Tag Archives: bible study

5 weeks, 6 days

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Worship the Lord your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you,  and none will miscarry or be barren in your land. I will give you a full life span. Ex.23:25-26.

Last Thursday I woke up 5 weeks 6 days pregnant. That night, I went to bed 0 weeks 0 days pregnant because I miscarried for the fifth time. This is my third miscarriage at 5 weeks 6 days. We did not plan for this baby; pregnancy was a surprise mingling anxiety and hope. I did everything right to overcome the genetic disorder that strips babies from my womb. I swallowed the vitamins and the blood thinners at the precisely recommended amounts and times. I prayed in faith on my knees, battering heaven with a request for mother-grace. But this baby emptied from me, my seventh child and my fifth to die.

I am so sorry, little one. I am so sorry that my body cannot take you past this one day in your little life. 

Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Rev.21:3-4.

(Someday, someday, all of this will be untrue. Can I wait until that day?)

Long ago, when the world was still new, a woman named Hagar was a slave in Abram’s household. She served Abram’s barren wife Sarai. Sarai would not wait for the child of promise, so she gave Hagar into her husband’s arms. Since Hagar was considered property, not person, her child would technically belong to Sarai (a loophole in the promise?) 

In Genesis 16, the Bible says that when Hagar conceived, she despised her barren mistress. In response, Sarai mistreated Hagar, spilling out all of the rage of an empty season. Hagar fled into the desert.

The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert.  And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?”

(As I attempt to control and manage these pregnancies so that not even God can take these babies from me, He says, “Heidi, my daughter whom I love, where have you come from and where are you going? Who are you? To what have I called you? When will you live my story instead of the one you hold onto?”)

Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.”

No thank you, Lord. 

The angel of the Lord also said to her, “You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael (which means GOD HEARS), for the Lord has heard of your misery.”

O Lord, finally, some good news. You are going to fix this….

Right?

“He will be a wild donkey of a man…

Excuse me? What?

…his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.”

WHAT??? No thank you, Lord. I didn’t ask for this. This isn’t my fault. You are supposed to fix this, not make it worse. You are punishing my children for something that I didn’t even do?  No. No. NO.

No.

I am Hagar. I live a suffering I cannot manage or control, that takes my children away from me and I cannot save them. God comes to me in my desert with no solution; only the razor’s edge of this reality, You could have saved them, but You did not…..

That is hard news, almost too hard to bear. The Via Dolorosa, the Way of the Cross, the walk of tears. The Cross before the Crown.

She gave this name to Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God Who Sees Me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”

(Do you see it, the deepest mystery, the paradox of glory……..?)

Hagar’s response was worship, not rage or despair or a shaking fist. God gave her no words of comfort or alleviation; He offered no earthly intervention to lift her cross. He told her to go back to the abuse of her mistress and wait to bear a child whose life would be marked by conflict and rejection.

He gave her nothing but His Presence, and it was enough.

He saw her in her desperation and he came to her with the Truth of Who He Is alongside the full weight of what He required of her….(Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going…?) .  

Suffering and glory are parallel tracks. Yes, I lose my babies whom I love at 5w6d because my body and my blood are broken in their genetic code. Yes, God could have saved each and every one of them, but He did not. Those things are true. Also, He is the God Who Sees Me, the God who reaches for me in the desert because my heart matters to Him. That is also true. Our hearts were made for glory, so we falsely believe we have to choose which is more real, which to believe.  The tension feels like it will rip us apart, but it will not if we will bear it. Suffering and glory – they are both true.

We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body….Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Cor.4:10, 16-18.

I have learned that childbearing is dangerous for most of us. We each live our own surrender story, our own version of the parallell lines. Some have too many children, some not enough. We live under fear or anger or grief or exhaustion or guilt or some combination thereof because of the brokenness of our life giving stories. What is it about this season of life that is so fragile and vulnerable? I have two healthy and dazzling children that call me Mommy. I know life as well as death. I worship in joy as well as grief.

