Casting Stones


3 years ago we went through one of the toughest seasons of our life.

I was angry. I was hurt and I was tired.

I turned to Scripture and demanded answers from God. What I got back wasn’t what I expected. It wasn’t,

 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

and it wasn’t,

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (2 Corinthians 4:17)

These verses, and promises like them were helpful, but when someone shared them, I wanted to physically harm them. I didn’t struggle with why, I struggled with “What do you want from me, Lord?”

What brought me comfort was wisdom from a King, who was also struggling, who wanted answers to unanswerable questions, and found peace in laying it before God and honestly admitting,

“I am small. You are big. The answers aren’t mine. They’re Yours.”

I found hope in these three words…

A time to…

Ecclesiastes 3 introduces this idea –

God in His infinence gives meaning and purpose to every single month, day, hour, and year. I see good days and bad days. God see days that matter. I see storms and I see sunshine. I rue the storms and want to linger in the sunshine. What if God values both?

What if God sees difficult and declares it beautiful?

What if God loves me just as much when I’m shaking my fist, as He does when I’m lavishing Him with praise?

I wanted to know that this season wouldn’t be forever. That bottom of the pit wasn’t every darn day and that held was a real and true promise, not a made up radio song.

I found truth. I found the Savior’s affection. I found my joy again.

For one of the first times in my life I wanted to know who God really was, what He really valued and not the second-hand version I had settled for.

Then, I realized that my trial was a drop in an ocean of earthly trials. We all have them. We all have tears. We all have heartbreak. We all have triumph. We all have uncertainty. We all have times of wrestling. We all have times to build and times to break down.  We all have times to gather together, and times to cast away.

Casting Stones is my invitation to wrestle alongside, to open the Word and find truth in the trial and the triumph, as well as the ordinary day.

It has devotions for five days of study a week, questions for individual growth and discovery, or to discuss as a group, because community around the Word makes every day brighter and less daunting. Let’s cast together, let’s build up together, let’s wrestle together, let’s plant together.

Discover more by ordering through Amazon

Casting Stones Print or Kindle edition

or checking out our expanded resources on the Studies Available page.

Join us for study snippets by catching the archive on the I Love My Shepherd YouTube channel. (Prize opportunities through July 9, 2017!)

Casting Stones… we’re in this life together. Every triumph and joy, every affliction and sorrow, He is right there with us.

Permission to mourn

*Please note: this post discusses the topic of rape and sexual trauma. If you have experienced any kind of sexual trauma, please know that it is ok if you prefer not to read on. There are great resources and crisis hotlines for help also available at rainn.org.

*photo overlay made with the vrsly app


Day 3 – Permission to mourn

Remember in Day One of this week’s study, when we talked about weeping? You may be wondering why the need to discuss mourning two days later? On Day One, we highlighted the overload of emotions associated with weeping. Tears can come for any number of reasons. Mourning, on the other hand, is intimately connected to grief and loss. The Hebrew root in Ecclesiastes 3 for mourn is saphad and is intimately connected with loss. You can fix in your mind a picture of the traditional Biblical lamenting with weeping, beating the breast, tearing the hair, sack cloth and ashes.

2nd Samuel 13 has one of the most painful stories we can find in Scripture, and more lamenting in one chapter than I can begin to wrap my head around. This Bible story is PG 13 for sure, so be warned. I’m going to ask you to dig your Bibles out or hop over to Bible Gateway for a moment and read 2ndSamuel 13 in it’s entirety. I will only highlight the first half of the chapter below, for want of space, but we will discuss the entire chapter:

“Now Absalom, David’s son, had a beautiful sister, whose name was Tamar. And after a time Amnon, David’s son, loved her. And Amnon was so tormented that he made himself ill because of his sister Tamar, for she was a virgin, and it seemed impossible to Amnon to do anything to her. But Amnon had a friend, whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah, David’s brother. And Jonadab was a very crafty man. And he said to him, “O son of the king, why are you so haggard morning after morning? Will you not tell me?” Amnon said to him, “I love Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.” Jonadab said to him, “Lie down on your bed and pretend to be ill. And when your father comes to see you, say to him, ‘Let my sister Tamar come and give me bread to eat, and prepare the food in my sight, that I may see it and eat it from her hand.’” So Amnon lay down and pretended to be ill. And when the king came to see him, Amnon said to the king, “Please let my sister Tamar come and make a couple of cakes in my sight, that I may eat from her hand.”

“Then David sent home to Tamar, saying, “Go to your brother Amnon’s house and prepare food for him.” So Tamar went to her brother Amnon’s house, where he was lying down. And she took dough and kneaded it and made cakes in his sight and baked the cakes. And she took the pan and emptied it out before him, but he refused to eat. And Amnon said, “Send out everyone from me.” So everyone went out from him. Then Amnon said to Tamar, “Bring the food into the chamber, that I may eat from your hand.” And Tamar took the cakes she had made and brought them into the chamber to Amnon her brother. But when she brought them near him to eat, he took hold of her and said to her, “Come, lie with me, my sister.” She answered him, “No, my brother, do not violate me, for such a thing is not done in Israel; do not do this outrageous thing. As for me, where could I carry my shame? And as for you, you would be as one of the outrageous fools in Israel. Now therefore, please speak to the king, for he will not withhold me from you.” But he would not listen to her, and being stronger than she, he violated her and lay with her.

