Politics, history class, cruddy elections, Alpha and Omega

Thank you to those who serve and keep us safe! This photo courtesy of pexels.com. Thank you, pexels!

History is our friend Karl’s passion. You get him started and he could pretty much go on forever, recounting vengeful and valiant leaders, epic battles, and the contribution of those left unmentioned in the texts of history books. Karl’s version of history is my favorite. It’s passionate, but purposeful. Everything he shares is spirited and he makes you hungry to know more, hear more, learn more. Better than that, in almost every circumstance, he makes you hungry for God. Karl teaches at a state university, so I’m sure his classroom looks a little bit different, but in private conversation and in teaching at church, Karl is on fire with a message. He lays out history in a way that makes you stand in awe of a God who holds all of it in His hands, from the beginning to the messy middle to His faithfulness in each day we have yet to travel.

Isaiah shares a similar message with just as much zeal in Isaiah 44:6-8. Let’s open our Bibles and read that text –

Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel
    and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts:
“I am the first and I am the last;
    besides me there is no god.
Who is like me? Let him proclaim it.
    Let him declare and set it before me,
since I appointed an ancient people.
    Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen.
Fear not, nor be afraid;
    have I not told you from of old and declared it?
    And you are my witnesses!
Is there a God besides me?
    There is no Rock; I know not any.”

The First…and the Last.

And everything in between.

God sat on His throne and created humankind. He created every flower and every tree. He set the planets in motion. Countries and constitutions sprang up, kingdoms and territories came to be, and God was God over all of it. Wars are fought, lives lost, and His faithfulness continues. New nations form, cultures live and grow, languages develop. Disasters come upon the Earth, dictators oppress, and God’s heart breaks. But He sees the bigger plan unfolding. To us, it’s like the slow unrolling of a tapestry. To Him, it’s the blink of an eye, in all eternity.

He is the First and the Last and everything in between.

Humankind makes gods out of idols and build temples made by human hands. We chase wealth and power and success. We destroy one another to be the best, be the biggest, be the greatest, when we were never intended for those purposes. And all through it, there are the faithful ones. God leads His people from ancient times (v. 7), appointed for His purposes, setting them apart for Kingdom work. The wheels of the clock turn, time marches on. The Word goes out, the message never changes.

“…besides me there is no god.” 

He is the First and the Last and everything in between.

God alone sits on the throne. We think we have all this power and authority. We think the next election will make or break mankind. It may break a nation, but it will not break us. It will not break His message, His Spirit, His Word. Through the sands of time the Word continues to go out, leading people to Him in the dark and in the light, in the triumph and in the defeat, in the famine and in the plenty.

We are simply witnesses.

We are called to declare His purposes in all of it. Like our friend Karl, may our message always be of the hidden things, the works done faithfully, rarely written in textbooks. When we witness from the vantage point of believers in a faithful God, nothing is lost in the drama, every bit of the tumult and the turmoil has a purpose. As cheesy as it sounds, it really is His story anyway.

Listen to the promise of the final words of Isaiah 44:8 again –

“There is no Rock; I know not any.”

Look up the following verses and rest in the promise of this God, our Rock.

Psalm 18:2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my     deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
    my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Psalm 31:3

Psalm 62:6-7

Luke 6:47-48

I don’t want to know any other gods, Lord. I want to follow You. I don’t want to trust in anything else, Lord. I want to follow You. I want to see you in every piece of history, every trial and every glory. Be my Rock. Be my Fortress. Be my Defender, and let me never look to another person, thing, idea, or place to provide that for me. Only You, Lord. Only You. 

He is the First and the Last and everything in between.


Exploration:

What parts of history come to mind when you think of God sustaining His people?

When thinking of history how is it helpful to be reminded that God is faithful and watching over His children? What parts give you the most angst?

The book of Revelation really has a lot to say on this subject. Check out the following three verses for further reflection that He really is the first and the last and all the stuff in the middle too.

Rev. 1:8

Rev. 1:17-18

Rev. 21:6-7

Rev. 22:13

Why do you think the book of Revelation returns to this concept again and again?