Give me Hagar eyes, so that I may see the God Who Sees Me. Help me to lock eyes with you, to bear the tension of the parallel lines of suffering and glory that are both true. I choose to look up at you as Hagar did, to see the One Who Sees Me and to worship in response. I choose to believe that the death that happens deep in my body is not the end of my story, not even the defining part of my story. Show me the life of Jesus revealed in my body, in my story. What is seen is temporary; what is unseen is eternal. This life is just a shadow of the glory to come. I cannot see the glory, but I can see the One Who Sees Me. I trust You, I love You, I choose You.

Lifeless

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As for you, you were dead in your sins. Ephesians 2:1.

Jesus raised three people from the dead during his earthly ministry.

1.  Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” Mark 5:22-13.  Can you imagine?  His little daughter.  You see, I have a little daughter.  She has a cough right now and it does not occur to me to fear for her life.  But if I lived during Jesus time……

So Jesus went to her bedside, but she had died while he was on his way there. Jesus took her limp hand between his own rough ones and spoke life over her little body.  “Talitha koum!” (little girl, I say to you, get up!)

And she did.  She got up. She was just alive, then dead, then alive again – within a matter of minutes.  Jesus, Life Restorer.

2.  Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. Luke 7:11-12.  The son of a widowed woman, whose future was now coated with unimaginable loss and inevitable poverty. She had lost her husband and her son; there was no one to care for her heart or body. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” Luke 7:13.

So Jesus, His heart turned over within him at the sight of her suffering, helped her.  Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. Luke 7:14. The bearers of death stood still at his touch. Death cannot move forward in the presence of Life Everlasting. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. Luke 7:14-15. 

3. Jesus’ close friend Lazarus died from a rapid sickness. Jesus arrived at the grave of his friend after he had been buried four days. He wept with the man’s sisters, Mary and Martha, then stood in veiled glory before his friend’s grave. Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. John 11:43-44.

Three dead souls, raised by the power of Living Grace. Is that not what we all fight against – old death? As for you, you were dead in your sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world …All of us also lived among them [the dead] at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. Eph.2:1-3.

Death is the great equalizer. Jairus’ daughter, in her fresh innocence, was just as dead in the first moment that the breath left her tiny body as Lazarus decaying in his grave after four days of stink and loss. Just as dead as the ashes and bones in the graveyard I passed a few days ago. Just as dead as Jesus wracked on the cross after days of torture. Dead is dead. Ugly dead means the same as pretty dead.

When my soul was dead, before Jesus, Life Restorer, it was ugly dead, like Lazarus. Perhaps yours was pretty dead, like Jairus’ sweet daughter. But dead is dead – lifeless, inert, empty, gone….

We all fight old death. The shame, the injustice, the strongholds of our past life as a dead soul. We wonder if our old soul will rise again, like a zombie, to haunt and devour. Will the cocoon suck us back into darkness, take back our wings and colors, un-make our regeneration? 

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10.

Do we really understand what Jesus has done for us? He came to breathe Eden life over us. We are dust and breath, earth and heaven, a complex creation. He bought us back from the grave. We leave old death to stink and fester, while we rise above it, more than conquerers. He vanquished death. He made the grave un-true. There is no death for the saints; there is only passage. We leave this world someday for another, a better, world. We are immortal. We once were dead, now we are not. Now we live. Through Christ, the black hole of old death releases us to “life to the full.”

How to escape the fear of old death?

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” John 11:44.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, CLOTHE YOURSELVES with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Col.3:12-14.

Take off your grave clothes. They are the rags of old death. Replace them with the white linen of virtue and holiness. Wear the clothes of the Living, not the dead. Leave the shrouds of darkness in the grave and step boldly into the light of Life.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Cor.5:17.

Generations

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These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. Heb.11:39-40.

