Welcome to my new space!
If this is your first time to join me, I’m so glad you’re here. I hope you’ll stick around and explore just a bit.
If you are here from my Blogger space, what do you think?
I’ve discovered over the years that friends are an amazing gift.
I have the good fortune to be married to a man with good friends.
Good friends who also happen to be very talented in the world of design and websites! All credit and praise and admiration go to Porter for my design.
I also am blessed to have many good friends on my own.
Good friends who also happen to be very wise and who are, at the same time, accomplished writers.
For the next few weeks, I’m going to step back and spend some time enjoying our newly expanded family.
While I’m loving on my husband and some sweet little girls, you get the privilege of reading a few beautiful thoughts from several of my wise friends.
I hope you’ll enjoy them. Will you make them all feel welcome?
All that we live splinters into moments
Moments of grace
Moments of beauty
Moments of mercy
For which we give thanks.
Moments of grace when we deserve nothing
Sweet fat dimpled hands reaching up for a kiss
Wrinkled shaky fingers caressing my cheek
Strong hand holding mine all covered with prayer.
Moments of light, of color, of beauty
Dancing lights of fireflies below with streaking lights of electricity above
Colors of sky and sun filtering down through red and gold
Sounds of water dancing, sparkling, rushing, chasing.
Moments of mercy given at just the right time
Delighted laughter of child when sister gives a gift
Food brought when time and energy has been spent
A gentle whisper bringing knowledge of love from the divine
Our splintering moments rush together as one
Grace, beauty, mercy all show us His love
Even when in darkness I can open my eyes
To all these and more and give thanks to our Lord.
I am really angry.
On Sunday, I began thinking about every wrong and ugly thing that has touched my life recently.
My brother and his little boy, missing their wife and mommy for more than a year now.
My Papa, getting weaker and weaker, and my Gram, facing life without her husband of 63 years.
My sweet friend, who has struggled for years with disease and multiple transplants and who now has to stay at a rehab center in a town not her own, away from all she knows well.
A dear family from church, whose seven year old son was hit by a car and who is struggling to figure out their new normal as well as how to care for their other children (including a newly adopted daughter) while also caring for their son in long-term care in a far-away city.
I know that each one of you has your own list.
Are you angry yet? This world is broken and we have an enemy that takes full advantage of our brokenness. He is prowling and trying to devour all of us. He is hurting people who are dear to me, and that makes me angry.
It also makes me grateful.
I am grateful for a God Who has already fought this enemy, has died in the battle, and has won the war through His resurrection.
I am grateful for a God Who cares so much about bringing people to Himself, that He was willing to die.
I am grateful for a God Who loves us so much that even though we were the ones who brought death into the world, He works crazy hard to help people stop running away from Him.
Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But that is not what God desires; rather, He devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished from Him. ~ II Samuel 14.14
I am grateful for a God Who cares more about molding people into the image of His Son than about protecting them from danger or pain, and so is willing to allow our enemy to continue prowling.
I am grateful that our enemy’s time is limited.
I am angry. And I will allow my anger to drive me. I will allow my anger to motivate me to work, to show God’s love to the hurting around me, to do my part in bringing God’s kingdom to earth here and now. As my dear friend said, “Give fully, believing He will fill the space.”
Because I am grateful.
Are you angry too? As I tell my four year old (and myself, too!) when rage threatens to erupt, getting angry is not wrong. It is what you do with that anger that is right or wrong. Instead of allowing that anger to harden your heart, allow it to soften your heart towards God and send you clinging to His peace. Let it send you off to battle for those that He loves.
God has already done all the work through Jesus’s death and resurrection. Now God allows me to join in the defeat of our enemy through the all-powerful love of God that moves through me.
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. ~ I Corinthians 15.54-58
I watched my nephew cry and cling to his daddy, looking for his mommy and feeling afraid that his daddy will leave him too.
Through this long struggle that still is not done, through one piece of bad news after another, through the next days and months and years of memories, where is God?
When all pleas seem to go unanswered, when even let the end be peaceful is ignored, what are we to think?
What do I really believe about God in all of this?
God’s Words tell us clearly that there is pain, there is heartbreak in this world. We should not be surprised.
More often than not, God chooses not to save His people, chooses not to spare them sorrow and hardship. Hebrews 11 gives a long list of those who were killed or lost ones they loved, Jesus’ closest friends died martyr’s deaths, even His earthly father died without His intervention.
