thoughts from a Mother’s Day Sunday

Yesterday being Mother’s Day, me being a mom and a having a mom and knowing moms and women who long to be moms and/or grieve the loss of their children, it was a day full of thoughts turned prayers.

Yesterday also being the last Sunday in a series on marriage at my church, and me being married and knowing firsthand the unique kinds of trials marriage brings, it was a day of reflection turned worship.

About a week ago I read Psalm 27 and it grabbed me.  I’ve been mulling it over ever since.  One particular verse has me thinking about my one thing.

One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple.

What’s the one thing I am asking God for and seeking after?  One thing.  Mostly its been for my marriage.  Or my kids.  The two things yesterday hit on.  When I read Psalm 27 I hear the writer exclaiming that in the midst of fearful troubles and rejections, his one thing was a triune request: To be in God’s presence all his life, to see the beauty of God and to be able to talk with God and may requests of him.  If I’m honest at first reading I feel like that’s just out of reach.  How can I say my one thing is all about God when my kids are struggling and I’m exhausted and my marriage is so troubled?  How could the Psalmist say this when danger and fears and rejection by his own parents surrounded him?

As I listened yesterday to the preaching of the message that God has ransomed us from slavery to sin and idolatry, like Hosea ransomed Gomer, the mental image of the Son of God crying out, “I buy you back!  I buy you with my own life!” while I was shamefully sold-out to sin flashed through my mind. I heard 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

And then Psalm 27 started making more sense.  There’s only one thing I really need in the midst of fears and suffering: Christ.  If he didn’t buy me back to God I would never be able to run to him as a refuge.  I wouldn’t be able be in his presence daily or see his endless beauty or talk with him and seek his answer.

In the midst of parenting trials and marriage troubles, where fears and the pain of betrayal and rejection and sins threaten to destroy, the one thing I need more than anything is Christ.  And when I lift my eyes off this storm around me and believe the promise that he his with me, and dwell on the beauty of his glory, and seek his face and his counsel, everything is set right.  The storm may rage, but with the psalmist I can say:

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!
Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!

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.

“There is a kind of happiness and wonder that makes you serious. It is too good to waste on jokes.” – C.S. Lewis

When I read Psalm 8, my mind goes to Lamentations 5.

What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. -Psalm 8:4-5 

The joy of our hearts has ceased; our dancing has been turned to morning. The crown has fallen from our head; woe to us, for we have sinned!… Restore us to yourself, O LORD, that we may be restored! – Lamentations 5:15-16,21

We are Imago Dei.  We human beings are created in the image of God.  We are “gods” in the sense that we were created by God to rule his creation and were crowned with a glory and honor special to being creatures in God’s own image.  Yet the crown has fallen from our heads.  We have sinned.  The nature of Imago Dei with which God made us is now twisted, distorted, perverted.  And so we twist and distort and pervert the glory and honor He has made us to have.  We need to be restored.

We made it to my sister’s in Redding late last night.  I finished listening to The Last Battle as we made our way up from Monterey to Yuba City where we ate dinner at Subway with my childhood friend Lori.  Lori and I met each other in first grade and have kept in touch and been friends ever since.  That doesn’t happen very often.  She and her little girl Lily are a joy!  I think there should be a book titled Lori and Lily.

From the moment I woke up this morning until a couple hours ago I’ve been enjoying the cool weather, beautiful surroundings, and, most of all, watching my sons and nephews fish, craw dad hunt, ride bikes, laugh, wrestle, and play together.

Tomorrow my mom will join us here.  It’s so good to see my sister and brother in law’s fervor for God’s word and God’s ways to be taught and lived and learned in their house, with their kids.  Truly I’m getting to see the work of God I got to participate in all those years past praying.  What a gift!!!


Shadows and Mysteries

I was at a county courthouse today. Not a place I usually spend any time. In fact, except for filing for a legal separation almost exactly two years ago today, I’m never there. Today I was there to file a motion to vacate the order of legal separation.

In that quiet, rigid building I felt like a cloud about to pour out its rain.  I didn’t cry until I got to the car.  In the building I felt like a little girl following the instructions of a tall police man or principal at school.  I did what I was supposed to do to make it right, legally.  While I was waiting in line, I overheard a silver-headed woman say with a smile to the silver-headed man sitting next her, “Now’s your chance to back out.”  I figured they must be there to get a marriage license.  A few minutes later, when they were called to the window, I heard the woman say, “Yes, we’re here to get a marriage license.” The man next to her looked eager and content.

I believe marriage is a mystery and a shadow that speaks of more than two people in love.  In fact, I believe all human relationships are not about the people involved… they are about God.  They reveal something about the One who created them.  The marriage relationship is about God in a very special way in that it reveals the mysterious relationship God the Son has with His Called-Out-Ones.

