Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Wonder of the Cross

2,000 years ago yesterday, Jesus was crucified. 2,000 years ago tomorrow, Jesus walked out of the grave.

I try to imagine what it would be like to be there. To have known Jesus as a man. To have watched his ministry first-hand. To have seen him killed on the cross. To have witnessed the resurrection. To have him appear to me, the God-man, alive again.

But what about this day, the in-between? Jesus was dead, but not yet risen. Did the disciples mourn? Did they have trouble sleeping? Did they wake up sick with the realization that he was gone? And what about Mary, and Mary Magdalene? They were at the tomb, waiting, when Joseph brought Jesus' body. Did they sit in silence as the stone was rolled, sealing off the one they loved? Did they cry? Did they finally pull themselves together and walk home for the Sabbath? Did any of them have doubts about his true identity as the Son of God?

I wonder sometimes why none of the gospel authors wrote much about this haunting day. Like it almost didn't exist. I bet it was eerie. I bet the emotions were perhaps some of the most devastating in history. The confusion. The heartache. The emptiness.

Praise be to the Father that he did not leave us there.

I imagine what it would be like to see my PawPaw again, sometimes. I was very young when he died, not even four. Death made his grand entrance into my life in a hospital room in Montgomery, AL. I remember him so clearly, so vividly. What would it be like to see him alive again, in this life? I imagine that feeling, and then multiply it by infinity.

Jesus is alive. Jesus did rise. How do I know? I see him, everywhere. My relationship with him has changed me in ways no other relationship has or ever could. He is the joy of my life. He is the peace that calms my storms. He is the husband, always faithful.

I thank God that his plans are always bigger than my vision. That's the theme, from creation to Jesus to now. And these plans are always better than my hopes. I fight for rest in that, when anxieties pile and doubts rear their ugly heads.

2,000 years ago today, in the midst of such turmoil, God was planning the greatest victory of all time. He was abolishing my sins from the past, present, and future. He was preparing the way for Christ's righteousness to be credited to me so that I would no longer live under the yoke of slavery and law, but live free and fully alive under the freedom of Jesus.

What makes me think that God, in his constancy, his devotion to his glory, wouldn't always seek the greatest victory from every darkness? That's his nature - that's who he is. No matter where I am, God is working things for good. He IS goodness. We see this most clearly in the resurrection.

I celebrate. I weep. I fall to my knees in thanksgiving. This weekend means life. And I want it, to the full.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

All of my Heartstrings

You know what? I think one of Satan's biggest tools is to try and make us feel isolated - like we are the only ones feeling a certain way, or walking through a certain valley. And then, when he has us in this place of isolation, he'll make us feel more desolate by whispering to us that it's going to be like this forever. Well, I have a few choice words for him, that's for sure.

I'm sick of it! Sick of his lies, sick of his cunning. It frustrates me most that he's watched me so closely and knows me so well that it works! I believe him, too often.

But I'm done. God help me, I will not take that bait anymore.

My friend came over two nights ago, essentially unannounced, and found me in a bad state. I've been walking through a valley for the past few weeks, and I was pretty bummed. He came in and sat with me and listened to me talk for a while. And then he spoke - and when he did I heard the voice of the Lord. Let me pause here for a moment. My recent prayers have been pleadings to God that he would no longer hide his face from me. When my friend came over unexpectedly and began to speak truth, I was so romanced... by God! It was a very personal thing for me. He knew exactly what I needed, and he provided it to me so clearly, in the form of this sweet man!

Moving on, I want to share some of his wisdom. Not long ago, he found himself in a valley as well. He'd read a lot of the same psalms I've been reading, he was at a low point, but he offered me the following, some precious trinkets of encouragement:

First of all, even in the psalms, like Psalm 13, when David is crying out, asking how long the Lord will turn away from him, that in the end... he rejoices. He praises God because of the joy of his salvation. The worst evil is not the pain in my circumstance, but rather separation from God - and I am saved from that! The loving kindness of God is still as powerful.

Second of all, it's easy to get caught up in what's going on in my own life - the hardships, the affliction, whatever - and forget about everything else. But that's never how we're called to live. I should be a servant, in every circumstance. I'm not good at that. I tend to give my stinky circumstances permission to run rampant. I'm learning to remind myself that situations don't dictate my joy, God's calling on my life, nor my identity. I'm learning to reclaim the ground that's been taken from me, in the name of the Lord.

And here's the biggest thing, the thing that hit home: not allowing circumstances to steal my joy. This is my battle. This is where I've been asking the Lord to fight for me. This is where I've been claiming Exodus 14:14, which says, "The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent." My friend explained it this way: when you value something, you can often times subconsciously allow your heartstrings to intertwine little by little into this thing. And when this thing goes up - well, you do, too, and all is well. But when this thing goes down, you fall along with it. Sometimes our low points come when the Lord has to clip those heartstrings away from things where they don't belong. Which is everything, minus one. The only One who deserves all of our affections, all of our devotion, all of our heartstrings, the fountain of all of our joy. Sometimes, he must clip them away before they have time to really take hold, in order to protect us from future pain. And yes, it is painful, but it must be done.

I guess this valley has been a rebuilding process for me. I've had my heartstrings clipped, but they are where they belong. They might sting a little, and I'm still being tested daily. But my heart will sing no other name than Jesus. It takes the fire to get us here, sometimes. But what a precious place to be. In the beatitudes, we see certain circumstances that Jesus calls blessed. They are blessed because they have nothing else to hold on to. They are at the end of their ropes. THAT, my friends, THAT place is where we encounter God for real. THAT is the blessing.

