Tuesday, November 29, 2016

In Light of the OSU Attack (What You Can Do to Change the Tide)

Photo by Caleb Robinson

On the day after the attack on OSU’s campus by a Somali Muslim student, the world is a bit tilted today.  Sometimes the hardest places to see Christ at work is right here at home.  On Saturday OSU was on a national stage, winning their double overtime victory against the University of Michigan; on Monday morning the campus was on lockdown and blood was running in the street.  So maybe there is shock, and maybe life goes on as usual even here, the day after terrorism hits Columbus. 

And there could be fear; there could be disbelief.  Maybe we would all like to just pack it up and close it in and pull the curtains tight and pretend that this isn’t happening and it isn’t real and maybe we can just Merry Christmas our way through this.  But fear is never overcome with escapism.  And anger that leads to violence is never overcome with more violence.  And hatred is never overcome with hate.  The only way we ever overcome evil is with good.  And fear is only ever cast out with Perfect Love.  There are those who would preach radical hate that leads to radical destruction.  But for those of us who name the name of Christ, we could be those who preach radical love that leads to radical healing, and maybe that is the only way through all this palatable dark.  

The truth is that Columbus is a city abounding with immigrants and internationals.  The Ohio State University brings in people from 120 nations, people whose beliefs are different from mine and yours.  People who are here sometimes for only a short time to study, get a degree, and return to their home nation.  It is easy to fear what you don’t understand.  It is easy to fear what is different from you.  It is easy to run and hide from the fear of what if.  But in volunteering with internationals through International Friendships, for over eight years, this is what I have found, they are really not so different from me.  

I have looked into eyes of an immigrant Muslim mama and seen her aching humanity.  She and I are both college educated women, we both heard a passel of small children, and we both think parenting is the hardest/best job ever. We both want our babies to wake up safe every morning and go to sleep fed every night.  We both like coffee and we both have toddlers that run wild like so many wandering goats on a Middle Eastern hillside.  She and I both talk about our faiths and we both listen respectfully.  We both want to be loved and learn to give love better.  And at the end of the day I call her, friend.  

Fear is easy, loving well is not.  Anger and hatred can rise up quickly like a tidal wave but I believe, that so can radical love.  For those of us who call ourselves Christians, who say that we follow Christ, maybe the best way that we can walk in His footsteps is by loving our enemies or those we are afraid might be. What if the day after this crisis in our city, we were the First Responders.  What if we responded to an outpouring of fear with an outpouring of love?  What if we responded to an outpouring of anger with an outpouring of peace that passes all understanding.  What if we ran in when everyone else was running out and loved like we really lived what we believed?  What if we really loved like that?  We can.  

We can care.  We can pray for peace and unity in our city.  We can reach out when we would rather pull in.  We live in a city where internationals abound and what if practiced hospitality and loved them right into our homes and into our families and where we offered hope and shelter and love right where they are?  We can.   

If you live in the Columbus area there is an amazing organization called International Friendships that exists to share the love of Christ through Christian hospitality and love.  You can get involved by praying, by giving, by volunteering, by starting a friendship with a student from another culture and letting love lead the way.  We can sit back in shock and say this is all a shame or we can be the first to run into the fire and find ourselves ignited with a radical love that can shake the nations, mend hearts, bring reconciliation.  We could be the church we were meant to be.  We can love the world from right where we are and this is right where we were meant to be.  

Today on #Giving Tuesday if you give to support International Friendships, your gift is tripled  today.  If you want to do something to impact the Ohio State University for the better and reach out to international students with the love of God, this is for you.  There is hope in the hardest places because the love of God knows no boundaries.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

If You Want More Than Black Friday

On a Black Friday, I am standing in this line, in a department store, on the edge of the “Best Suburb in America”.  My arms are full and the Christmas music is blaring from somewhere overhead.  There is an older woman in front of me, almost old enough to be my grandma, her arms also full of Christmas purchases.  The older woman’s friend walks up, a well dressed older woman, wearing a fuzzy winter hat and trendy jeans, she is probably 75-80.  She shows the woman in front of me her picks and I can see that she wants in line with her friend.  Before they even speak I give permission in my head. 

