sufficient

sufficient

If you know me, you know I am not a runner, by any stretch of the imagination. Hand me the weights instead, please. Don’t ask me to run. However, its funny how when you can actually no longer do something, there’s some sort of yearning for it. I guess I’ll be a little more blunt about how MS affects me physically today. I look completely healthy, I can do A LOT of things, and I feel pretty normal most of the time…..unless I attempt to walk consistently at a moderate pace for more than a couple minutes, much less run, do jumping jacks, or walk the neighborhood with the kids – my favorite. My doctor told me I could try a medicine that may potentially help with all that, making my central nervous system send the right signals – but it made me a lot worse, so we quit that. There was this little glimmer of hope for easily going hiking and rock climbing in Zion for our anniversary trip, but I know better to place hope in medicine by now. I hope you don’t hear me complaining, but longing – and seeing that sometimes my longing for physical healing is stronger than my longing for Jesus.  Maybe you can relate?

But He’s too good for that.

I hope that Isaiah 40:31 will be physically true for me, “but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” And yet, as I read before that I see more context: “To whom will you compare me, that I should be like him? Says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host my number, calling them by name; by the greatness of his might and because he is strong in power, not one is missing…Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. HE does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.” (Isaiah 40:25-28). There’s the power. There’s the Hope. HE doesn’t faint or grow weary. It’s okay for me to physically feel pins and needles in my feet that might go numb making me fall, or have legs that feel full of lead, because HE doesn’t. I hope your story picks up somewhere in my words here and that this isn’t just for me (thanks Sarah over at An Inner Disposition for the phrase!). Somewhere in this, you get it too. I get the joy – the joy – of longing for heaven more – and maybe truly for the first time ever – because my flesh is fading away.

Russ Ramsey says: “Unmet desires in this life are intended to arouse a hunger for the next. Physical limitations are felt as an ache for a perfected body. Coming face to face with my mortality has awakened my appetite for eternity.” (Struck)

Tim Keller talks about our joy being enhanced by our suffering – suffering being the servant of our joy and calls us to think about heaven until it pulverizes our discouragement (found in Be Still, My Soul).

I don’t claim to have the market on trials, by any stretch of the imagination. This is your story too. I have been overwhelmed with the seemingly inordinate amount of people for a small church plant that are walking through really hard things right now. Things, that because these are my friends, or I’m the pastor’s wife, I am privy to – I get the honor of the work of “burden bearing”. Mostly, this is praying. I’m coming to think of it like the paralytic’s friends who literally tear a hole in the top of the house and lower their friend to Jesus. Many (of you!) have done that for me, and I’ve learned that there is something sacred about that work. The sacred work of begging God to heal, to give peace, to provide, and yet knowing we don’t have to beg – He hears our cry and answers us because He delights in us (Psalm 18)! I have the sacred privilege of reminding my friends, and myself, that even lament is worship. I’d venture to say it is especially worship. Lamenting while trusting, imperfectly even, does a powerful work in us.

May He be sufficient for you today. Just as He is sufficient for me – even as I struggle to write that phrase, because if I’m being honest I need to tell you I daily wrestle to believe that He is sufficient.

Here’s a powerful thought from Elizabeth Elliot:  “He is not all we would as for (if we were honest), but it is precisely when we do not have what we would ask for, and only then, that we can clearly perceive His all-sufficiency.” (Keep A Quiet Heart)

I’ll leave you, and me, with these questions: How is Jesus meeting you in your longing?

Where is He pursuing your heart in your longing for other things?

Where is He inviting you to trust Him more?

The Story

The Story

A friend and I were talking about longing for heaven a mere week ago. Our hearts both seeing the beauty around us as heaven comes to earth now, but also the brokenness around us that we long to be made whole. It wasn’t but a few days later that she endured some really hard news and was struck afresh by brokenness. News that makes you cling to the hope of God being sovereign and Jesus coming back.

It reminds me to read one of my hands-down-favorite stories from the Jesus Storybook Bible. The interpretation of Revelation, “A Dream of Heaven”, which I can’t get through without weeping and choking out the words… Hear the beauty and power in this:

“And the King says, ‘Look! God and his children are together again. No more running away. Or hiding. No more crying or being lonely or afraid. No more being sick or dying. Because all those things are gone. Yes, they’re gone forever. Everything sad has come untrue. And see – I have wiped every tear from every eye!’…..And John knew, in some mysterious way that would be hard to explain, that everything was going to be more wonderful for having been so sad. And he knew that the ending of The Story was going to be so great, it would make all the sadness and tears and everything seem like just a shadow that is chased away by the morning sun.”

