Between the items I didn’t get to on my weekend to-do list, and the ones I already know I’ll miss or mess up this week, I feel frazzled. On my commute, I tell myself I’ll do better and this week: I won’t skip workouts, neglect friends and family, and fail at writing. All my planning berating only reminds me just how behind I’m starting off today.
There’s a picture of the person I want to be in my head and she takes a lot of time, effort, and work. (She of course makes it look effortless) She has time for everyone in her life and for herself. If she only gets up earlier, tries a little harder, and learns from her mistakes, she can be real.
Today, as I exited the freeway and parked in front of my office, I remembered a verse someone read in church yesterday that I wanted to look up. I figured it would be a good idea to start there before doing anything else. I opened my computer and looked up Lamentations 3:20-29
“Surely my soul remembers, and is bowed down within me.
This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope.
The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I have hope in Him.’
The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the Lord.
It is good for a man that he should bear the yoke in his youth.
Let him sit alone and be silent since He has laid it on him. Let him put his mouth in the dust, perhaps there is hope.”
Here’s what stood out to me this morning-
–His lovingkindness and compassion never fail. They are new every morning.
Every Monday. Every day, I get to start over and He isn’t disappointed or frustrated with me and my shortcomings from yesterday. He looks at me with kindness, no matter how unkind I am to myself.
–The Lord is my portion. All the stuff I think I have to do and achieve to secure the life I want are not what I am actually sustained by. He is my portion and He’ll give me what I need to do. Bonus- He’s portioned controlled. If I take on only what He’s asking, I won’t have more or less than what I need.
–Wait, Seek, Be Silent, Mouth in the dust. I love that image! Mouth in the dust. It’s like the writer is shouting “JUST STOP AlREADY AND BE QUIET!” People like me need that:) Why is it so hard to just stop? Why do I start ever week thinking I can get to everything if I rush? If I just wait, seek, be silent, and literally put my big overused mouth to the dust, He’ll help me handle the things I’m trying to control. Then, and only then, do I have the hope being the person I believe He wants me to be.
Ahhhh….That’s better. Monday. Mine feels a little more manageable. Hope yours does, too.
Lent has never been strongly encouraged in the churches I’ve been a part of, but I have participated a few years here and there. As yesterday came and went, I still couldn’t decide.. “Do Lent?? ..Don’t do Lent??” My main struggle was over my attempt to honestly avoid using it as a form of “Self Help.” I didn’t want to give up something I’d been meaning to cut back on, or use it as motivation to achieve a goal. Getting bikini ready for spring (oh, and Jesus) seemed a bit disingenuous. Maybe you can give up something you love and think of Jesus, but I just usually end up mostly dwelling on “How many days are left??!”
Lent was designed to prepare a follower of Christ for the celebration of Easter. Through prayer and reflection, we sacrifice things in order to identify with the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness without food, water, or companionship. I thought I’d read the story to see if it sparked an idea for a more intentional practice. What jumps out first is it opens with, “Jesus was led by the Spirit to be tempted in the wilderness.” He was led there by the Spirit. If I’m going to do Lent, I should at least pause and ask God if it is something He is leading me into.
As soon as the 40 Days were over, the Devil starts in on Jesus by tempting Him to turn stones into bread. He wanted Jesus to lose faith and resolve that God would provide and fully support Him during His journey. When looking for something to give up, we can ask ourselves:
What keeps me from trusting God with my life? …Is it my calendar? Obsessive complaining? My finances?
What things keep me from being grateful or noticing His provision on a daily basis? …Pinterest? Comparison to others? Shopping? TV?
Next the Devil tries to test Jesus’ trust that God will protect Him. I could spend forever on how our culture, myself included, is obsessed with safety and struggle to trust God in this area. We might ask ourselves:
What things am I doing on my own because I don’t believe deep down God will come through?… Am I a workaholic? Can I attempt to give up worry with the words I say to myself and others? Am I too focused on something I want that I don’t have?
What crazy things do I do to control situations? How am I holding on too tightly to things and people I love? …What could I stop doing that would teach me to entrust them to God? Do I snoop on Facebook? Do I hover? Is there an outlet I use to channel my fear?
