What will you do when God says "no"?

What do you do when you don’t get your way?

My eldest screams with a red hot rage and sobs tears of hurt and disappointment.

As much as I would like to hold my head up high and speak with condescension about the ways of a child, I can’t. Instead, I will bow my head with shame and confess that, even if I don’t do it out loud or in front of people, I have much the same reaction in my deepest places.

I received another “no” from God this week.

It really hurt. Yet another of my well-laid plans was swept away with the dust of a hope.

I do gain deep peace and joy from knowing beyond a doubt that the only reason that God said “no” was because that wasn’t what was best.

And, just as I wrote recently, my heart still grieves.

There is a piece of me, that child that can’t seem to grow up, that wants to shout and rage and stamp its foot and demand a “yes” from God.

The desire, the temptation, is not wrong. As I often tell my eldest, the feeling is not wrong, but what you choose to do can be either wise or foolish.

So what did I choose to do?

This time (I wish that I could say “every time”) I chose what was wise.

With tears, I praised God.

I thanked Him for telling me “no” because I trust that it was best, that it was done out of love.

Then I went to church and worshiped.

You make all things work together for my good.
You stay the same through the ages,
Your love never changes.
There may be pain in the night, but joy comes in the morning.
And when the oceans rage,
I don’t have to be afraid
Because I know that You love me.
Your love never fails.

My whole life I place in Your hands.
God of mercy, humbled I bow down
In Your presence at Your throne.
I called, You answered
And You came to my rescue
And I want to be where You are.

You stood before my failure,
Carried the cross for my shame.
My sin weighed upon Your shoulders,
My soul now to stand.
So I’ll stand,
With arms high and heart abandoned,
In awe of the One who gave it all.

I turned my eyes back to Jesus and gained back my perspective. No matter to what God says “no”, it is so small compared to the huge thing to which He has already said “yes”: allowing us to become His children through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. He has given us everything, and so…

I’ll stand
My soul, Lord, to You surrendered.
All I am is Yours.

art credit: 
songs are from Your Love Never Fails (Jesus Culture); Came To My Rescue (Hillsong United); The Stand (Hillsong United) 
sketching is The Three Crosses by Rembrandt

Craving Connection

Fairly regularly, my eldest will call to me after I have put her to bed for the night.

When I ask her what she needs, she will say, “I just need you, Mommy. I just need you for a moment.”

I will crawl into bed with her, she will wrap a strand of my hair around her finger, and we will snuggle for just a moment.

My little ones need my touch. They need me to look into their eyes, they need to feel my skin touching theirs.

Why is this so necessary for them? Not just desired but truly needed.

Every mother knows this instinctively, that their babies need their touch, but it is also a documented subject of research studies. A 2009 Cochrane Reviewof studies found that infants who have their skin stroked regularly cry and fuss less than those who don’t. Science also has shown that skin-to-skin contact lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Funny how we need science to prove to us what we already know: that we need connection.

Why do we need this connection, both with others and with God?

One clue is in how we were created.

As God created everything in our world – light, sky, islands, dolphins, lions, sparrows – He spoke. Powerful, yet a bit impersonal.

When God created man? He breathed.

His face leaned in close to the dirt and His breath brought us into being.

That closeness is what we need, what we crave. That connection is what we were created to need.

God’s intention, though, was for us to always have what we needed, to always have a perfect connection to Him. In a garden, long ago, we threw it away.

So He once again gently leaned in close to us and became a soft, touchable baby. A baby that we could touch and hold and kiss.

A baby that would once again breathe on us and in that final breath on the cross, reconnect us to our Abba.

What will we do now that we once again have that perfect connection with God? Will we again throw it away, or will we cherish and nourish it?

Will we continue to seek to know God as intimately as He knows us so that our connection with Him can flourish? Will we lean in close to those we meet and breath grace on them so that they, too, can be connected?

What will you do?

Saving the Earth

I’ve never been a “SAVE THE ENVIRONMENT!!!!” sort of girl.
Save the world
Not because I want to actively destroy our planet or because I am particularly opposed to saving it, but simply because I haven’t thought much about it.