I have pondered long and hard this question of what I believe about God in the midst of “it wasn’t supposed to be like this”. Here is my conclusion.
I know my God, His character, well enough to trust Him when I don’t understand, when I cannot see in the darkness. I know, from what He has said about Himself and from what I have seen, that He is always good and always love. I know that, if we only knew the reasons, we would adore Him for what He does.
God promises that we will have trouble in this world. He also promises that if we are grateful to Him He will give us peace. He doesn’t promise that He will take the pain away but that we will be at peace, that we will have joy.
Isn’t that a much bigger promise?
No matter what, God is still God.
Will I only praise and thank Him when He does what I like? Will I only accept from Him what I deem to be good?
When I deeply think through the idea of declaring my circumstance to be bad, it seems incredibly arrogant.
How can I think that I know better than God what is good? How am I more capable of naming something to be good than the One who is good?
Will I trust that God has a beautiful, amazing plan only when I can see the beauty of it? Either God is God, and capable of having plans and reasons that I cannot comprehend, or He isn’t God, and I am silly for blaming a myth. There is not really any in-between place for the things with which I do not agree.
…if I go to Jesus, he’s not under my control either. He lets things happen that I don’t understand. He doesn’t do things according to my plan, or in a way that makes sense to me. But if Jesus is God, then he’s got to be great enough to have some reasons to let you go through things you can’t understand. His power is unbounded, but so are his wisdom and love…He can love somebody and still let bad things happen to them, because he is God–because he knows better than they do. If you have a God great enough and powerful enough to be mad at because he doesn’t stop your suffering, you also have a God who’s great enough and powerful enough to have reasons that you can’t understand.
~ King’s Cross by Timothy Keller
God is God, and since he is God, he is worthy of my worship and my service. I will find rest nowhere else but in his will, and that will is necessarily infinitely, immeasurable, unspeakable beyond my largest notions of what he is up to. ~ Elisabeth Elliot
I can trust God, trust in His nature.
Of course he’s not safe. Who said anything about being safe? But he’s good. He’s the king. ~ Mr. Beaver in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up. ~ Daniel 3
When Job lost all of his children and all that he owned and was himself in great physical pain, he declared
Though he slay me, yet will I hope in Him. ~ Job 13.15
No matter what, I will praise God and offer Him my gratitude, my sacrifice of praise.
God tells us over and over in His word that He has a beautiful plan for humanity and creation as a whole.
And that he has a beautiful plan for each of our lives.
Sometimes I doubt this promise, this truth.
And then I look at Jesus, at His cross.
I’ve been clinging to Romans 8.32 through all of this:
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?
If God ever had to prove Himself, prove His love for us, prove that He is taking care of us, He has more than proved it all through the cross.
I’ve also been thinking a lot about Hezekiah. In II Kings 20, he pleaded with God to “change his story”, to give him more life when God had told him (through Isaiah) that he was going to die. God did change His mind that time, gave him fifteen more years of life. And in that fifteen extra years, Hezekiah’s son Manasseh was born. This son that wouldn’t have been born if Hezekiah hadn’t asked God to change the ending of his story ended up as king and “lead (Israel) astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the LORD had destroyed before the Israelites”. ~ II Kings 21.9
Our desired story ending versus God’s desired story ending.
Perhaps, just perhaps, God really does know best. Perhaps He does know which story will bring about a beautiful, redeemed, transfigured people.
The rivers of woe shall not overflow;
For I will be with you, your troubles to bless,
And sanctify to you your deepest distress.
The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.
~ How Firm a Foundation, att. John Keith, 1787 (modernized)
a re-post from the archives for today, the anniversary of Kristina’s death
credit for images: Lion photo, painting by Simeon Solomon, Cross photo
May we continue our conversation from last week?
Reality is hard.
Our family has become steeped in pain and loss.
Many others suffer far greater tragedies.
Reconciling the hurt with the heart of God is hard.
It is tempting to add a veneer of softness, to speak in cliches that turn raw, ripped-open pain into a lie.
Sometimes this is even encouraged among those of us who follow Christ.
Yet to do this denies that we are real, that our hearts can be ripped in two, that our pain and loss can suffocate and almost overwhelm us.
To do this denies that Christ is real, that His body and heart were also ripped apart.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
All through the Bible, God seems to not place much importance at all on whether we are free from pain or suffering.