 “Oh, you will let her in line, won’t you?  It’s just some scarves.”

“Of course.” I say, “It is fine.”  And it is fine.  I am not in a hurry.  This line isn’t going anywhere fast.  So I am a captive audience to their conversation.  Two women in their twilight years discussing a Christmas  gift exchange.  The line cutter is talking about the quality of gifts she has received from a certain friend in the past.  About how they just don’t measure up.  Not what she wanted and really cheap. 

 “I just hate it how she always does that,” she quips, “You know gives stuff that could be from like, the dollar store.”  

“Well it is hard. Buying things for people who already have everything they want.  We don’t need a thing.  I say we just put the money we would spend in a pot and give it to charity.”

But line-cutter isn’t having it.  That isn’t the point.  She wants something more than what she’s been getting.  I mean she gives good gifts, she should get good gifts, right?  Where is the fairness?  And what on earth should she do with the wretched gift she got from cheap friend last year?  Worthless.  Just give it away she decides, but still the she isn’t done with her complaint. 

The line moves and I move on and out of earshot and I stand turning all this over in my mind.  Turning, maybe it is my stomach that is turning.  I kind of want to vomit.  I kind of want to run.  

She is blind.  She is utterly blind and sightless.  She knows not what she does.  Dear God, forgive us. 

I finish my purchases and drive home.  But this conversation won’t leave my head.  Like this kind of soul-burning, this kind of holy purging.  

Dear God, forgive us.

How did we become this?

I have seen with my own eyes, naked children standing on the side of a desert highway selling rattlesnake venom and snake skins to have money for food.  Children standing under a lean-to made of sticks to protect their totally exposed skin from the blazing desert sun.  I have broken bread with people in shacks made of scrap metal as we ate on dirt floors.  I have prayed with sisters and brothers under the open sky, because the church that was made of sticks and metal couldn’t hold us, couldn’t hold the holy-fire burning in our hearts.  

Dear God, how did I get here?

On this Black Friday, I want something to ease my conscience.  Ease my sickness, turning, wretched soul virus.  Because what I know is this.  I could be that woman.  I could be the one standing there complaining about all that is not enough.  I could be the one, wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, naked.  I am that one.

Dear God, help us.

That night sleep doesn’t come easily.  I am awakened in the dark of early morning before the alarm, I can feel Him calling me.  Pursuing me.  I feel a kindling.  “Come near, Beloved.”  

I rise and head down stairs in the early morning.  I am drawn in.  Kneeling broken, the weeping comes.  What have we become?  What have I become?  Lord Jesus I want more than this.  More than the American dream.  More than all the stuff that Stuff-Mart can hold.  I want more.  More of you Jesus.  More of the Life that is truly life.  Let the weeping come.  Let the seeing come.  Let the brokenness come.  Let the emptying come.  

And these are the Words that come, “I know the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold.  I wish that you were one or the other!  But since you are like lukewarm water I will vomit you out of my mouth! You say, 'I am rich.  I have everything I want.  I don’t need a thing!' And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. So I advise you to buy gold from me - gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich.  Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes you will be able to see.  I correct and discipline everyone I love.  So be diligent and turn from your indifference!  Look! I stand at the door and knock.  If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne.  Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.”  Revelation 3:15-22

Yes, Jesus, I want more.  More of you.  More of your life in me.  More emptying that I might be filled by your Holy Spirit.  Less of me Lord.  Less of the stuff that gets in the way of you.  I want to be poured out, purposeful.  I want to be light, a holy-burning.  I want to see you Lord, give me eyes to see.  On the cusp of advent this is my request, O Lord.  May my heart be prepared.  May my eyes be opened.  May my hands be emptied that they can lay hold of the only True Treasure, Jesus my Lord and my life.  May I be clothed in garments of your righteousness, Jesus, because mine are nothing but filth.  May I turn from my indifference, and live with your Holy passion, Jesus.  

I want more than a Black Friday.  I want a Good Friday.  

