Rest in the Resurrection – Mark 16:6 (My Redeemer Lives 2:5)

Today, I invite you to rest.

Rest in the knowledge that God has a plan in the midst of our fears and failures.

You are a valued individual in God’s eyes.

You belong to a community of people, a community of believers, whose Head is the Most High God, but who intimately dwells with us as we gather.

Remember your significance through Him when you feel insignificant.

Remember Thomas doubted, too, and Jesus still answered His questions.

Remember our mountains may move, but the Resurrection is Hope and Life when we can’t see it.

Remember the world is a scary place, but His feet are always ready for our fears and our praise.

What promises from this past week stuck with you the most?

Rest in these Truths today.

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Making Sense of All the Calamity (My Redeemer Lives 2:3)

Fear and failure never rear their ugly heads stronger than when the acid rain of life comes.

The “Why me-s?!” of life easily turn into “If I would have…” when we begin to feel pelted with life at its junkiest  — loss, humiliation, disappointment in humanity, the uphill climb. To avoid our fears, in a vague attempt to make sense of all the calamity of life in our own lives and around us, things like blame, bitterness, broken relationships, and isolation become realities that weigh heavy in our chests.

There is the story of a woman in 1 Kings 17:17-24 who couldn’t make sense of calamity. She lashed out. But God provided an answer…a resurrection kind of answer.

Read 1 Kings 17:17-24 –

17 After this the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill. And his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. 18 And she said to Elijah, “What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son!” 19 And he said to her, “Give me your son.” And he took him from her arms and carried him up into the upper chamber where he lodged, and laid him on his own bed. 20 And he cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by killing her son?” 21 Then he stretched himself upon the child three times and cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, let this child’s life come into him again.” 22 And the Lord listened to the voice of Elijah. And the life of the child came into him again, and he revived. 23 And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper chamber into the house and delivered him to his mother. And Elijah said, “See, your son lives.” 24 And the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.”

Don’t miss verse 18 and verse 20. Both the woman and Elijah end up with questions for God:

“What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son!”

And he cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by killing her son?”

We always jump to look for sin when calamity comes – Who messed up? Was it me? Was it my spouse? Was it my friend?

This woman had a close connection to Elijah. In the very same chapter of 1 Kings in verses 8-16, immediately preceding the previous reading, the woman experiences an honest-to-goodness miracle through Elijah, acknowledging the might and power of the One True God  — food for many days, unspent oil, provision.

What was the problem then? What happened? Why this meeting of fear and faith in verses 18?

Asking questions during times we don’t understand is always a good start; let’s give the woman that. Fear and all the feelings of failure  — our own or that of others  — spoken is a lot less powerful in our lives. Questions are not the problem.

Matthew Henry puts it like this –

“Our mountain never stands so strong but it may be moved…”

The miracle, the provision is an important act of God. However, when we place our faith in the mountain, in only the tangible acts of God  — provision, stability, prophets and preachers, breath and life we can see in front of us  — we will be disappointed in what God offers time and again.

We end up looking at God and saying, “What the heck?! What is this? Which sin are You punishing me for?” We see ourselves as big enough to escape the destiny of a broken world, but then the mountain is moved and crushes our hope.

Instead, God offers us more in the Resurrection of Christ Jesus –

Hope that cannot be seen.

Romans 8:23-25:

And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

We are all imperfect in our response to God, even Elijah. But God does not demand a perfect response. He answers Elijah and the widow with a promise, a foreshadowing –

3 times Elijah lays on the boy

3 days of death Jesus sat in a dark cavern

And then Life.

This story of Old Testament resurrection reminds us that our confidence is in things not seen, mountains of stability in the storm like the peace that passes all understanding, joy constant, and eternal Life today.

Our questions, our fears are met with answers in the Word of God, and in calamity we see Life because of the Resurrection.

Look for the Life. Think of a recent struggle of your own, or a report you have heard on the news. Where is God working Life? What promises of God remain despite it all? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

This is our resurrection God, making sense of calamity, bringing Life.

In Awe of the Creator: Art, Life, and Beautiful Strength

I have loved art since I was a little girl.

