Spring is waking the slumbered

I never thought my heart would race at full parking lots or that my lips would form a smile at the line of shirtless men fishing off the 4th Street bridge. Nope, never thought I'd be getting a rush from the sound of a lawn mower or the open-window chatter in the neighborhood.

Does Spring race your heart? It does mine.

I was running the river path, breathing in the hot Spring air and battling the strong breeze. My feet pounded steady while my thoughts jostled into some sense, but I kept wanting to giggle. I did a few times, I think. All those white-chested, shirtless men on 4th Street were quite the spectacle - with their fishing poles hanging lazy over the bridge. You know, just city fishing on a Sunday afternoon.

I loved it. I think it's because Spring shakes out all the winter slumber of indoor activities. Spring beckons us to come out and frolic in it's sunshine. Have you noticed it is incredibly hard to say "No" to a barbeque or a picnic or a walk in the park when Spring arrives? Am I the only one who feels the stretching and waking of Spring in my soul? I wanted to stop and savor the city fisherman and the crowd of bikers at the bar and the full parking lot at the park.

I wanted to let the delight sink in.

Maybe Spring doesn't inspire you. Maybe your neighbor doesn't have the most beautiful flowering magnolia tree. Maybe your neighbors don't grill out on their patios and play latin music. Maybe where you are from, people stay indoors and don't mow their lawns or pick up sticks in the front yard. Maybe the sun doesn't shine on the river and the breeze doesn't feel electric against your skin. Maybe your neighbors don't accept your dinner invites and maybe you don't have a patio set that your dad picked up at a thrift store.

I guess I could see how that kind of Spring would have a hard time waking you from winter slumber.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

 

but He has made provision

Thank goodness God, in His grace, gave me beautiful women mentors who ministered faithfully with the Word of Truth throughout my childhood and adult life. Even while I snubbed the corporate ministry of women, God was blessing me with the very personal ministry of a few very special women. I was the kind of woman who ran the other direction when "women's ministry" events were announced in the bulletin. The chit chat and the centerpieces and the circle discussions never seemed to get deep enough into the thick of theological things to convince me of their importance. I much preferred a coed conversation around the dinner table to a room full of hormonal ladies with space to air their grievances.

O, pride, you nasty little devil - keeping me from things my heart needs because my heart is too proud to receive them. 

But I have been feeling God make provision. He is creating space where pride once stood so that He could bless my heart and so that I could fall in better love with His beautiful design.

This weekend, I attended a two-day women's ministry conference (gulp): many women, large room, round tables, chocolates, and vulnerability. I shuffled in just as a session was starting and the panel of speakers spoke on God's design for womanhood and the way it reflects God's over-arching story of cosmic redemption.

It was a slow succumbing, really. And it was kind of like a springtime bloom.

The room was full of ages - from pre-teens to great-grandmas - and I was realizing that God's Word speaks the same beautiful message to each one of our souls. Genesis 1:27 says, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." His creative display of His glory in mankind was very intentionally reflected in male and female. I need not roll my eyes at my femininity like it will carry me away to frivolity. God's glory is displayed in His creation, intentionally in the inner-workings of relationships and uniquely in the differences of men and women. His reflection does not hide. His glory is proclaimed in creation whether or not eyes roll in rebellion.

And His grace pressed down on me with a heavy heartbeat.

This is my God, my Creator, my Redeemer - this God made me to reflect Him and know Him and love Him. His reflection does not hide behind my female-ness but shines through it.

I listened to wisdom from friends and strangers and teachers, just listening. My favorite moments came as we delighted in Scripture together. There is great power in opening the Word with right expectation that it will not return void. And, I believe, there is also great beauty in the corporate delight of Scripture.

The slow succumbing came as I swallowed the prideful expectation that women's ministry events were about chit chat and centerpieces and circle discussions. The blooming came as I saw God's nature reflected in the lives of these women. I imagine the honesty, support, and encouragement are exactly the reasons why such gatherings are so important.

After the women's event, I spent the rest of the weekend making precious memories with my grandparents. What a gift. Not a moment was out of place, even as we squeezed every last laugh out of the midnight hours Saturday night.