The final temptation is fascinating to me. Jesus knows he has a very tough road ahead of Him. Since He will soon go through great pain and suffering on the cross, the Devil tempts Jesus with an easier road. He offers Jesus the illusion of a shortcut and wants Him to lose faith that God knows best. We can ask:
Where am I distracted from or full-on avoiding the life God is calling me into?
What things am I doing or not doing because I am struggling to believe God’s way is best?
Jesus went straight into the wilderness from His baptism where God told Him, “You are my Son and I love you.” Immediately after, Satan is right there casting doubt on Jesus’ identity.
What keeps me from believing I am fully loved by God… Social media? Certain people in my life? Lies I dwell on?
What could I add in that would help my heart and mind believe I am His and fully loved ? ..Reading, praying, memorizing Scripture.
Lent is not about getting fit, organizing a closet, or checking off the “I read my Bible” box. We have a greater opportunity to identify with Jesus as He struggled to affirm His identity and trust His father with His life before going to the cross.
To Lent..or Not to Lent. I still need a bit more time to sit with my own questions (welcome to my crazy head). I’ll be late about it, but the end result will be better. If you need ideas, blogger Rachel Held Evans put out 40 Ideas for Lent 2014 you may want to take a look at. I’d love to know what you are giving up or adding in this season.
I wish I could tell you I was one of those people who wakes up early, takes the proper vitamins, and does a few posture enhancing stretches before spending an hour reading my Bible and praying. Unfortunately, I’m more of a snooze twice, rush a shower, grab coffee as I rush into work five minutes late kind of girl. I do notice a big difference when I start my day with some type of Spiritual time, however short. Like many of you, I often turn to Jesus Calling for these times. I really loved today’s…
“Come to Me for rest and refreshment. The journey has been too much for you, and you are bone-weary. Do not be ashamed of your exhaustion. Instead, see it as an opportunity for Me to take charge of your life.
Remember that I can fit everything into a pattern for good, including the things you wish were different. Start with where you are at this point in time and space, accepting that this is where I intend you to be. You will get through today one step, one moment at a time. Your main responsibility is to remain attentive to Me, letting Me guide you through the many choices along your pathway.”
It’s funny how easy it is to forget that I need only focus on Him and where He is moving moment by moment. Without meaning to, I end up worrying, spending my best energy, and hustling to get the things I’m convinced A)Will make me happy and B) Clearly need me to take control in order to see happen. I have to constantly be reminded that the idea of me having the power is ridiculous and God is always holding things together. In essence, I waste a lot of time and anxiety while the choice to live into His peace is an available refuge. (And may or may not include refraining from pushing snooze and spending more time with Him)
“He (Jesus) is before ALL things, and in Him ALL things hold together.” Colossians 1:17 (Emphasis mine)
Photo by Alyssa Fioravanti. An incredibly talented and lovely girl you can spy on (here)
If you haven’t caught #Fitchthehomeless, click here. My good friend Rachel has been working on Skid Row for years and has some insightful things to say in THIS RESPONSE. She shares a powerful reminder to always give dignity and honor to the people we are ministering to. For those of you who have been involved in serving, you know even with the best intentions, it can be all too easy to forget how our words and actions come across.
Last week I was invited to speak at APU and at Forest Home. Since I didn’t feel I could pull off two separate talks, I spoke about the book of Esther at both, each with a different take away. In doing so, I feel like I’ve been living with her story for the past month or so and figured I might as well get a blog out of it:)
If you haven’t read it recently, please do. It’s ten chapters and reads through like a short story. We meet young Esther in the middle of her already tragic life. Both her parents have died and she is forced to live in the King’s harem. Eventually she has to risk her life by meeting with the King to save her people.
What fascinates me about Esther is that it is the only book in the Bible that never mentions God. He literally doesn’t “show up” in the story at all. There are no miracles, no speaking to anyone, no tangible representation period. One writer I read described it as an “unreligious book” since there is no mention of temple, the law, not even a prayer is spoken…
I appreciate this context because I find it is more like the setting we live in. God doesn’t usually show up in our lives the way we read about in scripture. He doesn’t perform spectacular miracles or speak to people in the way we often wish He would. Just as Esther must have looked at her circumstances and wondered, “God are you there?” We, too, wonder the same thing.
