Asides

From Eden To Calvary – A Journey Of Purpose

20140311-135636.jpgJourney with us, O holy God, as we make our way to the cross. Sharpen our focus, that our attention may center more on you than ourselves. Lead us through the shadows of darkness and prepare our hearts, that we might be a people of prayer, ready to perceive and respond to your Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ. In his name we pray. Amen.
~The Worship Sourcebook

We are making a journey right now. Each in our own way, but have you ever thought about Jesus’ journey to the cross? I came across this as I was doing some Lent reading.  I believe it is from Max Lucado…

 

Jesus died…on purpose.

No surprise.  No hesitation.  No faltering.

You can tell a lot about a person by the way he dies.  And the way Jesus marched to his death leaves no doubt: he had come to earth for this moment.

Read the words of Peter.  “Jesus was given to you, and with the help of those who don’t know the law, you put him to death by nailing him to a cross.  But this was God’s plan which he had made long ago; he knew all this would happen.” (Acts 2:23)

No, the journey to the cross didn’t begin in Jericho.  It didn’t begin in Galilee.  It didn’t begin in Nazareth.  It didn’t even begin in Bethlehem.

The journey to the cross began long before.  As the echo of the crunching of the fruit was still sounding in the garden, Jesus was leaving for Calvary.

Thus began Jesus’ journey to the cross, the fulfillment of God’s plan.

Our own daily journey can at times be long and trying. Sometimes we find ourselves wandering off the path that God has directed. Even today as we have recommitted ourselves to drawing closer to the Lord, to the observation Lent, we find our hearts and mind are prone to wander.

“Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.  He is eager to relent and not punish.  (Joel 2:13, NLT)

In the first part of this verse the prophet Joel warned Israel to “tear your heart, not your clothing” (Joel 2:13). One commentator  summarizes the point like this: “What was needed was not ritual alone, but the active involvement of the individual in making a radical change within the heart and in seeking a new direction for one’s life. What was demanded was a turning from sin and at the same time a turning to God. For the prophets, such a turning or conversion was not just simply a change within a person; it was openly manifested in justice, kindness, and humility.”

This is a tall order as ritual is much easier accomplished than heart-involvement. I know the words, I know how I am supposed to act.  I can do this in my sleep.  This is compartmentalized ritual.  But what would happen if we allowed our head knowledge of God and what he has done for us to seep out and penetrate our entire being. From head…to heart.

This season, regardless of your current state, no matter how many times or how far you have wandered, you must “Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.”   After all, Lent is not about your faithfulness, but rather about the faithfulness of Jesus on your behalf. Jesus was the fulfillment of God’s plan.  Today He is waiting patiently for you.

Saved by His plan, His grace…this is why Jesus journeyed to the cross.

