Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Tossed and But Not Torn


This is going to last forever.
This too shall pass.


The whole world is going to come down. 

Perhaps this is what we need to find Jesus.


I am so tired of this, I just want to go back to normal.


What is normal? You only have first world problems.

The economy will never recover.

We've come through worse.

This is life and death.

But it doesn't feel serious...

Why can't I be happy with what I have?

I'm so thankful for what I've got.

I never really liked people anyway.

Then why do I miss them so much?

Maybe this is the end of the world...

There is no way, it wouldn't look like this!

Why can't I just trust and wait?

God is in control.
    
Only a small sample of the unending discussion that goes through my head every day. I feel divided, like I can't get a grip on this. I have heard this is what grief feels like-joy mingled with sorrow, and they alternate at times in surges and shallows. I think I am trying to process this, this complete unknown. 
"The LORD is my light and my salvation-whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life-of whom shall I be afraid?" Psalm 27:1
Written by the same David who said,

"Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted, the troubles of my heart have multiplied; free me from my anguish." Psalm 25:16-17 

David was literally "a man after God's own heart" but he, too, experienced seemingly conflicting emotions. I run the gamut of feelings, sometimes in as little as five minutes. However, don't be confused: my faith is not what is at stake here. I am, as David,

"I am confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD, be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD." Psalm 27:13-14  

Living in denial never did anyone any good. I can pretty much guarantee there isn't a person alive who hasn't been frustrated and discouraged by this whole pandemic. And that is rightly so, this sickness sweeping the world is a physical expression of the decay that corrupts each of our hearts apart from Christ. It should sadden and grieve us that we all are experiencing the consequences of hearts determined to follow their own ways. Illness is a result of the Fall. I can be disturbed by what is going on. 

 It is ignorant, in fact, to live as though external forces don't exist in the life of believers. Jesus Himself, in the parable of the house built on the rock, actually assures us of the opposite.  He says, 
"The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock." Matthew 7:25 
We will, indeed, weather storms. And just because they won't take us out, doesn't mean we won't feel the rain. Or hear the wind. We can't, and shouldn't, ignore it, if only for the fact that it reminds us that without Christ we would be hopeless and helpless in the face of the storm, and that is the case of anyone without Him.

So, perhaps, my tossing thoughts are a good reminder that I am not at all able on my own to face the onslaught of the elements, both physical and mental. I absolutely must rest on my Rock, the truest foundation there ever was. And again, as another psalmist demonstrates so clearly, I can recognize my feelings while redirecting my thoughts.

"Why are you so downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God." Psalm 42:5, 11 & Psalm 43:5

Three references for the same verse? Yes, because it is a process that must happen over and over. I need Him every moment. Acknowledging my feelings forces me to turn to the Lord-I have to take my fear, worry and doubts to Him.

"My heart says of You, 'Seek His face!' Your face, LORD, I will seek." Psalm 27:8
So while my emotions may be in conflict, my heart is not. My foundation is solid as the Rock of Ages, and He isn't fazed by my turbulent thoughts. Nothing can tear me from His grasp. He is patient and loving with me, He wants me to bring my doubts and concerns to Him. He is, after all, the only One with the power to calm the storms.

"They...asked each other, 'Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him!" Mark 4:41
This is my Savior and my God. My hope is secure, though my ship may be tossed. 

Friday, April 10, 2020

To Carson, On Your 12th Birthday


Dear Carson,
         Well, this year will surely be a memorable one! You had big plans for a joint birthday party with your buds (from the Chicken Nugget Gang) but instead we all got to shelter-in-place. However, you  have worked hard to have a positive attitude, and we planned to make the best of the day.  You are my extrovert, you love to be with your friends, so it ended up being a lovely surprise that your friends came to you, albeit to social distance from the sidewalk and across the park, but I think their efforts will be wonderful memories in time.

      You absolutely love hanging out with your friends and watching boy friendships is so fun. You are a leader amongst them (in part because you're a teeny bit bossy) mostly because they look up to you and trust you. You are mature for your age, and I am constantly impressed by your discernment. You really care about how people are feeling and you can frequently be found helping without being asked. You are very responsible, too, which is a quality every mother wishes for her children.

