist. If you’re like me, you’ve  likely already thought about the things you didn’t do last year, checked Pinterest or scrolled Facebook and gotten more ideas than your brain can even remember and made a list for yourself about how to make this Christmas great – filled with activities or crafts for each day so that your kids will remember that Advent is about Jesus…and yet, somewhere in the midst of all that, there’s a chance (if you’re like me) that we’ve lost the wonder, awe, and slow gazing upon Jesus that Christmas (and our lives) are all about.

There’s a chance that we will let all those good things become ruling things – crafts, desserts, and activities that will captivate our time and affection and attention more than Jesus. And friends, the things that rule our hearts are idols. If that stings you a bit, be assured that it stung, and keeps stinging, me too as I’m convicted and repent of my idols daily!

There’s a chance that we’re comparing ourselves to a multitude of things and people during the Christmas season, and in doing so, miss the simple, beautiful, pure joy of the God who came to be WITH us.

If we’re honest, we probably need to say “no” to a lot more things than we say “yes” to this December.

I’m not trying to talk you out of your favorite books, traditions, and activities – by all means, do the things that bring life to you and your family and point you to the wonder, awe, and joy of Jesus. Go to a Christmas party and celebrate because God has given you life and laughter and peace. Make that craft each day because you and your kids love it and look forward to the tradition of it every year. But don’t do these things just because the neighbor is or because you’re looking for your identity in that.

Gaze with wonder at Emmanuel and lead your children in doing the same. Point to Him in the lights, the songs, the Bible, the opportunities to give, and the gifts received. Slow down, breath in the wonder and grace of the season, and look to Him who came, be reminded of how that has changed your life forever.

I’ve been wrestling through this the past week, thinking about how to let the light in, point my kids to Jesus in even the simplest of ways, to keep their hearts and minds thinking on how Jesus came to be with us and redeem us. But, am I thinking about it for me? That’s where it starts – in my heart as I lead them.

Paul Tripp threw me a gut punch this morning in his devotional New Morning Mercies:

“It is dangerous to live without your heart being captured by the awe of God, because awe of God is quickly replaced by awe of you.”

Ouch, as I’m convicted, I’m reminded it is always His mercy that leads me to repentance, and I keep reading…

“We were created to live in a real, heart-gripping, agenda-setting, behavior-forming awe of God. But other awes have kidnapped our hearts. We need grace to see again, to tremble again, and to bow down again at the feet of the One who deserves our awe.”

Maybe the simple things we do with our children this season are enough, because Jesus is more than enough. And, He is worthy of my heart’s attention, affection, and awe, infinitely more than the perfectly done craft or baked good.  

These are the questions I’m going to be asking this season, “did we gaze on Jesus today?” and “did we watch for the Light?”

And whether its through a reading an advent devotional before bed, baking some slice ’n’ bake cookies, driving around looking at lights, re-reading the Nativity story, making exquisite gingerbread houses (this one’s for you, not me of course!), secretly dropping off delicious cookies at our neighbors houses, singing Christmas carols and hymns, staying home in our PJs watching movies by the Christmas tree all day, or buying lots of great presents, I hope that the answer is “yes” we gazed upon the wonder and hope and beauty that is in Jesus in that seemingly significant or insignificant thing we did today; we watched for Him making all things new.

And if it’s “no, my heart was kidnapped by other awes”, guess what?

There’s grace for that. That’s why He came.

 

 

journals and justification

journals and justification

This may sound silly, but I’m always hesitant to start writing in a new journal…. I start filling up the last page and back cover of the old journal even more with tiny, illegible words and thoughts, cramming letters into the crevices of the worn out book, even though a fresh empty book longing to be filled may very well sit beside me. This has been particularly true since my MS diagnosis. Each time I feel like there’s such a fullness contained in the journal that I’m leaving behind. As if I’m going on a new unknown adventure and am scared to leave the old, known, familiar, wrinkled pages of the old journal (aka, adventure) behind. At this point you either: 1 – think I’m crazy, 2 – completely agree, or 3 – feel opposite because you are a journal-er and get excited about the new journal and blank pages waiting to be filled….and maybe I’m still a little weird regardless…

All that to say…I feel like my old journal is known – I know what pages I wrote certain scriptures, quotes, and prayers. I can fall back into it knowing it will speak truth to me. The crisp fresh new pages of the next journal (or phase of life) are beautiful and daunting all at the same time.

I imagine we all find ourselves in this place at some time or another, when a new portion of the journey, adventure, or mountain to climb awaits. Uncertainty, excitement, fear, and hope, all mingled into one giant mountain of mystery. I’ll get to the point….