What Christians have

fashion-coffee-time-lifestyle

I was listening to the radio the other day and I heard about two seconds of the speaker before I clicked over to another station. But who knew that two seconds could be just as impactful as two hours.

The sentence that I heard was this,

“No one is righteous. Not one. That’s the bad news, but do I have good news for you!”

Later, after listening to my tunes in the van and running people to violin lessons and grabbing sour cream from Aldi and, and, and…when I finally sat down, I heard that speaker in my ear. He was a low key speaker. He wasn’t blasting a message loud and proud against the airways. I felt like I was in a coffee shop with him. I felt like he was a friend who had something interesting to tell me.

And he’s right.

We have good news!

And people need good news these days.

Terrorism and genocide, human trafficking, domestic violence, child abuse of all kinds.

We live in a world where people walk into schools and malls and don’t just point guns but shoot them. Hundreds of people are killed.

One person is killed. That’s enough.

It hurts to turn on the news. It hurts to read an article. It hurts to scroll through my Facebook feed.

We have good news.

How about we tell them?

How about we share it, not yelling from the street corners, well maybe, sometimes, but mostly like we’re in a coffee shop. With people we know. People we have relationships with. People that are hurting. People that are tired of watching life implode on the screen before them.

“Did you see that piece about the refugee crisis?”

Yes. I have good news…

“Did you hear about the bombing in France?”

Yes. I have good news…

“Oh my goodness! The floods look terrible!”

Yep. I have good news…

It sounds too easy, right? It sounds pat. But is it?

God, sent His son, His only son, to die in our place, to not only redeem our souls, to tend to them, to hold them safely in His hand, but also to restore them. To restore me and all things around me. To raise us up, to give us more than shifting sand and bloody wars and hungry children and desperate mothers.

He restores. He redeems. He makes new. He reaches in. He lifts up.

I’ve got good news.

I need it like ships need a harbor and like crops need rain and like snowflakes need cold. You need it, my friend. You need it too.

He is something different. Jesus.

He is good news.

 

 

*image used from the pexels image gallery – Thank you pexels!

The best tshirt ever

Dave has a tshirt. I bought it for him a couple of Christmases ago. Dave loves to tell people about Jesus, more than anything. Awkwardness doesn’t really bother him. He’s kind, but isn’t really troubled by the idea that someone may not want to have that conversation. He’s discovered that most people do really want to have that conversation, because he isn’t trying to sell Jesus, he’s trying to share Jesus.

Who Jesus is…

What Jesus in his own life looks like…

What Jesus has been and done and given…

That’s how my husband rolls. I thought the tshirt might speak to his heart.

Two years ago that Christmas morn, he opened his Christmas package and cocked his head to the side. “Well this shirt is weird.” was his only response. This from the man who frequently wears a shirt that says, “Jesus loves this happy camper” from an Alaskan mission trip. I was disappointed, but you know, you win some you lose some.

Dave reluctantly pulled the shirt out of the drawer at some point and started wearing it. Wearing it like crazy. I inquired of this shirt change of heart and Dave’s response surprised me,

“People love this shirt. This shirt does weird things.”

Um…can you tell me more, dearest?

Dave declared this tshirt “The Best Tshirt Ever”. After more conversation, I began to understand Dave’s tshirt love. Dave’s tshirt had a simple phrase on the front. It was in in very large letters, but wouldn’t be classified as bold. The tshirt said simply, taking up the entirety of the front side –

Bless the Lord O My Soul

It’s just a Bible verse, just a song of praise, poured out by a grateful psalmist. This shirt causes one of three reactions, according to Dave. People almost always notice it, but each response is a little bit different.

  • “I love your shirt.” This statement is commonly followed by the person sharing how Jesus Christ has changed their life, has worked in some way, has been faithful, has shown grace, has been merciful.
  • People read it. Out loud. It’s really kind of weird and awkward. Dave’s standing at the coffee shop register and random patrons in line alongside us will individually read the shirt out loud, even though someone else read it right before them. It’s like people can’t help themselves but absolutely must say it. Maybe even the rocks will cry out (Luke 19:40) has more applications than we thought.
  • Spontaneous conversation. Often when people are compelled to read the shirt out loud, or even when they aren’t, people will ask us where the shirt is from. Enter conversation. If all I need is a tshirt to get people talking about Jesus, I’m pretty pumped.
  • Spontaneous worship. People start singing when they see the shirt. My favorite was when the Walmart sample lady busted into praise unabashedly in front of several customers awaiting warm cookie samples. Awesome.