Jesus already gave me all that I need at the cross, but I have to take hold of it by repentance and faith, be emptied so that I can be filled with Him.  Maybe that has been our problem all long.  We are too fat, to full of what is worthless, to take hold of the One thing which we desperately need.  We don’t see our true condition.  We don’t see how impossibly empty we are without Jesus, how poor, how naked.  Lord help us.  Help us turn from our indifference, because repentance is always the first step toward a new life.  And when we hear His voice, hear His knocking, open the door.  He promises to always come in to our hearts and the fire of that kindling can never be quenched. 

photo by Caleb Robinson

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Purifying Power of Pain

Pain can be a great purifier.  It tests us, it tries us, it reveals us to us.  Pain is often the place we find out what we are made of, what we really believe and exactly where our hope is placed.

Pain is a mighty instrument of God’s grace.

It is in the moments of greatest pain that we see what we are trusting in, where the foundation of our hope is bedded and exactly how deep our trust in God is.

In the last year I have experienced more pain than I ever thought possible.  But in the moments of greatest pain I found out one thing:  Jesus is all I need.

I found out that “my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus Christ my righteousness, I dare not trust the sweetest frame but only trust in Jesus name.”

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.

For me the words of Psalm 23 became like bread and water.  I prayed them back to God in confession, in desperation, in faith.  I prayed them over and over, usually many, many times a day, meditating on the truth of those words.  Until the last year, Psalm 23 never had significant meaning to me.  It was a psalm that everyone knew and one of the most quoted scriptures in the Bible but this year it became my confession of faith.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I have everything I need.” Psalm 23:1

Psalm 23 begins with this, most stunning of confessions.  The Lord is my shepherd, I have everything I need.  Listen friend, if the Lord is your shepherd, then you already have everything you need.  Everything we need is found in the person of Jesus Christ.  Our hope, our life, our treasure.  If you have Jesus, you have everything you need already.

This verse in one fell stroke, demolished the idols of my life and in breathtaking liberation caused my heart to find its life in Christ and Christ alone once more.  No person, no thing, no achievement, can ever satisfy like Jesus.  He is everything I need.
Why does it often take us getting to the place where we lose it all to know this?

I have everything I need because I have Jesus, and He is enough.

“He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he restores my soul.” Psalm 23:2-3

So gently He leads me when in my desperation I finally let go of everything else I am holding on to.  When all my pride came crashing down and in humility held only on to Jesus, then He began to lead me and restore all the broken places.

In the middle of this difficult season we found ourselves without a home for a while after selling our house, and our family of nine moved in with a family of seven.  We were desperately looking for a house to rent and God miraculously provided this rental house, surrounded by green pastures, and near a little creek.  One morning I was sitting on the deck praying the Twenty-third Psalm and as my eyes scanned the tree lined creek and pastoral setting I realized God had literally brought me to green pastures and made me to rest beside quiet waters.  And I wept at the ways He is restoring my soul.

“He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Psalm 23:3

There is probably no greater time that we are tempted to sin than when we are in pain.  It is easy to fall into self-pity.  It is easy to become bitter, or bound by unforgiveness.  But it is in those moments that we must choose His paths of rightouseness.  We must choose to follow the Guide.  And he shepherds us down paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.  For His glory.  For His fame.

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and staff,
they comfort me." Psalm 23:4

Even when we walk through the darkest places, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, goes with us.  We can rest assured that He carries his rod to protect us and the staff to rescue us from every pit we may fall into.  We may be surrounded by evil but we do not have to fear it.

"You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows." Psalm 23:5

Jesus does not always immediately deliver us from our enemies.  He gently leads us to his table and lets us feast on his presence and covers us with the oil of the Holy Spirit even in the midst of pain, evil, and enemies.  We can experience the overflow of His life in us even in the midst of the darkest places when we turn to Him in surrender, trust and faith.

"Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." Psalm 23:6

Our guarrentee is that His goodness and love go with us all of our days until the day we see Him face to face.  Our hope is found in the fact that if we are in Christ, we will dwell in His house forever.  Our greatest hope is not found in looking to the things of this world to bring us comfort but in knowing that in Christ we will rest in the comfort of His arms forever.