What we do at the courthouse is a way of honoring marriage.  Its not something we can just… do.  There’s an appeal to authority involved.  In some places that’s the county courthouse, in some places its the patriarch of the family, or a tribe leader.  If there’s an end to be made to the marriage, there’s a difficult process involved.  I’m glad there is a heavy fee and a lot of legal paperwork involved in separation and divorce. I don’t say that to pour salt in the wounds of divorce or separation.  I have those wounds.  I’m just saying, the fact that its legally a hassle and costly is just a little bit of evidence that marriages aren’t meant to be torn apart.  Because that’s just what happens… you get torn apart.

I wish I could take back the past 3 years.  I’m so eternally thankful I can have full confidence that Christ has already bought it back for me.  For He works ALL things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose, that He might conform us to the image of His Son.  (Romans 8:28-29 my paraphrase)

Marriage is His.  I want to magnify Him with it!  I may not get to keep it, but on my part I want to build it up for His glory.

So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate. -Matthew 19:6

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.- Ephesians 5:32-33

The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down. -Proverbs 14:1


Sweet spot

My family is shaping up to be a baseball family. I enjoy baseball. One of the coolest things about baseball is the sound you can feel in your gut when a batter hits the sweet spot of the bat making perfect contact with the pitched ball. You know instantly, “That’s outta here!”

There’s a sweet spot paragraph in the Bible for me. Romans 4:17-19.

This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing. Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, “That’s how many descendants you will have!”And Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead—and so was Sarah’s womb. – NLT

Maybe you’d have to be a baseball person, or rather, a Christ-hoping person. Cause I really don’t think I can explain it. The words, “…believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing…” Sweet spot. Can you feel it? Can you hear it in your inner person?

Faith in THAT God will knock any screw-ball pitch thrown my way in life out of the park!

Nothing. Not even a hundred year old man and woman’s body. Not even a two year separation with no end in sight. Not even an addiction I cannot shake. Not even a history of failure I can not deny. Not even the obviousness that I’m not what I was made to be and have no ability to make myself otherwise as much as I try. Not even blood that reminds once again there is no life, no child, no growing family.

Even when there’s no reason for hope. Even when all dreams are shattered. Even when logic says, “There’s no way!” I believe in a God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing.

“…and not having been weak in the faith, he did not consider his own body…” Romans 4:19 emphasis added

Here’s the secret: Don’t consider your own body. Don’t decide what you believe based on your circumstances. Consider His body. Decide what you believe based on the One who forgives sinners.

“When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for sinners. Now most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though some might be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners…” – Romans 5:6-8 NLT

And since God would do this for us, and show us how much He loves us by being willing to walk in our shoes, humbly, and be rejected, even to the point of death, just to save us from being condemned, and to make us friends of God again… what circumstance is there that He won’t redeem? What death is there that He can’t bring life out of? What deep longing for what we were made for can He not quicken to life? This is my God!

Fast balls. Curve balls. Knuckle balls. Gonna-strike-you-out balls. Whatever comes my way… my God works ALL pitches together for good to make me the woman He created me to be. Every one hits the sweet spot because that’s just how my God works!


One of my favorite words expounded

Just as kind of a warning. This is a wordy post. I’ve worked thru my thoughts on this subject and it may be a little tangent-y. Also I’m no Biblical scholar, but I love the scriptures.

Redeemer. Its one of my all time favorite words.

I’m no literacy expert, I don’t even really have good grammar, but I love words! I especially love words from the Old Testament in the Bible because they are so rich with meaning. This is why a couple Sundays ago, when my pastor talked about an ancient Hebrew word I got really excited.

The word is ga’al.

Ga’al means: to redeem, act as kinsman-redeemer, avenge, revenge, ransom, do the part of a kinsman.

Doesn’t that excite you?!

I should explain.

My pastor was talking about a system of government described in the Old Testament which Israel lived by. He explained that capital punishment, in cases of murder, was carried out by the nearest kin of the person who was killed. That closest relative is called ga’al because he had to avenge the death of his relative by executing the person found guilty of the killing.

What really caught my attention was when he pointed out that the word used to describe this next of kin who carried out the execution is the same word used in the book of Ruth to describe Boaz, the wealthy man who married her.

Ruth was rescued from a life without a future when her dead husband’s nearest relative, a man named Boaz, willingly took her as his wife. She was given a whole new life, even the honor of being in the geneology of the Savior of the world, when Boaz married her. Its really a wonderful story. This story has helped me over the years to see in more detail the reality of what Christ has done for me. He has mercifully given me a RICH future and hope.

In Ruth’s story Boaz layed down his life for Ruth in that he took on the responsibility of marriage- loving a wife, investing his life in hers. In that he showed redemption. He paid the price to save Ruth from a hopeless future. But in the case of the ga’al who makes certain a person guilty of killing his relative pays the price, how can he be called the kinsman redeemer? How is he redeeming anyone?

As I was listening to my pastor talk about the ga’al carrying out the punishment for a crime, Romans 8:34 came to mind and my insides leaped for joy! The answer is right there!