Can you see why this might be the best tshirt ever? Our clothes may not save souls, only Jesus saves, but they do say something. I believe I will be finding more shirts that say Jesus.

 

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Psalm 103:1-5

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and all that is within me,
    bless his holy name!
 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits,
 who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,
 who redeems your life from the pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
 who satisfies you with good
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

My one word

 

I’m sure that some of you have heard this idea from the internet of choosing one word for your new year. I’ve never been especially interested in resolutions, mainly because I can not keep them to save my life.

One word…that I can do. I have no idea where the idea originated, but a few years ago it nestled itself in my heart.

It was simple – I mean really…one word. Not four words, not a whole Bible verse even, one word.

It was doable. Actually, the irony was that nothing really needed to be done with this idea. I wasn’t accosted by guilt at unfulfilled resolutions and broken promises. All you had to do, in my understanding was pick a word for the year and see where that year led.

It was Jesus-oriented. I’m sure people have one word for their year and it has nothing to do with Christ. But in my mind, this was an opportunity for God to speak into my life in a new way. Something fresh for growing in my Faith. It allowed me to sit back and wait on Him.

So here are my one word choices over the last 4 years.

2012- less

2013 – brave

2014 – silent

2015 – grace upon grace

2016 – fearlessly wrong

(Um, so maybe I’m not great at one word. Two is ok, right? Three? I get to make up the rules, so it’s fine. 😉  )

If you know us, even a little bit, you can begin to understand how God spoke into our lives with the one word each year. Almost every year God spoke the words into my heart during the quiet of Christmas Eve candle light service. As my husband starts to read John 1, almost universally, God begins to speak in the stillness. The first year I had heard the idea and kept asking myself questions, “What do I want for the coming year? What need to change in our lives? Where is God speaking to me?”

Sitting quietly in candlelight, I remember my confirmation verse rising up in my heart over and over again.

He must become greater, I must become less.

                                           John 3:30

Less…I needed less. Less stuff, less opinions, less expectations, less demands, less frustration, less hurt, less tears, less getting in the way of God’s work in my life, less selfish ambition.

More Him. 

And so it went each year – brave, silent, grace upon grace – to this year…fearlessly wrong.

The thing is, I had spent the last year soaking in grace. Seeing how God has wrapped my life and all of me up in His grace that pours out and then pours out some more. I watched Him put more grace in my home, more grace in my heart. I was so grateful to see clearly, as I studied the Word that year how truly filling God’s grace was in my life.

So this year, the choice was easy- it was time to be ok with being wrong. To believe in grace in a way that wrong was ok, that it wouldn’t harm me. That God was in my wrong, just as much as he was in the being right, saying the right thing, making the right decision. God’s grace allows me to unwind the cords of “right” that I have tangled myself in that keep me from good relationships, Gospel sized risks, and the fullest experience of His mercy and forgiveness.

Although I treasure godly, I am beginning to understand just how much grace there is in imperfection, in trying, but being ok with messing up.

IMG_1586       Fearlessly wrong.

It’s really cool to see God’s work in this. So far my year has brought employment changes, new endeavors, family adventures, health concerns for those I love, and deeper relationships at every turn.

What does fearlessly wrong look like in your life? How could God be working in the places where you let imperfect be beautiful and grace be what reigns?

It’s scary for sure. Don’t worry, I’m not running around wild, embracing sin, but being willing to put yourself out there, to say the wrong thing, to do the wrong thing, it changes the shape of life. It makes my understanding of grace fuller and leaves me more expectant of grace from God and His people.

Always an adventure, always. Less, brave, grace, fearlessly wrong. I’ll be watching for His work in your life too.

 

3 Things I can learn from my 8-year-old

This is Jyeva. (Pronounced Yay-Vuh.)
 