It is cold.  I shiver as I sit upright in bed, my Nook screen glowing into the darkness.  I cannot put it down; I am entranced.  I read a long book, a redemption story.  This story is about a young man raised in a dysfunctional home, battling to be free of childhood pain.  I studied Psychology in graduate school and the intricacies of his relational dynamics fascinate me.  Generational fallout wafts its poison around this young man’s life and he breathes it in, making it a part of him.  Deception, manipulation, greed, revenge, secrets, rivalry, betrayal, anger, selfishness.  The family waded through a generational quagmire of scheming ambition and relational distrust.  Children compete for echoes of lost love.  Sisters and brothers betray each other for tokens of divided attention.  Parents see only their own scars.  This young man grew up twisted, bent inward to dreams.  He experiences a long redemption after leaving home, but he carries scars that occasionally seep out the embedded poison.  His story ends with forgiveness and wisdom, deep resolution that eternally shapes the successive generations.

I read the Bible.  Genesis 30-50.  The story of Joseph, the last Patriarch.

After the flood, the Patriarchs begin with Abraham, who marked the world with a mighty faith, then circle outward to Isaac, then Jacob, then Joseph. If you have never read their stories, O my stars, do it now but not with a weak stomach or a legalistic theology. The black thread of generational sin, specifically deception, begins with Abraham then twists its knife deeper into each new generation, creating sticky problems that they try to solve with other forms of moral decay, which divide and overwhelm the family line.  Honestly, the fact that God chose these wrecks to be the foundational covenant-bearers of the history of redemption is so unexpected as to seem wildly ludicrous.
 
I finish the morally muddled history of the Patriarchs as I always do, stunned and introspective. I wonder again that legalists ever read the Bible.  It is not a book for the dogmatically religious.  As wise Pastor Kelly says, the Bible will mess with your theology.  Adultery, deception, nepotism, incest, violence, ambition, rape and division characterize God’s story.  These flawed characters connect, entwine, wind around each other to form a transcendent redemption, but the details are sordid and the key players often despicable.

So how do we fit what we know of Abraham, our first father in the faith, into a new way of looking at things? If Abraham, by what he did for God, got God to approve him, he could certainly have taken credit for it. But the story we’re given is a God-story, not an Abraham-story.
What we read in Scripture is,
Abraham entered into what God was doing for him, and that was the turning point. He trusted God to set him right instead of trying to be right on his own.”  Romans 4:1-3.  The Message.

Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.  Romans 4:2. NAS
.

It hits me late in the night, a heavy weight of glory, the glory of matchless mercy.  Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph – they are exactly the right family to undergird God’s story of redemption.  They are cracked into pieces, just like you and me.  This damaged family produced a series of unlikely heroes, beloved and chosen, not by merit, but by mysterious grace.  Abraham believed in his role in God’s story, which set off a chain reaction of redemptive splendor that continues today.  I emerge from the history of the Patriarchs with no desire to justify their dysfunctional choices or to whitewash their flawed history, as I have heard many Bible teachers attempt to do.  I simply see my own broken reflection in the mirror of God’s word.  They were selected and redeemed by the same mighty grace that woos me.  Therefore I can walk with their limitless confidence in God’s character reflected onto me.  We are all unworthy of our destiny, but O, I am dizzy with gratitude for it.  “I am my Beloved’s and He is Mine.  His banner over me is Love.”(Song of Songs 2:4).  

I pray to be like Jacob, post-wrestling.  His name means “deceiver” and he lived up to it more than any other Biblical figure except the Devil himself.  But God changed his name to Israel, which means “God Strives.”  Mercy, yes.  On His deathbed, Jacob, the manipulative mastermind behind thirteen broken children, four desperate, conniving women and a bounty of riches gained through ambitious schemes, prayed this prayer of blessing over his grandchildren.

May the God before whom my fathers
Abraham and Isaac walked faithfully,
the God who has been my shepherd
all my life to this day,
the Angel who has delivered me from all harm
—may he bless these boys.
May they be called by my name
and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac,
and may they increase greatly
on the earth.

Genesis 48:15-16.

To see a legacy of faith instead of works, to believe in the Promise more than the past, to walk humbly into an endless vortex of grace…..

Yes.