Then Amnon hated her with very great hatred, so that the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her. And Amnon said to her, “Get up! Go!” But she said to him, “No, my brother, for this wrong in sending me away is greater than the other that you did to me.” But he would not listen to her. He called the young man who served him and said, “Put this woman out of my presence and bolt the door after her.” Now she was wearing a long robe with sleeves, for thus were the virgin daughters of the king dressed. So his servant put her out and bolted the door after her. And Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the long robe that she wore. And she laid her hand on her head and went away, crying aloud as she went.” (2nd Samuel 13:1-19)
This is a story of rape, the human experience of shame, despair, rage, and a family broken. There is a reason there is so much lamenting. It is an entirely appropriate response to what is taken, what is lost, and what is broken.

In verse 18, Tamar weeps and cries aloud. She puts ashes on her head. In verse 31, King David is mourning the mistaken information that all His sons are dead. In verse 36, all David’s servants join him in mourning the lose of Absalom. This is family heartache, household trauma. When things like this happen they are not simple. They are not an individual loss, they very much affect the entire family, the entire community.

We all have things we have mourned in such a way or maybe are currently mourning. We may not put on sackcloth and ashes, but lamenting is not less just because it is done quietly. The thing that makes mourning what it is and not just your run of the mill crying is acknowledging there is a loss. And this action is oh-so important.

The Jewish act of lamenting was often within the context of a time of mourning. There are seasons in life when we need just that…time. We need time to heal. Time to think. Time to sort. Time to rest. Within the Christian context of the Body of Christ, this also means that we are invited to a time of comfort from those around us.

2nd Corinthians 7:5-7 tells us that comfort is part of the life of the Body. Christ’s comfort comes out of each of us into one another:

“For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within. But God, who comforts the downcast,comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more.


His comfort, found in one another. How precious is that! Who around you is hurting? Maybe the hurt in this season is your own, what kind of comfort do you need? Our loss may be the death of someone we love, the loss of a childhood due to trauma, or even the loss of what we thought our lives would look like at this stage. There is no small loss and there need be no small comfort. Christ’s comfort fills up and overflows, sister. So much more than a warm baggy sweater and a mug of green tea on a rainy day, Christ gives us one another and Himself in each other.

Rape is certainly worth lamenting. It is also worth comforting. We NEED one another in times like Tamar experienced. We need to share our secret shame. When we rush head on into the fear and struggle, like Absalom, we NEED brothers and sisters that will come after us and restore, restore, restore. We have a Father who does that. Mourn what is deserving of mourning, honor the one mourning by sitting beside them in the darkness.

And rest in this: no doubt about it, whatever your lament is, He redeems even that. He says it over and over in His Word. Nothing is outside of His Grace, outside of His restoration. He redeems each and every thing in our lives. 


Discussion questions:
Where do you see the need for comfort in our world today?
Who around you is hurting?
What is a simple way to give comfort when someone is hurting?
What difficult situation have you seen Christ redeem?

Noisy, messy crying

Ecclesiastes Week 4 – 3:4

Day One: Noisy, messy crying (A time to weep)
Day Two: Chuckles, giggling, and other fun things
Day Three: Mourning what is worthy of mourning
Day Four: Keeping the party alive (a time to dance)
Day Five: Why I need to stop crabbing at my children chanting away…


Heart Verse –
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.
                                                John 11:33



Day 1 – Noisy, messy crying (A time to weep)

Several years ago, while my sister was visiting from Iowa, some friends stopped by and we decided to watch a movie. It was the kind of night, where all the stars align and small people go to bed on time and you think, “You know what I could really go for? A blanket, some popcorn, and a good movie.” We sat down to watch the latest new release, “7 Pounds”, with Will Smith. It was a well filmed movie. Good characters, creative plot, interesting dialogue.

And absolutely depressing.

We all watched the movie, completely riveted. When the closing credits began to roll, I woke up from my movie stupor to the sound of sobbing. In about 4 seconds, I realized the sound was coming from me. Wait, no, it’s coming from Dave…and our friend…and our other friend…and my sister. Our living room was filled with dazed and confounded individuals crying their eyes out, noisily. Messy. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. There was also snot running out of noses and slobber rubbed onto shirt sleeves, and sobs bursting out from weird facial convulsions. It was bad. Ugly cry bad.

Days later, I was still analyzing our universally embarassing, no holds bar reaction to this movie. The film was great, but the reality was the topic was disturbing and frustrating and left you longing to help, but nothing could be done. These people were actors on a screen, but all of us had the startling revelation that people think like that. The plot may be fiction, but the mindset encapsulated in the movie is far from it. People misunderstand law and justice and grace so much, that they can miss eternity for want of finding it. It was the truth of our culture spoken in technicolor –
There are many who don’t know Jesus, who need Jesus. They long for healing and rescue from heartbreak. Not a single person on the road of searching in this movie, not one, told the main character what he longed to hear…grace, redemption.

