Emmanuel on the Cross

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.

 

The beauty of Lent is the demonstration of God’s presence in all circumstances.
Lent
The beauty of the cross is the proof that God is with us.
cross
Wherever you are, whatever your cross is today, God is with you.
Emmanuel. God with us.
From Advent to Lent, God stepped into His world and submitted to the same rules we must follow.
Whatever the reason we all suffer, whatever the purpose, we cannot say that God did not play fair by asking us to be subject to something He was not willing to experience.
broken
Are you broken? Jesus is broken with you.
Are you lonely? Jesus was despised and rejected by men.
Are you betrayed by your closest loved ones? Jesus, too, was betrayed by those He loved.
Does grief seem your closest and most constant companion? Jesus grieved and wept over those who would not accept Him.
In the words of Corrie ten Boom from the hell of a Nazi concentration camp: No matter how deep our darkness, he is deeper still.
deeper
When it feels as though life is beating you into the ground, when the weight of your burden does not allow you to rise from your bed in the morning, when you cannot carry your cross for one more step, you can know that He is here with you, carrying your cross with you, taking your burden on Himself.
Every tear we shed becomes His tear. He may not yet wipe them away, but He makes them His. Would we rather have our own dry eyes, or His tear-filled ones?
He came to us. He is here with us. We can be certain of Emmanuel in all circumstances.
If He does not heal all our broken bones and loves and lives now, He comes into them and is broken, like bread, and we are nourished.
Emmanuel
Be nourished by the bread of life and know that He is with you.
Peace to you.

Final two quotes and many of the thoughts in this post are by Peter Kreeft in Bread and Wine

All photographs are copyrighted by Made Sacred, 2017.

Finding the And

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.

 

What is this proclivity of ours to divide ourselves? What is this propensity to force a choice, to say it must be either-or rather than and?
Reading Others
The more I read and listen to church leaders in other countries, in other faith traditions, in other times, the more I see our especially American tendency to eschew the middle of a continuum for the outer reaches.
We do this in religion and we do this in politics. Fundamentalism vs Liberalism. Republican vs Democrat. Often we confuse the whole thing completely and mix both religion and politics all up together in an inseparable soup of extremes.
Why can’t it be and?
Why can’t some of what fundamentalists teach and some of what liberals teach both be true? Is there truly no middle ground, no and?
N. T. Wright
N.T. Wright, a bishop in the Church of England and a respected theologian/historian who specializes in studying and writing about Jesus and 1st century Judaism and Christianity, spoke at a conference in America of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.
Eucharist
Wright described how the Roman Catholic church made the Lord’s Supper more and more mystical and ritual, almost turning it into something magical that had to be done with just exactly the proper rites in order for the bread and wine to become body and blood, and how the Protestant church reacted so strongly against this that they turned the Lord’s Supper into merely a symbol, a sign of something that happened a long time ago and nothing more.
communion_sepia
communion_baptist
Wright suggested that perhaps it is both. Perhaps instead of either the Catholic view or the Protestant view, it is and.
The Lord’s Supper, as Jesus gave it to the disciples and instructed them to continue to practice it, was simple. There was no formula that had to be done in order to make it work correctly. Yet it also was  more than a symbol.
3544_-_milano_s-_carlo_al_c-so_-_s-_carlo_comunica_s-_luigi_gonzaga_-_arazzo_-_foto_giovanni_dallorto_22-jun-2007
In some mysterious way, when we take the bread and the wine, we are taking into ourselves the body and blood of the risen Jesus. We are taking into ourselves the presence of the living Lord which then gives us the power and strength we need to go out into our community and meet the needs of those around us.
This view harmonizes with the other things that Jesus did and said, such as his imagery of the vine and the branches, saying that we must abide in Him and He must abide in us, otherwise we can do nothing (John 15).
Of course, God can find other ways of giving us the power we need to bring His kingdom here on earth, but this is the primary, continuous way that Jesus gave us.
the_last_supper_-_so-called_hours_of_philip_the_fair_c-1495_f-96v_-_bl_add_ms_17280
If we open our hearts and minds, there are so many more and‘s to be found. There are many more ways in which the theology insisted upon by fundamentalism and the social justice insisted upon by liberalism are essential to each other rather than pressed up hard against one another.
If we find them, perhaps we can move one more step closer to the unity that Jesus prayed for us to have.
If we can only seek out the and.

 

Art credits: Eucharist relief; Catholic EucharistProtestant Eucharist; Eucharist tapestry; Eucharist in Prayer Book

An Unexpected Pause

cropped-Logo-Final.jpg

Made Sacred must go on hiatus.

I hope you will wait for me.

I understand if you will not.

Winner!