Simons

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Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them. Luke 17:4

Luke the Evangelist records a special piece of Jesus’ story in chapter 7 of his gospel.  Jesus, a blue-collar itinerant preacher, attended a refined dinner party in the elegant home of a Pharisee named Simon.  These cultured men surely believed that a rough carpenter must have been overwhelmed by the grandeur of their important world.

A scandal ruptured the glittering event.

A woman in that town who had lived a sinful life (Luke 7:37) flagrantly interrupted the dignified meal.  She rushed into the formal affair, threw herself at Jesus’ feet, and broke open a vase of expensive perfume (surely the wages of her harlotry). She bathed his simple feet in the liquid fragrance.  She wept so profusely that her tears mingled with the perfume, and then she wiped the mess with her undone hair.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

Then Jesus, who was more than a prophet and knew every detail of her sordid story, answered the hissing implication of Simon’s legalistic heart.

“Simon, I have something to tell you.”

   “Tell me, teacher,” he said.

   “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred coins, and the other fifty.  Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

   “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

Turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 

You gave me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss my feet.

You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with perfume. 

For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven…Your faith has saved you.  Go in peace.”

This is my very-super-extra-forever-favorite gospel story.  I can scarcely read it without welling up with my own tears of scarred surrender.

So, why, O why, do I who have been forgiven so much struggle with all of my weak heart to forgive so little?

I am this sinful woman.  I have sinned as deep as the ocean.  Shame has torn me apart.  I have absorbed the ache of rejection. I have known the sweet and shaking power of a grace so abundant that it toppled strongholds with soft yet shattering whispers. I live at His feet with trembling hands, hiding behind a battering ram of mercy that sets me free.  I love Him much because He has forgiven me much.  Yes.

Yet, to my shame, I have not forgiven my Simons.

I write this out of exposed confession, not justification.  I grieve my own self-righteousness.

I forgive weakly, palely.  I forgive like a bloodless ghost who comes back to haunt my own pocked past with deathly whispers.  Remember when she said that….What did he mean by that?…..How can she justify that….?  

Forgiveness is the giving, and so the receiving, of life.  George MacDonald.

Forgiveness raises the dead.  It pumps life into corpses of fallenness.  It puts meat on the bones of forgotten spectres.  Forgiveness redeems and resurrects lifeless relationships and empty characters.

So I memorized these verses and I will repeat them every day this year as I pray to be a Forgiver, like Jesus.  Lord, make me a Forgiver, a Grace-giver.  May I look at my Simons with the same merciful release with which You look at me.  I choose to forgive seven times seventy times, forever, because forgiveness is the life-giving Way of the Cross.

Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

Hebrews 12:14-15

This is the Year of Forgiveness

Martha

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But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. Luke 10:40.

We leave for Vail on a ski trip tomorrow.  Today we made these Christmas tree cakes…

…made and delivered several of these Christmas cocoa mixes…

…sorted, washed and folded a lot of these…

…fetched my dog’s vaccination records from the veterinary clinic, shopped at Walmart (a feat of desperate courage during the holidays), packed for three of the four members of our family, washed approximately seven thousand dishes, sat in on Jack’s Christmas program rehearsal.  I ruined a double batch of banana bread.  It was undercooked in the center when the timer beeped, so I put it back and and forgot to set the timer as I scooted out of sight, out of mind in order to discipline a wayward child.  When I finally remembered the neglected loaves, they were tough in the middle and black on the edges.  Bummer.  I just love that recipe. 

The hours of my day slip away in a whirlwind as I strain to check off the list.  I snap at Jack after dinner.

“Do NOT touch that suitcase.  Mommy worked super hard to get that ready; please keep it organized. ” 

“Mommy, you hurt my feelings.  You are kind of grumpy with me.”

Pause.  I want to escalate, to blame.  I force my mind to see the priorities we choose to live.  Relationship over productivity.

“You are right, Jack.  I am so sorry.  I feel grumpy because I have a lot to do right now, but that is not your fault.  I did not make a good choice with my words.  I should speak with kindness to you.  I’m so sorry.  Will you forgive me?”

