What two children taught me about my scribbled- up heart

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Teaching kids about Jesus presents many opportunities to remember the love that changes us.

Yesterday I was the teacher to a group of kinder through 5th graders. The kids sat at their places around the tables, red construction paper hearts and crayons in front of them and one of the older kids read aloud our Bible verse for the day. 

Indeed, if you fulfill the royal law prescribed in the Scripture, Love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well.”

James 2:8 CSB

When the child returned to his seat he found that the child next to him had scribbled black crayon all over his red paper heart. The child Bible reader, now red-faced with anger, picked up a crayon and scribbled all over the red paper heart laying in front of the child offender who had ruined his paper heart. The two boys, now red faced, eyes spilling over with tears, were ready to lay down their darkened paper hearts and take up fists with each other. 

The boys were separated, the class called to attention again, and with the demonstration of messing up each others’ hearts before us, we dove into the question from our Bible reading: How in the world do you love your neighbor as yourself?

I can go to church, read my bible quietly with a cup of coffee in the morning, put my ear buds in and listen to my favorite writers spell out hope in Christ from their stories and songs, and feel like I’m doing pretty good. Then people walk in my room, pick up my one fragile heart and start scratching it black with their selfish words, or cold manner, or inconsiderate acts. And then, I don’t feel so much good. 

I’ll never be able to think of being a Christian as something I’m proud of or good at as long as being a Christian means loving my heart-wrenching neighbor as I love myself. 

By the end of our class yesterday all the kids came to the conclusion that we don’t love very well. Not like Jesus did. We decided we need Jesus to help us. And we need to ask for forgiveness a lot.  

And this is how I know Christ has hold of me. I see how he loves. I see how he turns my heart towards others with a desire to give what I have no power in myself to give. I see the brokenness in those around me, and I feel the self-protective snatching of my heart away from potential scribblers, and I say, “Lord, it’s too much! Send them away!” And I hear Jesus say, “No. Give yourself to them.”  And I watch as he takes my meager offerings of a listening ear, a choice to be quiet, or speak up, or get low or stand up and makes them enough to communicate love. 

At the end of our class the older boy went to the younger boy of his own accord, looked him in the eyes and said, “I’m sorry.” The boys hugged each other and played. 

Jesus can make you want to make it right with the person whose heart you marred in revenge and hug the person who turned your tidy heart into a scribbled-up mess.

How to cultivate an appetite for Jesus

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Growing up in Roseburg, Oregon in 1989, all the cool kids shopped at the Gap store in Eugene. It’s an hour drive. And on some weekends, when I got to go shopping with my friends we would all plan to shop at the Gap and eat at Cinnabon. The aroma of those heavy, buttery, sweet cinnamon rolls was intoxicating then, and it still is. There really is no comparison to Cinnabon for me. I’ve tasted and I’ve seen that Cinnabon is good and there is no other cinnamon roll that will do.

That level of craving, of tasting Cinnabons and wanting more does not compare to the taste of and craving for the goodness of Jesus. I know it feels like a drop off doesn’t it. We all know the intoxicating taste of hot, melting-with-butter-and-frosting cinnamon rolls, but Jesus? How do you taste and crave Jesus?

The Bible calls us to, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8) The only way we can taste and see the goodness of the Lord is to be feeding on his word (1 Peter 2:2), joining our lives with his people (1 John 1:3), and praying fervently as we go (Psalm 69:13). And if I’m sensing my own condition and the state of many in my life correctly we’ve lost our appetite for tasting the goodness of the Lord Jesus this way.

There are times I need to push reset on my eating habbits. I need to eat clean so I can enjoy the goodnes of good things once again. When I’ve been indulging in junk food and fast food my body feels it, and I have a diminished desire for what’s actually good for me and want to eat more french fries.  I’ve found my relationship with Christ to be similar. Sometimes I need to intentionally stop filling my mind with podcasts, music, my favorite movies, or busying myself with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and reading blogs or books, and fill the empty, uncomfortable space I find when I do that with God’s word and prayer.  That’s the only way I can cleanse my spiritual pallete. It’s the only way I can grow my appetite and affections for Jesus.