I remember being maybe eight and standing in front of just one panel of “Water Lilies” at the St. Louis Art Museum and feeling like I might begin to understand the Bigness of God. I would imagine jumping in the painting and then falling through to the water, but God lifting me up, sitting me firmly in the center of a lily pad and asking me my thoughts on life and the day.

This is the Creator I always wanted to know more about, who fascinated me to no end.

When I met Kati Kleimola I was instantly struck by the air of creativity that surrounds her. Kati is a professional artist, wife, and mom of five. She has a home studio, exhibits in juried shows, and teaches classes at local galleries.  Her Instagram is a bevy of vibrant color. Every time I look at it, I am struck with that same intimate, yet bursting-at-the-seams, feeling I experienced with Monet’s “Water Lilies.” In Kati’s work, I see Life and that is no mistake.

She tells me,

“I was born and raised in Toledo, Ohio and come from a family of makers and fixers. Art has always been a part of my life. Even as a child I was always painting and drawing. Capturing the world on paper has always helped
me see it better. Having a rhythmic relationship with my Creator is something that I need to function as an artist, wife, and mother. The fact that God has blessed me with so much that I don’t deserve or couldn’t imagine keeps me humble and keeps me wanting to share His beauty with the world around me.”

Kati and I have dreamed for a while now of a study that helps people learn of a Creator that isn’t far off from His creation:

One who redeems.

One who loves fully, vibrantly.

One who shows us His own handiwork in both light and dark, sunshine and shadow.

Then, when I wrote Altogether Beautiful, all I could see was imagery everywhere. Two words kept rolling in my head:

Strength & Beauty

Kati saw it too and calls it,

“The give and take of things from one extreme to another.”

How do you capture that with words on a page alone?

When I met with the team at Concordia Publishing House to dream about a vision for the study I kept trying to describe things that look like strength and beauty to me-

Pride and Prejudice, the field, ridiculously large coats, dawn, birds, cat tails, slightly unkept hair, fog, sunlight, striding toward

the pillars and steps of the St. Louis Art Museum on a sunny day, a pond and paddle-boats at its base

dark chocolate, melted, strawberries, and the taste buds to enjoy it

and Kati’s artwork.

Flowers could be just flowers on a canvas, yes, but an artist brings strength and life to them with a bold pallet, brush strokes, fine details, and the Creator working in them.

Our God brings strength and life to His world and His Word through his own large strokes of time, plans, and space. He gives color and meaning to the grey and mundane. Even the very dark is cloaked in the velvet of His purposes.

He reaches us with His Word by sharing the glory of all He has made, in order for us to understand all that He is.

Here’s just one example in Song of Songs 5:1 –

I came to my garden, my sister, my bride,
    I gathered my myrrh with my spice,
    I ate my honeycomb with my honey,
    I drank my wine with my milk.

What of a world without honey, a world without sweet, without spicy? We don’t have to know that world, because He gives all of it to us in plenty.

Art helps us to see this, to capture this.

Concordia Publishing saw the same thing in Kati’s art: an opportunity for us to connect to the Creator visually, while we tarried in the Word; a way for the ripeness of God’s descriptions in the Song of Songs to come off the text rather than be trapped in my words and descriptions alone.

Kati recently told me, “When I read the Song of Songs I see really stark contrasting images…Luscious life, spring time, deep colors, flowers all over the pages, animals, seasons, shapes, colors, and land features. The contrast within the descriptions is so poetic and at the same time reflects what artists have to do in shaping images with light and dark.”

Here are some pieces of her inspiration when she was working through the Song. What do you see? What stands out to you in the Biblical narrative and in Kati’s flat lay below?

So, we did it! We created a book, a Bible study that not only uses words, but uses Kati’s art alongside Scripture’s rich language and Truth to help us connect and understand a Creator who would be connected enough to Redeem us.

In Altogether Beautiful, my hope is that you’ll see vibrant life on each page, I hope. Because of God’s Word. He shines brightest, as He should. I also think you’ll see the Life He gives a little bit clearer because Kati Kleimola put brush to canvas and let us include her work.

Wait until you see the finished product.

Check out more information and get a free sample of Altogether Beautiful here.

Connect with Kati and see her pieces available here.

Where do you see strength and beauty around you in His Creation? Where do you see Life in His Word? Who helps you to see it? Share with us in the comments.

Strength, beauty, art, and Life – altogether beautiful.