Competence should not require forgiveness.  I lose my sight when I choose a mere series of tasks to guide my hours.

After the day fades into night, the house settles into the peace of sleeping children and finished projects.  When I look at my list, I rest in a successful day.  But when I look at my heart and the hearts of my children, I feel the loss of missed opportunity.

Lord, I almost completely slipped past who they are today.  My little ones were a distraction instead of a priority.  I spent my day annoyed at their child-longing for my value and attention.  I feel ashamed.  I am sorry.

As I sit here typing, tears well up as my eyes lock on the Jesse tree standing strong on the kitchen counter.  Every day of Advent, we read a Bible story. Together we weave the ancient truths throughout history, tying the threads of Old Testament foreshadows into the profound glory of Incarnation.  After the day’s story, we hang an ornament that represents the daily fragment of grace we just experienced.  Every day, we add another simple laminated square onto a growing representation of God’s unfolding redemption story.

The sight of the Jesse tree slays me.

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

It is not that the crossed out list does not matter.  But the list should always and only be a means to an end.  The means is productivity; the end is ever increasing faith and joy embedded into the culture of our family.

Advent is a season of waiting and preparing.  It can be a hard season, because waiting and preparing are hard for fragile souls.  Today I did not attune my heart to the echoing call of Incarnation – the why of this precious season.

Tomorrow is a new day.  I will spend most of it in the car on windy winter roads with a beloved friend and five (likely maniacal) children.  Two mommies, five preschoolers, one car, three hours.  You do the math. But…..

Only One Thing is necessary.

Yes.

Embrace

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Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; 
though war break out against me, even then I will be confident. Ps.27:3.

The Lord showed Himself mighty this week.

Have you ever experienced conflict?  Deep gashing conflict, conflict that carves grooves in a soul?  We have.

Have you ever betrayed someone?  Have you flung the full weight of your fallenness on another soul and then watched it crumble under the blow?  I have.

Have you ever felt the sword of another’s betrayal?  Have you ever trusted someone with your darkest stories and believed that they would truly SEE you underneath, only to watch them, (slow motion, over and over), turn the trust into a weapon to flatten you? I have.

Conflict is sometimes ugly and always hard.  We were made in the Image of God. Therefore, we were made for Love.  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Cor.13:4-8. All of the conflict embedded in my lifetime has oozed from a failure to Love, on my part or others.

This week, four people (who broke each other) sat in a living room with apple cider (or decaf) and pumpkin bars, looked each other’s depravity full in the face, and…

forgave.

A time to embrace.  Ecc.3:5.

The gates of hell shudder under the holy weight of Forgiveness, which is the most unnatural and therefore most divine of sacred offerings.  There is nothing on heaven or on earth that shines God’s favor like the full extent of true forgiveness.  To unshackle someone who is bound to you by a debt they can never repay?  To be released from the manacles of guilt and condemnation?  To finally shed the chains? Sweetness unlike any other.

Forgiveness is the final form of love. Reinhold Niebuhr.

A few months ago I told someone, We are in a conflict with (Names) and we are not going to be able to work it out.  The relationship is over, likely forever.  

God in His mercy and power showed us a better way. Four people who love the Lord more than our own pain and our own self-justification chose to walk in it.

Have you given up on a relationship lately? Have you refused to offer grace?  Have you lived condemned and afraid?

Me too.

And there I would remain still, if not for the kindness and severity of a deeper mercy.

As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Col.3:12-14.

Do not grow weary in doing good.  For in due time you will reap if you do not grow weary. Gal.6:9.

Cocoon

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It is finished. John 19:30

My journal has a hard-cover, which I do not like.  I prefer spiral bound, so I can fold the cover around itself to open up each white blank page.  This journal cost me $24.95 at Barnes & Noble, which is silly, because I can buy journals at the grocery store for about $4.99 – paper-covered, spiral bound, fat journals just the perfect size to carry with my Bible.  But this one is special.  I bought it because of the quote etched on the front, which brought me to tears when I read it for the first time.  And many times after that.

Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.

That journal holds a record of my world-overness.  The world breaks every one, and afterwards many are strong at the broken places.  Ernest Hemingway.  This fallen place broke me in pieces and it is all recorded, raw and tear-stained, under the shelter of the caterpillar promise.

I thumbed through that journal recently, aching all over again as I remembered.  All that was broken, all that was lost, all that we tried to hold onto as the Lord allowed it to scatter away.  All the self-righteous poison I poured out on those pages, vomiting my vindictive rage on the battleground of an empty page instead of spewing words to God’s Image-bearers that I could never take back. Thank you for holding me in, Lord, for gathering me in strong arms and listening to my voice.  All the prayers and Scriptures that I clung to as tears fell, blurring my vision, distorting the written words with bubbled droplets of a broken heart. All the epiphanies, the healings, the explosions of piercing Truth from the tender heart of God, the violent collisions of faith and fallenness, the million moments of transforming grace.  Manna.  It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Everyone is to gather as much as they need.’ Exodus 16:15-16.  The journal holds the record of my long, dark cocoon years, when the Lord lifted me out of the life I thought I wanted and wrapped me in a deep grace, an infinite healing, a safe and holy transformation.

Another One, long ago, dwelled voluntarily in a dark cocoon called Death.  His body twisted and bloody, his skin pierced and ragged, His head bowed under the full weight of the madness of this spinning, savage planet. God, wrapped in flesh, was crucified.  He hung ingloriously on a cross.  A cross is a spiritual symbol to us, but to the Roman culture it was ugly and rough, like an electric chair or a hangman’s noose.  God became a curse.  A life of dust, a death in agony.  Then they buried Him in the same dirt out of which He created our race of image-bearers.  The end of God.  All of hell howls in triumph, gibbering in dark victory.

Until….

The cocoon twitches, then rumbles, then…….splits open.  Resurrection.  Death could not hold Life in.  Life surrenders to death, only to defeat it.  That is the cycle of the Redeemed.  We all die every day, sinking into the fallenness of this place, then He finds us, reminds us of the Cross and of the Empty Tomb, and it strengthens us, empowers us. We rise up.  We remember who we are.  We are the Remnant, the Chosen Ones, the Covenant Bearers, those who open our arms to Grace.  We are the saints of God.

The hidden transformation of the cocoon is a process for us.  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror. 1 Cor. 13:12.  We live out our own reflection of the resurrection story, perhaps over and over, in our lifetimes.  We bleed our own stories, distorted and unfinished, so very different from what we wanted them to be.  Who of us can see the earthquake coming? Who notices the tiny cracks and foresees the fault lines of what will be?  None of us.  But…

It is finished.  John 19:30.

Take heart, for (unlike this particular saint) the Cross is a finished work.  All is ours, whether in heaven or on earth, for we are among those covered by the caterpillar promise, the resurrection covenant.  Jesus Christ died, was buried, and burst through the gates of hell.  He redeemed our tattered stories and knit them into the tapestry of grace. We do not bear the weight of unfinished sin, but the weight of heavenly glory.  All was resolved at the Cross.  All is grace.

Live in grace.  Record your story under the promise.  Set your face on the Cross.  Live under this shelter:

It is finished.

The Resurrection Promise


Sands

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My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. 
   When can I go and meet with God? Ps.40:2.

On Tuesday, I spoke with a lovely lady who spends hours a day in Bible study and prayer. The pages of her Bible are scrolled with tiny writing; the thoughts, prayers and study notes of a woman who lives her life it the precious Words.  Her Bible is covered in plastic wrap to shelter its ragged binding and tattered pages.  Every other week I sit next to this woman in Women’s Bible Study and I stare, mesmerized, at that Bible.  I barely know this beautiful saint; I just met her a few weeks ago.  But I am knit to her heart because she is head over heels for the Word of God, just like me.  I asked her about her time with the Lord and she told me that she immerses herself in Him for hours a day.  She journals, prays, reads, worships, studies.  Hours.a.day.

