The Word

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In the beginning, God spoke.
Word created
God spoke His Word and Word created.
God’s Word created sun and moon, trees and sea grass, sparrows and lions.
Nothing exists that was not created through Him.
In the beginning was the Word.
Word put on flesh
God’s Word created man.
He created man and then God’s Word became a man. He put on flesh and dwelt among us.
The Word incarnate.
The Word came so that the incarnation can continue, so that our lives can become incarnate, the whole of life an incarnation of the Word.

Word Incarnate

The Word taught us, He showed us how to love and how to live.
God’s Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path while we live on this earth.
The Word came to be light, to shine in the darkness. To be the way so we can know how to go.
He spoke words for us to hear and was the Word for us to see. He was the words He spoke because we are simple and slow and need more than one way to comprehend.
Someday we will no longer need the sun for the Word will be our lamp in the new Jerusalem.
The Word will be our lamp and so we will know the way, will remain in the way.
The Word is light and the Word is love, and the Word shows us that love knows no bounds.
All while teaching by example, the Word gave Himself up for us.

Word gave Himself

The Word gave Himself so that we can know love. The Word gave Himself so that we can be love.
The Word is in the beginning and the Word is in the end and the Word holds all the in-between together.
In Him is life.

Word became life

Be a Witness not a Lawyer

I’ll admit it. I’m an arguer.
I enjoy a good debate. Which annoys my poor husband to no end.
In the early years of our marriage, I would begin to play the role of devil’s advocate and he would just stare at me, unable to comprehend why I would believe such a thing, much less argue for it.
Because, clearly, why in the world would you argue anything unless you believed it passionately?!
As Jen Hatmaker would say, Bless.
I’m learning, though. Slowly.
Lean in close and be astounded with me. Because here is what I’m discovering: arguing is not always the right way to win people over.
Lawyer
Witness
I know, right? The idea that I can’t change someone’s mind by heaving brilliant statement after brilliant statement in their face is baffling to me.
I’m learning that this is especially true in the realm of Christianity.
I used to think that if I could just memorize Mere Christianity, I’d be prepared to win anyone’s heart for God’s kingdom.
Turns out you have to live Christ not just pitch Him.
Turns out Jesus asked us to be His witness, not His lawyer.
We cannot merely talk about Christ – we must bring Him. He must be a living vital reality – closer than breathing and nearer than hands and feet. We must be “God-bearers”. ~ E. Stanley Jones, American writer and missionary to India in the early-mid 1900’s
We must live a life that spills over with Jesus’ love. A life that, when encountered by anyone else, makes it abundantly clear that God is love.
Because the Christ of contention is unable to change hearts, but “the Christ of experience…is almost irresistible”.

Art credit: photographs by Robert Linder

The Way I Treat Jesus

And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
I like to feel good about myself.
You too?
I find it tempting to feel better about myself at the expense of judging others, especially in the privacy of my own mind.
You too?
Semiradsky
It is easy to watch the vitriol that happens on the internet and decide they need to do better at seeing the image of Jesus in those they are lambasting.
It is effortless to look at the women gathered in impenetrable circles at church and think that if they saw Jesus in those around them, they would be more inclusive.
It is troublesome to aim the same spotlight at myself.
Yet I must. 
If I am to live in Jesus who is the Truth, if I am to allow the Spirit to mold me into someone who looks like Him, I must be honest with myself. I must step into the Light that allows no shadows to remain.
Let_the_Little_Children_Come_unto_Jesus
Here is the truth.
When I erupt into hissing rage at my children, it is Jesus’ face that flinches back.
When I spit a sideways look and sigh at my husband, it is Jesus’ eyes that fill with hurt.
When I impatiently wrench my car into the path of the elderly driver beside me, it is Jesus’ mouth that compresses in fear.
Bloch
How can I do this?
How can I treat the One who made me as though He were dirt under my feet?
How can I regard the One who gave me new life as nothing more than an irritation?
I forget.
I forget to see those around me as an image of the One to whom I owe everything.
le-sueur
Imago Dei. The doctrine of the image of God.
This is the doctrine that says if every human is created in the image of God, then how we treat others is a reflection of how we truly feel about God.
Jesus, as He did most for most laws, raised this to a higher level. Jesus said that when we do something to another person, we are not just reflecting our view of Him, we are actually doing that action to Him.
Whatever I do to those in my little world I am doing to Jesus.
Vermeer
It is a frightening thought.
Perhaps I need to be frightened. Perhaps it would help me to remember.
To remember that the way I treat the people in my world is the way I treat Christ.
Siemiradzki
Lord, have mercy. Help me to remember.
Into Thy hands. Only You can help me.
Thee I adore. I trust that You will, indeed, help me to remember.