And, when we listened to the story of Abraham and Isaac play out in Genesis 22 on Sunday morning, I felt fresh the reign of my rebellion. I marveled at Abraham's obedience and his early morning departure to sacrifice his only son and I asked if my heart was capable of that kind of trust. My belly twisted as Abraham raised the knife to slaughter his son and I asked if my faith would ever be that kind of bold.

My spirit sighed when the ram appeared, overwhelmed that God had made provision. God had promised Abraham He would provide and Abraham trusted that He would keep His promises. Abraham's trusting meant early morning obedience and his believing meant conquering his heart's rebellion. When death was certain for his son, Abraham believed God to be a promise keeper.

Though death is certain, God has made gracious provision for our salvation, that by faith we would be rescued from rebellion.

Communion tasted different on Sunday. It was hard to swallow. Because this mystery of salvation doesn't make any sense.

I choked down the bread and the wine and breathed the kind of prayers I imagined Abraham might have prayed after God made provision for Isaac.

Even for all my rebellious and prideful ways, He has made a provision that is sufficient for my salvation.

O, that I would trust that God is my constant provision. O, that I would live believing His provision is sufficient.

our way into redemption

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. (Psalm 107:1-3, ESV)

We are good at announcing victories. We have awards ceremonies and podiums and medals and elaborate speeches. We are good at announcing victories, but how do we announce our redemption? How do we talk about our soul's resurrection?

Because I believe this is indeed the greatest cause for celebration. Redemption is the best reason to throw a festival or plan a party.

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!

Let us commemorate our being found when we were lost, our being victorious when we were defeated, our being alive when we were dead! But our joyful, victorious entry into redemption is not carried by our proud steps of accomplishment but on the weary, beaten back of a perfect Savior. We are carried, limp and lifeless, by Christ to victory and we finish with the greatest reward.

Jared C. Wilson writes, "We disobeyed our way into fallenness, but we cannot obey our way into redemption." (Gospel Deeps, p. 161)

He is our way into redemption. He is our victory and our celebration is in His name and for His fame. He is our way into redemption and He is the only way to announce victory in this life.

Wilson includes this list in his book Gospel Deeps and I think it pulls us into powerful proclamation as the redeemed children and inspires victorious living in the promises of our Redeemer. Wilson writes on page 160, "He has hemmed us in; he has us covered:

Christ is in us. (John 14:20; 17:23; Rom. 8:10-11; 2 Cor. 13:5; Col. 1:27)

Christ is over us. (Rom. 9:5; 1 Cor. 11:3; Col. 1:18; 3:1; Heb. 3:6)

Christ is through us. (Rom. 15:18; 2 Cor. 2:14; 5:20)

Christ is with us. (Matt. 18:20; 28:20; Eph. 2:5-6; 2 Tim. 4:17)

Christ is under us. (Luke 6:47-48; 20:17; Acts 4:11; 1 Cor. 3:11)

Christ is around us (that is to say, we are in and through him). (John 14:6; 1 Cor. 8:6; 2 Cor. 3:4, 14; 5:17; Gal. 3:27; Heb. 7:25)

We are good at announcing our victories, but this victory in Christ is like no other. We announce His victory in our redemption and we announce His sovereignty in our resurrected lives. I can imagine no greater speech than a life that speaks to this work.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

These reflections come as I read through Gospel Deeps by Jared C. Wilson. I definitely encourage you to pick up a copy and read it for yourself. It's one to read through slowly and process with other people (or on a blog!). Here are some other posts on my reflections on the book: Lord, I need Youmy heart will never not be His, living risen on a Monday, further up and further in you go.

steady

Steady now, steady. Monday came with a rush - like a wave upon a wave. And now I'm rushing off to a meeting praying my soul into steadiness.

And God is reminding me, in little and big ways, that He holds the future securely with His promises. He is guiding and directing and orchestrating and He is not worried about the outcome. 

Steady.

A ship's captain yells out in a storm to encourage the men at their posts, "Steady. Steady, now," even as a massive wave threatens to destroy the ship and their lives. But the men stand steady because they trust their captain.

