Moment by moment

I have friends who have had to leave their homes due to the fires in Colorado. This picture was taken over Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. God’s promises endure …even in the fire.  What a poignant picture of life outside the garden.

From Jesus Calling, June 27

Rest with me awhile. You have journeyed up a steep, rugged path in recent days. The way ahead is shrouded with uncertainty. Look neither behind you nor before you. Instead, focus your attention on Me, your constant Companion. Trust that I will equip you fully for whatever awaits you on your journey.

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An unfair exchange

We’re all called to something. Something odious. At least it’s odious for me. Sacrifice. Let me make one thing clear at the beginning. At my core, I despise sacrifice. I try to avoid it at all costs. Who really wants to sacrifice their wants, desires and pleasures? Even for a good cause… Seriously, even if we do “sacrifice” our time for a good cause, at the heart of it… Isn’t it just something we do to make us feel better about ourselves? True Sacrifice – gut wrenching, painful sacrifice is impossible – at least it is for me.

Yet, Jesus demands it. If you study the gospel of Mark, you might notice an event in the 8th chapter that sort of splits Mark’s gospel into two sections. The first section is Jesus showing his disciples and followers that He, indeed, is the long-awaited for Messiah. He heals and teaches and heals, and performs miracles and heals and teaches some more. The crowds are amazed.

At the end of Mark 8, Jesus turns to his disciples and asks them who the crowds say that He is. And after they answer, Jesus says, “Yes, but who do YOU say that I am?” Peter says, “You are the Christ.” And this is a turning point in Mark’s gospel.

It’s a subtle split, but Jesus turns his focus more on training the twelve in that dreaded topic: sacrifice. Check it out…

Mark 8:34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

Mark 8:35-36 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?

Mark 9:35 If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.

Mark 10:43-44 But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.

Mark even illustrates this principle of sacrifice in story form… Remember the rich, young ruler? He wants to follow Jesus, but Jesus asks him to sacrifice the one thing he loves most – his possessions. The man can’t and leaves broken-hearted. His disciples are incredulous. “Who can be saved?” they ask. Jesus gives the good news. “With man this is impossible, but not with God. All things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27).

I cannot muster the ability to sacrifice from within myself.

I have dreams you know… And they aren’t selfish desires – they are good desires, but for now, I can’t pursue them because of the time it requires to care for Anne. I have it easy actually. God has given me an easy choice.

  1. Pursue your own desires and let someone else care for Anne. OR
  2. Sacrifice and care for Anne.

Like I’m going to choose not to care for my own daughter.

But here’s where the mystery is revealed. Here is the paradox that I could have never uncovered on my own. You know what you find when you sacrifice your own desires and wants and dreams? And I don’t mean the “sacrifices” that make us feel better about ourselves. No, I mean the gut wrenching, I HATE THIS kind of sacrifice. Because that’s how I feel most of the time. I HATE THIS.

You know what I’ve found. Do you know what’s at the bottom of the deep well of sacrifice? What’s waiting when you really let Jesus be the King and surrender to that horrible thing he’s asked you to do – the thing you could never do by yourself? Do you know what’s waiting for you? Satisfaction.

As gut wrenching as the sacrifice is, the satisfaction on the other side is… well, it’s other-worldly. Jesus doesn’t ask us to sacrifice because He wants to make our lives miserable. He does it because He knows that it is the only way to find true, soul-filling satisfaction in this world. He asks us to sacrifice because He loves us.

And Jesus, looking at [the rich young ruler], loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

And the rich, young ruler couldn’t. And neither can I. Yet, somehow in the letting go and asking for help, Jesus does the impossible and sacrifices through me – and I get to experience that joy that surpasses all understanding. It’s not fair actually. I definitely don’t deserve it. But I’ll take it :-)

How God prepared 7-year-old Canon

My fellow blogger and friend, Shelly, recently wrote, “If you want to make God laugh, just tell Him all about your plans for your life.”  HA! Isn’t that so true?

Eric is a big planner. Ever so often he’ll try to get me to sit down and think through short-term and long-term goals for our family. I think I’d rather have a stomach bug… seriously. But I can guarantee that neither one of us ever planned to be parenting a brain-injured child. Never. But mysteriously, God had it planned for us all along.

Looking back, I can see very specific ways God led our family to prepare us both financially and spiritually before that fatal April day.