When we read Esther’s story from our vantage point, it’s crystal clear that God was working behind every circumstance to accomplish His purpose. We can see His hand moving behind the scenes in the smallest details at each turn. Since Esther wouldn’t have known this in the moment, she had to live by faith. For her, this meant making decisions and taking action without knowing the outcome. I believe we call this courage.
There’s this moment in Ch 4:16, when Esther decides she is going to put her life on the line. She tells her uncle to have everyone fast for three days on her behalf and then she will go to the King. It occurred to me this week that Esther didn’t wait for the results of the fast, she committed to her plan regardless. She didn’t fast in order to hear what she should do next, but made her choice ahead of time and fasted as a request for success. There’s a big difference.
God doesn’t always expect us to wait for confirmation or signs. Sometimes, we are meant to seize the moment and trust Him to be in the details on the other side. Just as God doesn’t tangibly appear in the book of Esther, she doesn’t say anything about Him, either. It’s only by her action that we see where her trust lies. In the same way, I wonder if our ability or inability to use courage often reveals something about our own faith. In a way, courage is an outward expression of an inward belief. We either trust Him with our steps or we don’t.
Easier said then done;)
…. What about you? Any thoughts on courage or taking action?
“People do not drift toward Holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.”–D.A. Carson
This past month led me on a few unexpected trips. From Seattle to Northern Arizona, and a couple stops in between, I spent long hours with friends I don’t often see. Each place held the treasured privilege of hearing what’s really going on in their lives. In the midst of happy updates, we traded the stories you don’t see in Facebook posts and hide nicely behind Instagram filters. Nothing out of the ordinary surfaced, just the reality that life comes with really high highs and really low lows.
“It’s a fight. You have to constantly be working on the relationship if it’s going to make it.” “I’m really tired of trying to figure him out.” “I’m so confused.” “Sex isn’t what it used to be.” “I can’t solve this.” “It’s lonely” “He lost his job.” “I can’t take more rejection.” “If only we talked more.” “Why doesn’t he call?” “She was supposed to be my friend.”
“People do not drift toward holiness. We drift toward compromise… disobedience… superstition…”
After listening to my friends and reflecting on my own choices, I would add that we often drift toward good and important things- jobs, relationships, dreams, experiences and ministry. We drift unknowingly and we turn around to find ourselves living for these other things. We get hurt by them. We stress out over them. We expect them to solve our feelings of discontent, fear, unhappiness, and insecurity. It’s part of being human.
But in the end, we never drift toward Jesus.
It’s a constant battle to remember and believe He is our only shot at joy, peace, and meaning in the first place. It’s a struggle to simply trust Him with these other things. The good news is we can always find our way back to Him. We can have His presence today.
This song and Psalm have both helped me drift in a better direction lately. Hope they do for you, too.
I will praise the Lord at all times. I will constantly speak his praises. I will boast only in the Lord; let all who are helpless take heart. Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness; let us exalt his name together.
I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears. Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces. In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened; he saved me from all my troubles. For the angel of the Lord is a guard; he surrounds and defends all who fear him.
Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! Fear the Lord, you his godly people, for those who fear him will have all they need. Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry, but those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing.
Come, my children, and listen to me, and I will teach you to fear the Lord. Does anyone want to live a life that is long and prosperous? Then keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies! Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it.
The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right; his ears are open to their cries for help. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil; he will erase their memory from the earth. The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.
The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time. For the Lord protects the bones of the righteous; not one of them is broken!
Calamity will surely overtake the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be punished. But the Lord will redeem those who serve him. No one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.
Last week, my sister-in-law treated the women in our family to the symphony. The music, atmosphere, and company were all delightful, but what I can’t stop thinking about is the composer, Rismsky-Korskov’s story. (Don’t be too impressed, I read it in the program)
As a child living in Russia, Rismsky was enamored with far off places and cultures. He would anxiously await letters from his older brother’s travels with the Navy and the exotic stories they held. In particular, Rismsky fell in love with the sea, even though he had never seen it.