Let the Lord be your Shepherd today; and you will find in Him everything you need.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Coming Through As Gold

They say that what ever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

That when you go through hardship, suffering, trial and fire, you can come out bitter or better, that the fire, it purifies.

That gold, when it is put into the furnace, put under fire, it gives up its impurities, these other things inside of it, they rise to the surface to be skimmed off, leaving behind only the gold.

In the Christian life, the heat of battle can purify us.

In the midst of the hardest battles we are tested.  We are seen for what we are, all the impurity rising like so much waste coming from hidden places.

The battle tests our hearts.  The battle reveals what we are made of.  And when we see it, it provides the opportunity to be purged of what is hindering, to shed our dead weight and become all that we need to be to fight the good fight of faith.

We studied American history this year in our homeschool, and sometime in the thaw of winter into spring we studied the Winter of Valley Forge.  We read about how the American troops were losing to the British until that winter.  The troops were not adequately supplied for the winter.  They didn’t have proper shelters, they didn’t have food, they didn’t have uniforms or shoes and they were freezing to death and starving.  And in the midst of all this suffering a famous general came to teach this raggedy and battered army what is means to be a disciplined and ready fighting machine.  The men hated it.  They hated the drilling and the discipline.  They hated the constant preparation.  They were miserable before but now they were angry too, standing out in the snow, shoeless, drilling, learning how to fight together and listen to commands.  But then something happened.  The men began to realize this suffering was changing them.  It was making them better soldiers.  It was making them ready for bigger battles.  It was making them ready to win the war.

Historians say that without the winter at Valley Forge the Americans would never have won the war for their independence.  It was the pivotal moment when everything changed.  It was the moment that those soldiers became what they were always intended to be.  They came out of that winter of suffering as winners.

On a balmy day in spring I say to my teenage son, that this, this has been my winter of Valley Forge.  Unprecedented suffering, hardship, trial, pain.  I learned spiritual discipline because without it I wouldn’t have survived.  I learned to lean in to Jesus closer, obey His orders faster, hold tight to the truth of the Word of God with a death grip. and pray like my life depended on it.

 The Apostle Paul tells us that the Christian life is a battle and we are to fight like soldiers ready to win.  He tells us to endure suffering like a good soldier of Christ Jesus:

“Timothy, my dear son, be strong through the grace God gives you in Christ Jesus. You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these things to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.  Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please their commanding officer who enlisted them. “  2 Timothy 2:1-4.

What about you?  Are you going through suffering, dear one? Be strong in the grace of God that is ours in Christ Jesus.  Let the work of Christ through suffering purify you, make you stronger, more disciplined, ready to fight and win the eternal battles through the power of God’s Spirit.  Endure and be faithful because we do it to please our Commanding Officer, because we want to make our Heavenly Daddy proud.  Let suffering finish its work so that you will become all that you were intended to be.

We endure so that we will come out of the fire of battle as gold,

pure gold.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

If You Are Missing Christmas Joy

Every December it happens. 

This monumental, earth shattering strain that is the Christmas season in America.  The activities multiply, the rushing intensifies, the pressure of gifts to buy and events to attend, decorations to put up and food to cook, family to visit, and houses to clean, and as a woman, as a mother, the person who has to plan and orchrestrate the Christmas chaos for a family (in my case, a family with seven children) it can almost put you over the edge.  But as Christians somehow we know that this is wrong.  We know that Christmas is intended to be something other than this stress-inducing, materialistic, month long period of psychosis.

This season that was meant to bring us the deepest peace, often brings us the most stress.

This time that was meant to shine so much love in our hearts often makes us the most angry.

These days that were meant to fill us with so much joy so often bring us pain.

Ask me how I know.

I have been known to walk around the month of December muttering under my breath how very much I hate Christmas or at least what Christmas in America has become for so many of us.  I have been crushed under the weight of the expectations of our culture and my own family to fulfill someone else’s idea of what Christmas is about.  And the weight of those human expectations has made every December for as long as I can remember, a thing of frustration and struggle for me.