And so, I stand steady against the waves because the One encouraging me also commands the oceans. His hand steadies my heart as easily and swiftly as it also steadies the waves rocking me.

Steady.

Steady is the face Jesus wore when he set out for Jerusalem. He was not fearful that the Father had forgotten about Him. He was not afraid. He set his face to go to Jerusalem, steady in His resolve to do the Father's will.

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. And they went on to another village. (Luke 9:51–56)

Steady.

And there is grace enough today to steady my heart because all the commotion is not what anchors. My hope is in future grace - that Christ anchors in this moment as firmly as He does the next. And I am steadied.

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I'm a fool with nothing left to lose. I'm a fool with nothing left but you.

I must go again to the theatre

I wrote this originally in August of 2012, but thought I would share it today because (it seems) I often need a refresher.

There is a way of sharing the gospel that makes people wish it was true, even if they believe it’s not. At least, Tim Keller thinks so (The Faith to Doubt Christianity).

There is a way of sharing the gospel that draws people in first because it’s beautiful. Not at first because it’s reasonable or socially responsible or sweet sounding, but because it is simply beautiful.

I know we can do battle about beauty – what it is and who decides – but that’s for another day (and a day that’s already been).

Today, I’m trying to be a student of this kind of gospel sharing. I’m trying to understand what it means to put the beauty of redemption on display - to draw back the curtain on the glorious story acted out on the living stage. I’m trying to remember what it felt like to see the hero die for the villain… and the horrible knot in my gut when I realized the villain was me.

To share a beautiful story, one must believe the story is beautiful.

And for that, I must go and sit in the theatre. I must watch wide-eyed and remember every interaction and every awe-inspiring stage direction. I must hang on every word because every time I know the villain is doomed, but every time the story plays out opposite what I am sure I know. And it is beautiful.

To share a beautiful story, one must first believe the story is beautiful.

There is a way to share the gospel that makes a person sit on the edge of their seat and hang on every word. There is a way to share the gospel that makes one appreciate and even wonder at the beauty so much that one wishes it was true.

I want to learn this way. And so I must go again to the theatre.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

and then a wave stole the sand away

It was like a wave washed up and stole the sand away - as if I stood looking down at my sand covered ankles wondering what was underneath and then a wave broke into the frame and stole the sand away. The wooden pews in the downtown church on the corner were cramped with every version of hipster and we sang shoulder to shoulder:

In Christ alone my hope is found He is my light, my strength, my song This Cornerstone, this solid ground Firm through the fiercest drought and storm

And the wave washed up and stole the sand away. What an amen I heard my heart say in those moments! What a beautiful discovery to listen as the Lord tells me once again about the firm ground on which I stand. It was like a deep breath that turned up the corners of my mouth and filled my ribs with certainty.

God was singing His sovereignty over me, reminding me of His grace. God was breaking into my small viewing frame to wash away the sand covering the very firm foundation.

And I am not afraid. I am standing on a firm foundation and God is washing away the shifting sand at my feet.

We are the loved ones, friends of God indeed. ... may the days stay sweet, may your steady heart beat be the good in me, the good in me

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rrv0TUMWaM]

desire like dynamite

I'm looking at my week today. I'm just sitting here on this side of Monday thinking - what stories will unfold before next Monday comes? How will I step into the miracles of grace God has authored this week? What will those joyful moments look like and when will I do battle in the moments of temptation? What treasures are waiting to be discovered in the most unlikely of places? I'm still on this side of Monday, just barely, and I'm ushering it in with Sandra McCracken's song, "Dynamite" because I guess I want to think on the weight of another regular week. Yes, life goes on - an unsteady rhythm in an unsteady and shifting world that somehow feels routine. Another 9 am start to another five day week that's about to happen... and these lines are breaking in to shake me free of going through the Monday motions.

You may not be in a place to imagine anything this morning, and if that's the case you might want to come back and read this later because McCracken paints a picture you are meant to see in your mind's eye.

"The heart takes what it wants, like dynamite."