Today in a leadership meeting at my church we talked about the need to return to our first love Jesus, to return to fervent and effective prayer, to remember the gospel and stir our affections for Jesus and all he’s done for us. It hit me that I have to repent often of not valuing what Jesus has done, and valuing something else in his place. The barrier keeping me from passionate love of God and others, fervent prayer and a worshipful heart is my constant and often unconscious tendency to think, “Yeah, Jesus is great, but I want ____________.”  I’ve filled that blank with so many things over the years. They’ve all dulled my appetite for God’s word and the goodness of the Lord.

Do you have a craving for knowing Jesus more? For being with him, going where he’s going, being made like him? Do you find like me that you’re often lacking in desire or appetite for Jesus and sort of, “meh” the thought of him?  Join me in repenting. Join me in turning away from the things that have dulled our appetites for Jesus. And join me in returning to a steady diet of God’s word and prayer to regain a craving for God that’s fitting. Surely he is even more wonderful than a Cinnabon.

A return to feeding on the word of God, praying as we read, talking and listening, casting cares and asking questions, chewing like cud again and again what God has revealed to us of himself in Jesus through the Bible and his church is the hard reset button we need to push on our spiritual diet.

C.S. Lewis described our condition this way:

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” – The Weight of Glory

Lord, forgive me for dulling my appetite for you with “mud pies.” Thank you for your mercy and grace provided me in Christ. I want to crave you more than Cinnabon, more than spacing out, or vegging out, or detaching, or escaping, or wine, or chocolate, or surfing social media, or anything. I want to love you with all my heart and love my neighbor as myself.  Let me taste and see that you’re good again and again! 

Ash Wednesday is a perfect Valentine.

I’ve grown thick-skinned after 26 hard years.  At seventeen this small-town girl met a big-city boy and fell into infatuation. After two years of dating, and three break-ups, I married that rebellious, out-of-town boy who walked into my life wearing torn and bleached blue jeans, long blonde hair and a pink corduroy hat.  After 24 years of tumultuous marriage, nearly divorcing as many times as we broke up while dating, I find this pretty potted orchid by my morning coffee today.

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Over the years I’ve dreaded, ignored and been disillusioned by my silly hopes for Valentines day.  But in recent years I’ve despised the day.  Every pink, red or purple balloon/heart/flower was salt poured in my 26 year-hard-relationship wound. But this year Valentine’s Day is on Ash Wednesday, and I’m actually thrilled!  Not because I woke up to an orchid and my husband’s heartfelt note.  But because I’ve learned, still learning, that I’m dust and so is my husband. And I do good to remember that it is real love which compelled Christ to bear a cross for my dust so that I could bloom in his love forever.

Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent.  It’s the beginning of a fast to remember who we are, turning from clinging to our dust, living for ourselves, and to long for and look to the One who died in our place so that we might be free from the curse of sin and live for Him.  If I forget that I’m dust I might start thinking I’m a god and should be worshipped with offerings of shiny pink boxes or long-stemmed roses. If I forget that my husband is dust I might start thinking he should act like a god and sweep me off my feet and rescue me.  But if I remember I’m dust, married to dust, both of us in desperate need of the One who died to give us life, I’ll be embarking on the cross-carrying road real love is all about.

According to legend St. Valentine died for marriage.  This priest was put to death in ancient times for secretly marrying Christians. I’ve learned, still learning, to die for my marriage.  Any married person has to die a little, no a lot, to give marriage a chance to live. Jesus did not say, “You only live once so get as much good for yourself as you can now!”  He said, “If you want to really live, you’re gonna have to die.” (My paraphrase Luke 17:33).  Marriage is worth dying for.  It’s beautiful, all-be-it hard, painful and messy.  It’s meant to be a picture of the faithful love of Christ for the people who love him (the church). Christ died for those who love him to be like a bride to him.  He died so that human beings, who are but dust, could be made like Christ, living forever with the wellspring of life that comes from him filling us.  He died so that we could know what real love, real life, real hope, real peace, real happiness is. Christ is not a god who receives offerings of roses and chocolates.  He is the God who lays down his life so that we, the people he loves, might live.  Valentine’s Day is about dying to yourself so that marriage can live.