PresenceofGod
The winner of The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence is Andy Dunham! Congratulations!
Thank you all for sharing and subscribing. Look for the next giveaway on Friday (which you can still enter even if you’ve already subscribed and followed), when I also share some of my purpose behind writing this book.
A hint about the next giveaway…something to adorn your home…
Peace,
Elizabeth

Seeking God’s Will

I have to give my two year old a lot of specific instructions throughout her day.
Two year old
I have to tell her which arm to put in which arm hole, how to get a blanket pulled over her legs, where each toy should go when cleaning up.
Needs lots of help
And she’s two, so I’m okay with this.
My seven year old, however, I expect to have a general idea of what I want from her.

Seven year old

More independent
I would feel disappointed if I had to give her as many minute directions as I do her younger sister. As my eldest matures and as our own relationship grows, one of my hopes is for her to know me well enough to know what I want from her without me having to detail it out.
Age gap
Help each other
I have spent much of my life wanting to know God’s will for me.
Seeking God's will
I wanted to know what college to attend, which career I should pursue, whom I should date, whom I should marry. Much of my relationship with God was consumed with begging Him to tell me what He wanted me to do.
I told myself that I was seeking God’s will in order to please Him and bring Him glory, but in truth I wanted to know His will in order to protect myself. I wanted to be sure that I would be successful, that I wouldn’t make any mistakes that would cause me lasting pain.
I am learning.
I am learning that God’s relationship with me is much like my relationships with my daughters. The more I know God, the more our relationship grows and the less He has to direct my every move.
Only asking God to tell me about His will does not constitute a growing relationship. That amounts to not much more than a dictatorship.
When I am with my husband, I don’t want either of us to order the other about. I want us to understand each other deeply so that orders are not necessary.
And so it is in our union with God, a person both loving and beloved. He does not delight in having to always explain what His will is; He enjoys it when we understand and act upon His will. Our highest calling and opportunity in life is to love Him with all our being. ~ Dallas Willard in Hearing God
In recent years, rather than seeking God’s will for my life, I’ve spent my time seeking God.
I seek to know Him, to understand Him, to love Him more. In that loving, I trust that He will let me know if there is something specific I need to hear. I trust His Spirit in me to guide me when either I am beginning to head in the wrong direction or there is a specific thing He wants me to do.
And He does. He fulfills that trust.
I have a long way to go. I have not yet grown to the point of having an easy, conversational relationship with God throughout every day. But I want that. Oh, how I long for that kind of relationship with the One I love.
Rather than praying “God, help me to know Your will so that I can do what you want me to do”, my new prayer is “God, help me to know You more so that I can love you more.”
Seeking God
That is a prayer I believe He delights in answering.
And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever. I Chronicles 28.9

Lord, Have Mercy

 

Lord, Have Mercy

a spoken word poem
(for email subscribers, click here to listen to the audio of this post)
(it’s better heard than read)

 

Lord, have mercy
Again I am trying
And again I am failing.
I preach ways of love
Yet all the time I am flailing.
I yell and I threaten,
My daughters are quailing.
I blame all but me:
The crankiness of these
You gave me, my own lack of sleep.
I cast stones away Yet from Thee
I can’t flee.
Into Thy hands
My heart, it won’t change,
My faults stay the same,
My thoughts won’t rearrange,
My emotions I can’t exchange.
You alone can make me new,
You alone can cleanse me all through.
If You want my heart to resemble You,
Only Your hand will do.
Thee I adore
Out of Your amazing grace,
You are willing to give chase
And work to mold me into one
You are proud to call a son.
You give me life
and joy in my strife.
You are beauty, You are art
You are holy, set apart.
You are worthy of all praise.
Your glory is set ablaze
Like the fire of sun’s rays.
To You no face is raised
And all heaven and earth obeys
You, the Ancient of Days.
Amen

What Hope Changes

Hope.
Tulips
It changes nothing.  It changes everything.
How do you endure?  When everything around you is falling apart, when all that you love on this earth fails you, how do you keep going?
It happens to all of us.  At some point in our lives, whether early in life or late, we sit in stunned silence while our world crumbles.
Pummeled
What do we do?  What do we do when we or one we love is living in the middle of unimaginable pain?  What is it that keeps us going, that lets us perservere?
Hope.
It changes nothing.  It changes everything.
Hope doesn’t heal the sick or take away the pain.  It doesn’t fill the stomach or bring your loved one back.
Focused on Death
It changes nothing.
Hope gives you a glory-full vision of the end of your story.  It gives you a glimpse of the beauty, the joy, the perfection that is promised.
Focused on Hope
It changes everything.
When you know the end of the story, when you know that Christ wins and that we will be with Him forever, it gives us the power to bear anything.  Anything.  When you can see the end of fear, the end of despair, the end of pain, when you can see the adventure, the rest, the wholeness that waits for you, you are sustained in the now because you know that this, too, shall pass.
So hope.  Hope in what is promised.  Hope in what God has promised through the power of the resurrected Christ.
For you who have just received that 3 a.m. phone call, you who walk dazed from your doctor’s office, you who saw your child drift away, you who wish desperately for a child, you who sit weeping in a corner, who think that you will always be alone and unloved, for all of you who live in darkness and doubt…
Broken
there is hope.  Beautiful, glorious, resurrection hope.  So breathe deep of this hope.  Let it fill you up with peace and joy so that you are able to endure all things.  For He who is our hope is coming.
Hope
It is promised.  It shall be so.