As I drove home from Bible study, my children bombarded me with NOISE.  Ok, friends, my kids are just LOUD.  They ARE.  I clenched the steering wheel and disciplined my mind to listen to their little voices, to engage their little hearts.

When I got home, I fed them lunch, switched over a load of laundry, picked up toys, unloaded the dishwasher, cleaned up lunch, put Lucy down for a nap with stories and prayers, wiped down counters, let the dog out.  I thought about my Bible study friend as Jack clamored for my attention.  I thought about spending hours a day with the Lord.  I looked down at my little man, five years old, face upturned with expectancy in his shining star eyes.

So I spent my afternoon in worship.

God has ordained time to slip away like sand streaming through our fingers.  We have so little of it, so few moments to redeem for glory.  O how I long for more time to spend at Your feet, Lord, to be Your Mary, to soak You in.   Those days will come, both on earth and in heaven.  Someday my little ones will be big ones, and these long, loud, endless days will seem like vapors in the wind.  But today is not that day.  Today is the day to make cupcakes with Spiderman, to read Lulu’s Shoes yet again, to sort through the laundry basket to find a clean dishcloth, to take them upstairs for another round of discipline, to spend my quiet times begging for infinite grace to sustain my motherhood.  These are the years of double portions of manna.

In Psalm 27:4, King David whispered a dream to the Lord:

One thing I ask from the Lord, 
   this only do I seek: 
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord 
   all the days of my life, 
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord 
   and to seek him in his temple. 

David ached to dwell intimately with God, to spend every moment in awed worship in the shelter of the dwelling place of God.  But God did not ask David to be a priest. David was a King.  David carried a banner of leadership unparalleled in redemptive history. David’s heart was in the temple, but his life was in the palace.  

Lord, give me wisdom to know where to spill my sands of time.  Lavishly on You, lavishly on the Three who share my home, sparingly and with wisdom everywhere else. Thank You for the plastic-wrapped Bible and for the smears of icing on smiling faces.   Make a way for those of us whose hearts are in Your presence but whose lives are in the sands.  

Offering

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Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Ps.62:8

Here is what the Bible says about King Hezekiah:  Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him.  He held fast to the Lord and did not stop following him; he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses.  And the Lord was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook. He rebelled against the king of Assyria and did not serve him. 2 Kings 18:5-7.

Sennacherib

During Hezekiah’s reign, the King of Assyria was a man named Sennacherib.  You probably studied about him in ancient history, because he was a superstar, ancient-history-wise.  He was rich, powerful and brilliant.  And extraordinarily evil.  The Assyrians were known for flaying their victims, which means peeling their skin off, then immersing them, screaming and flailing, in boiling water. Assyria was an endless black hole of suffering and destruction.  Throughout the Old Testament, Sennacherib and his Assyrian kingdom were symbols of ultimate evil.

Sennacherib threatened the kingdom of Judah.  His vast armies swarmed over Judah’s territories like dark locusts, decimating its fortified cities.  The conquering Assyrians reached Jerusalem’s walls, breathing the foul stench of violence and evil over God’s holy city.  He sent a message to King Hezekiah:  Say to Hezekiah king of Judah: Do not let the god you depend on deceive you when he says, ‘Jerusalem will not be given into the hands of the king of Assyria.’ Surely you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the countries, destroying them completely. And will you be delivered? Did the gods of the nations that were destroyed by my predecessors deliver them?  Is.37:10-12.

The Bible says that Hezekiah tore his robes and put on sackcloth, the clothes of grief.

He knew that Assyria had defeated every obstacle in its path to world domination.  He

Assyrian Warriors

knew that the Assyrian army had left a trail of defeat and horror in its bloody wake.

He knew what Sennacherib’s fierce armies had already done to his people in the surrounding cities.  He knew that the suffering in Judah was a black pit, deep and dark. He knew that his tiny, broken nation could not win against such a mighty force.