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Twenty four years ago I walked down the isle hand-in-hand with my husband, dust holding dust.  We were pronounced man and wife and I began my journey into dying to myself so that this big-city boy I fell for could see the faithfulness Christ has shown me.  It’s fitting, if not a bit prophetic looking back, that we walked down that isle into the world with the song Faithfully by Journey announcing the banner over our dusty union.  I hear the lyrics often in my head.

They say that the road
Ain’t no place to start a family
Right down the line
It’s been you and me
And lovin’ a music man
Ain’t always what it’s supposed to be
Oh, girl, you stand by me
I’m forever yours
Faithfully

My skin is thicker after 26 years.  I’m thankful for my husband’s thoughtful orchid and note this morning- a little good in the land of the living.  A little tenderness amidst a hard, dying-to-self, remembering-I’m-dust marriage. Today I’m turning again from trying to be a god who is satisfied by chocolates and roses and romantic gestures, and from trying to make my husband into a god who rescues me.  I’m turning to the God who laid down his life for my ashes.  There is real love.  Dust I am, but by the power of his love I am more, I am a little Christ.  His faithfulness reminds me he is giving me beauty for ashes.  His death reminds me that real love dies for the one he loves.

Roses may be red

Violets may be blue

But real love dies

For another’s life

And dust married to dust

Doesn’t expect much

But remembers

Her Redemers last words

“It is finished” he cried

For my dust he died

To give me life he bled

Now dying to self

I have beauty instead

we need to listen. and shut our mouths.

The other day while driving to my oldest son’s baseball game, this story came on the radio.  It’s about the producers memories of going on a tour of The National Great Blacks In Wax Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.  She recalls with audible disturbance, the traumatic memory she has from her school tours through the museum which depicts lynchings and a slave ship as well as segregation and slavery.  Its one of the few times everyone in the car was silent.  Three white males in the car 47, 14, and 12. And myself a white woman.  It really hit us all.  My pubescent sons’ mouths were gaping and at one point my youngest announced, “This is horrible!  Why would people do that?”  I turned the volume down and asked the boys to imagine that they were born and raised in a country where in recent history white people were segregated, lynched, abused, treated like animals and made to be slaves?  That’s the history that my black friends in the U.S. live with.

People like me and my husband and sons we have no idea what that feels like.  That’s what “white privilege” means.  It doesn’t me we get a hand out or hand up.  It means we don’t live with a history of oppression against people who look like us in the country we call home.

I know folks are upset about NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem.  And I know people are quick to defend police officers (so am I… I’m married to one).  But we white folks need to listen.  We need to listen to stories like this.  And to the stories of our black neighbors and co-workers and friends.  We need to listen.  And shut our mouths.  We may have good arguments.  But especially those of us who call ourselves Christians need to put our hands over our mouths and listen.

I have nothing but respect and prayers for our veterans and military servants.  I love my country.  But my country has a history of sinful oppression of people of color.  What we hear in the news and see on T.V. and post in our social media is not going to stop the blood of the slaves from crying out in their descendants. We need to lay down our lives and listen. We need to stop being Job’s friends to those who are bearing a bitter burden.  We need to love our black neighbors.  And give our lives for their restoration to wholeness.

This is the way of Christ, our God and Savior who wasn’t white.  This is the way of the God who calls peoples of every tribe, tongue and nation to be his children.  This is the way of Jesus, who drove out the proud money-changers and proclaimed, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer for all nations”? And you have turned it into house of robbers!

 “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” -2 For. 5:18-19

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger… -James 1:19 

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A Tribute To My Mom

Dear Mom,

I read a post of Facebook the other day where a mom was telling her adult kids what she really wanted for Mother’s Day.  In short: Time with them.  I agree.  Being a mom myself I feel the exact same way.  But since we’re far apart and don’t spend as much time together as we both would like as moms, I wanted to take a minute to tell you, and the world just a few of the reasons I’m so thankful that God made you my mom.

#1  Your songs.

