The question is, is Jesus worth it?

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Today at church we sang, “O come to the altar, the Father’s arms are open wide. Forgiveness was bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ.”

As we sang, years of hard marriage and longings for good things I don’t have filled my eyes with burning tears. And a gentle voice asked my soul, “Is Jesus worth it? Is his blood really precious to you?” Tears broke over the dam of my resistant eyelids. “Yes, yes he is worth it. Yes his life spilled out for me is precious beyond measure. And yes I’ll lay down all that I long for and take your outstretched hand.”

Marriage is hard. Parenting is hard. Relationship with anyone is hard. Life brings pain and suffering. Attempts to escape end up being our chains. And in all our efforts as Christians to follow Christ, the question is, is Jesus worth it?

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” And what is that purpose? Romans 8:29 answers. “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

God’s purpose for his people is to conform us to the image of his Son. God’s purpose for my life is to make me like Jesus. He may or may not attain that purpose through all the good things I long for. But God is going to use all the hard things in my life to make me more like Jesus. The question is, is that what I want? Do I want to be made like Jesus more than anything else.

If my husband never bends his knee to Jesus. If my sons never speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves. If my home is never filled with songs and laughter. If my job continues to be hard and drain me of energy. If the ministry I lead never flourishes the way I dream it will. If I never get to do the things I long to do, but God makes me like Christ, is that enough for me?

1 Peter 1: 13-21 calls us to sober up because so often we’re intoxicated with ideas that aren’t reality. The truth of the Christian life is not that God is going to give you your best life now. The truth of the Christian life is that God is going to make you like Jesus. Whatever it takes! And so the question is, is the “precious blood of Christ” that has purchased my life and set me on a course of promised redemption- the final end being made like Jesus; it that worth it?

I want so badly to stand next to my husband on a Sunday morning and hear him sing praises to God with me. I so badly want my sons to walk with Jesus and experience his deep love for them. I so badly want to be fruitful in ministry and see my friends hope in Jesus with me. But if they don’t and if I spend my life loving them well, is Jesus worth it?

I’ve never seen this Jesus, but compelled by his love I cry, “Yes! Yes he’s worth it! Jesus is worth my life!” So, even if my life is grieved by longings unfulfilled, Jesus is worth spending my life loving these I long for well. To be like him eclipses all other longings. With Job I cry:

Oh that my words were written!
    Oh that they were inscribed in a book!
Oh that with an iron pen and lead
    they were engraved in the rock forever!
For I know that my Redeemer lives,
    and at the last he will stand upon the earth.[b]
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
    yet in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see for myself,
    and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
    My heart faints within me!
– Job 19:23-27

And with the Psalmist I preach to myself:

As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness;
    when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.
– Psalm 17:15

For the Challies

Yesterday while scrolling through Twitter I read the heartbreaking news from Tim Challies about the loss of his son.

Along with many other bloggers today who have been encouraged by Tim, I am praying for Tim and his family.

Father, hear our cries for the Challies. Surround them. Hold them close. Send your people to weep and walk with them. Be near Lord Jesus.

“Oh, save your people and bless your heritage! Be their shepherd and carry them forever.” Psalm‬ ‭28:9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The 4th with a plague

backlight backlit countryside dusk

It’s 110 degrees
there’s a significant wind moving the leaves
of our sissoos and elms.
From the window outside looks inviting

I’m tired of being inside
tired of air conditioning and my couch
I want to feel some heat, some breeze
something

Watermelon
that’s what I want
I’ll go get a watermelon

“I’m going to the store for watermelon!” I shout to my husband
laying on the couch watching videos of mountain biking
“That’s all? Watermelon?” my husband questions the necessity of the trip
“I’ve got my mask. I’ll be quick”
and off I went.

I found myself wondering the isles, not being quick
watching people, some masked, others not.
Going to the store wasn’t like this last year
Melon and some popcorn, I check out
a Plexiglas shield between me and my masked cashier

“What are you doing for the 4th, honey?” she asked,
It struck me funny she called me honey
she could have been my daughter
“Just trying to stay safe, you know” I pointed to my mask
“Me too. I wish I could just stay home” she confessed
“I’m sorry dear. I pray you’ll stay safe.”
“Thanks! Happy 4th!”