Art credit: last photograph by R.K. Sewell Photography (photographybysewell.webs.com)

Psalm of Love

Holy. Beautiful. Glory.
Creator. Author. Majesty.
King and Lord. Humility and Servant.
Love.
Wise beyond my wisdom.
Knowing beyond my knowledge.
Perfect plan beyond what I can comprehend.
Love.
Giver of all that I grasp too tightly.
Sacrificer of all, that I may see Your face.
 Abundant mercy and grace, I rest in your delight in me.
 
 Love.
 
For all that comes before,
 
 When I cannot understand,
 
 Still I will cling to Your power, Your goodness and
 
 Your Love.
 

The First Few Months

These first few months are really hard.
Crying
Smothered
Sleepless nights, hours of crying, lives revolving around nursing and napping, siblings who are desperate for attention…even the bad kind.
These first few months are really beautiful.
Snuggled
Adored
Baby weight snuggled on your chest, satin soft skin wrapped in blankets, warm breath from tented mouth on your cheek, siblings huddled around in adoration.
There is much that is difficult and frustrating, bringing tears and even depression.
And.
There is an obvious beauty, a very clear purpose and reason to the difficulty.
Purpose
It makes me wonder whether this is the way God sees what we call ugly. Whether He can see the obvious beauty, the very clear purpose to the very hard things in life.
Perhaps we struggle only because we feel the sleepless nights and cannot yet see the first toothless smile.
Perhaps we would find more joy in our ugly places if we would trust that God has beauty planned ahead.
Perhaps we would find more peace if we would trust that God can turn even the hardest bits of life into a reason that is adored.
Adored
Even if that reason is not discovered this side of death.
Think of those first few months…
Hope
and hope.

Daring to Be…Uncommon

This week’s guest post was written by a dear friend from my Harding University days, Josh Keene. He is the friend who taught me about the south, including how to talk southern (y’eady? aight. ‘sgo.) and all things country-fied, and it has been beautiful to watch him grow from a Louisiana boy just out of high school into a wise and godly man, husband, and daddy. I’m grateful that he is sharing some of that wisdom with us here. Enjoy!

Earlier in March, I had the absolute pleasure of being able to attend the Ignite Men’s Conference in Lynchburg, Virginia at Liberty University. I went with the intention of being able to hang out with some amazing men of God, have some fun, and refill my cup.
Something that I have not done well over the last few years is making sure that I give some focus to self-care. In order to try to do that better this past month, I have worked hard to reconnect with some old friends who have helped tremendously in being able to refill me with the joy of the Lord, the joy that tends to be sucked out of me in my work. I am a family counselor that works with a high risk population doing intensive in-home therapy. My job is to meet with, walk with and counsel families experiencing the worst moments a family can experience.
family
My wife, being the woman that she is, has been encouraging me to take better care of myself for a while and it has not been until recently that I have actually begun to work on it. As a part of this goal, my wife bought tickets to this event and made sure I was able to experience an incredible weekend with some amazing men of God.
As a structural family therapist, I am continually looking for patterns and themes in and around family systems that help make sense of the issues that they are dealing with. If I had to pick a theme that I particularly noticed during this weekend conference, it would be how to be uncommon.
Uncommon? Why should we be uncommon?
As I listened to speakers like Tony Dungy, Joe Gibbs, Jerome Bettis, Alan Robertson, Phil Robertson, Rick Rigsby and so many more, the message seemed to have this same theme throughout. Take ownership of your walk with God, without worry about the expectations of others. We love others, we give to others, but we do not cater to their expectations or we will lose who we are and who we have been made to be in Christ.
Every one of us has been made sacred by God and yet we tend to settle for what is common, what is expected.

family

Whether it be from our family, our church, our work, our friends, expectations from others can keep us from our true purpose with God. See, it’s not just about being different, anyone can do that. It’s about being who we were always meant to be. It’s not about improving yourself, or being someone or something that you’re not because it’s the “Godly” thing to do. Jesus was not the Messiah that the Jews were expecting; he was so much more than that. He was a Saviour.
Do not settle for being the follower of God that others are expecting; be you. Submit to the purpose that He has created in you and made completely sacred to you.
Be an uncommon dad or mom, be an uncommon husband or wife, be an uncommon friend or co-worker. Be something that they never saw coming. Show love when they expect hate. Show mercy when they expect judgment. Show truth when they expect lies.
family
I love this quote by Wiersbe and I feel like it sums up by showing the balance that is needed. “Truth without love is brutality, but love without truth is hypocrisy.”
Find the balance and be someone that you never expected yourself to be. Be you.