Archives for September 2018

The Otherness of God

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.

 

Our God is astounding.
He is vast, but not in a way that is simply a larger version of ourselves.
He is not the giant at the top of the beanstalk.
He is other.
Other
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
Yet He did not create in the way that we as artists create, taking what is already there and crafting it into something new.
God’s creating was closer to the way we give birth. Out of Himself, He brought forth a completely new, unique, original thing.
Creator
Yet even that is not exactly what God did.
We do not craft our children.
God, using only Himself, bringing forth out of nothing but Himself, crafted precisely and perfectly an entire universe.
Universe
Otherness
Creator
Creation
Original
Sit with that for a moment.
The Lord is a God of knowledge.
Other
God knows everything.
Yet He does not know in the same way that we know.
The most intelligent and well-educated people in this world must learn in order to know. They must study what is outside of themselves in order to know.
Most of the time, we must learn even to know what is inside of ourselves.
Knowledge
Knowing
Understanding
Other
God knows because there is nothing that is outside of Himself. All that exists came out of God Himself, and thus He knows all things in a much different way than we can ever know anything. His knowledge comes from a much different place.
Sit with that for a moment.
Sit with the otherness of God,
then praise Him for who He is.

Art Credits: space photos from NASA; all other photographs copyright Made Sacred 2018

From One Generation to Another: A Tribute to my Gram

My Gram died this summer. I have been close to her and my Papa most of my life (in terms of relationship…for most of my life we were fairly far from each other in terms of geography), and the temporary loss remains deeply painful. This week I want to share the tribute I wrote for her funeral. May it be an example to you of how one generation can shepherd another generation in the ways of God.
Gram and Papa
Gram was so beautiful. She was always very concerned about her appearance, but she shouldn’t have been. She was beautiful. Death has a way of causing us to look back over the life of the one who has died, and as I did that over the past couple of weeks, my memories came almost in a series of vignettes that show her servant love.
Gram
Gram
Gram and Papa
As a child, I would sometimes get to be with Gram and Papa all by myself (this is almost as much about Papa as it is about Gram because, in my memory, Gram and Papa are inextricably linked together). I’m sure Gram was a very busy woman, but she set aside everything when I came to visit and gave unstintingly of her time.
She taught me how to bake and how to sew. She taught me how to swim and dive and play tennis. I’m sure she tried to teach me how to draw, but that lesson just didn’t take. She taught me how to welcome people into my home.
Gram and Papa
Gram and Papa
Gram
The next flash of memory is from my undergrad days at Harding.
So many weekends found me and a whole gaggle of my friends showing up on Vallejo Drive. It was a much closer drive than coming home, and I took full advantage. Copious amounts of home-cooked food (with many leftovers finding their way back into the dorm rooms of all who came), a listening ear to whatever problems I was dealing with, wisdom to share for how to be like Jesus, all of these were dealt out with a free hand in their home. Also, a few rescues from car troubles or accidents.
Gram and Papa
Gram and Papa
There are memories from my teaching days.
Again, I would escape to Gram and Papa’s for food, solace, and wisdom when life felt hard. Again, they would welcome me with open arms unconditionally. Always free to offer advice and counsel, but never holding it against me if I didn’t follow it. I learned quickly, however, that it usually worked out best when I followed it.
I remember bringing my choir students to sing at their little country church and give a singing class (they didn’t think bringing the band kids would have worked out quite so well…) and Gram and Papa throwing us a huge shindig out at The Place (their farm outside of Dallas). Those kids talked about the love that they felt and the food that they ate for months afterward.
Gram
Gram
Gram
Papa
Gram
Gram
Gram
Gram and Papa
The trips to Dallas didn’t happen quite so often after I moved back to Illinois, but I was very happy to discover a direct flight from Champaign to Dallas.
I flew pregnant, with an infant, with a toddler and pregnant…you get the idea. Every time, even when I brought with me a baby who wouldn’t sleep through the night, I was welcomed and loved. Gram would serve me so unselfishly every time I came so that I, as a young mother, could have a little break. She cared for me and my family, played with my babies so I could take a nap, sent me home with food so that I didn’t have to cook as much… Gram’s love always came out in service.
Which is the way it should be.
I’m not as good at it as she was, but I learned at her feet how to show Jesus love to those around me.
I am so grateful for the years we had with Gram living here in Springfield.
Gram
Gram and Samantha
Gram
We were able to have so many more deep conversations about life and parenting and marriage. My girls were able to know her so much better than if she had still been in Dallas. I am grateful for the extra time my girls had with her, to be able to learn that kind of servant love from one who did it so well.
Gram
Analise and Gram
Gram
Gram
When I asked my girls about their memories of her, asked about what they loved about Gram, what came out most was her gift of her time and attention. Not everyone pays close attention to children, but Gram did. She played with them, did art with them, gave them little jobs like washing toys, and then did those jobs right along with them. My girls remembered Gram talking with them, taking them seriously. They remember her patiently explaining (probably for the one hundredth time) what every carved bird in her glass case was.
I’ll admit that I am greedy for more time. More time to just BE with Gram, more time to listen to her and soak up all of her knowledge and wisdom, more time to learn how to love like she loved, more time for my girls to know her, for my youngest to be able to remember her.
Run to Gram
Yet I know that I have a choice in all of this. I can choose to be angry with God, letting my anger and grief drive me away from Him, or I can choose to be obedient and thank Him, clinging to Him and letting Him be all that I need.
So at least for today, I will choose this:
Thank You, Father, for the gift of my Papa and my Gram.
Thank You for giving me so many years with them, years of such close relationship and of so many beautiful times with them.Thank You for giving them so many talents and abilities and for giving them the desire to teach and share those skills with me and my family.
Thank You for their wisdom, for all that I have learned from them, for all of the wisdom that I now have stored in my own heart, wisdom that I can now pass on to their great-grandchildren. To the next generation.
Thank You most of all for making their hearts like Yours. Thank You for allowing me to see You in them, to see in their lives how You want me to live. Thank You for showing me through them how to live faithfully as a child of Yours, as a spouse and as a parent.
Thank You for the beauty that is their lives.
Thank You, God, for Your grace.
Gram and Papa