Abel. Abraham. Joseph. Moses. Uriah the prophet. John the Baptist…Jesus’ cousin. All of the apostles…Jesus’ closest friends.
Understanding why Kristina had to die is hard.
I might never know the reason.
God’s purposes are not for me to understand His plans: His plan is for me to understand Who He is…Faith is this unwavering trust in the heart of God in the hurt of here. (Ann Voskamp, A Holy Experience)
Can I trust in the heart of God?
“Once and for all,” said the prisoner, “I adjure you to set me free. By all fears and all loves, by the bright skies of Overland, by the great Lion, by Aslan himself, I charge you –”
“Oh!” said the three travelers as though they had been hurt. “It’s the sign,” said Puddleglum. “It was the words of the sign,” said Scrubb more cautiously. “Oh, what are we to do?” said Jill.
It was a dreadful question. What had been the use of promising one another that they would not on any account set the Knight free, if they were now to do so the first time he happened to call upon a name they really cared about? On the other hand, what had been the use of learning the signs if they weren’t going to obey them? Yet could Aslan have really meant them to unbind anyone – even a lunatic – who asked it in his name? … They had muffed three already; they daren’t muff the fourth.
“Oh, if only we knew!” said Jill.
“I think we do know,” said Puddleglum.
“Do you mean you think everything will come right if we do untie him?” said Scrubb.
“I don’t know about that,” said Puddleglum. “You see, Aslan didn’t tell (Jill) what would happen. He only told her what to do. That fellow will be the death of us once he’s up, I shouldn’t wonder. But that doesn’t let us off following the sign.”
We aren’t guaranteed that anything here on earth will turn out okay. I wish we did have that promise.
Instead, if we have nothing else (and we do have so much else!), if we can turn to and trust nothing else, we have the cross.
After his wife of only four years had died of cancer, C. S. Lewis said
If only I could bear it, or the worst of it, or any of it, instead of her…But is it ever allowed? It was allowed to One, we are told, and I find I can now believe again, that He has done vicariously whatever can be so done. He replies to our babble, “You cannot and you dare not. I could and dared.”
And so I find that perhaps, after all, it does not matter why. It does not matter from whence came the hard thing.
If God ever had to prove anything, at the cross He proved His love, His promise to work for the best of all He created.
It is not a bad thing to seek for the why’s and how’s and from where’s. God is able to handle our questions, our fears.
Yet if we never get any answers, if we never know the reasons, if we never understand, we who have chosen to follow Christ, who have allowed Jesus to be the Lord of our lives, we who have embraced His sacrifice of love…
We aren’t let off following the signs.
Art Credits: Photograph of Cross wooden statue by Asta Rastauskiene; Marsh-wiggle picture (I was not able to find the original); Rembrandt’s The Three Crosses
I hate death.
Is that too raw, too vulnerable?
Perhaps, but it’s true.
I have spent a lot of my adult life trying to claim that death is not bad, that death allows us to be with God.
That’s what many Christians would say, wouldn’t they?
But that’s not what they really believe.
Why do we think that we have to defend death?
C.S. Lewis, in A Grief Observed, says
It is hard to have patience with people who say, “There is no death” or “Death doesn’t matter.” There is death. And whatever is matters…I look up at the night sky. Is anything more certain than that in all those vast times and spaces, if I were allowed to search them, I should nowhere find her face, her voice, her touch? She died. She is dead. Is the word so difficult to learn?
Maybe because that is what we were taught in our churches. Maybe because of pieces of Scripture that we read such as “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” ~ Philippians 1.21
We long to be with God, long to see Him face-to-face, long for the day when there will be no more hurting, suffering or tears…
And we long for the day when there will be no more death.
Isn’t death what gets us to that glorious day?
Yes, but that isn’t how it was supposed to be.
We weren’t supposed to have to die to get to God, we were supposed to simply live with God.
And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” ~ Genesis 3.22
We brought death into this world through our sin and death is our enemy.
My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death assail me. ~ Psalm 55.4
Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign LORD comes escape from death. ~ Psalm 68.20
For you, LORD, have delivered my soul from death… ~ Psalm 116.8
On this mountain he (the Lord) will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. ~ Isaiah 25.7-8
I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O death, is your destruction? ~ Hosea 13.14
We have opened the door and allowed death to enter our world.