I picture a small boy, dreaming up the sounds and sights of the waves in his bedroom, using only the written word and his imagination to put it together. For years he wished to see, smell, and hear the ocean before ever having the opportunity. At first it seems sad to think of someone loving something for so long and never getting to see it, and it’s easy to wish you could just rush in and take him. But when you listen to his music, you hear a magical and dramatic tone inspired by these years of waiting and daydreaming. His childhood grew in him a mind that could create and compose something beautiful out of nothing. It made me wonder what would’ve become of Rismsky had he gone to the sea right away. Would he still have become the same person?
Clearly my own childhood love for the sea was never going to produce any sort of brilliance.
But I do know what it’s like to want to see a new place, live another life, to love sights and sounds I’ve never seen or heard. From middle school all the way to graduation, I couldn’t wait to get out of the small town I grew up in. It’s only recently that I’ve come to appreciate those years, certain they developed many of the best parts of me, including an appetite for the unknown. For good and for bad, my life will always need some measure of adventure;)
Rismsky’s story was a good reminder to keep dreaming bigger dreams, and to view the “not there yet” as the seasons God uses to prepare us for what is next. Typically, we can’t wait to reach the destination, even though the rough and unknown road shapes us into the people He wants us to be. Our natural tendency is to skip to the easy part, never knowing how our spirit was stunted by choosing comfort.
I came across this quote last year during a small group study.
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
I’d love to hear how this strikes you today. If you are in the middle of a difficult “not yet” season, I hope it encourages you. Perhaps you are “already there” and it’s time to push yourself into the unknown. You only live once; find the next ocean to dream about and allow God to change you and use you in new ways. Please remind me to keep doing the same.
“But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever. “—Psalm 52:8
Merry Christmas Eve! Tonight I want to write about my favorite carol, lyricaly speaking. If we are talking straight Christmas songs, it’s All I Want for Christmas by Mariah Carey. But word wise, it’s O Little Town of Bethlehem.
O Little Town of Bethlehem
Phillips Brooks(1835-1893), 1868
O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie.
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by;
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.
For Christ is born of Mary,
And, gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love.
O morning stars, together
Proclaim the holy birth.
And praises sing to God the King.
And peace to men on earth.
How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming;
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him,
still The dear Christ enters in.
O Holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in;
Be born in us today!
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Emmanuel!
This is my favorite carol because of the line, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” I like to think of it every night at some point during Christmas Eve. I love to stop and attempt to wrap my head around the moment all of our hopes, all of our fears, for all of mankind, throughout out all of time were met in the person of Jesus. Anything we could ever want or need deep in our souls are somehow realized in Him. Everything we are afraid of, all our pains, and all of our longings are fulfilled in Him.
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called WonderfulCounselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
Joy joy for Christ is born, The Babe, the Son of Mary!
Jesus could’ve been born at any time, under any circumstances. Really?? A barn in the Middle East? “Why lies He in such mean estate?” Surely He could’ve come up with a plan that didn’t include taking on a feeble body, capable of exhaustion, hunger, pain, and death. It doesn’t make any sense. Martin Luther said, “He sunk Himself into our flesh” and that it is, “beyond all human understanding.”
I’ve always loved the carol, What Child is This? because it asks the question in so many words, “Who would do this?”
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” John 1:14
“The Word” is another name for God, and this short verse tells the story of Christmas. It’s describes the unthinkable moment when God came down to live in the harshness of earth. Karl Barth called it the, “climbing down of God.”
“This is Christ our King.” He wasn’t born in a palace and he didn’t live a life of comfort. Jesus could’ve surrounded himself with the most powerful and influential people living in that day but chose to hang out with beggars, and outcasts instead. From the way he was born and all the way through his death, Jesus’ entire life was the continual giving up of power, prestige, and well-being.
Quite frankly, Jesus lived his life in the opposite direction I normally try to live mine. He went downward, while I feel a constant desire to move upward. I want to hold on to comfort, safety, and pleasure when those are the exact things he let go of on Christmas. And why did he do this? As the carol says, “Good Christian, fear: for sinners here, the silent Word is pleading.” Even as a baby, God was earning our forgiveness.