     You are "the world's youngest Boomer", a nickname we have affectionately given you this year due to your grousing about "freaking hippies", what you disdainfully call anyone who hasn't lived up to your standards. You were washing out the kitchen trashcan the other day and grumbling about the gum that had escaped the liner. It was kind of hilarious because you sounded like a dad. I love that you don't realize that most twelve year-old boys don't do those kinds of things willingly or without being reminded. 

    You have been robbed of a few things this year besides a birthday party, but I'm thankful for all the things you have been able to do. You really enjoyed basketball (with your friends, of course) this last winter and you are on track to finish your final year of T&T in Awana. You have managed to coax me into doing all four books with you-you challenge me to get better and it has been inspiring.

    Watching you love people well brings such joy to my heart. You love doting on the baby and toddler siblings of your friends, and you can carry on intelligent conversations with people of all ages. You have been helping in Children's Church all year, and you set an excellent example to the little people there. It is hard for me to believe that you will be in the youth group in the fall. 

    As always, I'm excited to continue to watch you grow, physically (you are taller than Grammy now!) mentally (you worked hard in school this year, especially at paper writing) and spiritually (I see your tender heart for Jesus and I adore it.) You remind me so much of your dad in all the best ways, and you just continue to get wittier as you get older. Your wisecracking keeps us all in stitches! I am constantly praying that the Lord will guard your heart and mind as He has always done. He has big plans for you! I am so thankful that I get to be a part. I love you more than ever.

                                                                                                            Love, 
                                                                                                                Larry aka Mom
                                                                           (your current nickname among many for me.) 

Easter in Exile



 (I must confess that the idea  of "exile" was borrowed from Russell Moore who is using it as part of his series, "Reading in Exile".)

     "The roads to Zion mourn, for no one comes to her appointed feasts. All her gateways are desolate, her priests groan, her maidens grieve, and she is in bitter anguish."
Lamentations 1:4
"My sins have been bound into a yoke, by His hands they were woven together. They have come upon my neck and the Lord has sapped my strength. He has handed me over to those I cannot withstand. " Lamentations 1:14 

   When one thinks of Easter the book of Lamentations isn't usually the first one to come to mind. Any of the Gospels, if you want to go further afield perhaps another book of the New Testament. Really far out? Maybe throw in some Isaiah or Psalms. But I keep turning current events over and over in my mind. I am frustrated, I am confused, I am angry. Everything familiar seem ripped away by circumstances beyond my control. I feel thrown into a foreign land, one I don't have skills to navigate, one where convention and tradition have been tossed to the side like so much extra baggage on the Oregon Trail, abandoned with no hope of returning to it.

    It might seem melodramatic to some, but go with me- to have freedoms taken, however small, and replaced with fear and lack of certainty always moves one to grief. To be haunted by death and illness should be saddening. We mourn the past, not the least because we knew what it held. And there are definitely those who know that feeling.

"Joy is gone from our hearts. Our dancing has turned to mourning." Lamentations 5:15
  This is not normal, and we should not treat it as such. We should be sorrowful for the way that sin has wreaked havoc through disease and fear over the entire world.

"The hearts of the people cry out to the Lord. O wall of the Daughter of Zion, let your tears flow like a river day and night; give yourself no relief, your eyes no rest." Lamentations 2:18 

   The exile of the people of Israel is one of the most gut-wrenching events in the Old Testament. The promised land was no longer theirs-not only had they been overrun by the enemy they were wrenched from their towns and homes and thrown into a foreign land. They wanted to blame the Assyrians, the Babylonians,  the Egyptians, anyone but themselves. They found themselves alone, far from everything they knew.

And they weren't coming back. Normal would never be normal again.

And it was all their fault.

"Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord. Let us lift up our hearts and our hands to God in heaven and say: We have sinned and rebelled..." Lamentations 3:40-41a

   For decades, through Daniel and Esther, through Jeremiah and Lamentations, the people of Israel were foreigners in a foreign land. Birthdays, anniversaries, births, weddings, and even deaths happening all the while. And the feasts, the ones we slog through in Leviticus but that defined the seasons of their lives, kept occurring: the Feast of Tabernacles, the Feast of Weeks. Passover.

