When I was in Kindergarten, I came home with a tiny sapling, a tree, to be planted in our yard, because it was Arbor Day after all. I was thrilled about the little life I had been entrusted with – and then the teenage boy mowing the lawn ran over it and my 5 year old heart was run over too. Ah, but it was a good lesson:
We run over what we’re not looking for.
We run over what we don’t see as important.
I survived. The tree did not.
I tell you this because I’ve been convinced lately that our kids are like seeds, saplings, and eventually full grown oak trees. I’m amazed at how fragile these acorns are that eventually sprout into a tiny shoot of green that I would probably think was a weed, (or my husband would run over with the lawn mower,) because they become something incredibly strong, sturdy, life producing, and shade giving.
It’s amazing that any of these little seeds, acorns, shoots, and saplings survive. The soil conditions have to be just right. They have to survive long enough not to be eaten. And they can’t be run over by the lawn mower!
When you see a seed or sapling, it’s difficult to imagine the oak that it will become given the right conditions.
This changes the way I think about parenting. An oak tree takes a long time to mature and grow, but the payoff is enormous compared to the puny Bradford Pear tree that shoots up in significantly less time. It’s all about the work in soil conditions and the waiting I want to put in.
Do I want to do ground work – hidden work – in my kids? Do I long to cultivate their roots and provide soil for them to grow deep in? Do I want to do the shovel work – the hard, unnoticed, heart work – that may look to outsiders like I’m not doing anything because my work is not outward, quick fruit producing, or behavior modifying? It is deep, slow, root cultivating heart work. It is that work that says, I’m going to work on your heart today and help us get to the root of why you don’t want to accept instruction instead of finishing the math lesson that I could check off and say “done! We did it! We’re on track!” I don’t get to say that often – checking off the “done” box – not if I’m really following the Lord in the work He is doing in my children that’s slow and hidden and usually not the way I, in my feeble knowledge and wisdom, would do it.
Do I trust Him to complete the work He’s started in them by placing them in a covenant family of faith? Do I trust that He is working in me, and in them, as I parent, discipline, listen with humility, and repent? The math lesson is far less important that the heart that needs to be seen, and heard, and walked alongside in repentance and faith.
It makes me think about my story of the tiny sapling being run over by the mower pushed by the unsuspecting teenager. How often do I run over saplings because I’m only interested in the trees that produce fruit? Am I only interested in the trees that are sturdy and good for climbing, with strong roots, that we admire? You have to admit, we don’t admire much about a seed. Rarely does anyone say, “WOW, look at that!” when they see an acorn or seed. And yet, there’s NO oak tree without it.
These days are important. The soil our kids grow in is important. We want to grow trees, not shrubs.
Jeremiah 17:5-9 poignantly says this:
“Thus says the Lord: ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. ‘Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
I want to show my children what it looks like not to make their flesh their strength but to send their roots out to the streams; so that when they do begin to bear fruit, their leaves will remain green, even in a season of drought. This doesn’t mean not to push your kids in sports or activities they are skilled at and love. It doesn’t mean you always have the answer for the “why” or their pain as they navigate life and friendships. It doesn’t even mean that you can’t mess up – because you will; every day. (And GOD will use that.) I think it DOES mean that we point them to the source of life, of good, and of refreshment over and over and over again. And not just when they ask or we think they are watching. It starts where no one sees it – in our own hearts; in our moments of choosing between trusting the Lord or making our flesh, capabilities, control, or recognition our strength.
There is a slow, long, good work taking place in YOUR heart AND your kids’ hearts. God is using you with your kids to cultivate that soil – not running them over because they are saplings and not yet fruit producing – but cherishing the moments of love, correction, discipline, repentance, and glimpses of God’s grace and work – in you and them!
Galatians 6:7-9, “for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
Do you feel desperate? That’s good. We need to be desperate for God to work in us and our kids because we would never lead them to Jesus in our own strength and ability. God consistently asks us to do things we truly CANNOT do – and one of those things – maybe the most important – is growing these oak trees we call children.
Here’s to committing to seeing our kids; to repenting alongside them; to committing to the long, slow, deeper work of Jesus in our hearts and our kids’ hearts.
My first post on this blog is a slight variation of this post. It’s titled, the beginning of hope. It’s where I began to chronicle my journey right after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I’m adding to and updating it today, March 24, 2018. I don’t want to add too much to it based on my thoughts now because it’s real and raw about what God was beginning in me, but I want to come back to this sweet reminder, solid foundation, and trail-head. However, I have re-read, updated, and added some details as I’ve walked this out over the last year and a half. So, here it is:
Back-tracking to my MS story: when I was pregnant with Maggie, our 4th little blessing, I had these crazy dystonic episodes that would uncontrollably throw me to the ground in pain multiple times a day without much warning (think seizure looking). I saw a neurologist eventually and got medication to help and then the episodes subsided after Maggie was born, so we just moved on, thinking that it was spiritual warfare because they started the week we launched New City Church. About 18 months later, I went blind in one eye. Like, really blind. An eye specialist said it was optic neuritis, and that “tumors can cause this, you need to get at MRI right now”, so off we went for what ended up being a 3 day hospital stay to treat my failed optic nerve and get tests done. It never fails to amaze me now that I can truly say “I was blind but now I see!” After all that, the abnormal MRI, and other numbness, weakness, and tingling issues I had (that apparently aren’t normal even for having 4 consecutive pregnancies!), we knew that an MS diagnosis was all but official.