Who [is] he that condemneth? [It is] Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. – Romans 8:34 KJV

There is someone who can condemn us. Christ can! He is our ga’al. He is our kinsman redeemer. He is humanity’s next of kin in that He is the closest relative we have to God. He is the only MAN who lived the undefiled image of God. We were all created in the image of God, but as Lamentations says, “The crown is fallen from our head: woe unto us, that we have sinned!” (Lamentations 5:16)

Christ is the only God-man. He is the only connection, the only mediator, the only kinship we have to the One who made us in His image. We are not God, be we were made in His image, to display His likeness, to give weight to His character. But we don’t! That’s why life is a mess! That’s why neighbors fight and dogs get parvo and 6 year olds hit each other and yell, “THAT’S MINE!” and babies die and parents neglect their children…. I could go on and on!

We have destroyed each other, either directly or indirectly, and Christ is the nearest kinsman we have to God. He can condemn us because He’s the ONLY one who can save us, or He’s the ONLY one who can save us because He can condemn us. He is God in flesh. He has every right to carry out vengance on us for our actions, but instead He layed down His life for us. He took upon Himself the death our plagued-with-sin actions cause.

Christ is humanity’s ga’al. We stand before Him condemned, guilty in our sin. And we have a choice. Either we humble ourselves, like Ruth, acknowledging our dependence upon Him for our future, embracing the redemption that is ours since HE paid the price. Or we proudly go about our lives, denying our need for a Savior.

All have sinned. All are offered the redemption of our ga’al. The good news is so good because the answer to the question, “Who can condemn us?” in Romans 8:34 is, “Christ! But He died for us! And He rose from death and lives forever interceeding on our behalf!”



Meditations on Nothing but the Blood of Jesus

Tonight I sang, “What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus… Oh precious is the flow that makes me white as snow. No other fount I know. Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”

So much in those words. In times past the celebration of the fact that it’s Jesus’ blood, not my “blood,sweat and tears”, but Jesus blood and His alone that can wash away my sins floods my soul. At other times, rest in the simpleness of it being Jesus plus NOTHING, which makes me right in God’s eyes, fills me with peace. But tonight I was compelled while I sang. An argument against all accusations of being legalistic or too idealistic, or too extreme in my convictions filled me.

My heart was shouting, “It’s too precious! His blood is too precious! I can’t just flippantly do what I desire without any regard to what God says or take some of God’s ways and leave behind the others that make me feel uncomfortable or restrained. Jesus’ blood is too precious! I can’t wink at sin or laugh at it or cozy up next to it… Jesus died for it. Don’t you realize NOTHING but the blood of Jesus can wash away my sin!? It takes blood, precious blood, blood from the only pure, perfect, loving, kind One. It cost too much to just do whatever I want to do. It’s not that I am trying to earn His favor, it’s that He has suffered so much and shown me so much favor… how could I walk all over His grace and sacrifice like that?! The answer to why I do what I do or don’t do what I don’t do is, ‘Jesus suffered, bled and died a cruel death for you and me… that’s why!’ “

There’s seems to be a disconnect about works vs. faith when it comes to salvation. But if I just focus on the road of suffering Jesus took up to save me, all of those confusing arguments fall apart. The truth is NOTHING but the blood of Jesus can wash away my sins, therefore I’ll never be able to walk through this life indulging my flesh and making excuses for my sin… there’s too much precious, holy, blood that has been spilled to wash me clean of all those ways.

I can’t wink at. I can’t be entertained by it. I can’t approve of those who practice it. I can only soberly stand on the truth that those ways cost Jesus spit in His face, a beard violently pulled out, gruesome tears of flesh all over His body, mockery amidst cardiopulmonary explosion, terrors of pain, and most of all the rejection from His Father; all while His precious blood flowed to save you and me.

When I sang “What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!” tonight, I declared why I can’t live like my flesh desires. I am not my own. A heavy price was paid for me. It’s that expensive grace which saves me. And it’s that freely poured out grace which compels me to flee youthful lusts and obey the ways of God. I don’t want to mock the blood of Jesus. I don’t want to trample under foot His precious blood while I walk towards the fleeting pleasures of what He has declared as sin.

“What can wash away my sins?” isn’t just a catchy old gospel hymn. It’s the self-sacrificing call of Love on my life to live out the holiness purchased for me. It’s a cause to be grieved with God over sin, not to poopoo it. It’s a cause to intercede for those in sin and to cover it with self-sacrificing love. Love that would suffer to speak truth and impart grace. It’s the price tag on my life.

So, friends, we can now—without hesitation—walk right up to God, into “the Holy Place.” Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of his sacrifice, acting as our priest before God. The “curtain” into God’s presence is his body. So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.

If we give up and turn our backs on all we’ve learned, all we’ve been given, all the truth we now know, we repudiate Christ’s sacrifice and are left on our own to face the Judgment—and a mighty fierce judgment it will be! If the penalty for breaking the law of Moses is physical death, what do you think will happen if you turn on God’s Son, spit on the sacrifice that made you whole, and insult this most gracious Spirit? This is no light matter. – Hebrews 10:19-31 The Message paraphrase

He loves us too much! He paid too much! I don’t want to insult His sacrifice. Oh let me live in that pure fear of God. Not fear of punishment, but fear of trampling on His grace. Not fear of not being good enough. Fear of not responding with my life to His goodness.

Isaiah 51:3