A series of small explosions

life easierThis morning while I was breezing through the kitchen I caught sight of a Christmas present.  A sign hanging above the mudroom doorway that says “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” A favorite verse, a needed reminder. As I went about my business and tried to focus my twitchy, squirmy thoughts together I was reminded that “still” is so often harder than it seems when it comes to our minds. (Maybe this is just a phenomenon I suffer from.)  I was breezing through the kitchen with a load of laundry to add to the piles that needed washed, while mentally creating a list of things I needed to get from the store before the next big snow storm hits (new totals up to 10 inches in the next 24 hours with wind chill values of -25.)  I was also digesting the last couple of days while looking around at the Christmas stuff that needs taken down (I feel like I just got it up!) and trying to figure out the upcoming week’s schedule for back-to-school, practices, travel, work, doctor’s appointments, etc.   We ended 2013 and kicked off 2014 with a bang! Actually it was more like a series of small explosions.  Curve balls that life keeps throwing and I try to keep batting away, so as not to strike out.  It is mentally exhausting in addition to being at times physically trying.  I am not complaining (at least not much) and I keep asking, “Really? More?” God really does have a sense of humor and my prayer the last couple of days is “Lord, I really don’t need any more raw footage to write about. Some quiet would be very much appreciated.” I refuse to ask the question, “What else could go wrong?” because I really don’t want to know.  Nothing that has crossed the plate over the last few weeks has been a tragedy or crisis and I am thankful for that.  There have been many stories very close to home over the holidays that are tragic and my heart breaks for families and individuals who truly are suffering right now.  What I am talking about is more like what I would assume Chinese water torture would be like, mentally taxing. After a flu-filled “different Christmas” (3 different strains over 10 days) I was looking forward to escaping for a night to Amish country to celebrate 15 years of being married to my husband and very best friend. (Man, I love that guy!)  We were going to watch some college football (I am a huge fan!) browse the shops and eat some wonderful food that I didn’t have to cook.  Then winter storm Hercules hit and canceled our plans.  Not a big deal, we celebrated at home, still watched football, and enjoyed our kids enjoying the sledding hill. We also had plans to finish Christmas vacation at an indoor water park with my sisters and their families.  We checked in on Friday, the kids took a quick spin on the slides and my husband took our son to basketball.  Five minutes after they left I got a notification from our security company that our the alarm was going off at home.  So after he dropped our son at basketball he returned home to talk with the police.  False alarm apparently, no footprints in the snow, nothing amiss in the house.  Then came the call from the basketball coach, our son took a charge, went knee to knee with another player and his was swollen up like a balloon.  We ended up in urgent care where x-rays were done, our daughter left to play in the water park with her cousins.  The x-rays showed no fracture but a small white spot was discovered on his femur, not common and very disconcerting according to the physicians assistant.  She wanted us to stay and wait while the radiologist read it, hoping to hear specifically about “the spot.”  The official reading came back with no mention of the spot, only the news that nothing was broken.  But what about the spot? What do we do with this piece of information? Is it something? Is it nothing? I guess that’s to be continued.  (This after having a scare at Thanksgiving when he had an ekg because of some symptoms that led to a report of an enlarged ventricle and a thickening of his heart muscle. The report was later discovered to be inaccurate but not after 5 days of prayerful wondering, worrying, and waiting.) Friday’s diagnosis was a severe knee sprain, crutches and a knee brace for a week (which we already had from his prior knee injury 9 months ago) and a follow up for an MRI to make sure everything else is intact. (I am not so sure it is…)  Three days later I am mothering a child who is frustrated about missing out on games, practices, sledding, the inability to walk up and down the steps and bend his still swollen and very sore knee.  Our daughter, and her extremely sensitive skin, came home from the water park with a mysterious face rash, and then, we’ll call it the icing on the cake, the check engine light came on in our car on the way home from our tumultuous waterpark stay.  So, to recap, in a 24 hour period, police, hospitals, rashes, and finally car trouble.  Drip, drip, drip, drip, drip.

Now you are up to speed as I again breeze through the kitchen arms loaded down this time with Christmas things that need to find a home, mind loaded down with family, work, and ministry concerns and to-dos, and sense of being tired instead of rejuvenated after Christmas “vacation.” Drip, drip, drip, drip.

I need to remind myself of my new years resolution already, only 5 days in.  Choose Faith.

And as I sit, finally still, and bring my thoughts from my head to the page, I am reminded of a few other things that I am sure will come in handy as we charge into a new year.

There are days when we need to laugh to keep from crying.  And then there are days when we’ll have to laugh as the tears roll anyway.  But laugh, always laugh.

Nobody likes to be benched but sometimes we need to “ride the pine” and get healthy again.  Interruptions are not part of our plan but they are part of life.  Remember always that God is in control, nothing is an accident. Take a deep breath and rest during your break so when your number gets called you are ready to go back in and give it 100% again.

This is real life, not a fairytale and in that some days are going to be good some days aren’t but don’t forget to be thankful. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)   Some days are going to be hard but you don’t need to do it on your own, we can do all things through Christ. (Phil 4:13)  There will be no words for some of the days we will have to face but you are never alone in any of it. (Isaiah 41:10) First, last, and always, prayer. In all of it, quit trying so hard because the Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. (Exodus 14:14)

I leave you today with this, a very dear friend and mentor sent this to me as I was grumbling about everything that had been going on.  A simple, yet effective prayer on days when the Chinese water torture seems to be getting the best of you.