Then, several days later, when the lumbar puncture results came back, the answer was complete. Although we knew unofficially I had multiple sclerosis, reading words like: abnormal, high, at least 25 lesions on the brain, enhancement/active demyelination, can really do a number on your heart. I was stuck. Unable to move forward.
As I waited for the puncture results, I thought knowing an answer would give some satisfaction, but it didn’t. Instead, I was putting my hope in something unable to meet my expectation. I felt trapped. Trapped by fear, uncertainty, the inability to “fix it”. Most of all though, trapped by the answer. Maybe it was the finality of it that sucked out the breath of hope I didn’t know I was holding in. I’m amazed at how often we do this though – put our hope in an answer.
Nevertheless, the Lord, in His mercy, rescued me from the darkness I was sitting in and brought me into the light of HIM. He reminded me that His mercies are truly new every morning. I journaled my way through fear and questions and clung to the truth of what I DO know and what I can ALWAYS be sure of, and that is this: getting God is more satisfying than any answer, or any gift for that matter.
If he allowed the answer, the prognosis, or the gift, to be more satisfying, then I wouldn’t seek him. It’s his grace that allows the answer, while potentially helpful, to produce little peace or confidence because then I would not seek, depend on, and trust him as the better and more satisfying answer.
WHO I get – Jesus – is far more satisfying that WHAT I get. An answer (or gift, or person, or circumstance) can neither produce, nor steal, anything from me.
ALL things are under HIS feet. The wind and the waves KNOW HIS name. The enemy may steal and seek to kill and destroy, but MY KING authors, and lavishes, and frees. And He is completely trustworthy, faithful, kind, loving, and beyond satisfying.
As I update these words today, about a year and a half into my multiple sclerosis journey, I’ve had 6 MRI’s, a few rounds of high powered steroids (I mean 1,000mg a day for a few days), new lesions on my brain and spine, started and stopped a two drugs that didn’t work, and started a new infusion drug that IS working wonderfully. I’ve lost my ability to run because the pounding on my feet sends shock waves through my body and eventually causes my left foot to drop and stop working. My vision is blurry when it’s hot and I can’t think clearly. My legs are spastic and stiff every morning. My body feels stress in a way thats strange and painful. And yet, I’m ignited to do new and hard things I’ve never done before, like climbing walls and hiking up mountains and learning to sew; reading more books, homeschooling my kids; and taking more risks. AND, I haven’t had any new lesions in over 6 months!!!
I can say with gut-wrenching honesty: MS can never take from me more than it can give me. The incredible Joni Earekson Tada wisely says,
“God permits what he hates to achieve what He loves.”
I cannot describe the tasting and see that God is good I have experienced and the ways the Lord has met me. I can say with the Psalmist, often through tears, “the lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed I have a beautiful inheritance” (psalm 16).
So bring on the mystery, the questions, the unpredictability. Bring on the good days and bring on the bad days. Because if I could map it out myself, I would never in a million years do it this way. In my flesh I would never do it the way God does it. And I would never lead myself to the Lord. Thankfully, He is too good to let me do that.
I’ll close with two passages that have become my anthem,
Hebrews 2:8-9 “Now in putting everything in subjection to Him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. BUT we SEE HIM … Jesus!”
Jeremiah 17:5-8 Thus says the Lord:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
and makes flesh his strength,
whose heart turns away from the Lord.
He is like a shrub in the desert,
and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,
in an uninhabited salt land.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
May you be like a tree and not a shrub too. May you taste and see that He is good. May you trust in HIM more than any gift, circumstance, person, or answer.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!)
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.
It’s been exactly one year now since we found out I that I have multiple sclerosis. (you can read more here) It doesn’t feel like it can be a year. I’ve mourned, cried, questioned, feared, and sat in a pit of despair. I’ve willfully trusted, looked to Jesus as my rescuer and hero, and worshipped in the midst of it. I realize it’s only been year, and there is far more to come, but I want to remember this: there’s far more that I get from MS than MS can take from me.
And so, as I reflect I can truthfully, although painfully, say: I wouldn’t change it. I wouldn’t change God’s plan for my life. Of course, I would never choose this for myself, which is exactly why I would never choose Jesus for myself! My flesh wouldn’t pick this. Any yet, my Spirit is resolved to God’s will and plan; even though that’s scary to actually write the words, “there’s far more that I get from MS than MS can take from me”. However, I am getting to taste and see that the Lord is good. I get to see Him in control. I get to see Him loving me. I get to see Him using me. I get to trade in my self protective “running and hiding” tendencies for looking at the new adventure straight in the face and seeing sorrow that is a servant to my joy.