Jesus came and defeated our enemy. Did you hear? Death is defeated!!!!!
…through the appearing of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. ~ II Timothy 1.10
The last enemy to be destroyed is death. ~ I Corinthians 15.26
For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. ~ Romans 6.9
Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live 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. ~ Revelation 21.4
This is how it is supposed to be.
So go ahead. You have permission.
Hate death. Give praise and thanks and glory to God.
(If you are viewing this via email, may I suggest that you visit the website in order to also view the video I have included?)
I did it again.
I yelled with anger at my daughter.
She was not obeying.
Neither was I.
I’ve spoken before about the difficulty of obedience. Could we explore this a little further?
Part of the trouble, I think, is that we have come to view authority with suspicion. We see authority, even the authority of the Church, as being heavy-handed and suppressing. We think that authority keeps us from being truly free, keeps us from being the person we were meant to be.
I was listening to my Mars Hill last week and heard an interview with Victor Lee Austin, the author of Up With Authority, who suggests that we need authority in order to flourish as human beings.
He uses the image of a cellist in an orchestra. There are many pieces of music written for cellists that we can enjoy listening to, but that is only a small piece of what a cellist can do. For the cellist to flourish, for her to be more fully herself, she needs something bigger. For something bigger to exist, we need authority…the conductor.
Authority, instead of crushing freedom (although unrighteous authority certainly can do that), enables and increases freedom. The more involved we are in complex society, the more we need authority making the decisions. Having true authority increases the “ability for persons to act in concert for good that can be achieved by corporate action”.
Back to the orchestra for a moment: Austin says that “the conductor is drawing the cellist forward into a place where she can be more fully herself, which she didn’t necessarily see beforehand and that is through what happens as the orchestra plays”.
If I could trust the authority of God enough to obey Him, I would become more myself, more free, more able to work for God’s glory and the good of those around me.
Which leads me to the biggest reason I don’t obey: I don’t believe God.
That sounds horrid when I say it out loud, but it is true. If I truly believed that God’s way of love was better than Satan’s way of unrighteous anger, that it was more effective, I would show my daughters love rather than rage.
I have been reading Psalm 119 this week and was struck by the psalmist’s eagerness, almost desperation, to obey God:
vs 5-6: Oh, that my ways were steadfast when obeying your decrees! Then I would not be put to shame when I consider all your commands.
vs 10-11: I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
vs 15-16: I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.
vs 20: My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times.
vs 33-34: Teach me, O Lord, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end. Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart.
vs 45: I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.
This goes on for 176 verses!
I want so much to desire obedience with such fervor. But how?
I notice two things.
I notice that David spends much of his time in beseeching God to help him obey.
I notice that a delight in obedience seems to begin with a delight in God’s words, an immersion in the words of God.
God must change my heart to desire obedience, to desire Him.
In the book, Radical, by David Platt, I recently read this:
The fruit of our salvation…is indeed a gracious gift from God.
I can’t even want to obey God, much less actually obey, without His gracious help.
In order for God to change my heart, I must steep myself in His words.
If I meditate on His words, if I refuse to neglect His words, God will help my heart to begin to believe His promises.
Will you hide His word in your heart along with me? I am memorizing verses 33-34 this week:
Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end. Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.
Will you join me in memorizing this and praying it to God this next week? What might He do in our hearts?
One last thing I noticed?
Seeking out God’s precepts results in the ability to walk about in freedom.
God’s authority, His laws, gives us the freedom to truly be ourselves!
Praise God from Whom all blessings flow.
~ Will you go here for one more thing to read about the importance of memorizing the Bible?
I am a musician.
I have never considered how music as an art points to God.
The materials we use to produce sounds (both instruments and vocal chords), the sound waves themselves, our bodies (both in producing sounds and in being able to hear sounds), and even time are all things that already exist, created by God, with which we are allowed to join.
If, by making music, we are tuning in to something that has already been created, perhaps music is able to “elicit something of the character of the cosmos and through that testify to the Creator”. As well as declaring the glory of God, perhaps music (all of the arts, really!) “through the Spirit, (is) capable of granting glimpses of eternal beauty and as such can anticipate and give a foretaste of the transfiguration of the cosmos”, that moment when all of creation will be made perfect.
We should be awe-filled and grateful for the very possibility of music.