Now that I’m a grown up and have spent years pursuing my own walk with the God of the Bible, I realize there are a lot of messages I swallowed growing up that weren’t so Biblical.  Some things taught as truth were just misunderstood.  Some were mis-taught.  Enter grace.  And hymns.  No matter what I learned about God and life that wasn’t so right growing up, what I learned right I heard in your singing.  When you sang the words, “I need thee every hour...”  you taught me dependence upon the grace found in Christ.  When you cried out in song around the house, “Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, help me stand.”  You taught me to cry to God and not pout to myself.  When I heard you worship at bedtime, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me...”  You taught me to awe at the salvation found in Jesus.  Your singing planted truth in my soul mom.  And now it has sprouted and grown into it’s very own tree, planted by the same streams of water out of which my soul sings with you, “And he walks with me, and he talks with me, and he tells me I am his own.  And the joy we share as we tarry there.  None other, has ever known.”

#2 Your brokenness

Mom, honestly I used to wish you weren’t broken. I used to wish, with you, we had a neat, tidy, healthy family.  I wanted a yellow house with a picket fence, two happy healthy parents and siblings who got along too.  Who doesn’t want that?  But brokenness has come upon us all.  Even those I thought had that picture perfect family.  And it’s through the brokenness in your life that I have learned to see God’s miraculous way of making beauty out of ashes.  I used to be angry with God for the brokenness I saw everywhere and in my own life.  But the beautiful masterpiece God paints by taking the very cracked up thoughts and emotions, bodies and relationships we all live with everyday and out of them painting a whole new Christ-imaging life makes the beauty of that Norman Rockwell life I had in my head look like a 5 year old’s water color.  God has painted Christ-exalting majesty and glory out of your broken life mom.  Christ in you is beautiful!  Through you Christ has shown himself to me as the Great Physician who has come not for the well, but the sick, like me.  Through you, he has made me to know him as the great bearer of burdens.  Because you have turned to Him, time and time again, I have learned to see myself and others as broken people in desperate need of the love of Christ.

#3  Your creativity

Paper dolls cut out of any piece of cardboard or paper on hand.  Marbles and Jax.  Stories that should be written down and printed as captivating children’s books.  Biscuits to die for.  Your interest in our lives and your creativity and handiwork drew us as children to you.  Your creative, happy, liveliness was Jesus in you causing the little children to come to him.  And he is still at work in you drawing your grandchildren.  God has given you the gift of touching the hearts of young children mom.  Your love of life and interest in investing in the young souls around you has forever changed the course of many lives for God’s glory.

#4 Your diversity

In a small town where everyone was a shade of pale and most people spoke red-neck English, you were a wise woman with a world-wide awareness and a vision for honoring the diversity of God’s people in every tongue, tribe and nation.  Before we could even speak, you were hanging cut out magazine images of babies with different skin-tones on the wall next to our crib.  When Cabbage-Patch dolls were all the rage, you bought your white, freckle-faced children black Cabbage-Patch dolls.  When people of darker pigment came into our our town and didn’t speak much English, you welcomed them into our home and learned to make tortillas from scratch with them.  In a culture that was ignorant to it’s xenophobia, you were planting the truth that in God’s world there are peoples of all cultures, pigments and languages.  And that’s a beautiful thing!

A Woman To Be Praised!

That’s only four reasons out of many for why I thank God every day that he made you my mom!  I celebrate you mom.  I want to pass onto my children the gifts you’ve given me.  Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman like you mom, who is in awe of Christ Jesus our Lord, is worthy to be praised for generations to come!  May God bless the work of your hands mom!

I love you,

Your Lil’ Toad

A slow-to-believe believer’s thoughts on Good Friday

It’s Good Friday.

There’s a tsunami of meaning in those three words.

Maybe for you it’s just TGIF.

I get it.  Honestly, I grew up hearing the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection, but for years it made no connection with my soul.  If I’m honest the celebration (if you can call it that) of Good Friday has been odd to me at best and often it’s been an offense.  Tim Keller said something I heard the other day to the effect of, “The cross of Christ is offensive in all sorts of ways, and if you haven’t felt it, if you haven’t ever struggled with it, I don’t think you get it...”  That has been the case with me.  Until recent years, I haven’t really stopped to face the ugliness and offense at the center of the Christian message: that Christ was crucified for our sins.