Gone From My Sight
Henry Van Dyke

I am standing upon the seashore. A ship, at my side,
spreads her white sails to the moving breeze and starts
for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck
of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.
Then, someone at my side says, “There, she is gone.”
Gone where?
Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast,
hull and spar as she was when she left my side.
And, she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.
Her diminished size is in me — not in her.
And, just at the moment when someone says, “There, she is gone,”
there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices
ready to take up the glad shout, “Here she comes!”
And that is dying…

How Love Wins

 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.

 

This Jesus life is hard.
Hard
Suffering
Struggle
Difficulty
Anything that demands that you surrender your entire self is going to be just that. Hard.
It is sometimes tempting to give up and take the easy way.
It would be much easier to just sink into the flow of our world, to follow the crowd,
to do what I want to do instead of fighting against my natural desires.
I have to keep reminding myself that I didn’t ever think that becoming a disciple of Jesus would be easy.
Quite the opposite, in fact. Jesus promises through His words and by His example that His way is the way of struggle, of self-denial, of suffering.
Example
Of the cross.
When Jesus died on the cross, when He rose from the dead, He demonstrated that love wins against the Enemy.
Against Sin.
Against Death.
Love wins.
But love wins not over suffering but through suffering.
Cross
If Jesus’ love wins through suffering, we can guess what that means for us.
The victory that we win through Jesus will also have to be won in the same way, by the slow course of love rather than the swift course of battle.
I often become frustrated that at the age of forty I am still unable to conquer so much of myself.
I become frustrated that this God life is so hard.
N.T. Wright reminds me that if Jesus’ victory was won through the slow road of love, then my own victory will have to “be implemented step by step, not all at one single sweep, (and that) those steps have to be, every one of them, steps of the same generous love that took Jesus to the cross. Love will always suffer.”
I don’t like this.
I still want to give up sometimes.

Steady

Perservere

Yet what is my alternative?
If suffering is the cost of discipleship, what is the cost of non-discipleship?
Dallas Willard writes that when we are tempted to quit, when we feel that this Jesus life is too hard, we should count the cost of non-discipleship.
Nondiscipleship costs abiding peace, a life penetrated throughout by love, faith that sees everything in the light of God’s overriding governance for good, hopefulness that stands firm in the most discouraging of circumstances, power to do what is right and withstand the forces of evil. In short, it costs exactly that abundance of life Jesus said he came to bring.
Suddenly, this God life doesn’t seem so hard anymore.
Or, rather, it still seems hard, but it also seems worth it.
Abundantly worth it.

Art credits: Gethsemane by Carl Bloch; Jesus Scourged by Marillier; all other photographs copyright Made Sacred 2018