So, I don't know if, at the end of this journey, the things that I valued will still be there for me to delight in again, while still keeping all of my heartstrings wrapped around my God, or if there will be new joys gifted to me. Either way, I know that in the end, I will love him more, and what a treasure that is.

Monday, April 11, 2011


Read this quote on my friend's facebook page. It really moved me, so I thought I'd share!

"Remember He is the artist and you are only the picture. You can't see it. So quietly submit to be painted, i.e., keep fulfilling all the obvious duties of your station (you really know quite well enough what they are!), asking forgiveness for each failure and then leaving it alone. You are in the right way. Walk - don't keep on looking at it." -C.S. Lewis

Saturday, April 9, 2011


Did you know that it was for FREEDOM Christ has set us free?

What does that even mean?

I don't have a whole lot of answers, but I know what the Lord is teaching me, so I'll start there.

The topic of God's will has been a huge thing in my life the past few months (hence several of my recent posts). Am I in it? Do I know it? Can I find it? And then I realized all the questions I'd been asking concerning his will made it lots about ME, and not as much about his power. So, I talked to a friend, and he asked me several questions and really helped me to understand a few of the ways I'd been looking at it wrong. Let's look at scenario A. Imagine a straight line as "God's Perfect Will for My Life." Now, my view has always been: stay on the straight line, if you make a mistake and veer at any point, well, you're out of God's will and now he has to do certain things to bring you back. In this case, God is reactive. In this case, an imperfect person is being asked to follow a perfect plan. How well does that work out?

Now, onto scenario B. God in his foreknowledge and omnipotence saw each of my missteps from the beginning of creation and instead of punishing me for them by asking me to follow a perfect will anyway, he's proactive, not reactive. He orchestrates his perfect will for my life around those "mistakes" (now let's put them in parentheses) because he is sovereign. Sovereign - he rules supreme. How much more does that magnify him and his power? Like in every other situation of interaction between God and man - Jesus coming to earth being the prime example - GOD COMES TO US. He meets us where we are.

And so that leads me back to this idea of freedom. Having my eyes opened to this truth, how much more does that free me to walk unchained? If I really believe this in my life, my decisions, I'll be a lot less paralyzed by the "what-ifs" and a lot more free to live as I've been intended to. This is not a do-whatever-the-heck-I-want-to-because-God-already-knows-about-it card that I get to play whenever I want now. We've been given the Holy Spirit, with his convictions, for a reason. Sin is always contrary to God. More of what I mean is, if I'm not sure of God's leading 100% but I am faithful to pursue him and listen to his voice in me, I have no fear of the steps that I take, if they're "right" or "wrong". It means, to an extent, I trust my emotions (after all, they make great servants, though terrible masters). "The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps" (Proverbs 16:9). Yes, still be intentional about seeking God's will. "Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure" (Proverbs 4:26). But also know this: "For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the LORD, and he ponders all his paths" (Proverbs 5:21). God is all the more intentional. This means even though I don't know much, I walk in what I do know and God will take it from there.

So what do I know? Well, for starters, I do know for certain that God wants us to be in communion with him, always. He wants us to love him first, then love others. He wants us to pursue holiness as Christ was holy. He wants us to be his hands and feet. So, the working out of my salvation, my freedom, is doing these things and trusting God with the rest.

There have been times when I've had to make a decision, not certain one way or the other what was "right". I trust that God knows best. If God wants me going the direction I've chosen, I believe he will affirm me in that. If he doesn't, I still believe ultimately his plan includes my decision, and he's worked it so that I learn things along the way that he wants me to know, as he puts circumstances in my life to take me the direction he wants. But it's not in vain. That maximizes the glory he receives, and makes it all for my good as well. And isn't that what he said he's after anyway? Don't we all know Jeremiah 29:11? Time to start believing it!

But let's not stop there. Jeremiah 29:13 says, "You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart." Friends, God wants to be found. Sure, sometimes he may choose to be mysterious or aloof for a time to cultivate faithfulness, but in the fullness of his timing, he wants to be found. Jesus speaks to his disciples in Matthew 10:26, saying, "Have no fear, nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known." God speaks through the prophet Isaiah in chapter 42 verse 16: "And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know; in paths that they have not known, I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them." God wants to be known. We are made in his image, and what is one of our greatest desires? To be known! To have another know us completely and understand us. I believe God is that way, too. And that reassures me in times when I feel like I don't know a thing. To know that the darkness will become light for me to see allows my heart to rest in his faithfulness.

I also must trust in his timing. Again in Isaiah, in chapter 48 God speaks this:

You have heard; now see all this; and will you not declare it? From this time forth I announce to you new things, hidden things that you have not known. They are created now, not long ago; before today you have never heard of them, lest you should say, 'Behold, I knew them.' You have never heard, you have never known, from of old your ear has not been opened. For I knew that you would surely deal treacherously, and that from before birth you were called a rebel. For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.

God reveals things to us at the right time, when he knows we're ready. More freedom can be found here. Instead of trying to manipulate the things around us, we are free to live unbound when we know and believe that God will meet our needs, give us all that we need - physically and spiritually - at just the right time.

Oh, how I crave this freedom! And it is mine! It has been gifted to me through the sacrifice of my brother, my husband, Jesus Christ! Hallelujah, praise the Lord!

How will it change your life to truly walk and live in the freedom that Christ offers? Not bound to anything of the law, but locked onto God and his promises? Don't waste any more time - breathe in deeply this LIBERTY like you were always created to!