A few months before the accident, I remember being struck with a deep gratitude by how extraordinarily good our lives were. Eric’s job was going exceptionally well. I was serving in our church in a deeply satisfying way. Anne had turned a corner on all her hyper-sensitivity issues and for the first time EVER – all three kids were thriving (at the same time ;-). We were surrounded by a tight community of friends from both church and the community. Every aspect of our lives… was good. I remember praying with Canon one night – thanking God for all the goodness in our lives and then asking God to give us the strength to persevere when hard times would come. Canon stopped my prayer to ask about these “hard times.” And so began a series of conversations we had over the next several weeks about hardship – and how it was inevitable for every believer. We talked about how God is glorified through hardship – how God builds our character through suffering. Canon was extremely interested in the topic. I just remember marveling at how thoughtful he seemed to be at only 7 years old.

Now I know that I should have been marveling at God… not Canon :-) It was God that was bending his heart and mind to thirst after such hard truths at so young an age. Just think about the kindness and gentleness of God to prepare little 7-year-old Canon for what only He knew was about to happen. Those conversations laid the foundation for all the painful talks after the accident about suffering and grief.

Our God is sovereign, and I am. so. grateful :-)

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” Jeremiah 29:11.

Back in the saddle…

Well, I’m teaching bible study tomorrow morning. It’s been a while since I’ve taught… so we’ll see how things go tomorrow.

I’m giving an overview of Biblical World View, Covenant Theology, the Church AND Biblical Womanhood. I told the gal who asked me to do this… “Yeah, all of that should take me about 10 minutes, and then I can teach everyone how to line dance the last hour or so.” I was kidding. I think it’s nuts to try to cover all of that in one lesson, but hey, I’m just doing what I was asked to do ;-)

There was one interesting point I stumbled upon while studying… Have you ever noticed that in the very beginning – when God created man and woman – and gave them jobs to do… (man – go work and keep the garden – and woman, you be a helper suitable for him) – that after they sinned, God cursed them with the exact opposite of their original good design. Woman will have desire for man (or desire to be over or control the man). And man will have toil all the days of his life – and in the end, he will return to dust. And what do women struggle with? Submission. And what do men struggle with? Toil-filled work and and a sense of purposelessness. No wonder life is hard. The curse of sin put in our hearts is the very opposite of what we were created and called to be! …And when did Jesus say He was coming back??? Oh yeah. He didn’t :-)

Thank you Jesus for reversing the power of sin and providing a way for us to draw near to you. Thank you for giving us the strength to persevere until that glorious day when you will come again!!

Anne and God

In short, Anne wrestles with God …and it’s good.

She is constantly asking questions about God…

When we get to heaven, will we still need God?
What does God’s face look like?
What is mercy?
What is the lamb of God?

She reminds me of a curious four year old, but all of her questions center around Jesus. I’m so thankful. She still struggles with God’s goodness. She often says that God doesn’t love her or help her. Or she’ll say, “I’m done with God – because he let the car crash happen.” But then she’ll look up at me and say, “But I do love Him, mommy.”

She’s wrestling. We all wrestle with God’s goodness, we just don’t have the courage to admit it :-) Anne doesn’t have the luxury of hiding. She can’t inhibit herself from talking… you always know what she’s thinking. Thankfully, she has a safe place to wrestle. There is no condemnation in this home – we do not blindly accept God’s goodness. No, my prayer is that God will bring her out on the other side, stronger and more convinced of His goodness and love for her – able to face more of this life’s hardships. And yes Anne… we will still need God when we get to heaven :-)

 

Train Ticket

I remember reading The Hiding Place (the story of Corrie Ten Boom) when I was in my late twenties. That book was powerful. I remember thinking, “This woman spent the first half of her life – just normal, and then her life turned upside down.” And then I thought, “I wonder if that will be my story – 40 or so years of a normal, uneventful life and then tragedy strikes.” Your life gets sliced in two. In my case, it’s “before the accident” and “after the accident.”

My next thought was, “She had no idea. All of that time spent with her family in everyday life, and she had no idea that she would watch her sister die in a concentration camp, live to tell the tale, and encourage the world with her story. She had no idea…” Which leads me to the second powerful lesson I learned from this book…

When Corrie was a young girl, she feared her dad dying. As she voiced her fear to her father, he said, (and I’m paraphrasing from memory…) “Corrie, when we travel together on the train, when do I give you your train ticket?” And Corrie replied, “Right before I get on the train.” And her dad said, “Exactly Corrie. And so it will be with your Heavenly Father. He will give you the strength you need to face life’s trials just when you need it – not before…  Do not fear the future Corrie.”