Dynamite is not a gentle thing - not a pleasant or friendly thing. It is unforgiving and indiscriminate in its destruction. And this is the image McCracken uses to talk about the heart: dynamite. That's ugly.

I don't like to think about my heart like destruction - the kind that thunders and smokes and overwhelms. I don't like to think about a lot of ugly things. On this side of Monday, I am thinking about how desire is lit like dynamite.

"Those who have ears, as the smoke it clears, will see things as they are To bend the will, you first must change the heart."

But I'm also thinking about the moments before destruction is guaranteed - those moments when the will can still be bent by a change of heart.

Where are those moments in my today? When will my heart race to take what it wants this week?

Oh, I know there will be many times. My heart is fickle and fragile and forgetting. I want things I'll never admit to wanting and this week will not be any different than last week.

But, maybe if I know my desire like dynamite, I will listen for a different sound.

"Will we choose the noise of our desire or the hope that makes no sound?"

Maybe, I will choose to say "Yes!" to all the promises God has given me in Christ - all the ways He has provided the power to bend the will of my flesh by the change of my heart. Destruction is not unavoidable. The noise of desire is not so deafening that the silent sound of hope cannot penetrate it. A hope that does not disappoint (Romans 5) is as brilliant and as sure as this morning's sun.

In 2 Corinthians 1:20 we read, "All the promises of God find their 'Yes!' in Christ."

The God of creation sees our desire like dynamite and yet still offers a hearty and infallible YES in the person of Christ, who secures every promise God has ever given. Within this profound security, we can say "Yes!" to those promises - to the hope that makes no sound.

We can walk out this week in a way that doesn't leave destruction in our wake.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=in246ON90KI]

I am reading through Future Grace by John Piper and this particular post is inspired by his words in Chapter 7 as well as Sandra McCracken's song. 

sometimes I speed what should be slowed

I've been thinking lately about pace. What speed is fitting as we pursue the Lord - is it always an all-out, relentless rush? Are we always breathless about getting to where God is leading?

I've been thinking about pace because I wonder if we sometimes speed what should be slowed. I wonder if we create some of the crazy that surrounds our spiritual sprints - like we've thrown into the air all the race markers and so haphazardly attempt to fix our eyes on Jesus while anxiously searching the way.

Maybe this isn't making any sense to you (is it?), but I've sure noticed that God means for some things to be experienced slowly. Prayers are sometimes this way, and blessings. And suffering. Sometimes, it seems, we'd like to think we can control the outcome of the race we're running, the "race marked out for us," by more intensity. Or maybe it's just me.

It is a beautiful thing to take slow steps of faith. Not timid steps, just slow and steady steps that say,

"I am not worried where my foot will fall. I am not anxious about getting somewhere sooner or later. I am at peace with the amount of grace God has given for this step. I do not doubt the Lord's provision."

It is a beautiful thing to take slow steps of faith and I'm learning this, slowly. Maybe it's because slow steps allow my frenzied, distracted heart time to believe in the God who will sustain me.

Maybe my hurried, race pace is something I've thought up as a back-up plan if God's doesn't work. Maybe I need to be restful even while I'm determined to persevere as a runner in a race - believing that my finishing doesn't depend on my performance as much as it depends on God's grace.

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10

"When I am afraid, I put my trust in you." Psalm 56:3

"Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand." Proverbs 19:21

"It is in vain that you rise early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives sleep to his beloved." Psalm 127:2

"Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." Matthew 6:34

Today, I'll try taking slower steps.

This song seems to be about the right pace.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_yXN6QcTiVE]

let LOVE fly like CrAzY

I am a sinner, in the first person

Yesterday, I stood in a new church singing a song with all the old, redemptive swagger of a classic hymn. We rested on the chorus in repeat and I finally sang in the first person.

"I am a sinner, if it's not one thing it's another caught up in words, tangled in lies You are a Savior and you take brokenness aside and make it beautiful, beautiful." (Brokenness Aside by All Sons & Daughters)

I am a sinner. 