    I can't begin to fathom the pain and irony of even considering observing a feast that was a celebration of release from exile. While in exile. Passover, the time they were redeemed from their oppressors. Celebrating, remembering, while in the grip of new captors.  Painting doorways with blood to signal release. Baking bread meant for a journey of freedom. While locked in a cell of their own design.

Passover...

"He [Jesus] replied, 'Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, 'The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house." Matthew 26:18

Passover...

This is My body given for you...

This cup is the covenant in My blood  which is poured out for you...

Passover means Easter to us.

    This year it may feel like we are in exile, separated, forced to let go of long-cherished familiar traditions. We may feel robbed and frustrated. But more so than ever before, let us celebrate Easter as one in exile.

One waiting for the coming King.

One covered by the Blood.

One knowing that this is NOT our home.

One knowing that all His promises are true,

One knowing that this will end and then we will really be Home.

One clinging to faith when the world is unfriendly and uncertain.

One who continues to look with hope, true hope, when it all seems hopeless.

"Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail, they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him. The LORD is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him." Lamentations 3:23-25

    We underestimate the faith of those who turned and repented in exile. They looked for Jesus. They looked for over 400 years. We live in the realization that Christ has come, but we, too, should be looking for Him to come again. There were those who continued to celebrate the release they had experienced, as we experience new life in Christ here on earth, but as they looked with expectancy to a better, fuller freedom, so do we. This world is not our home, but trusting fully that in Christ every promise of God is, "Yes!" Exile is always meant to teach us something. Don't let this be any different.

"All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead they were longing for a better country-a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them....These were all commended for their faith yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect." Hebrews 11:13-16 & 39-40

Better things are yet to come but we can still celebrate, for even in exile, HE IS RISEN.


Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Lord of Peace Printable



    I am not that old. However, my mind is very resistant to memorization at this point in my life. I have Scripture verses I learned in childhood that I can rattle off without error at a moments notice. (Thanks, Mom!) But I was really struggling to memorize Scripture as an adult, to the point where I had given up trying.

   However, I believe that a big part of leading is setting an example, and I apply that to parenting, as well. Both my kids have participated in Awana since they were quite little. The amount of effort it takes for them to learn Scripture: zero. But when my son started Awana's upper elementary program he challenged me to start learning verses with him. I figured I would give it my best shot and then, when he wasn't paying any attention, I would quit.

   I'm not proud of that. But don't look down on me, yet. That was 3rd grade. He is now in sixth and we are finishing our fourth Awana book-together. I have learned over 25 verses each year (the amounts vary) and I realized that the same Holy Spirit power that enables me to walk in truth was available to me to commit that same truth to memory. It hasn't been easy, I'm not going to win any awards for saying my sections without any "helps", but I am truly appreciating God's Word in a new way. 

   And, of course, God's Word will not return void (Isaiah 55:11). The passage that I have been working on this week is one that blew me away with its simplicity, and absolute perfection to this uncertain season we are all in. Right now, in the midst of this coronavirus craziness, one of the things we are all desperate for is peace. And, of course, only Jesus can provide true peace. Normally I use the NIV (NIV 1984 is my preference) but this verse is so beautiful in the ESV.

"Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all. 2 Thessalonians 3:16

  Wow. Just mediating on that single verse has brought me such incredible peace, peace that the world can't give. Jesus is truly the Lord of peace. He alone is in control. I don't doubt for a moment that He challenged me to work on memorizing Scripture all those years ago because He knew that in this very trying time I would need a reminder to which I could cling. Now, don't be mistaken: there has been plenty of passages that I have memorized that have been very meaningful and appropriate to me through the years, but isn't it incredible that He can use something like that in so many ways and allow it to continue to benefit us?

    Jesus came so that we could have life, and joy, and hope and peace. That is truly the message of Easter: we can be forgiven and restored to right relationship through the sacrifice of Jesus, and then we can begin to truly live. We can only find peace in Him alone. He is risen and triumphant over every thing that would cause us unease and turmoil-we can look to Him to give us peace in all times. Even these.

    Because I loved this verse so much I put it into a graphic printable I wanted to share. It prints black and white so if you want it to be "fancy" you can use colored cardstock, like I did. Perhaps put it somewhere you can work on memorizing it? You never know when it will come in handy...

Find the printable version here 

   P.S. If you are looking for more verses to bring you peace, check out this list of 40+ Scriptures I put together. They're printable too!


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