I wouldn’t trade the scales of the eyes of my heart falling off to see His abundance, His power and His goodness. I’ve been awakened to pain, suffering, and questions. But, MORE than that, I’ve been awakened to God’s Word in new ways – it is alive, sweet and nourishing. Jesus – His Word – sustains my life. Knowing God’s character – His holiness, limitlessness, might, power, sovereignty and love – makes the questions okay, because I get to know and to see Him more fully.
What joy it is to say along with L.B. Cowman, “He has chosen me. Sickness you may intrude into my life, but I have a cure standing ready – God has chosen me. Whatever occurs in the valley of tears, I know He has chosen me.” (Streams in the Desert). I look back and see where Ryan wrote in my bible when we were at the hospital, “our theology must become our doxology”. And I see how much that has changed everything. If I didn’t believe God was completely sovereign over everything – from salvation to interruptions, to multiple sclerosis – I wouldn’t have been able to trust Him this way, because if He’s not sovereign over this, working all things for my good and His glory, then that makes him a little like me. And, I know that I need Him to be absolutely different from me – perfectly Holy, limitless, mysterious, powerful and good beyond imagining.
I want to experience this adventure in its entirety. I’m reminding myself as I write this, that this IS an adventure. What an adventure it is. I’ll close with what Russ Ramsey says: “I do not want simply to endure my affliction. I want to experience it – to receive it as an adventure and follow it to its end. Knowing that I come to this season having seen the world only through the eyes of the well, I ask God to help me see whatever this struggle might reveal.” (Struck) Amen, brother. Amen.
I had a good MRI a couple weeks ago, from the brain through the spine. Meds and alternative strategies seem to be working well and I got a good report (for the first time!). As we left the MS clinic at The Shepherd Center, Ryan reminded me of this verse: Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. (Psalm 20:7) Or we could say, some trust in MRIs and doctors, but we trust in the Lord. We can take the good as we’ve taken the bad and our trust has to remain the same – steadfastly in the Lord – taking good news as a gift to be received, but not necessarily grasped and clung to for dear life, as if the gift provides the life. As Augustine says: “It is easy to want things from the Lord and yet not want the Lord Himself, as though the gift could be preferable to the Giver.”
It’s almost easy for me to trust in the big “scares”…I do say almost because I waver and still, He meets me in my wavering. The small things, on the other hand, the things I think I have control over and am sufficient to handle – those I forget and I make my flesh my strength….and I’m cursed in it. As Jeremiah 17 reminds me: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a shrub in the dessert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in parched places of the wilderness…Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought.” The image of the tree associated with this verse is so deeply meaningful to me it is tattooed on my wrist as a constant and permanent reminder of WHO planted me and to sink my roots deep into His soil, trusting Him.
It also reveals to me when I live “cursed”…Cursed in the way that my mind can’t turn off, can’t stop the comparison trap, can’t stop until everything is “perfectly” done, and tries to forecast the future protect myself. It’s tiring. Even in the good days – the days where the kids do well and we’ve accomplished in school what we (I) set out to accomplish, and we talked about Jesus and read the bible and prayed and got along, and on and on…I’m cursed in my mind when I trust in that because I HAVE TO MAKE IT HAPPEN AGAIN.
And I can’t. Because it wasn’t completely up to me in the first place. I lead and parent and plan and teach, yes. However, if my hope for myself and my identity lies in how all those things go, then I’m jumping into a ditch – either way.
Usually when I’m in this place, and the past two weeks it’s especially been in my ability to school our children proficiently, I realize I’m looking to myself way to much.
Can I have a “life-quote”? Well, either way, this is it: “For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ. He is altogether lovely….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.” (want a bit more? check out this article!)
I am my own idol when I think let me good days make me feel superior and my bad days cause me worry and feelings of “not enough”. They are two sides of the same coin of myself being an idol. When the kids obey and our schooling goes well and I’m not running on fumes at 4pm, I long to praise God for the gift instead of letting it provide life for me. It cannot provide life and hope and security. In the same way, on the bad days, when there’s hard news or the kids are crazy and I’m incredibly embarrassed by at least one of them and wonder where in the world they came from; I can praise God because the verdict on my life is in and He says that in Him I am enough.
I am fully known, fully flawed, and fully approved of IN Christ. Not in my good works or in my bad works.
And in Christ? YOU are too, friend.
I’ll leave you with a profound thought from the Puritan writer, Richard Sibbes:
“We must not judge ourselves always according to present feeling, for in temptations we shall see nothing but the smoke of distrustful thought. Fire may be raked up in the ashes, though not seen. Life in the winter is hid in the root. We must beware of false reasoning, such as: because our fire does not blaze out as others, therefore we have no fire at all. By false conclusions we may come to sin against the commandments in bearing false witness against ourselves. The prodigal would not say he was no son, but that he was not worthy to be called a son (Luke 15:19). We must neither trust to false evidence, nor deny true; for so we should dishonor the work of God’s Spirit in us, and lose the help of that evidence which would cherish our love to Christ, and arm us against Satan’s discouragements.” (The Bruised Reed)