Have you ever been challenged to make "I am ..." statements? I often asked my students in Honduras to make a list of ways they could finish that sentence. We would then look through the list and talk about which of those statements were true, which were false, and which were within his/her power to change. All those conversations are nice and tidy when I'm on the counseling end, encouraging people to examine their inner being and ask God to reveal if there is any wrong thing.

As I stood there singing, "I am a sinner" in the first person, something broke. "Sinner" is not the first thing I'd like to have follow my "I am" statements. I'd like to have an impressive list before I make that admission. I always have a hard time thinking about specific ways I sin when I'm standing in church (so convenient, I know). But not yesterday. With every repeating chorus I thought of ways I'd made my heart ugly.

I am a sinner.

The pastor introduced the sermon series on generosity and we read from Luke 18 about the offerings of the Pharisee and the tax collector.

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14 ESV)

I work with the kind of stories that would tear your heart out - parents, children, families, neighbors capable of things we try not to know about. There's a distance that threatens to creep in to my posture when I come before the Lord. There are so many things I haven't done and would never do.

I pictured the posture of the tax collector at the temple and his first person proclamations struck me. Both the Pharisee and the tax collector prayed for favor. The Pharisee was grateful for what he was not. The tax collector was grateful for who God was. 

The tax collector prayed with a posture that honored the Lord, recognizing how great God would have to be to save him - a sinner.

It is this kind of posture that produces a generous heart - a desperate, first person statement that begs for mercy from the One who is merciful.

I am a sinner, but You are my Savior and you take brokenness aside and make it beautiful, beautiful.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

mid-life: exchanging crisis for calling

When I left for college, I thought I was joining the ranks of "students" - a thoughtful army my parents had already been a part of and had since graduated from. I was going off to learn so I could approach "real life" with the right information, equipped with the tools for a career. I thought that being a student was a phase and not just in an academic sense. My growing up years are replete with examples of spiritual mentors and faithful witnesses who crowded around to pour light and truth into my self-centered soul. In many ways, I looked up to these folks because they had been through the "student" phase and seemed to still have their wits about them on the other side. Not that they ever encouraged my thinking that they had "made it," but in my ignorance I believed them to have arrived somewhere I hoped to soon be.

As it turns out, God never intended us to stop learning (please, no jokes about it taking me years to figure this out).

This is part of our sanctification - humbly adopting the title of student. When we stop pressing on to know the Lord in a deeper way, we have said "I know it all," which is nothing less than a lie. God has designed the refining process to draw us into a greater knowledge of Him, a greater dependence on Him, and a greater satisfaction in Him. Being a lifelong student is the best kind of blessing there is when your subject is the Creator of the universe!

I remember having conversations with my parents while I was in college and many more since, where I shared inspiration about the light bulbs turning on in my head. Their responses were not, "Mmmhmm. Good, glad you're learning that" but rather, "Now, that's interesting. I wonder if that also applies..."

A giant light switched on when I realized I was learning WITH my parents and not to catch up to them.

I've never seen their pursuit look so different from the world then right now. When their peers look for worldly pleasures and social science studies reveal what they should be doing and desiring, they are venturing into wildly unknown territory.

Because they love their Lord and treasure Him, they are exchanging a mid-life crisis for a mid-life calling. Yesterday, they officially invited Sadie and Sierra into our family and into their home. Their bags had been packed for two weeks, before they even knew the destination. Yesterday they moved into the room above the kitchen I called my own for several years of high school. And now I'll call them sisters.

As my parents are clinging to promises they have taught and studied for years, they are challenged to believe the promises hold power enough to be strong when they feel weak. And I'm sure they feel weak and ill-equipped and even awkward about the transition, but there they are in the midst of it.

I can't tell you how much my love for them has grown as I watch them lean into the Lord. And as I see the Lord sustain and sanctify them, I can't help but love Him more as well. What a beautiful Savior who looks after the lost and lonely and finds them refuge.

My heart is full for these two young ladies who will change our family forever. I can hardly wait for thanksgiving to come so I can count them as blessings around our family's abundant table.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRLjKMEGGWc]

See the first in this mid-life series: the opposite of mid-life crisis as I look at what it means to always be in the life development stage called "sanctification."