I was tired of being inside
she just wanted to go home.

Home again I wash my hands
and the fruit
and cut into that idealistic melon.
Small red triangles dotted with black seeds
fill my bowl.
I’m satisfied
but I don’t want to stay inside.

It’s hot
so I walk to the nearest patch of shade in the yard
the stinging invisible rays burning enough
to make me a little uncomfortable.
I brought the rinds from the watermelon
to our goats and chickens
who I found hunkering down, panting in the shade of our aluminum corral

I set the green and red rinds down in their troughs and watched them
get up from their spots
They seemed to enjoy the cold, crunchy shell of the melon
pecking and chomping
refreshed

A neighbor down the alley has started up
the mariachi band that usually plays on Saturday nights
I listen for a bit
Mariachi always sounds like happy children playing in the yard to me
dancing and laughing and chasing each other

There will be no fireworks in town tonight
a young cashier will be calling strangers “honey” from behind Plexiglas
a Latino family down the alley will play mariachi
my friends will fight off panic in the hospital
a woman will grieve that Covid took her love
a daughter will weep that it took her mom
a stranger will call a nurses station hoping for good news
and when the sun to goes down
I’ll sit on the porch and watch the sky
change colors
and pray

Suffocate Death

person in black long sleeve shirt
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Lord, it’s too much
Too much evil
Too much death
Too much weight
Weight my chest can’t bear

I know you say, “Bring it here”
But when I try
I can’t lift it
I can’t speak it
It can’t stay this way

I don’t know how to
Open my mouth and say
All the pain we’re bearing
All the loss
Loss of heart

We’re tired, Lord
I know, my strength is small
Where can I go?
Out here?
Here in my backyard?

The air is still hot out here
Still hot from the fire in the sky
Still thick and heavy
Like a weighted blanket, smothering
Smothering me and my friends

I can’t…
Oh God don’t let us go crazy
Don’t let death win
Don’t let our love grow cold
Cold and hard and numb

It feels like death is winning
It feels like evil’s foot is pressing
Power is crushing
our necks and we can’t…
Can’t breathe

Where are you?
Are you here?
Are you a bystander?
Are you here on the ground?
Ground down fine like dust?

You are with us?
Us dust
Will you raise us up?
Up with you to heaven?
Heaven here, your kingdom

Rise up, Lord!
Raise us up!
Crush evil’s head!
Suffocate death!

Learning to breath like a Christian during a pandemic

backlight backlit countryside dusk
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Honestly I’m angry. It’s 10 pm and I just made myself shut off my phone.

What I read on Twitter tonight has me writhing in anger! I see people loosing their grip on their wealth and spinning the elderly and vulnerable as worthy martyrs on behalf of the American dream.

It makes me want to puke! Puking probably won’t help anything. But learning how to breathe like a Christian during this pandemic will.

Just today I was thinking about the tension between being joyful as a Christian and lamenting. Right now I mostly want to lament. I want to be angry at the injustice and evil I see. I want to weep over the anxieties I feel. But I also feel a sense of hope, anticipation and actual joy about the redemption Jesus is working through this dark time in history.

After scrolling through tweets tonight, finding myself scowling and scrunching my shoulders, holding my breath and slamming utensils in anger, I realized I needed to stop and breathe and cast my cares on the God who defends the widow and fatherless and redeems my life.

There’s a healthy pattern in the Psalms for a practice of living with the tension between joy and sorrow, anger and hope.

The Psalms are like breathing. Breathing like a sojourner in a foreign land. Breathing like a child of God.

We exhale, “How long?” And, “Why have you forgotten?” And, “Contend, O Lord!” and we cry.

He gathers our tears and bears us up continually (Psalm 68:19).

Then we inhale, “Trust in the Lord!” And, “You are my help and my deliverer!” Breathing in the hope of his promise.

He leads us on, in that “long obedience in the same direction” (Peterson), through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23), all the way home.

There is much to lament. And there is also much good to anticipate. Our Redeemer lives! And while I weep and I cannot tritely say, “Look at how happy I am because I’m a Christian, even while the world burns.” I can, weathered and worn, laugh at the days to come.