Years of questioning from dear loved ones who don’t believe has caused me to look that horrific, bloody, crucified, historic Jesus I love in the face and wrestle with the offense of the Christian doctrine of substitutionary atonement (Christ dying in our place for our sins).

I am a believer.  But I understand unbelief.  Unbelievers I love have caused me to examine what it is I say I believe on holidays like Christmas and Easter and Good Friday.  And I’m very glad they have.  I’m a slow-to-believe believer in Christ.  The wonder and horror of what Christ endured and did for me, specifically, and for all who would believe in him, is palpably meaningful to me now more than ever.  But I’m thick-headed and slow to get it.  I’m sure the meaning of Christ’s substitutionary death will increasingly become more real for me since it is infinitely full of truth and life.  Increasingly, substitutionary atonement is no longer two big, seminary-graduate words only to be heard from a pulpit.  Substitutionary atonement is the bloody door through which I enter an eternity of grace upon undeserved grace!

But I digress.

I want to try to explain at least a cupful of my thoughts regarding Good Friday as I stand under the Niagra Falls of Christ’s substitutionary death for those who believe in him.

There is much to capture in thinking on what it means that Christ died in my place and satisfied the just requirement of God for me so that I will never experience rejection from the God who made me to know him as Father and friend.   As I say, It’s like trying to stand under Niagra Falls with a tiny tea cup to grab a drink of water.  But here I go.

It’s Offensive Because We’re Evil

Good Friday is about how we have perverted the glory of God and how he makes his glory known rightly again.

The thought that people are basically good and if we just modify “bad” behaviors we would all be happy and the world would be a better place is lost on me.  I’ve had a 2 year old.  I’ve lied so I could look good to another liar.  I’ve been abandoned and objectified as a woman.  And I’ve watched the news and cared for people broken by the evil in others.

We modify “bad” behaviors not because we’re basically good, but because like Imagine Dragons said, “No matter what we breed, we still are made of greed.”  If we’re honest, we know inside us is a drive to make ourselves the center of life at the expense of others.  It’s an insidious evil that seems to lie dormant, but peeks out it’s ugly head and beats its little brother so it can have the ball, or abandons it’s family so it can have a better life… or a thousand other birthed-evils that come out of our hearts.  We have laws, and behavior modification techniques and self-help books, and therapists and jails and multiple forms of restraint and training in our lives because we are trying to tame the beast.  Not because we’re all angels at heart that trip up every now and then.

And all the horror that comes out of us is not just horrible because of what we do to each other.  It’s horrible because we were not random, chance products of evolutionary process. If that’s all we are then there would be no reason to call anything we do right or wrong.  It would be simply part of the process of evolution: survival of the fittest.  But we know we do evil things and we recognize evil in others because we are made to do good.  To be good.  To be godly. To reflect the glory of God in our lives like living testimonies to the universe and each other.  Our human lives are to be like works of art that display the beauty and wonder of the One who made us.  The evil in us is so evil because is a perversion of the image of God in us.

When I look at the cross of Christ and the horrors of his crucifixion and think about the why behind it- Why would God do that to save us?  I realize, at least in part, that the reason the cross of Christ is so offensive and horrific is because billions of people (including me) have perverted the glory of God with our lives and made God out to be a liar and a murderer and a self-centered leech with a message that says, “Your life for mine!”   The cross of Christ is justice.  It’s a making right the message that has been wrongly proclaimed from sinful humanity.  The cross of Christ says God is worth my life.  God is truth.  God is just.  God is life.  God gives life.  God’s message is, “My life for yours!”  The cross of Christ is a historical entrance of God into humanity saying, “This is what you all have done to me.  This is the bloody truth about the evil that is in you that perverts the truth about who I am and who you are.  I am bloodied and broken and bruised by your evils.  You were made to glorify me, but you have defamed me.  And I bear it because I am God and I give my life for you!