Dear God, I don’t ask you to make my life easier, but I ask You to give me the strength to face every day. Amen

Just Say No

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“Raise your hand if you’re overwhelmed. Raise your hand if you think you might finally get down to just whelmed sometime after the second zombie apocalypse. Raise your hand if you’d like a break. Raise your hand if you think that break is just never going to come. Now raise your hand if all the chainsaws you were juggling just took turns slicing off your earlobes because you had your hands in the air waving at me.”

I read this this week while sitting in the waiting room at a doctors office and it nearly made me laugh out loud. Overwhelmed? I am pretty sure I’ve got the corner on that market. The reason I was sitting in the doctors office? I was supposed to have a monthly blood test a week ago on Friday and it wasn’t until Tuesday morning that I realized that I had completely missed and forgot about it. My head is so full of stuff that things are absolutely beginning to fall through the cracks. Things that are very, very important. I have spread myself so thin that no one is getting much more than a partial effort because unfortunately, that’s all I have to give.

So, a couple of things today. First, just say no! This is something that I really struggle with but I am telling you, as much as reminding myself, that it is ok to say no. In fact, it is imperative to your sanity. You cannot be everything to everyone, I am sorry to inform you. I often am reminded of this the hard way, by crashing and burning. I read this in Rick Warren’s “What On Earth Am I Here For?” and it was the permission I was looking for in order to say no with less guilt. “Knowing your purpose simplifies your life. Your purpose becomes the standard you use to evaluate which activities are essential and which aren’t. It is impossible to do everything people want you to do. You have just enough time to do God’s will. If you can’t get it all done, it means you’re trying to do more than God intended for you to do. If you want your life to have impact, focus it! Stop dabbling. Stop trying to do it all. Do less. Prune away even good activities and do only that which matters most. Never confuse activity with productivity. You can be busy without a purpose, but what’s the point? Paul said, ‘Let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us.’ (Philippians 3:15 msg). Again, it’s ok to say no, even to good things, even to Godly things. “If you find yourself a bit irritated or overwhelmed its a sign that you’re spending less time with God and more time with this world.”

Secondly, I wanted to share an analogy about glass and rubber balls. Let me paraphrase…Everything in your life is a ball. Some are rubber balls, and some are glass balls. It’s your job to determine which are which and handle them as such. Rubber balls, if dropped, will bounce right back up, none the worse for wear. Glass balls, however, will shatter if dropped. So you need to figure out which balls you’re juggling, and how many of each, and make sure that if you’re going to drop a ball, that it bounces back up to you and not shatter to pieces.

I don’t know how your week has been but I KNOW I need to remember, cease striving…be still…know God. That is the only way the rest if this crazy life makes any sense!

I wish I may, I wish I might…

pray impossible
Don’t just pray about what seems logical and possible. Pray hard about the impossible. God will show you that NOTHING, nothing, nothing, nothing is impossible with Him. Ever. Period. End of Story.

You make beautiful things out of the dust. (Gungor, Beautiful Things)

I am fascinated lately by this imagery, Glorious Ruins, life from the ashes, beauty springing forth from destruction.  I guess this is what hope is, if you had to put a label on this picture.  But in my mind, this is bigger than that.  Hope is defined as “a wish to get or do something, or for something to happen or be true, especially something that seems possible or likely.”  What I am talking about is a hope that is bigger than a wish.  A belief in the impossible!   Hope that is only possible through the hand of God, our Father.  Who else can take a story of death and disease and turn it beautiful.  Not me, not without God.  Who else can repair relationships that are damaged beyond our ability to communicate? Only through God.  He is the one who can get to the “heart” of the matter.  We can’t change others, we can’t fix them, our love isn’t enough.  But God’s is.  He is the perfecter of love and He wields the power to change the unchangeable.  Nothing is to big for God!