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If you look up the definition of “free spirit” in the dictionary, you will likely find her picture.
Jyeva has a fresh way about her, a caring and affectionate nature, and can offer up intercessory prayer with the best of them.
 
Jyeva teaches me something new every day, but there are three lessons that God weaves continually in my heart as I parent this precious girl.
 

1) Be yourself.

 
If you notice in the picture above, Jyeva has her own sense of fashion and style. You say rainbow butterfly leggings, lacy shirts, and athletic socks do not go together. Jyeva says, “Why yes they do, kind sir.” The year that Jyeva was 3-years-old we called her Boca because she insisted on wearing only bedazzled velour track suits every where she went. She had no taste for dresses, especially for church. She believed and still does that Jesus was meant to be honored in converse with purple stars.
 
Another year, I battled that girl to try on an Easter Sunday dress to match her sisters. All three of us huddled into a dressing room, the light bulb finally went off, when Jyeva looked at me, eyes wide open, “Why would I want to wear a dress to match Macee’s? I’m not Macee, am I?” She intended no disrespect, her tender tone cut right to my heart, “Nope, you’re not Macee. And I love you just the way you are.”
 
How often have I needed to set aside the expectations around me and embrace who God made me to be? Who am I trying to be most days? Someone who could pass for having it together on some commercial, or the broken but beautiful me that the Savior has fully redeemed and pieces together into His masterpiece, each and every day?
 

2) Embrace life.

 
Jyeva runs at life full throttle. You ask her to give you two laps, she does four. You ask her to give it her all, she gives it 150%. But the lesson she teaches me isn’t about giving it my all and being bold. Jyeva’s lesson is simpler.
 
When Jyeva was 5-years-old, we almost lost her sweet self. I remember clearly rushing her down the side of a mountain in Haiti, to get her to the medical care she needed in America. Five days later, lying in a hospital bed, the nurse tentatively took all of the needles and tubes out of her little body. Jyeva looked a me, smiled, and said, “Look, Mom, it’s me, Jyeva…Unplugged!”
 
And she’s not joking. She knows full well that life is short and your time here is like a blink, a half second, the length of a dandelion flower in a strong breeze. Jyeva’s passion is that not one person be homeless. To have a passion at age 8? She’s my hero. I want to be Jyeva when I grow up.

How often are we uncomfortable diving into something passionately? How often do we take for granted the day that God has given us today to do His work and love His people?
 

3) Allow others the same – be yourself, embrace your life.

 
As is also evident from Jyeva’s outfits, she highly values creativity. But more than her outfits, Jyeva thinks outside the box. The best way she expresses this is in the way she regards other people. Jyeva honors each and every person as a full unique individual in the Body of Christ, in the world around us. She expects no one to look like her, speak like her, think like her. In this, she is always willing to give someone else the benefit of the doubt. She’s always willing to ask a question, instead of jump to an assumption. God created each of us unique, with a unique path to walk. We are all on the same Emmaus road, trying to understand the Word and the work of Christ in our lives, but we may all do that in very different ways.
 
So often I am quick to judge, quick to assume. Praise God for a Savior who is quick to forgive. Quick to love.
 
I wonder if these lessons are useful at all in your own families, or even in our churches. The more I look around me, I wonder if we fully accept the Jyeva’s of the world in our spheres. Do we greet those who dress a little different from us at church with the same comfort we offer those who look like us? Do we invite people to share their joy and passion and ideas openly and wholeheartedly in our families and our churches? Are we careful enough with people’s testimonies, honoring their walk as valuable and interesting, worthy of sharing, even when it doesn’t look like ours?
 
Matthew 16:18 has one of my favorite nuggets of Scripture that can easily be skipped over because of the depth of the rest of the passage (emphasis added below).
 
And I tell you, you are Peter…”
 
You are Peter.You are Jyeva. You are you.
 
God gives each of us personalities and ideas. I’m so thankful for the unique journey God gives each and every one of us. I’m so thankful when these journeys cross and our lives are made better by one another. Let us honor who he made us to be today, by being ourselves, embracing the life that He’s given us, and allowing that same precious gift for one another.