He also knew that Egypt hated Assyria.  He knew that Egypt was powerful, and it sought an alliance with Judah.  He knew that the Egyptian Pharoah would rise up to defend Judah. Who besides the Lord do we call upon in our most desperate hours?

This is what King Hezekiah did with the message from Sennacherib.

Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord.  And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord. Is.37:14-15.

I can see him in my spirit.  The faithful king, his soul wracked with sorrow over his people’s suffering, his heart twisted in fear of his nation’s annihilation, clothed in the ragged sackcloth of mourning and woe.  I see him bowed under the weight of his leadership, laying prostrate in the Holy Place, face in the dust where priests and kings have cried out to God.  Like his ancestor, King David, he clung to the not-so-secret access key to the heart of God:  You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. Ps.51:16-17.  

Am I Hezekiah?  Do I turn my suffering into offerings?  When the armies of darkness invade my fortified territory, do I spread their diabolical lies at the altar of my God and cry out to Him?

Or do I turn to Egypt?  Do I crumple to dust under the pressure of external attack? Do I hide in a house of cards? Do I forfeit trust in the face of opposition?

I confess that the answer is: both.  My history is a dizzying strata of triumph and failure. It is perhaps something like yours.  (Without forgiveness and grace, we are all undone.)  As the Lord expands my heart with a longing for holiness, I also confess that that is no longer enough for me.  I want to be like Hezekiah, of whom God’s Word says, there was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him.  He held fast to the Lord and did not stop following him. 2 Kings 18:5.  

It is a legacy that takes my breath away.

I want to reject Egypt’s empty refuge, to shake my fist at Assyria’s obscene mastery, to grieve every ounce of evil that corrupts those I love, to transform every moment of suffering into an offering to my heavenly King.

Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. Ps.62:1-2.

Heritage

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Anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.  Mt. 18:4.

On Tuesday mornings I pack my children and, typically, some kind of baked good into my swagger wagon and drive to church.  Depending on which Tuesday of the month, we tumble happily (usually) through the doors of Vanguard Church for either MOPS or women’s Bible study. This particular Tuesday, it was MOPS.  Now, my swagger wagon is a family vehicle and I am a believer in redeeming my time, so whilst driving I generally expose my securely strapped children to some kind of edifying music/story with the goal of enhancing their development.  Yes, I am that Mom.

However, today I unyinned the yang with my new Matt Redman CD, 10,000 Reasons.  O my stars, people, if you do not already own this record, immediately click here or go to iTunes and purchase it RIGHT NOW, even if it costs you your last nickel.  GO.  I will not be offended if you do not return to my blog (well, a little, but I’m a forgiver).  These songs are so anointed that they have lifted me right out of this planet and placed me squarely at the feet of the God Most High, where I just lay flat and bless His name.  Now, I am a worshipper and I can regularly be found finding spiritual meaning in canned good ingredients, but I am telling you, this record is steeped in the glory of heaven’s choirs.

So today I drove down Powers Boulevard, my children in their carseats, worshipping with all of my might to this, 10,000 Reasons.

There were tears in my eyes as I plunged headfirst into the deep well of this soul-shaking anthem of worship.  I raised one hand as I drove with the other, tears slipping down my cheeks, making tracks in my make up.  I caught a glimpse of something in my rearview mirror.  I turned around and caught my breath.

Both of my children’s little arms were raised.  Jack’s 5 year old eyes were closed.  Lucy’s soft child-voice was quietly singing, “Jesus” as her tiny hand swam above her carseat.

I have never seen anything like that in all my life.

My eyes spilled liquid legacy.  My children worship.  Is there a greater joy?  I cannot imagine that there is.

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 3 John 4.

Little ones, your worship is a fragrance of everlasting sweetness to Your heavenly Father and an ocean of grace to me.  Always whisper Jesus’ name as you grow into your life story.  Ever raise your hand in wholehearted offering to Him.  I cannot conceive of a deeper mercy than to bequeath you a heritage of worship.