Art Credits: Christ in the House of Martha and Mary by Siemiradzki; Let the Little Children Come unto Jesus by Bloch; Gethsemane by Bloch; Christ Healing the Blind Man by Le Sueur; Christ in the House of Martha and Mary by Vermeer; Christ and Samaritan Woman by Siemiradzki

Resurrection Made Dull

To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.
They heard God’s voice and ignored it.
Resurrection
Resurrection
And not that “still, small voice” of God’s way down in the depths of their hearts, either.
They heard His loud, audible, filling-up-the-sky voice, just after Jesus came riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, and they ignored it.
Resurrection
They explained it away. They looked for the rain that must come since it was thundering, or even went so far as to call it an angel.
Anything but the voice of God.
Some things are too astounding, too wondrous for our hearts to accept.
The resurrection is one of those things.
Resurrection
Resurrection
The resurrection is anything but dull. The story of God becoming man, being defeated by man, and rising again to defeat death is the most heroic tale of all.
That man should play the tyrant over God and find Him a better man than himself is an astonishing drama indeed. ~ Dorothy Sayers
But it is hard to accept that we cannot save ourselves. It is humiliating to acknowledge that there is absolutely no way we can cleanse our own hearts. It is a bitter and unendurable truth that we are hopelessly imprisoned in our shadows and darkness.
Resurrection
The resurrection throws its light over our darkness in such a daring, audacious way that our helplessness is impossible to ignore.
So we choose to explain away the resurrection or else we attempt to dull its edges so that we cannot be cut.
We choose to explain it away as Jesus’ teachings becoming immortal in the manner of Shakespeare, or as the spirit of Jesus living on in us in the manner of Socrates, or as simply a manner of speaking in the symbolism of the human spirit conquering all.
Yet the resurrection refuses to be explained away.
Resurrection
You can call it nonsense or you can call it lies, but you cannot call it poetry.
You can deny the resurrection and live mired in the fear of inexorable death or you can believe the resurrection and allow it to bring you hopeful life in the now, but you cannot claim to believe in the resurrection and continue on in your darkness and dread.
The remarkable thing about it is that the real truth of the resurrection seems to be too strong for us, because it will not suffer itself to be hidden or concealed in these harmless clothes. ~ Karl Barth
Resurrection always bursts forth, rising up and shouting, “Do you truly believe that the only reason Jesus came, suffered, and died was to bring you empty comfort in the middle of the reality of life?”
No. Unequivocally no. The truth of the resurrection gives us certainty of our outcome. The truth of the resurrection gives us perfect assurance that death is, indeed, defeated and that we are, indeed, able to be presented before God pure and holy.
Resurrection
Resurrection
The truth of the resurrection blazes forth and tells us that everything has changed.
Truth is extraordinary, never dull.

Surprised by my Ugliness

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I am always surprised when ugliness shows up in my heart.
Ugliness
Did I just think that?!
How could that have just flashed through my mind?!
I am shocked and horrified when my frustration makes the thought of running away from my family seem momentarily desirable.
I shouldn’t be surprised. There is something inside of me capable of deserting those I love.
It is inside of you too.
There is something inside of me capable of murder, adultery, theft.
It is inside of you too.
When I am shocked at the kinds of thoughts that can fly through my head, it is a kind of pride. It is a pride that thinks I am better. Better than those who fill our jails.
I am not.
Darkness
This kind of shock is not a sorrow which leads to change. This is only a sorrow that I was not as good as I and others thought. It is a shock and sorrow that I am as weak as other humans.
True sorrow involves no surprise. It is not surprised at the depths of darkness in my soul. True sorrow is impossible to find on my own. It can only come from God.
Only when God looks at me can I know my own weakness and brokenness.
In the end, it is God looking into the sinner’s face that matters. ~ Henry Drummond (British revivalist and preacher, 1851-1897)
Only when God looks at me as He looked at Peter at the crow of the rooster, can I turn around and be changed.
Only when we come to our Father in response to His waiting look can we be freed and forgiven. ~ Henry Drummond
So stop being surprised and be sorrowful instead. Stay where you are and let God teach you.
Look into the heart of God and be broken.
Only then can we be truly changed.

Art Credits: Let Him Be Crucified by James Tissot; Jesus Scourged, a Bowyer Bible print

Loving All of God

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God is love.

Love

God is justice.

Justice

God is tender and merciful and He is sharp and condemning.
To love God is to love everything about Him. Even the parts we don’t understand. Even the pieces we wish were different.

Merciful

To wish that God were only comfort and healing is to wish away judgement for those who abuse children, rape women, sell humans. It is to wish away the cross, and this diminishes Christ’s sacrifice.

Condemning

When we wish for God only to be mercy and grace, we wish away His sharpness, and it is His sharpness that prunes and perfects us.
Christ’s love is not the soft love of human emotion, but a burning fire that cleanses and sears. It is a love that demands self-sacrifice. ~ J. Heinrich Arnold in The Center
And sacrifice is the only way to conquer death, defeat Satan, rescue the world.

Grace

So we come full circle.
To love the saving, forgiving piece of God is to love the judging, condemning part of God.
These pieces which come together in the Christ who hangs on the cross.

Sharp

On this Good Friday, look up at His bloody form and love Him.
All of Him.