On the cross Christ is taking the truth that, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” in his own body.  His bloody, broken flesh on that cross is the embodiment of our perversion of God’s glory.  He became our sin.

I know that’s not all the cross of Christ says.  But it’s a few drops.  It’s enough to cause me to hate my sin and love my sin-bearing Savior.

All Real Love Is Substitutionary Sacrifice

Good Friday is about what love really is and what only God can do.

In that same talk, where I heard Tim Keller say that if we haven’t really struggled with the offense of the cross of Christ we probably don’t really get what it means, I also heard him say something that captured a few more drops of the cascades of truth pouring from the side of my pierced and broken Lord.  He said, “All love. All real love is a substitutionary sacrifice. ‘My life for yours’. Heart of the universe...”  It’s true.  It’s a truth we can all recognize.  We all know it when we see substitutionary sacrifice.  When a parent gives up their agenda for the day to tend to a child in need.  When a soldier dies to keep an enemy from taking freedom and life from another.  When a firefighter rushes into a burning building to rescue a trapped man.  All of these and so many other examples speak of the universal truth that real love is “My life for yours. I’ll die, I’ll sacrifice, I’ll serve to make your life better, easier, richer.”  Evil is, “Your life for mine.  How can you die, how can you sacrifice, how can you serve to make my life better, easier, richer?”

But even though we see this truth in our lives, none of our little displays of the true message substitutionary sacrificial love can save our fellow man from the righteous judgement of God on the evil we all carry around inside.

There’s a line in an ancient Hebrew Psalm in the Bible that says, “Truly no man can ransom another or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice, that he should live on forever and never see the pit.” (Psalm 49:7-9)

It’s the truth.  We all display little imperfect examples of the universal truth of substitutionary sacrifice, but none of us can be an atoning substitute for another human being.  The only person who could ever pay the costly ransom required to love an evil human being and give them a life that lives forever in friendship and intimate relationship with God is God.  I might die a little so that my son can live more.  But only the God-Man Christ Jesus can die so that my son can live forever!

So there’s my little tea cup of truth.  It’s just a drop from a fountain that flows abundantly with truth and life.  Christ died bearing the evil I have lived out which has perverted the truth about God.  And Christ did this for me because only he can give God’s life for mine so that I might live forever!

Maybe this Good Friday you can sip and taste with me and see that the Jesus who died so horrifically for our sins this day in history about 2000 years ago, he is good.

When your heart is broken on Valentine’s Day

It’s not that other days with a broken heart aren’t painful.  It’s just that on Valentine’s Day everywhere you look, go or listen pink shiny hearts and candy pour like salt on your wounds.

I’ve waded my way through the gushing pink day with my own busted up heart many times.  This year I do it again.  If Valentine’s day feels like a mockery of your broken heart and a deceitful allure to try and find love in cheap thrills I offer these three rescuers:

1) The Lord whose heart was pierced right through is with you and me.

I don’t know what broke your heart.  Maybe it’s the death of someone you love.  Maybe it’s the betrayal of a dear friend.  Maybe it’s a prodigal child.  Maybe it’s a divorce or a breakup.  Maybe it’s a daily hard keeping of your covenant. Maybe it’s the rejection you’ve endured time and time again.  Whatever pierced you through and is causing your physical body to hurt and reel from the wrongness of what has happened or is happening, Christ has felt it in his body too.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions;he was crushed for our iniquities;upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,and with his wounds we are healed.” – Isaiah 53:5

Blessed are those who turn to our wounded Savior for healing.  For us, he is enough.  We don’t look for healing in chocolates, or wine, or romantic cards, or a dozen perfect thorn-less roses.  Jesus is enough for us.  We hurt, but we know our hurt is not the end of the story.  His brokenness has redeemed ours.  Every weapon formed against us will fail.  Every trap laid, every betrayal, every rejection will only be for our formation into the likeness of the One who saves us.

“no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed,and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment.This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their vindication from me, declares the Lord.” -Isaiah 54:17

2) Only the Heart-Maker can be your heart-healer

The only one able to heal our broken hearts is the one whose heart was pierced for our transgressions.  Our hearts may break because death has inflicted a crushing wound or because betrayal has stabbed and turned in the place where we loved, but Christ’s death and his sin-bearing body swallowed the power of sin and death.  Only Christ, the Word made flesh, the Image of the Invisible God, only he can heal what was meant for destruction.  Only he has the power to bind up our wounded hearts and bring real healing.