It will mean regularly allowing a piece of music to stop us in our tracks and make us grateful that there is a world where music can occur, that there is a reality we call “matter” that oscillates and resonates, that there is sound, that there is rhythm built into the fabric of the world, that there is the miracle of the human body…
None of this had to exist, but it does, for the glory of God and for our flourishing.
As I think about this theology of music, it draws me to the essential habit of gratitude.
Giving thanks is the way into joy. ~ Ann Voskamp in One Thousand Gifts
Paul says in Philippians 4 to not be anxious but rather to give everything to God with thanksgiving and in return, God will give you the gift of peace.
It seems almost ludicrous now, but before reading this book I had never thought through what music can teach us about God. How could I have gone so long without thinking through the implications of this art that I practice? Perhaps this is something that the rest of you have put together long before now, but I am a little slow at times.
I have already, in a previous essay, discussed what music teaches us about the goodness of time, the goodness of delay. Music also teaches us that tension is not bad, that by not trying to skip over days with
dark shadows and turns, we allow ourselves to be led far more profoundly into the story’s sense and power. Music is remarkably instructive here, because more than any other art form, it teaches us how not to rush over tension, how to find joy and fulfillment through a temporal movement that includes struggles, clashes and fractures.
Music gives us a beautiful picture of the Trinity: If I play a chord, three notes on the piano, each note fills up all of my heard space, the entirety of my aural space, yet I hear the notes as distinct from each other.
The notes interpenetrate, occupy the same heard space, but I can hear them as (three) notes…What could be more apt than to speak of the Trinity as a three-note chord, a resonance of life; Father, Son, and Spirit mutually indwelling, without mutual exclusion, and yet without merger, each occupying the same space, ‘sounding through’ one another, yet irreducibly distinct, reciprocally enhancing, and establishing one another as one another?
Music also gives us a beautiful picture of our freedom in Christ: If I play one note on the piano while silently depressing the key an octave above in order to open up the string, the upper string will vibrate even though it has not been struck. The lower string sets off the upper, and the more the lower string sounds, the more the upper string sounds in its distinctiveness. Do you see where this is going?
The more God is involved in our lives, the freer we shall be, liberated to be the distinctive persons we were created to be. And such is the freedom we can share, by virtue of God’s gift of freedom, with others. Simultaneously sounding notes, and the music arising from them, can witness to a form of togetherness in which there is an overlap of spaces out of which come mutual enrichment and enhancement, and a form of togetherness that can be sensed first and foremost as a gift, not as a consequence of individual choices.
Oh, there is so much more I wish I could discuss with you: How music teaches us about how the love of God can be our cantus firmus around which the other melodies of life provide their counterpoint. How it teaches us to read Scripture on many different levels and view our lives as part of a “multileveled hope that covers a huge range of timescales”. How music shows us that delay teaches us something new “of incalculable value that cannot be learned in any other way”.
Ah, but I will restrain. This is becoming too long already.
May I close with a challenge for us as the Church? A challenge for musicians and non-musicians alike?
We seem to have an intense musical conservatism in contemporary worship music.
Granting that simple songs have their place,…one would have hoped that a movement that can put such weight on the Holy Spirit’s renewal could generate somewhat more adventurous material…Is the church prepared to give its musicians room to experiment (and fail), to juxtapose different styles…to resist the tendency to rely on formulas that ‘work’ with minimum effort…in order that congregational worship can become…more true to the God who has given us such abundant potential for developing fresh musical sounds?
Could we, as a church, consider music (as well as all of the arts) as something that can glorify God without having an evangelical message tagged on to it, simply by having artistic excellence?
I would love to hear from artists who practice in other arenas. What theology do you find in your particular art form? What about non-artists? Do you see God in any particular form of art?
I’ll end with one last quote and a poem:
We who have misdirected our praise have been invited, against every expectation and everything we deserve, to step back into that role intended for us, to voice creation’s praise to the resounding glory of the Creator, and to witness wonders beyond imagining in our own lives and the lives of others.
Since I am coming to that holy room,
Where, with thy choir of saints for evermore,
I shall be made thy music; as I come
I tune the instrument here at the door,
And what I must do then, think here before.
~ Hymn to God My God, in My Sickness by John Donne
~ If you are receiving this in your email, may I suggest that you go to the website to better view the videos and hear the music?
~ all quotes, unless otherwise specified, are from Resounding Truth
~ photo credits: Street Musician; Dublin Philharmonic Orchestra