I love spending time outdoors, love seeing and being in the beauty that God has given us, but not until recently has my mind made the connection between our earth being created by and loved by God, and my own responsibility to take care of our world.

Love our world

I know. There are a lot of you who are rolling your eyes right now and thinking, “Wow. You are some kind of dense not to have understood that before now.”

Perhaps, though, there are at least one or two of you who are like me and have simply not thought about this idea of being stewards of God’s creation. These thoughts, then, are for you.

Surprised By Hope

This idea first started bouncing around in my mind when I read N.T. Wright’s book, Surprised by Hope.  One of the themes that Wright discusses is the concept that this world is going to be restored someday, is going to be made whole and perfect, and we are asked by God to begin now to work towards that restoration. He even suggests that we are part of God’s plan to perfect our world, that perhaps He will accomplish this restoration (at least partially) through humanity.

This is a staggering idea, especially in the implication that if we are not working to care for our world then we are delaying the restoration of creation.

My first reaction to this idea was that God would never entrust such an important task to such frail humans. Yet there is, however, that whole “go into the world and teach people to be My disciples” task that He gave us. Perhaps God is just crazy enough to put such big things into our little hands.

Biology Through the Eyes of Faith
My next recent encounter with this idea of stewardship (I was starting to feel as though perhaps, just perhaps, God was giving me a little nudge) was when I read Richard T. Wright’s book, Biology Through the Eyes of Faith. (I was also starting to feel as though perhaps, just perhaps, I was reading too many books by authors with the last name of Wright.)
When I wrote an essay about the book, about how Christians should not fear what science can do to God, I was struck by something that I quoted from this book at the end:
Over the years, I have realized that even though it is necessary to look at these origins issues and problems, the more important problems are those that are facing us today as we try to learn how to take care of the creation and how best to use its gifts. (If God were to ask us a question about His Creation,) would He ask us what we thought about how He made the world, or would He ask us what we did with it
Caring for Our World
What does God want us to do with this creation He has entrusted to us? I started searching Scripture and was surprised by what I found. Here are just a few:
God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. ~ Genesis 1.31
The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it…So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. ~ Genesis 2.15, 20
The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. ~ Romans 8.19-21
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare … But in keeping with His promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth (emphasis mine), the home of righteousness. ~ II Peter 3.10, 13
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

As I searched the Word for wisdom, I was also reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. It is the story of how her family spent one year eating only what they could obtain locally. The book gave me a myriad of ideas about how our family could begin paying attention, how we could be deliberate about how we use this creation that God called “very good”.

And so I’ve started exploring. Perhaps we will start loving our neighbors by purchasing as much as possible from farmers who live nearby, from businesses owned by local people. Perhaps we will start loving this world by eating meat and eggs from animals that have been well cared for and that have been fed foods they were created to eat, by recycling and reusing as much as possible. 


Recycling Our World
I’m probably still not going to start marching in environmental protests or throwing paint on people who wear fur coats. 
I will, however, begin to pray, to think, to be aware and deliberate about how our family can be responsible stewards of this very good earth that has been graciously loaned to us by God. I will try to understand how to make sacred these choices about food and how we live on this planet.

What do you think about these things? What does your family do to care for our world? Do you have any advice for our family as we begin to explore this: advice about using a co-op or a CSA, recycling, etc.?

How Can We Find Truth?

Why do we have so much trouble with Truth?

One would think that Christ-followers would have a good grasp on what Truth is, yet we seem instead to settle into two separate and distinct camps: either we think that interpretation of Scripture is personal and whatever it means to you is what it means, or we think that there is only one possible interpretation and we know what that is.

Part of the trouble is, I believe, simply the worldview that our own time and place of living thrusts on us. 

We Americans take great pride in being individualistic, of having individual rights and freedoms. These are good things and have allowed us to worship with great freedom, yet they also teach us that religion is a private matter, that it is up to the individual to choose what they will believe. 

Which leads all too quickly to the idea that there is no one truth.