I can breathe out my complaints to the One who takes vengeance, and I can inhale his unspeakable peace.

Christ will redeem what seems like will never happen

man walking on road with orange bag surrounded by trees
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Tonight after 13 hours at the hospital, I walked out my back door with my dog Lukas, and we made our way, as usual, the half acre back to where the chickens and goats were already roosting and chewing their cud under the stars. While I was filling up their empty water buckets, despising the fact that it’s still 95 degrees at 9 pm (this summer seems like it will never end), I found my thoughts drifting toward hopelessness.

“How long?” was turning into, “It’s never going to happen.” At that moment I remembered Joseph. I wondered if he felt like it was never going to happen that he would be lifted up and his brothers would bow to him. I wonder if he thought it would never happen that he would get out of prison.

And then I remembered that it did happen. And I remembered that Jesus did raise from the dead. And I remembered that redemption always happens for the people of God. Nothing is for nothing in Christ. Christ is redeeming all my pain, all my loss, all my long days and short years. Christ is redeeming what seems like will never happen.

For 26 years I’ve prayed and pleaded with God to give my husband a heart for Jesus. And for 16 years I’ve pleaded he would give my sons a heart for him too. Two years ago, my youngest son professed his faith in Christ and was baptized. A week ago Sunday my oldest son confessed his faith, and on the eighth, I’ll baptize him. Like the first little buds of spring after a long winter, or the first fresh breeze of fall after the dog days of summer, redemption is busting up out of this long tear-soaked ground. Redemption is coming!

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and all that is within me,
    bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits…
who redeems your life from the pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy – Psalm 103:1-2

A Man You Shall Be

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Son tomorrow you turn thirteen

Lemuel’s mother’s words sting

I know ways that destroy kings

And the man that I’m raising

 

Hot tears in my eyes

Lump in my throat

I plead with the Lord

Another story be wrote

 

I know there’s no keeping you from sin

While still in my womb sin was within

 

But I am your mother

God gave you to me

To raise not a boy

But a man you shall be

 

I am His daughter

Saved by his grace

Granted faith in our Savior

Charged to show you His way

 

So when you’re tempted

And enticed by these three

Flesh’s cravings, Eye’s lusts, Pride’s possessions

I pray you’ll remember your mother’s decree

 

“You are a sinner, you need a Savior, and Jesus is he!”

 

Remember Whose you are!

You’re not your mother’s

Nor your father’s

And you’re not your own

 

You bear the Imago Dei

You were created for him

Not for yourself, your dad or me

 

It is God’s plan

That I raise you to be a man

Fully aware of the dangers ahead

I look to the God of Abraham

 

Though his body was good as dead

He believed God

Who always does what He says

He who was able to produce life out of old Sarah

Is able to produce fruit out of his daughter’s labor

 

He is faithful to generations of those who love Him

He who made you my son

Is able to keep

You, who He has entrusted to me

 

Seek him while you are young son

And don’t waste your life

Remember your mom’s faith

And put your hope in Christ!

He’s holding you

selective focus photography cement
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You work so hard
as if the hours you spend
sweating
and digging
planning
arguing
and solving
will make everything right.

Then it rains on your freshly poured concrete
and a sudden wind bends the trees you just planted
and the test is positive- you’re going to have a baby
and your cursing
and anger
and withdrawal
can’t make anything right.

The grass grew though you swore it would never
The trees stood tall after the storm
The concrete dried
The child was born
and you figured out how to hold him.

And one day, I pray
You’ll figure out
He’s holding you.

My Psalm

woman in black shirt sitting on grass during sunset
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How long?
How many more days do I have to cry bitterly
asking you how long?

My heart is sick
my hope is deferred
my heart hopes
for what I can’t conjure.

How long must I try to find a quiet
place to get away from the constant
strain of this yoke pulling me one way
when I’m trying to follow you another?

I am your lily among thorns
torn and worn
weary
still
reaching
for a place that doesn’t hurt.

How long?
How long do I have to wait
for him my love to requite?

What if it’s eighty years?
What if it’s tomorrow?
What if I die in this sorrow?

Only one I know
that can make love
out of death grow.
And that’s you Lord
Nail scarred, hands and feet,
standing in the strength of
death’s defeat- My Lord!