Sometimes we have to see things torn apart around us, we ourselves have to be torn down,  before we can spring forth, emerging stronger and more beautiful.  God’s hand in this process repairs us, so that even if our situation doesn’t change, we will still shine brilliantly, reflecting His love.  A lighthouse in the middle of the storm, guiding others to Him through that light of love. But being broken hurts, and healing, is a slow and painful process.

“Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them– the LORD, who remains faithful forever” (Psalm 146:5,6).

Where is your hope springing forth from today?  Maybe a better question, the first question, is do you have hope?  Are you listening to a world that tells you to make wishes on stars and put your faith in the things that seem likely? Or in a God who says “Dream the impossible.  I love to answer big prayers in big ways.”  Those big miraculous answers are the answers that  are unmistakably from the hand of God.  In answering our big prayers, in bringing forth life from the ruins, His glory shines brighter.  Today, put your hope in God, not the things of this world.   Allow Him to have control,  not only of your situation, but also your heart, and then have the faith that He will not disappoint you!

Father God, You know my every desire and wish.  You know the secrets of my heart.  You know that sometimes I am afraid to hope for the impossible because of my fear of disappointment or failure.  Please help me to continue to put my hope in you and my fuel my faith in Your miraculous power.  Help me to remember, no matter how big or small Your answer to my prayer, it is exactly right in Your plan for my life. When things seem to be falling apart around me, help me to remember that this hasn’t slipped by without your knowledge.  You are the giver of life, and I will cling to Your promise of restoration and wholeness, even in the midst of the ruins, knowing that if it is Your sovereign plan, goodness and growth will spring forth from it.  I know your Word says you have big plans for me, good plans for me.  That you are able to do immeasurably more than I ask or even imagine.  Please Lord, plant in me the seeds of longing for Your plans.  Help the dreams I dream, be rooted and aligned in Your will, and help me not to sell them short for fear of the impossible.  I pray all of this in your holy, powerful, life-giving name. Amen.

Glorious Ruins

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I am like a little kid waiting on Christmas morning.  The very first, hard-copy proof of my book will be delivered any day now and I am so excited!  I stalk the mailman, waiting and watching to see what they will have for me each day. Seeing this “project” through to completion over a decade has been such a personal journey.  Sharing in such a transparent way has been a very significant step in growing my faith, one which doesn’t come naturally.  (And it continues through the hand of my Lord, as I ramble and rant on my virtual home here.)  This feels very much to me like the ruins coming to life, rising up from the ashes and destruction.  Something beautiful and encouraging coming to life out of disease and death.  The picture painted in Isaiah 61.  “Just as the ashes, symbolic of mourning and loss, are transformed into a crown of beauty. God works our struggles into beautiful stories of good triumphant over evil. When we are shattered, God lovingly restores our lives, putting our brokenness together again.  When the harsh desert sun beats down, we find shelter in God’s protective span.  It is time to turn up the volume on the powerful message of hopeful chaos, beautiful ashes and glorious ruins.  When we ask, “Where are you, God?” we’ll surely see that our loving Father is right here with us as we are revived in a salvation story of redemption and restoration.” (Glorious Ruins Small Group Study excerpt) AMEN!

I want to share with you the passage of scripture that I have hid in many times when life has gotten to be too much.  Use it as the basis to form your own cry to God for redemption and refuge and rescue.  Cease striving and allow the words of Psalm 91 to soothe your weary soul…

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him.
For he will rescue you from every trap
and protect you from deadly disease.
He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
nor the arrow that flies in the day.
Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
Though a thousand fall at your side,
though ten thousand are dying around you,
these evils will not touch you.
Just open your eyes,
and see how the wicked are punished.

If you make the Lord your refuge,
if you make the Most High your shelter,
10 no evil will conquer you;
no plague will come near your home.
11 For he will order his angels
to protect you wherever you go.
12 They will hold you up with their hands
so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.
13 You will trample upon lions and cobras;
you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!

14 The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
I will protect those who trust in my name.
15 When they call on me, I will answer;
I will be with them in trouble.
I will rescue and honor them.
16 I will reward them with a long life
and give them my salvation.”