As I sat in Panera one afternoon, reading and writing, I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation between three people who were discussing the start-up of a New Age magazine. As they were talking about how to bring in money, advertisers, one of the women said, “Well, I can always find something in my Christian-ness to attract New Agers. I can find something in the Bible that will relate to them where they are.”

As distressing as this sort of worldview is, many Christ-followers have reacted too violently against this way of thinking about Scripture, which sends them spinning into that second camp. I have met so many who think that there is only one interpretation of Scripture and who are quite certain that they know which one is correct.

So much of Scripture contains layer upon layer of meaning. The deeper you delve, the more you uncover. Why do we give in to our pride and think that we know all there is to know about God’s Word? Why do we shore up our defenses against those who believe differently than we do? Have other Christ-followers become our enemy or is our enemy much more insidious than that?

So how do we solve this? How can we keep from falling too far towards either extreme? How can we who claim to follow Jesus know what Truth really is?

What if we simply listen? Listen to the words of Him Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life?

In the gospel of John, Jesus gives one of His most famous statements: 

The truth will set you free.

That is a beautiful (and oft-quoted!) statement, but how do we know what the truth is?

Ah. Just listen. Jesus gives us that answer too.

The whole sentence is this: 

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

Then. A very key word! What comes before? One very important if.

IF you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. THEN you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

There it is. If we hold to Jesus’ teaching, if we read it, meditate on it, live it, then we are His disciples.

Jesus’ disciples know the truth (even, perhaps, the truth about Truth?). 

God’s Spirit Himself teaches us.


And then the Truth will set us free.

art credit: flag photo by Robert Linder; Christ in the House of Mary and Martha by Johannes Vermeer

If I hurt, am I really trusting?

My eldest has a new fear.

Any time my husband gets into the driver’s seat of our car while I am still out of the car, my eldest is convinced that he is about to leave me. She begins sobbing and yelling, “Daddy, don’t leave Mommy! Daddy, don’t leave Mommy!”.

The usual response is, “Sweetheart, have I ever left Mommy?!”

Apparently, that has nothing to do with anything.

I sometimes get frustrated with the apparent lack of trust that my daughter has in both of her parents, regardless of how many times we have proven ourselves to her.

“Why won’t you trust me?” I ask her. “Have I ever (you fill in the blank!) before?”

When I stop to think about it, though, I completely understand. So often I decide that this is the time that God is not going to care for me, no matter how many times before He has proven His goodness and His love.

How many times does He have to prove Himself to me before I will finally trust that He will do what is best for me, even when I can’t see it?

Recently, though, I have been struggling with a different sort of trust issue.

While Kristina struggled for life and in the early days of Mike facing life as a single parent, God helped me to work though how we trust Him in the darkest times.

Now there are different hard times.

I want to publish these words of mine. So far, God says no.

We want another baby to add to the beauty and joy of our family. So far, God says no.

I thought I was trusting Him in these things. After all, if I could trust Him through horrible pain and ugly death, surely I can trust Him in this also.

I trust that if He is saying no to my desires it is because He has something infinitely more beautiful in mind.

Yet it still hurts.

Why does it still hurt if I trust that God is love?

How can my heart feel as though it is breaking if I trust that God is good?

If I hurt when God says no, does that mean that I am not truly trusting?

This. This is what my heart and my head have been struggling with.

Then one night I was praying while nursing my youngest and God brought to my mind the image of Jesus in the Garden, praying so fervently His sweat fell like drops of blood, praying in anguish that He would not have to face what was coming.

And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

It was as though God was laying a soothing hand on my troubled heart and telling me to look at His Son.

Of all who have ever walked this earth, Jesus trusted God. Jesus trusted that God is good, that God is love, that whatever God chooses is the very best, most beautiful thing.

And yet He still hurt. He still prayed in anguish and cried out to God to save Him.

So perhaps I am still trusting after all. Perhaps it is okay to hurt when God’s plans turn out to be something other than what I desire.

I will try not to doubt myself so much. I will try to allow myself to weep, to cry out to God in pain and disappointment, while still knowing that

He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all — how will he not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?

art credit: Gethsemane by Carl Bloch