Archives for May 2020

What to Do With Your Half-Finished Songs

I often feel as though I fall short.
falling short
No, that’s not quite true. I mostly feel as though I fall short.
I fall short in my marriage. My pride so often chokes me up.
I fall short in my parenting. My selfishness makes me stumble.
I fall short in my writing. My laziness keeps me from doing all that God desires.
It is enough to make me quit.
failure
This continuous falling short is enough to make me want to stop trying.
Why bother, when all of my very best efforts are never quite enough?
I am learning in my God-life, and I think that it applies to all of life (as all of life is and should be my God-life), that falling short doesn’t really matter.
What matters is that I do not give up.
What matters is that I continue to persevere.
Trying matters.
We live in a broken world and we inhabit broken bodies. We shouldn’t be surprised when our best efforts fall short.
We shouldn’t be surprised when the outcome toward which we are aiming doesn’t quite come to fruition.
But all of our failures doesn’t change a thing about who we are.
For we are God’s beloved.
And as I wrote earlier, nothing that we do for God is ever wasted.
nothing is wasted
We are a part of bringing God’s kingdom to earth, and even our failures are used to that end.
It is a beautiful truth that God uses our broken efforts to restore His broken world.
All of creation is aimed with all of her being toward her creator, giving of herself in praise, waiting with eager longing for her freedom.
This is what we are asked to work toward in our marriage, in our parenting, in our art, in our work.
…since creation is going to declare (his great faithfulness) either way, we might as well jump in with our half-finished songs and join the chorus. ~ Andrew Peterson in Adorning the Dark
Dear one, we must not let our failures keep us from trying.
God desires even our failures, especially our failures, for His kingdom purposes.
He looks forward to hearing all of your half-finished songs.
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.

all photographs are copyright Made Sacred 2020

We Are Slicing Off Ears Again

I made a mistake on Facebook the other day.
A friend of a friend posted something harsh about those who believe differently than she does about face masks, and I had had enough.
I responded.
I shouldn’t have, but I responded.
When she escalated, making comparisons to people in concentration camps, I realized my mistake. I am not going to change anyone’s mind on Facebook. I cannot not argue someone into a different viewpoint.
I can, however, love people on Facebook. I can show the unity and love of Jesus in the way that I interact with others. My comment, while not harsh or ugly, did not show unity or love.
I deleted my responses.
I expect harsh words and vitriol from the world. Christians, however, should never engage in that kind of vicious attack and nasty rhetoric.
As emotions become more volatile in this season of uncertainty, as choices about what to do next vary wildly, as words become our weapon of choice, I offer a word of warning, a plea, to myself as well as to you.
Satan wants this. This is a perfect opportunity for him to divide the church over this issue of shelter-in-place vs reopening the economy, over enforced face masks vs the freedom to choose.
I’ve already written of how important it is for us, the Church, to be unified.
DSC_0033a (21)
Not for us to agree on everything, but to love each other. To love each other no matter what.
This is so important that it was one of the last things Jesus asked of God before He was crucified.
Why is this particularly important right now, in this season?
As more and more people get sick with COVID-19 and die, as more and more people lose their jobs because of prevention measures, we become more and more afraid.
And fear causes us to do crazy things, both to each other and to those around us who are outside of the Church.
We are living in uncertain times. Our lives and our livelihoods are threatened. The illusion that we are in control has been stripped away.
We find ourselves fighting back against this invisible enemy by fighting with the people we can see.
We as a Church are good at fighting.
crusades
We have a tendency, when we are afraid, to lash out at anyone who disagrees with what we believe to be true. Rather than following Jesus’ way of loving those who hurt us, of being at peace with those around us, we strike out blindly at anyone near us in an attempt to fight the enemy we cannot reach.
This is what Peter did. He was terrified of losing Jesus, terrified of losing his own life, uncertain of what would happen next, and he reacted by pulling out his sword to start slicing off ears.
st-_peter_cut_slaves_ear_by_duccio
Jesus, however, picked up that ear, calmly placed it back onto its owner’s head, and walked quietly off to meet His death.
We have a perfect opportunity in this season to react out of love rather than out of fear. To treat those who disagree with gentleness, bringing peace rather than war. To show that we are Jesus’ disciples by the way we love each other.
Jesus speaks over and over again about His kingdom coming through the humble, the weak, the foolish. He is adamant that the kingdom of God is not about force or hatred.
When Jesus gets down on his knees to wash the filthy feet of the apostles, he washes Judas’ feet as well.
IMG_4362
Everything we do to live out God’s kingdom here on earth must be done under the shadow of the cross.
Perhaps we should stop fighting to convince other believers that we are right and start figuring out how to work together to show God’s love to the sick and the jobless. Perhaps we should begin by humbly admitting that we don’t have all the answers and we might be wrong. Perhaps we should remember that God’s kingdom grows best one soul at a time through lives lived in quiet love and service, not through arguing angrily on social media.
Perhaps we should stop slicing off ears and instead begin the work of healing by dying to ourselves as we live as Jesus did. We can start by loving each other.
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: Photograph of cathedral by Kirk SewellImage of the Croisés from 1922; St. Peter Cuts the Slave’s Ear by Duccio di Buoninsegna