Wow. The sadness and tears will seem like a shadow because the ending will be so great. I can’t fathom.  I can never read through that without getting choked up so I let my kids see my tears this time and ask me why. I tell them, “I can be thankful even for something like MS because I get to have a longing for heaven I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I wouldn’t have thought I needed to be made new if I didn’t know brokenness. I wouldn’t long for it if I saw the world only through the eyes of the well.”

Russ Ramsey says, “Unmet desires in this life are intended to arouse a hunger for the next. Physical limitations are felt as an ache for a perfected body. Coming face to face with my mortality has awakened my appetite for eternity. As I have stood at the summit and surveyed the distant mountains beyond, I have longed to explore. Beyond what I can see lies a glory I was made to behold. The grand adventure tugs at my heart…Tim Keller wrote, ‘Human beings are hope shaped creatures. The way you live now is completely controlled by what you believe about the future’.   This isn’t a hope we can create or muster. It must be given. And by the grace of God it is – a hope that ‘does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us’ (Romans 5:5-6)” (Struck, pg 152-153)

I feel awakened. Awakened to the reality that I can’t fathom the wonder of heaven. Awakened to pain around me, and because of that, awakened far more to the beauty around me. Awakened to adventure and living to the fullest — whether it’s resting really well and not feeling guilty about it or doing something challenging and exhilarating I didn’t think I could do.

I believe, for myself, my family, and my dear friends, that God is good. God is sovereign – mysteriously beyond me in wisdom and love. I believe He is restoring and making all things new around me and you, even now, in the way our kids laugh, the way our taste buds delight in delicious food, and a good story can make us laugh and cry simultaneously. I want to embrace that and live fully – hoping, lamenting, laughing, and dancing – in sorrow and in joy, as we get tastes of heaven on earth. I believe that when He comes back finally and fully that He will make things new in a way we can’t even imagine and better than we could even dream. Hungering for that Kingdom changes that way I laugh, grieve, love, and dance here. I know it can change you too.

mountains that sing

mountains that sing

Towards the end of December, as I thought on the new year and the mystery therein, the Lord graciously led me to mine out the many diamonds of Isaiah 55, including: “and you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace and the mountains and hills before you shall burst forth into singing and the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” I’m struck by the word of the Lord enabling me to go out in joy and peace, into the mystery, but also floored by the fact that the mountain isn’t moved. Think about that. The Lord CAN throw the mountain into the midst of the sea – absolutely – that’s miraculous DELIVERING grace! But, in this passage, it’s still there.

Tall. Sturdy. Unmoving.

And yet, it’s breaking forth into singing! How often do I miss this? The beauty of the new road I’m on and the mountain and hills around me? It’s not simply a detour I need to rush and pray to “get through”, but it is the new road – a new road filled with SUSTAINING grace. Not an interruption, but an opportunity – really, an invitation.  An invitation to admit dependance, an invitation for great courage and learning new things, an invitation to turn mourning into dancing.  Henri Nouwen says: “As we dance and walk forwards, grace provides the ground on which the steps fall.  Prayer puts us in touch with the God of the Dance.  We look beyond our experience of sadness or loss by learning to receive an all-embracing love, a love that meets us in everyday moments.  And so, we wait patiently, if the situation requires it, watching for gifts to come where we are. ” (Turn My Mourning Into Dancing, pg 14-15).

And this new road, on the mountain, is full of good and beauty and gifts waiting to be discovered, mined out, and cherished. Oh, how I long to remember this daily!  Whether it’s a mountain of laundry, or what seems like a mountain of an unending season of seemingly fruitless discipline for my kids, or a mountain of questions about the future I simply cannot answer. The Lord’s sustaining grace is all around. Isaiah goes on to say: “instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the Lord, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

Being a lover of trees, I did a quick Google search on these trees and found that the Mediterranean cypress is known for longevity, ability to withstand storms, and pointing straight up to heaven.

That the myrtle that grows most commonly in the Mediterranean areas grows there because it requires a long, hot summer to produce its flowers.