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound…” – Isaiah 61:1


Blessed are those who believe that Christ was not only wounded for our transgressions and has the power and the mission to bind up our broken hearts, but he is also the one who miraculously designed our brokenness that he might bring about our healing and the spreading of his glory in our lives.  He breaks us and heals us to cause us to know him for who he really is- the One who lays down his life for us.  There is a cycle of death and resurrection that spreads life in every way he works with his children.  This is his design.  This is his way.

Come, let us return to the Lord;for he has torn us, that he may heal us;he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.After two days he will revive us;on the third day he will raise us up,that we may live before him.Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord;his going out is sure as the dawn;he will come to us as the showers,as the spring rains that water the earth.” – Hosea 6:1-3

3) Your broken heart poured out in love of Jesus is like priceless perfume spreading his aroma everywhere!

Your broken heart is not a waste!  The pain you bear is not for nothing.  Christ has borne our sin in his own body!  He has made us one with him.  He has joined us to God in peace and unbreakable covenant.  When we pour out our bleeding heart on him and see our aching lives as his, for his use, for his purposes, for his glory, for an eternal harvest, our cracked up stories become a broken bottle of priceless perfume spreading the aroma of the worth of Christ to everyone in our lives.  Not everyone will smell him as beautiful, but those who do will be drawn into knowing him too.  As Ann Voskamp says, what some mistake for destruction is really growth.  Our lives become a seed, planted and falling apart in this earth to spring up life-giving life.  And Christ says that is a beautiful thing!

“And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.” – Mark 14:3-6

Blessed are the ones who see their lives in light of God’s great story.  Blessed are those who don’t say, “YOLO!”  you only live once,  and suck as much life for themselves out of this broken place as they can, but rather they say, “YOLF!” you only live forever, and let their redeemed lives be planted in this world that others might live and know the worth of the One who has loved us to death!

Dear Beloved Brokenheart, you walk the path of ever lasting life.  You walk hand in hand with the author of such a life.  Let every expression of love you see today be a reminder to you that your life is not your own, you are Christ’s, and He is yours, and because of him all your pain is for the spreading of the priceless aroma of the God who so loved the world that he gave his only Son.

Love. Suffering. And the Heart-Stream Turner.

(Old pic, boys have grown a lot in a couple years.)

Here it is approaching midnight. I so wanted to sit down and write out some thoughts from today earlier but a neighbor popping in, a child wanting to play cards, a husband not feeling well and soap to be made stood in my way.

So, here I am, printing labels for soap at the very end of this 2nd Sunday in Advent and writing out some thoughts with this very tired brain.  Consider yourself forewarned.

Today’s reading was reflecting on love and today at church we heard from 1 Corinthians 6, not an apparent tie here, but there are these two questions:

Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?

I remember having a Bible study with a lady once who seemed appalled at the thought that you should do something or refrain from doing something because it might cause that person to stumble in their walk with Christ.  I remember the look on her face that said, “That cannot mean that!  That’s co-dependency.  I can do whatever I want.”  I remember thinking she doesn’t get it.  She still thinks Christianity is something you add like a cherry to the top your personally selected sunday life.  She certainly doesn’t think Christianity is taking up your cross and following Jesus daily in dying to yourself and bearing with others, even suffering.

That section in 1 Corinthians that asks those two small questions… that’s the part that came to mind when I read this evening’s Advent reading on love.

Christ suffered wrong and was defrauded along the path to glorify the Father and bring me (and all those who would believe) back into a right relationship with God.

I will suffer wrong and be defrauded in this life as I set out to glorify my Father and point others to Christ.

That’s the price of love.  But oh is it worth it!

To the one who holds tightly to all they have to uphold their worth, suffering wrong and being defrauded is to be avoided and must be avenged at all cost.