And so here I am… needing another train ticket from God. He’s given me so many over these last months. And tomorrow when I wake up, I’ll ask for another. Because, I’m in the other half of my life…  the “after the accident” part. And I pray that our story brings encouragement to a small portion of the world. For His glory. Goodnight :-)

“God does miracles”

I was picking my kids up from VBS yesterday, and the song leader was up front reviewing the bible story the kids learned that day. It was from Luke 5 – the story of Jesus healing the Paralyzed man. And then the music started… and all the kids were standing, singing and doing hand motions to “God does Miracles… oh yeah, My God does Miracles!!!” And I became cynical.

Now let me stop and interject something. I have no right to be cynical. I have seen miracles. God saved Anne from the clutches of death, and now one year later, she’s learning bible verses at VBS. That’s a double dose of miracles. Hear me, I’m grateful. Oh so grateful…

But, the kids’ song raises a valid question. Why doesn’t God heal the way He healed when He walked the earth? Continue reading

I love words!

This past Sunday, I sang in our church’s ensemble. We sang a paraphrased version of Psalm 42 set to an Appalachian folk melody. It was beautiful. Way too high for me to sing well, but beautiful:-) One of the members of the ensemble noted that two words were flipped in the third verse. As I studied the text, I disagreed with him and we started a discussion that continued on and off throughout the morning (and that we both relished).

See what you think. Here’s the text… (emphasis mine)

As longs the hart for flowing streams
So longs my soul for You, O God;
My soul does thirst for the living God.
When shall I come to see Your face?

My tears have fed me day and night
While men have said, “Where is your God?”
But I recall as my soul pours dry
The days of praise within Your house.

Why do I mourn and toil within,
When is it mine to hope in God?

I shall again sing praise to Him,
He is my help, He is my God.

My friend thought the text should read: “Why do I mourn and toil within, when it is mine to hope in God?” In other words, “Why do I mourn when my hope is in this amazing God?” His view is theologically sound… But I agreed with the text as written. The Psalmist asks two questions… “Why do I mourn and toil within? When will I be able to hope in God again?” He encourages himself with the truth that he “shall again sing praise to Him, He is my help, He is my God.”

I fought back tears as I thought about this text. I know how it feels to mourn and toil and wonder if I will ever have hope again. I know how it feels to encourage myself with the truth that this season of grief will pass and I will again sing praise to Him, because He is my help and my God. I know (like so many others) all. too. well.

What’s interesting is the portion of Psalm 42 this text is based on… Check this out:

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God (Psalm 42:11).

I would suggest that neither of our interpretations is correct! The Psalmist (David) is indeed mourning, but he doesn’t ask when he will be able to hope in God again, and he doesn’t claim to already have hope in God. No, he tells himself to hope in God because He is his salvation! A subtle difference, but so important.

My friend’s interpretation focused more on God’s character and failed to give adequate weight to the psalmist’s mourning. My interpretation was too focused on the toil within. David got it right. His soul is downcast. What is the answer? God (period).

I love words!

Suffering & Comfort

Part of me feels silly writing about suffering – what do I really know about suffering? …But as I’ve been (lightly) studying suffering in the bible, I am flattened by the extent of suffering I find there – the pinnacle being the crucifixion of Christ. Isaiah calls him the “suffering Servant” for good reason.

I have so many thoughts about suffering, but for now… I’d like to focus on Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 1. Paul was intimately familiar with suffering. And somehow he is able to link comfort to suffering in a most provocative way. He actually tells the people of Corinth that the way to experience comfort is to suffer. Seriously?

For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. …If we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer (2 Corinthians 1:5-6).

What kind of comfort is Paul talking about here? Knowing a tiny bit about Paul’s character, I don’t think it’s a sweet, warm & fuzzy feeling, but rather comfort in the truth that suffering is not in vain. Paul points to sharing in the sufferings of Christ. Christ’s sufferings accomplished the ultimate good – salvation from sin and death. And God brings good from Paul’s sufferings too. Paul argues throughout 2 Corinthians that his sufferings help him bring comfort to others and serve as a means to make Christ known to the world. The world notices when a “suffering servant” remains faithful to Him. It is the way of the Kingdom of God… death brings life… and suffering combined with surrender …brings comfort.