But Jesus tells us there is another way.

Christmas, after all, is the celebration of the birth of Jesus, the Savior of the world.  The One who came to bring light and life, real truest life into our hearts and joy unspeakable. The One who came to earth to pay the price for our sins and bring us back to God.

 Jesus calls us up higher. Above the noise of consumerism.  Above the pull of parties and events, Above the pressure to perform. Above the Pintrest perfect decorations.  Above the expectations of others. Above the endless doing. 

Jesus calls us higher.

He calls us to open our eyes and look up at the star that can light up our darkest nights, the star pointing the way to the babe in the manger.  Jesus came into the world to set us free from our sin and from the entanglements of this world.  He came to bring us good news, the news that God has not left us alone, that He has not rejected us, that He has made a way for us to come home to the only place of real peace and safety, His arms. 

We have a choice this Christmas. 

The choice to follow the expectations of others or the choice to follow the star pointing to the only path that really leads to peace. 

I know how hard this is.  I am no monk in a quiet monastery (I'm not even Catholic), but the words of Brother Lawerence, the seventeenth century monk who practiced the presence of God in the midst of all things, ring true for all believers. “That we ought to give ourselves up to God, with regard to both things temporal and spiritual and seek our satisfaction only in fulfilling His will, whether he lead us by suffering or by consolation, for all would be equal to a soul truly resigned.”

It is in the surrender to His will that we find our peace.

It is in the laying aside of our plans and the plans that others might try to put upon us and instead listening for the voice of the Savior that calls us to come up higher by bowing lower.

Does this mean that we forget the American cultural versions of Christmas altogether?  No.

It simply means that peace and joy are always possible in God’s presence.  And as believers in Christ we have a choice, to seek God, to surrender our plans or other’s plans for us, to always walk in obedience to Christ first. 

This is not a list of “do this” and you will have a peaceful, joy filled Christmas. This is not a “if only you focus on others, feed the homeless, only buy gifts that support the disadvantaged, say no to everything anyone asks you to do, then you will have a happy Christmas if you do this list, kind of plea.

 This is a call to simply come.

Come to the manger and bow low again.

Like the shepherds who heard the angels proclaiming, “Do not be afraid! I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.  The Savior- yes, the Messiah, the Lord, has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! … Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those with whom God is pleased.” We also can partake in that joy, that peace. Because He came for us.

Come, this Christmas season, bow your heart before the Lord. 

Bring to Him the only gift that matters: your whole life.

The joy of salvation is always possible and it is meant to be our strength.  It comes to those who, with humble hearts, bow low in repentance and in faith rise up to follow the only source of truest joy, Jesus the Savior. 

Seek Him this season.  Turn to Him in repentance and faith again. Ask Him how He wants you glorify Him in the midst of your busy life.  Pursue His pleasure above all else and like those who first heard the good news of His coming, your Christmas joy will be full.

Monday, December 1, 2014

If You Need A Never-Ending Thanksgiving

It happened the day before Thanksgiving. 

The day my world spun me a little farther off course, sent my faith flying like some planet hurling into the cosmos, sheathed in blackness.

I should have been thankful.  I wasn’t very.  I was rocked, spinning, without a compass. Maybe you’ve been there?

It was the day the pregnancy test came back positive, announcing the impending arrival of baby number seven into our family and all I could see ahead was suffering.

I don’t have easy pregnancies.  They come with pain, months of vomiting and nausea, sometimes heart problems, sometimes high blood pressure, exhaustion, and the last time, I almost died.

With my fourth baby I had to wear a heart monitor because my heart just wouldn’t keep up on me.  It raced out of control.  I couldn’t breathe and eat at the same time without difficulty.  I was in a constant state of exhaustion.  Baby number five was almost the same except this time my midwife put me on an extremely high protein diet to help ward off impending heart trouble.  It made me gain sixty pounds and after 24 hours of labor and being dialated to ten, I had to deliver a ten pound-eleven ounce baby by c-section because that gentle giant of a boy couldn’t even descend into my pelvis on account of his toddler size body.