Our Cry to the Creator and Covenant God

How long, O God?
This has been our cry from the beginning.
How long until you rescue us? How long until you set things right?
Rescue us
Our world is broken and we are broken and we need you to make all things new.
You created us and you promised us. Save us, O God!
All through Scripture, God reveals himself as Creator God and as Covenant God. He is the one who made us and he is the one who promised to restore us.
Over and over again, Israel cries out for rescue to the Creator God who has an obligation to his creation and to the Covenant God who has an obligation to be faithful to the promises he has made.
creation and covenant
The Psalms are full of the bringing together of these two aspects of God.
Psalm 19 begins by praising God for his power in creation, The heavens declare the glory of God, and ends by praising God for the beauty in his covenant law, The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul.
Psalm 74 begins by pleading with God to remember his covenant people, Remember your congregation, which you have purchased of old and ends by reminding him of his power and ownership over creation, Yours is the day, yours also the night.
The covenant was given to solve the problems in creation. God calls Abraham and establishes Israel as his people to hold to the covenant. Through Israel, God will solve the problems of the world, bringing justice and salvation to the nations.
Creation is invoked by the prophets of Israel to solve the problems within the covenant. “When Israel is in trouble, and the covenant promises themselves seem to have come crashing to the ground, the people cry to the covenant God precisely as the creator.”
creation and covenant
It did, indeed, seem that the covenant promises came crashing down.
Israel was supposed to be God’s messenger to the nations, but instead tried to achieve a covenant status for itself alone. What did God do? Abandon the covenant and move to a vastly different Plan B in Jesus?
He most certainly did not. God remains true to his covenant, to his plan, even when man proves false.
“…he will require a representative Israelite who will be faithful…to God’s purpose not only for Israel but through Israel for the world…we see God’s covenant faithfulness operating through the faithfulness of Jesus the Messiah. Precisely as Messiah, he offers God that representative faithfulness to the plan of salvation through which the plan can go ahead at last, Abraham can have a worldwide family, and the long entail of Adam’s sin and death can be undone through his obedience.”
It is through Jesus that the one who created us and our world is able to fulfill his covenant to restore us and our world.
creation
 covenant
We see this displayed beautifully in Isaiah 40-55, that great passage in which the prophet lays out God’s entire plan for rescue.
In chapter 40, YHWH is beseeched as the sovereign creator in whom Israel can trust completely. In 55, there is celebration of the way in which his Word will have the same effect of restoring Israel that the rain and snow have in making the earth fruitful.
Creation and covenant.
In between, in chapter 51, Creator God is declared to also be the Covenant God whose Word will rescue and deliver his people from the enemy.
The covenant will be renewed and thus creation will be renewed. When God rescues Israel, the nations will share in the blessing. And “the human blessing is the means by which God the creator, who made humans in his image to be his stewards in his world, will renew the whole creation itself.”
And all this, says Isaiah, through the Messiah. This Messiah, we now know, is both the Word of God and the one in whom all things were created. Paul tells us that the image of the invisible God, the true fulfillment of Let us make man in our image, after our likeness, both was the first born of all creation and in him all things were created AND was the first born from the dead and through him God reconciled all things to himself.
Jesus himself is the point where creation and covenant come together.
creation
covenant
Jesus is the means by which God has done what, “as creator, he has the power and right to do, and what, as the covenant God, he has the responsibility to do.” Through Jesus, God has set things right again. He has set in motion the restoration of creation and has killed sin and death on the cross.
Which brings us back to where we began.
How long, O God?
How long until you rescue us? How long until you set things right?
creation and covenant
Praise be to our God! Through the obedience of Messiah and the power of his Spirit, our Creator and Covenant God has already done it.
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.

Credits: These ideas, and all of the quotations, come from N. T. Wright and his book, Paul. I have merely synthesized and condensed them for you. The painting of Peter drowning is an excerpt from a fresco inside the cathedral of Maria Saal in Austria. All photographs are mine.

Take This Chance to Start Over

Most of us have recently found ourselves abruptly forced into a strange new normal.
We were busily running around, bouncing from one activity to the next, spending our days and evenings driving from one event to the next, when it all came to a sudden, screeching halt.
starting over
Activities canceled. Events abandoned. Plans postponed.
We are spending more time at home than we ever have before.
May I make a suggestion? Perhaps I would even call it a plea.
When the world starts back up again, when activities and events begin to crank back to life,
please don’t rush straight back in without any thought or consideration for what you are giving up.
We have a rare chance to start over, to slow down, to make more deliberate choices for our lives.
What do you want your life to look like? Do you want more space in your life? Do you want more time at home as a family? Do you want your kids to have more time to play and just be…kids?
Be wise.
You do not have to leap back into every activity you participated in before.
Consider each one and together with God decide whether it is truly good and necessary for your family as a whole.
Space is good. A slower life is good. Making sure that there is regular time in your schedule to connect with God and with your family is very good.
make space
Most of us didn’t plan to live this way. Many of us added just one thing, then another, and another, and another…
until we woke up one morning with no white space at all in our week.
You do not have to go back to that life, to a life that is cram-packed to the brim.
You can choose.
You can choose which activities and events are life-giving to your family and which ones suck you dry.
You cannot be close to your loved ones, you cannot be close to God without time.
So while we have it, take time to consider. Be prayerful and wise as you begin to resume a more normal sort of schedule. Take this chance to start over.
Make the necessary and life-giving choice of space and time for yourself and your family.
We all need this.
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: Fairy Tales by Jessie Willcox Smith