All of us, sitting in that room, noisy crying, were left wondering if we had so utterly failed someone in our own lives. Our cries were prayers for God to fill in the gaps where we are weak. To send His Word into the lives of those around us, when we are silent.

The Hebrew root word for weep, found in Ecclesiastes 3:4 –
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

“Bakah” – is phonetically pronounced bawkaw. Sound familiar? The immediate phrase that came to my mind when I heard it was “to ball.” That’s the way my Dad always referred to the noisy, messy crying when, as little kids, one of us was just completely inconsolable, or “balling our eyes out.” This kind of crying, or weeping, as Ecclesiastes calls it, is a kind of emotional release.

Sometimes we need to cry. We need to move our internal emotions to the external, because they are just so much to bear. Tears and, even more so, weeping give us the ability to express the inexpressible. To unload the messy anxiety and emotion stuck inside us. It does not necessarily have to be a negative experience of difficult emotion. It is about the strength of the emotions contained inside our persons, welling up and over. It is a cry that is mostly between us and God. We cry out in a sacred prayer, hidden in the depths of our sobs,
    “It’s too much, Lord. It’s too much.”

Joseph experienced this kind of emotional overload in Genesis 42:1-24, when his brothers arrive in the midst of the famine. Joseph creates a plan for discernment and handles the situation, from the readers perspective in a well thought out manner.

Then it happens. He overhears his brothers make a confession. One little sentence, that they think he can not understand…

Read Genesis 42:21-24a,
Then they said to one another, “In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us.” And Reuben answered them, “Did I not tell you not to sin against the boy? But you did not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.” They did not know that Joseph understood them, for there was an interpreter between them. Then he turned away from them and wept.”

Joseph sat in the same prayer, “It’s too much, Lord. It’s too much.”

I’m guessing at this point in the family drama, Joseph is overrun with emotions. Joy and dread and fear and childhood trauma; of a soul hungry for vengeance but whispering grace and restoration.

When it’s all just too much.

In John 11:32-35, we read a tiny piece of the Lazarus story.

 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

Jesus wept. He hears the cries of a heart tender with grief and is moved to not just tears, but weeping as well. God himself has wept as we have wept. He has lost friends. He has shared grief. He has had His soul overwhelmed with sorrow, as a man. Will He not hear us when it’s just too much? Yes, He will!

When we feel the need to cry those messy tears, let us do so unashamed. We can present them to Him as an offering:
“Lord, it’s a lot. I lay this burden on You. The one who is fully capable of bearing the load. In my weakness, Your strength. You invite me, saying, ‘Hand it here, child.’ The burden is mine to carry.”

Messy tears, snot pouring out, unattractive sobs escaping…all a part of a life fully lived, abundantly lived in the One who collects my tears and holds me while I weep.
Discussion questions:
Read Revelation 5:1-5. What promise does God hold in these verses for weeping and crying?
When was a time you remember having a messy, noisy cry? Was it warranted?

God of even this…

God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. 
                                                 Genesis 21:17
 
This last week has been pretty miserable. Like anyone in crisis, I feel like most of what I do is wait. Wait for an answer, wait for help, wait for things to get better…and…nothing.
   
Well, not nothing, obviously not nothing. But what feels like a void of unchanging hopelessness. I’m sure some of you have been there. I also know that some of you are standing on the other side. Some of you have shared your stories with me, of God working, of moving from hopeless to hopeful, of trust in God and Jesus’s time, healing the deep places of your heart.
   
Here we meet Hagar. She seems like a pawn in someone else’s game. She is sent away with a skin of water and a loaf of bread. She sits away from the bush, unwilling to watch her son die. Here is hopelessness at its best. 
   
But El Roi answers. “The God who sees…”
   
He sees her pain. He sees her struggle. He sees her hunger. He sees her aching heart. I need to know that. I need to know that God sees me.
   
And so He shows me. 
   
I had a friend cry with me yesterday. Cry. Audibly. I have rarely felt so loved. 
   
I had a friend tell me that he finally understood what Paul meant when he said he was suffering for another person. He felt my pain, our pain, as his own.
   
My sisters have told me countless times that they would lift my burden if there was any possible way they could. 
 
I am not just given a loaf of bread and a skin of water, but meals come, food is served, and sometimes I don’t even know where it came from. 
   
There are prayers said, sometimes in the wee hours of night, on our behalf.
   
This is one reason why God created the Church. This is the visible Church lifting up our arms, when we ourselves can not. This is the visible Church, wrapping their arms around me and letting me cry. This is the visible Church seeing through the compassionate lens of a Savior who came to redeem our crisises and heal our broken hearts.  

This is a God who sees me, through you. 

  
He sees each of us, beautiful sisters. It is His name. And He can not deny who He is. Whatever our pain, whatever our joy, whatever our struggle.
El Roi…He sees me. He sees my sweet, sweet husband. He sees, and that is my Hope each day.