By baby number six I was determined to gain less weight, and have a different outcome.  That pregnancy was one of my best, and he arrived healthy at a lovely seven pounds. It was an hour after the birth that the trouble started.  They called it a post-partum hemorrhage and no one was expecting it.  Before they realized what was happening fully I had lost a lot of blood.  I could not keep conscious.  I’ll spare you the gory details but in the end they had tried everything to get the bleeding stopped, including a procedure that no woman should have to endure, where the midwife tried to remove the blood clots from my uterus with her hand.  Let’s just say I am thankful that I was barely conscious at that point because, even in the midst of the swirling blackness of semi-consiousness, that was serious pain. Eventully, they rushed me into the operating room and let me know that I might not wake up with a uterus if I woke up at all.  Yes, the doctor had to tell me that because he even thought I might not make it through this.  But I did, hence the fact that I am writing these words, and even after losing over half of my blood volume, I walked out of there with an intact uterus and my beautiful baby boy. 

But after that I guess I thought maybe I was done.  My endometriosis had returned with a vengeance and the tell-tale pain was making life difficult again.  I have lived with the pain of this disease since I was a teenager and I thought that maybe this time my body was saying my baby years were over.  I gave away my maternity clothes.  I gave away my baby clothes.  I gave away just about every baby item that I owned in October.  And then, the day before Thanksgiving, I realized that I was pregnant again.

I wish I could tell you that I rejoiced.  I wish I could tell you that even though I knew suffering lay ahead, that I counted it all loss, and looked with joy to the cross that was set before me.  No, I think I cried.  I knew that most likely another hemmorage lay ahead of me, would this one take my life?  I knew that most likely I would have many months ahead of constant nausea and vomiting and exhauation.  I knew that it was going to be painful.  Depression set in with solitary cold of last winter’s snowpocalypse, and my days were long and bitter like the biting winter wind.  I limped through them, sipping peppermint tea and crying out for Jesus.  I wish I could tell you, that I handled it gracefully, with peace and hope, but mostly I wanted to have a pity party for myself.  Mostly, I cried, a lot.  I cried at the the thought of not being there to see my kids grow up.  I cried at the thought of this baby now knowing me at all.  I cried out for God to be gracious to me even though I knew I didn’t deserve it. 

July came with its blazing summer sun and the time for his arrival had come.  A few weeks before the baby was due, my family threw me a surprise baby shower (since I had given everything away and now had nothing for this baby) and I was overwhelmed by their thoughtfulness.  God provided every single thing we needed for this baby.  My neighbors gave me a used car seat, clothes, a diaper bag.  My sister in law gave me her baby swing, nursing pillow, and clothes.  God showed up even in my doubts.  I wish I could tell you, I had so much faith and I just expected God to come through for me, that he would provide it all, but I deep down, I didn’t really think that He would. He even caused the person I had given all my maternity clothes to, to call me and offer to give them back since she was done using them.  She didn’t even know I was pregnant, but God provided for me.

Finally the time came for baby number seven to arrive.  I wish I could say I went into the hospital with so much faith that I was going to come out alive and fine, but I didn’t.  I mostly just held my breath and waited for His answer.  Our fifth son arrived healthy and beautiful.  Things were going well until about three hours after the birth when the hemorrhaging started again.  This time they were able to get it under control with drugs because we caught it earlier and had taken precautions with other medications before it started.  There were some tense hours but in the end, the bleeding was stopped and they even sent me home early. 
Looking on the face of this precious baby, even the suffering of all those months seems small and insignificant.  The joy that I have had since he has been born seems unbelievable compared to last year's ordeal.  God has restored me.  He has given me peace, and He has used that trial to increase my faith and trust Him more.  He has used the struggle to build endurance and perseverance in me.  He has taught me more of His sovereignty in my life, that I really don't know much of His plan but I can always trust it. He has humbled me again and again and revealed my weaknesses that I might bring them to Him to be refined, cleansed and even used for His glory.