The Lord, as He commonly does, dropped this in my lap on December 29 as I looked across the abyss into a a new year. Wow. What beauty and power in those words and imagery – in the entirety of Isaiah 55 as the Lord invites all who are thirsty, broken, and poor, to come and be satisfied. What hope! What seems like a treacherous mountain ahead has gifts waiting to be discovered.  What seems like an unending long hot season of trial or wondering is producing flowers!   So, walking in peace, being led forth in joy walking straight into the mystery.  We savor Christ in the mystery, on the new road winding towards the mountain, because HE has been faithful in the past and HE will be faithful in the future.  Where is He inviting me, where is He inviting you, to see the gifts within the mountains?  

 

when the night is holding on

when the night is holding on

I really wanted to write something else today. But I can’t shake the leading of the Lord to share this particular thought right now…even though I had other ideas and plans. Maybe it’s because I’m a pastor’s wife, but I am literally surrounded by friends who are journeying through loss, questions, struggle, fear and unforeseen diagnosis’ in this season of life. So, here’s something that I hope is encouraging and, most of all, God-filled for those of you who are in, will be in, or have been in a long, dark night…

Dark. Sometimes it’s dark y’all. Usually when it’s night. Both literally and figuratively speaking, of course. You’ve been there. I’ve been there. Or you will be there if you haven’t yet. Gloomy. Black. Dusky. Seemingly unending. I have had days (usually all in a row) when I feel like a vacuum has sucked all the emotion and feeling out of me. Or that, it feels like I’m being plunged into water against my will and that even a quick breath up above the surface isn’t much to hope for because I’m going to get plunged back down again. Maybe you’ve been there? In that pit of despair? Not knowing when the dark night will end? If you have, you know exactly what I’m talking about. But, hear this (my soul as well as yours!), it’s NEVER WASTED. Not one dark night of the soul is without purpose. Maybe that’s the most important thing I can say: no season is ever a waste for a child of God. Drink it in. Fall in that stream. Cry and weep there. Let the LORD do His work. Speak scripture aloud because the Word of the Lord is powerful, even if your heart doesn’t feel it. Drink deeply from the fountain of all that is Him and keep abiding – even when it feels pointless. Even when you feel apathetic; even when the answers don’t seem to come; even when hope keeps slipping through your outstretched fingertips; even when the joy you once knew seems like just that – a joy you once knew.

Because, somehow, there are gifts in the night.  Gifts our eyes aren’t aware of in the day.  I want to see them, and that means being fully aware of where I actually am and being okay to sit in that season and be fully alive there.

Our theology of God in salvation – that He alone can rescue — must be the theology of our dark nights — He alone can and will rescue.   May your heart rest on this rock-solid foundation of truth:

“He sent from on high, he took me; he drew me out of many waters. He rescued me from my strong enemy and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me…the Lord was my support…he rescued me, because He delighted in me.” Psalm 18:16-18

I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined His ear to me and heard my cry. He drew me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.” Psalm 40:1-2

Make haste O Lord, to deliver me! O Lord, make haste to help me! …. You are my help and deliverer; O Lord, do not delay! Psalm 70:1, 5

 

Here’s one of my anthems for the dark night and difficulty trusting (King of My Heart, by Sarah and John Mark McMillian, and the live version is best!)

Let the king of my heart

Be the mountain where I run

The fountain I drink from

(He is my song)

Let the king of my heart

Be the shadow where I hide

The ransom for my life

He is my song

You are good, good.

Let the king of my heart

Be the wind inside my sails

The anchor in the waves

(He is my song)

Let the king of my heart

Be the fire inside my veins

The echo of my days

He is my song

When the night

Is holding on to me

God is holding on

You are good, good.

When the night

Is holding on to me

God is holding on

You are good, good.

You’re never gonna let

Never gonna let me down

You’re never gonna let

Never gonna let me down

You’re never gonna let

Never gonna let me down

When the night

Is holding on to me

God is holding on

You’re never gonna let go

Never gonna let me down

When the night is holding on to me, God is holding on.

I like add in a few extra “when the night is holding on to me”, and will myself to say with grit and determination and a nodding head, “you are good”.

I’ll leave you with this quote, this hope…May what CH Spurgeon says come to life in us: “Our infirmities become the black velvet on which the diamond of God’s love glitters all the more brightly.” (Check out: 10 Spurgeon Quotes for Wounded Christians)

May we be fully where we are – even if the night is holding on to us – trusting that God’s hold on us is greater and open our uncertain hearts to the gifts He gives in darkness.

mystery

mystery

Update: January 2020…I’m not changing this post as I re-read through it and post again.  It’s still true.  I think I’ve grown deeper in it, as I’ve walked and been scared, sad, and mad when my body does things I don’t want it to or doesn’t do things I do want it to.  I hope you’ll find your story in mine.  I write not just for me to talk about MS or what I’m learning, but hopefully because you can read and relate, even though the details are different.  I cry and worship in the mystery and hope that you do too.  I’m met there by an intimate, good, and faithful Father who remains steadfast even when I am not.  Worshipping in the mystery is changing me…so, I hope you can step into my story for a minute for the purpose of seeing more of a faithful and loving God in yours….