I decided to start off the first page of my newest journal with a reminder of a truth that never changes, regardless of the circumstance or emotion, from the beginning of the day until the end, the beginning of the journal until the end…. here’s it is:

In Christ and because of His justification:

I have nothing to prove. I am fully known and dearly loved. I am fully forgiven. I am fully clothed in Christ’s righteousness. I am cherished, accepted and delighted in. I am no longer in the courtroom of condemnation or comparison because the verdict is in. Because of Christ’s work on the cross, It. Is. Finished. I brought nothing to my righteousness except my sin. I did nothing on the cross except bring my sin. He choose me because He loves me – because of Him, not me. However royally I mess things up or however wonderfully people applaud my gifts or my good day of getting it done and doing it right – that truth never changes.

I’m tempted to put myself back on trial for the “good” I’ve done or the bad, but the courtroom with the devil is no place for a beloved daughter of the King to be. I’ve nothing to prove because it is finished.

You too friend. You too. Let’s get up and live in that. The freedom and joy it brings is indescribable. It changes everything. To very briefly summarize Watchman Nee’s excellent book based on Ephesians, let’s sit in Christ’s righteousness as our own, walk out of His love for us speaking and living love to others, and stand against the schemes of Satan (Sit, Stand, Walk).

Now, do I do this perfectly or daily even? Absolutely not. I’m the biggest sinner I know and hopefully I will continue to see and know myself that way so that I will cling to His grace even more and judge others even less.

May our roots go deeper into His limitless love friends. I’ll close with some stanzas from the hymn, Rock of Ages:

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,

Let me hide myself in Thee;

Let the water and the blood,

From thy wounded side which flowed,

Be of sin the double cure,

Save from wrath and make me pure.

 

Not the labors of my hands

Can fulfill thy laws demands;

Could my zeal no respite know,

Could my tears forever flow,

All for sin could not atone;

Thou must save and thou alone

 

Nothing in my hand I bring,

Simply to the cross I cling;

Naked, come to thee for dress;

Helpless, look to thee for grace;

Foul, I to the fountain fly;

Wash me, Savior, or I die.

 

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,

Let me hide myself in Thee.

 

(Scriputres that speak of what I said in this post today so you can build your arsenal of truth: Ephesians, Deuteronomy 7:6-8, Romans 5:1, 1 Peter 2:24, Romans 4:5, John 19:30 to name a few!)

grace for the day

grace for the day

A friend once told me, “Worry about tomorrow saps my strength for today”. That truth has hummed in my heart ever since. And, not only does worry steal my strength; worry over tomorrow causes me to miss the gifts He has for me today.   The truth is that in the gospel, in Christ, there are thousands of gifts waiting to be seen – gifts always pointing to and drawing us to the ultimate gift – God Himself. He promises to be enough, completely sufficient. And because He is enough, He gives me grace for today, not tomorrow. If He gave me grace for tomorrow ahead of time, I wouldn’t need or depend on Him. Today, I have to trust He will provide it tomorrow. Today, I have to see what He has for me in this moment. This mundane moment. This overwhelming moment. The truth is, the grace He gives for today is enough. I have to trust the grace He will give for tomorrow and for 57 years from now will be enough as well.

The thought “manna” rings in my mind.

Manna for today. In the desert, when the Israelite’s tried to hold onto the manna that God had provided for that one particular day, it rotted. It caused unneeded problems. It was a gift needing to be received by hands that were open, not grasping and clenching the gift, asking it to provide life for tomorrows needs.

People always ask me “what was the hardest transition? 2 to 3 kids? 3 to 4 kids?” My answer is always the same. It is a resounding – ZERO to ONE! It was the first time I ever had to die to myself – like, really and truly. I think while it is a good question, behind the question the root is probably something along the lines of, “will I have enough grace or strength or time or love to give to the next kid?”

And the answer is No. You don’t. I don’t

But I have within me, literally INSIDE of me, the ONE who does! And He gives me grace for what He gives me – and not a moment before. Although, sometimes ,I will admit, it doesn’t feel like I have the grace needed for the hard conversation, the mourning over a loss, the embarrassing temper tantrum, the mystery of the unknown, or the feelings of inadequacy for what I’m called to do. That’s the moment when I have to speak loud and clear to myself instead of passively listening. Because contrary to the Disney princess mantra, the heart is actually deceitful above all things and it should not be followed, but led. (ok, heart rant over and back to HIM giving me grace for what He gives me!)

Richard Sibbes reminds me that, “God knows we have nothing of ourselves, therefore in the covenant of grace he requires no more than he gives, but gives what he requires, and accepts what he gives.” (The Bruised Reed)

Amen. And I’ll leave you with that beautiful truth friends.

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