God was faithful.  Looking back, I can see how small my faith was, how much I doubted, how very little I trusted His provision, His goodness, His hand.  But God never gave up on me.  He never let me go, even when my faith was wavering, He remained faithful.  This Thanksgiving I have much to be thankful for.  Thankful for God’s unending mercy to me, for His grace showed to the least that deserve it, for His faithfulness even in the midst of my doubt, for seven beautiful children that are worth every bit of suffering and pain.  I know that Thanksgiving over now but I want the season to go on.  I need to keep remembering His goodness, His faithfulness, His mercy, every day and rejoicing in His grace. 

When I started this blog, God gave me this verse, and I want it to always be the reason that I write words: “I never shrank back from telling you what you needed to hear, either publicly or in your homes.  I have had one message for Jews and Greeks alike – the necessity of repenting from sin and turning to God, and of having faith in our Lord Jesus.  And now I am bound by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem.  I don’t what awaits me, except that the Holy Spirit tells me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead.  But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned to me by the Lord Jesus  the work of telling others the Good News about the grace of God.” Acts 20:20-24

May His grace encourage you, keep you, make you steadfast in all things, and always giving thanks to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Because You Matter and We Can All Do the Thing That Matters Most

Standing at the sink, soap suds filling my hands I hear a voice behind me. 

“Mom, I feel like I don’t have a purpose.  I mean, I can’t do anything well.  I’m not really good at anything, I don’t have any talents or whatever.  Why am I even here?”

I know this question all too well, precious child. 

In a world that manufactures idols out of ordinary people every day, where people make idols out of themselves, where movies, t.v. and social media continually tempt us to self-aggrandize and self-publicize, and where all it takes is one glance at another person’s facebook page to make you feel that all of life is a competition to be won and you are clearly the biggest loser that there ever was, yes, my child it can be hard to feel like you matter.

But I need to tell you something.

You matter to God.

You are important to God.

Because God, the eternal Creator of all things, does not make trash.  He does not make mistakes. 

And He made you.

This Creator God has purpose in every action, every detail, every creation from His hand.  From the tiniest krill in the ocean to one celled bacteria, there is purpose for each and every thing on this earth.  And you, my child, you are made in the image of God himself.  A picture of the beauty and glory that God is, how much more purpose does He have for you?

You may never have your picture on a magazine, or your words tweeted around the world (or even around the school).  You may never sing on a big stage or star in a movie.  You may never play professional sports or have a PhD behind your name. You may never preach from a pulpit or travel the world. You may never get three million likes on your facebook page or even three hundred, but don’t ever forget that you are loved by the only One that matters.

You are loved by the God who made you.

He has purpose for your life.

What if your purpose isn’t public, isn’t applauded, isn’t enviable by the world but what if your purpose is so precious, so important that no one else on this planet can do it but you.  Because it is.  It is.

What if the sacred task He is calling you to is the calling to love?

Because love is our calling. Because we were first loved by Him.

And love is what matters most.

When I think of the people that have most impacted my life, it wasn’t the most talented people, the most famous, the most beautiful, or the smartest, it was the people who showed me great love.

The women that I most aspire to be like are the godly women in my life who have showed me what it means to serve others with great love, to love beautifully, sacrificially, humbly and in spite of great pain, loss, or suffering.  And I know that I do not live up to this standard, even with the precious people in my own home.  And so I pray for grace to love like Jesus even though I do it imperfectly. 

And I remember that it is God’s love that changes me too.

“And now I will show you the most excellent way.  If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give all I have to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13: 1-3 

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”1 Corinthians 13:13

I could do seemingly great things for the kingdom of God but if I do it without love, it is pointless.

We all have a high and noble calling, the calling to love in everything we do.

All around you are people that God has put there for your life to touch, for your love to reach, love them well.  And whatever your task is today, do it with love.  Sweep that floor, do those dishes, teach those children, give care to the sick, manage, serve, preach, sing, play, talk, encourage, with love.

Today, my child, you matter to God.  You have a purpose, a calling, even right now, to love in everything you do and say because you have been loved by God.  And we are made in the image of this God who is love and we can love because of His great grace making us more like Jesus everyday. 

Because maybe love is what matters most.