There Is Good News

Sometimes I am weary of this world.
Wearied
Often I adore this crazy beauty that surrounds us. There is much to love, much to be grateful for.
Every once in a while, however, the brokenness of it all begins to weigh heavy on me.
Broken
My former pastor shares that he has cancer.
Blood work comes back and tells me I must take my daughter to a specialist.
The vitriol in the politics on my Facebook makes me just close my eyes.
Sinful
There are no easy answers. For all of its goodness, the fact remains that we have sinned and thus infused our world with darkness.
Darkness
The ugliness we see around us is here until Jesus returns.
The good news for right now?
He is here in the meantime.
God came down to live this same life in the midst of the brokenness.
God came
God died on a cross so that we can be with Him now through forever, so that we can be part of Him making the ugly beautiful again.
God died
God stayed here with us, to walk with us through the darkness. More than that, to be light inside of us that cannot be overcome by the darkness.
God lives
So as I feel the heaviness press down, I don’t try to escape the hurt of this world.
Rather, I try to lean into it as God did, knowing that He is working through me to heal.
Healed
Knowing that in the end He will heal it all perfectly.
And all that will remain will be beauty.

To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

 

Art credit: The Holy Night by Correggio; photo of Christ on the Cross statue by Asta Rastauskiene; Pentecost by Mildorfer

He Has Made Promises

I lost a friend this week.
Jenna
Jenna After Prom
In high school, she was one of my best friends. We played and sang together. We did show choir and musicals together. We volunteered together. We even had secret names for each other. (Yes, we still did that in high school. We were nerds.) I got to be a part of her life when she was baptized. We lost touch over the years, but I still loved her.
Jenna Showchoir
I’ve lost three friends over the past year and a half. This weighs heavy on me.
There is nothing that makes this okay. Jesus Himself wept at the death of His friend.
Death and pain, sorrow and grief. These are not how life was created to be.
There is nothing that makes this okay. Only one thing makes this bearable.
Our God.
He has made promises to us that He will make it turn out all right in the end. He has made promises to us that when we see Him face to face, all the horror that came before will seem as insubstantial as a morning mist blown away by the rising sun. He has made promises to us that He will remain with us and in us until that beautiful day arrives.
How do I know He will keep His promises?
I know because God loves us enough to put on skin and come down to live with us, to suffer for us, to die for us. I know because God has enough power to rise from the dead and conquer death for all time.
He loves us enough and He has power enough.
I don’t know why God didn’t put it all right from the beginning. I don’t begin to understand why He places so much importance on human freedom of choice or why our sin and redemption are so closely intertwined with creation itself.
But I know He keeps His promises and I know that His promises are beautiful beyond imagining.
And for that I will trust Him.
Jenna Graduation
This one’s for you, Jenna. Until we meet again.

To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

 

Not About Me

It is not about me.

What?!

No way!

For real?!

This is disappointing. I want it to be all about me.

Please?

Come on!

Are you sure?

I want all that happens to be for the sole purpose of making me happy, comfortable, and a better person.

It's about me!

But it’s not.
When darkness fills my life, when loneliness weights my soul, when grief deadens my heart,
it’s not about me.
Yes, God loves me and wants the best for me, but what is best for me is not that everything (or anything at all!) revolves around me.
When circumstances occur that I don’t like, when hurtful or even ugly things happen, will I try to make it about me or will I let God use it to glorify Himself? Will I be able to let go of my own self long enough to let God use it to bring others to Him and bring His kingdom closer to fulfillment?
Huh. God glorified, loved ones brought to Him, His kingdom brought close to earth? As I think about it, this all benefits me.
Even though it’s not about me.

Hooray!

That's great!

Huzzah!!

Funny how God makes that all work out.

To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

He Is Saying Your Name

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I have lived deep in pain.
When I wanted a baby and God said not yet.
pain
When my brother called and said of his pregnant wife, it’s cancer.
cancer
When my Papa died the day my baby was born.
death
I have lost friends and family, I have been disappointed and lonely.
As have most of you.
You, too, have received the doctor’s call, heard the rejecting words, felt the crippling fear and doubt.
When you are in the middle of deep, dark pain, you are blinded. Your body curls in on itself, your eyes darken with tears. You look for Jesus, desperately searching for Him, but you cannot see Him.
In the deepest pain, He is closest.
tomb
Mary stood at the tomb, searching for Him. In the middle of her deepest pain, she searched for His dead body but was blinded by her grief. Angels spoke to her and she could not see. Jesus, the One she searched for, stood behind her and she thought He was the gardener.
empty tomb
And then.
Mary.
He is right here. As close as your very breath. And He is saying your name.
Look up. Wipe your tears away for just a moment and listen.
He is saying your name.
He has not left you. He is there, speaking to you. Can you hear Him?
hope
He died and is alive and because of that resurrection, there is new closeness with Him.
I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.
There is resurrection and now there is intimacy that was not possible before.
alive
In the middle of your deepest pain, do not wonder anymore where Jesus is.
Turn around. He is right there behind you. Closer than He’s ever been.
risen
And He is saying your name.