But to the one who knows all things are theirs in Christ; who knows their worth and identity are found in him, to suffer wrong and be defrauded is a light and momentary affliction on the path of Christ-like love.

Being a Timothy-Mom to two boys in a divided house is hard.  It’s been really hard these last 48 hours.  But God amazes me how, “The king’s heart is like a stream of water in the hand of the LORD- he turns it wherever he will.” I worried.  And I took all those worries and cried and poured out my heart before the only One who can do anything about a 12 year old boy’s heart and his tired, unbelieving dad. And He turned that unbelieving heart toward wisdom.  And gave him the right words for his troubled son.  And I stood there in the hall and thanked God for hearing my cries and intervening.

I will trust Him!  There is no one like my God!

Quieted,
Sheila

Tidbits and a spontaneous poem on my longed-for miracle

 

 

I watched Contagion last night. Seemed an appropriate way to end a day spent sleeping away some kind of virus that left me so dizzy and head-achy, I couldn’t get up for more than 30 minutes.  It was my first night calling in sick at work, something I don’t like to do.

Today I have a sinus headache, but feel much better, so, since it’s fall break and my boys were gnawing at the bit to go do something fall-break like, I took them to Lake Pleasant. They set out to the lake to catch themselves a fish or two while I set up a couple of chairs under an overgrown desert shrub of some kind and read a good portion of a couple books. After a few hours, they came back with a half dozen craw dad’s, a tangled fishing line, no fish and a bruise on one kid’s forehead from said rock thrown by said brother. Time to go home.

I read the story of Elijah vs. the prophets of Baal today in my morning reading.  I always come away from that story wishing I could do that.  And then I remember James:

Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.

And Jesus:

But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.”

And I hang my head and say what He says, “Your motives are evil.  Do you want Me or just my gifts? Do you want to be proven right in front of your enemies or do you want Me to be seen as right in their eyes?

There is a sign much greater than calling down fire on a water-logged barbecue pit:  Bending down to love another, with understanding, out of a heart that is overflowing in love.

Even more impossible than fire consuming a pit full of water
Is my heart ablaze with agape for another
 
Utter dependence is exposed
The miraculous is required
I have a need more impossible than heavenly fire
 
But with God all things are possible
No amount of self-denial will twist His arm
No ritual, no moan, no cry, no religious charm
 
Only confidence in the power from above
To set ablaze in me the Spirit-soaked fire of His love
 
 
 
 Quieted,
Sheila

Don’t grow weary in doing good

I was thinking about this this Labor Day.  Maybe some are growing weary in doing good.  Maybe it’s been years of doing hard labor, or daily labor or monotonous labor.  Maybe this Monday is like every other Monday for the past 19 years and all your labor and prayers seem to have changed nothing.

 I was getting down. I was thinking, “Nothing is ever going to change.” And I heard that still, small voice saying:  

Do not grow weary of doing good.

It took a few hours. I stewed in faithlessness for awhile. And then it hit me. Like a faithful friend standing by. The truth had been spoken to me. And like fertile soil I let that seed of truth sink in before the lies came and scooped it away. It’ll grow. It’ll produce good fruit. Just like the good of everyday good things done in obedience to God’s spirit willing and moving in me.

Laundry.
Dishes.
Prayers whispered, cried and moaned day after day, month after month, year after year.
Forgoing of vengeance.
The passing on of mercy.
The bending knees giving grace to smaller and weaker.
The standing by quietly even when disagreement is voiced.
The reason for my hope answered in trembling humility.
The preparing of meals.
Working for a wage.
Opening a door.
Giving some time to a needy one.
Giving some treasure to needy one.
Using not minimizing gifts.
A gentle look on the world-weary.
Training children- potty and manners and the way they should go.
Talking of God and His Story to our kids in everyday life.
Sleepless nights to grow another.

What are all those laborous things you can think of that seem to be day in day out and maybe don’t seem to be changing anything?  Don’t grow weary in doing them Christian.  Christ is in you, moving in you, glad to do all those things for years to come, without ever running out of energy.  He knows the promise and we can believe Him:

…for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. – Galatians 6:9

Our labor is not in vain.  Love never fails. 

Quieted,
Sheila