I heard a great sermon this morning (by my dad:) that touched on the inn keeper in the Christmas story who didn’t have time to deal with Mary and Joseph when they showed up on his doorstep. Can you imagine being that guy? God has literally given up heaven to come to earth and you can’t give up a bed for his pregnant mother. Sadly, I do this kind of thing all the time. Even at Christmas, right when I should be thinking about all Jesus gave up to be here, I find myself too busy with my own agenda to spend quality time with Him. If you’re like me, then it’s time to make it happen- pray, attend a Christmas Eve service, or read the story. However you do it, I pray God meets you in a powerful way this Christmas.
Today begins a short series of blogs on Christmas carols. Short, since as you can see, I’m only just beginning now. I LOVE carols (I am the obnoxious co-worker that doesn’t mind playing them eight hours a day beginning in late November) but my reason for these posts is that I’ve found, often hidden beneath the jolly arrangements and melodies, are some of the most powerful statements about Christ and His love for mankind. My hope is that what we often miss while singing, will be noticed in reading.
Oh Holy Night
O holy night,
the stars are brightly shining;
It is the night of
our dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world
in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared
and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope,
the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks
a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees,
O hear the angel voices!
O night divine,
O night when Christ was born!
O night divine, O night,
O night divine!
Led by the light of Faith
With glowing hearts
by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star
Here came the wise men
from Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus
in lowly manger,
In all our trials
born to be our Friend!
He knows our need,
To our weakness no stranger;
Behold your King!
Before the lowly bend!
Behold your King! your King!
before Him bend.
Truly He taught us
to love one another;
His law is love and
His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break
for the slave is our brother
And in His name
all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in
grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us
praise His holy name!
Christ is the Lord,
Oh praise His name forever,
His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim
His pow’r and glory
Isn’t it incredible? In addition to beautiful lyrics, the song has an inspiring story of its own. “Oh Holy Night” or “Cantique de Noel” was a french poem written by a man named Placide Cappeau in 1847. Using the gospel of Luke as his guide, Cappeau sought to capture what it would’ve been like to be at the birth of Christ. He wasn’t a man of faith, so to speak, but when he was only eight, he and a friend were playing with a gun when it went off, shooting him in the hand. The doctors were unable to save Placide’s hand and he lived his childhood and adult life as an amputee. I can’t help but read the lines, “He knows our need, to our weakness no stranger” and wonder what it meant to him, personally.
The song was later translated into English in 1855 by John Sullivan Dwight, a pastor from Massachusetts. He was an abolitionist and loved the lines, “Truly He taught us to love one another; his law is love and His gospel is peace. Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother and in His name all oppression shall cease.” The song spread like wildfire in the North during the Civil War.
On Christmas Eve 1906, using a new type of generator, a young Canadian professor named Reginald Fessenden spoke into a microphone and a man’s voice was broadcast over the airwaves for the first time in history. The very first words ever heard were from the gospel of Luke, “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus…” Men and women as far South as Norfolk, Virginia were in shock, having never heard anything like it before. When he finished reading the Christmas story, Reginald picked up his violin and played, “O Holy Night” making it the first song to ever be played on the radio. The program was transmitted using naval ships on New Year’s Eve and heard as far away as the Caribbean.
As exciting and fun as the holidays can be, I’ve noticed the season has a way of heightening our awareness over the things we have, or things we lack. Depending on our circumstances, it can be a joyus time of gratitude, or a time of sadness for what is missing. Some smile as they look around a table full of loved ones, while others can’t help but notice the empty chairs left by those who are absent. None of us can read the news without seeing how this Christmas will be painful for so many all over the world. I imagine it’s hard to see the lights and hear the music without feeling a bit resentful over the call to “be of good cheer.”
I love “O Holy Night” because it reminds me that Christmas isn’t first and foremost a festive party; it’s the moment God came to earth because we needed Him. Christmas is a holiday for the needy. It’s for the desperate, the lonely, the lost. As the song says, the earth was dark, pining, and weary until Jesus came. For the first time, in what are some of the most compelling and meaningful words ever written, “the soul felt it’s worth.”
Whether you are celebrating the end of a wonderful year, and I hope you are, or a particularly difficult one, I pray the message of this carol fills you with hope and peace.