I hate mystery. Oh, I know many of you have heard me say that I love it, and it’s “my word” for 2017. I even said “bring it on!” a couple of blog posts ago! Can I be real here? It sucks sometimes. I hate the mystery of MS and having no idea where it will strike me next. Most of the time, I have to will myself to love the mystery of God. My flesh and spirit battle over this – and I mean all out wage war – over this. Worshiping God in this is a choice. It’s not always a feeling or even a desire. It’s obedience. It’s trusting and knowing He is good. He is glorious. He is great. He is gracious. And maybe just as much? I. AM. NOT. It’s my pride that says I can only worship when I’m not anxious or when I’m feeling good about Him. Because if I trust my feelings, I’m saying my feelings are greater than God. I’m saying that I surpass Him in knowledge, wisdom, insight, and glory. It’s straight up sin, yall. But, not only that, my roots begin to shrivel up. When I don’t trust the soil He has placed me in, I begin to die a little because I’m refusing to grow deeper in His love. It’s even rebellion against a Holy God.

Elizabeth Elliot in reflecting on Psalm 16 says: “Every assignment is measured and controlled for my eternal good. A quiet heart is content with what God gives. It is enough. All is grace. My Father is in charge! We can only know that Eternal Love is wiser than we, and we bow in adoration of that loving wisdom. The choice is in our willingness to see everything in God, receive all from His hand, accept with gratitude just the portion and the cup He offers. And the secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.

Yes. HE has drawn the lines for me in pleasant places (psalm 16), so, in the midst of still not liking the mystery all that much right now, I say: Thank you Lord. Thank you for the darkness. Thank you for not letting me put my hope in anything but you. You’re too good to me to let me do that. Thank you for being good and trustworthy and kind no matter what. Thank you for being enough and for being the only One who will ever be enough. Thank you for drawing me into deeper trust in you.

So, what’s the mystery for you? What’s the anxiety you struggle to worship the Lord in the midst of?

Not that you need me to, but I invite you to worship God in the mystery, the anxiety, the questions. Worship Him in the soil in which He has lovingly placed you.

the mystery and beauty of abiding

the mystery and beauty of abiding

This abiding work is hard stuff, huh? Abiding and seeking forgiveness when I’d rather not. Abiding and trusting deeply when the MRI shows even more new lesions and it appears the medicine is not working and we need to switch. Abiding in quietness of heart when the well-thought-out plans get messed up. Abiding in His rest and presence when the new box of cheerio’s are split, a poopy diaper got removed by a toddler, and another is running hands out towards it, and I’m being yelled at like I’m the terrorist in this situation!  Abiding. Cupping those small faces with my hands and responding in peace and love and joy knowing my response is pointing them to or from a loving Savior who can handle their every need. And, THEY are watching my abiding. My kids, my husband, my friends, my neighbors. Not only the people I can see, but the angels and the demons. Wow. To glorify God in my abiding in Himeven when I think no one else sees it. The angels and demons look on in wonder when we choose to glorify God in our response of abiding. Angels cheering us on and demons maddened as we plunder the gates of hell with our abiding in Christ.

And not that we could ever, hear me, ever do it on our own. That ‘being kept’ is by the Lord. Andrew Murray says it well: “He says ‘Abide IN ME’. He offers Himself, the Keeper of Israel that slumbers not nor sleeps, with all His power and love, as the living home of the soul, where the mighty influences of His grace will be stronger to keep than all their feebleness to lead astray….that word abide is even so the band with which He holds you fast and binds you to Himself. Let the soul take time to listen to the voice of Jesus. ‘In me’, he says, ‘is thy place – in my almighty arms.” (Andrew Murray, Abide in Me)

I can’t give you a check list to abiding. That’s why it’s hard. But you’ll know it. And it’s worth it. So, stay. Do the hard work of staying, remaining, abiding. He will produce the fruit. He will grow the roots deep and unshakable in the midst of the earth-quaking storms of unforeseen diagnosis’, depression, slandering words, broken relationships, and yes, even poop on the floor.

 

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