Tag Archives: God

His Kindness

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The Gospel…

Again…

Please, Lord, teach it to my heart and make me passionate for the real thing.

It’s my strengthening prayer as we move closer to a life-change where someone might actually ask me to give a reason “for the hope that is in me.”

I’m chicken-Christian, no doubt about it.

That whole older-brother (sister) thing is really frustrating.  There’s a verse in the Bible that says that she who is forgiven much, loves much.  Dang it.  I have lived my life in the whitewashed area of the planet / country / city / family, and deep forgiveness is startlingly hard to grasp.  How prideful is that?  Just being honest here…please withhold judgment unless you are a deeply forgiven whitewashed something or other.

Yesterday morning, we went running (jogging / walking / whatever).  Doug and I weren’t talking about deep heart things, but he made a terribly insightful comment that went to my core.  “When someone lies, they are creating an alternate reality for the other person to live in.  So, the other person is living by the rules of a reality that is not true.”

Whoa.  Satan is the father of lies.  I’ve always tended to think of those lies as one-off, temptation-laden, whispery, “eat the apple” kind of lies.  As I considered Doug’s comment, I realized that Satan’s big scheme is creating whole, complete, big-time false realities for us to inhabit.  We’re not usually living in them thinking, “Oh, I know this is a lie, but it feels good, so I’ll continue.”  We’re in there thinking, “This is it.  This is the real deal.  I’ve got to go all out here because it’s the honest framework of life, and I’m here to live it.”  We’re stuck in a whole reality that is not true.  You know, The Matrix. He’s a liar.

Romans 2:14 says the kindness of God leads me to repentance. Jesus said, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” (At hand.  Right here.  Look up. Within the veil.)  It is precious to me to think that God’s kindness in Christ draws me into the light.  He brings me into Truth so that the framework of lies I’ve lived under is exposed as worthless and pointless.  He turns my heart toward His grace so that I can live on the other side of deception.  Live freely in the real Truth.  When His kindness leads me there, when I repent of believing a framework of lies, when He opens the door to a new way, through grace, then I find I am forgiven much.  Then I begin to love much. Then the gospel is His fountain in my heart.

Thank you, Lord, for your kindness that gives us hinds feet for the high places.  For showing us what’s real.  For altering our reality toward Truth.  For Your Jesus.

 

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Orbiting the Fragile

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My first teaching job involved teaching 7th grade science.  Those poor kids!  I was 100% humanities trying to teach elementary physics.  When it came time to explain centripetal (centrifugal?…I don’t remember, honestly) force, I resorted to the salad spinner object lesson.  They had great fun swirling small objects inside my favorite kitchen tool. If you take the lid off in time, the detritus inside will fly all over the room. Yipee!

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Often, as I think about what it takes to be a mom, a wife, an employee, an American, a suburbanite, or a responsible member of the local pool, I feel like my sin looks like the salad spinner.  I am dizzily spinning around something that seems a lot like nothing, trusting that the constraints of life on the outside will hold me in my orbit.

Problem.  As Yeats lamented, “Things fall apart / The centre cannot hold.”

When I orbit in this way, there is eventual disintegration because the center is weak and the constraints are false.

Keller says that orbiting anything but God causes us to lose direction, to misunderstand our identity, and to experience isolation.  He says, “Spiritual darkness – turning away from God, the true light, and making anything more important than Him – leads invariably from disorientation to disintegration…We are all orbiting around something else.  And we’re all incapable of changing our orbit, because we inevitably, ultimately, seek to glorify ourselves instead of God.  So we are all on a trajectory toward a life of disintegration.” (King’s Cross, p. 205)

Sad.  Unless…

Unless Jesus.

When the gravitational pull of my idols becomes too weak or too strong; when things fall apart because the center has failed to hold; when the constraints fall away and I fly outward; then Jesus.

Those whiplash moments are His reminder to me that I am only safe, only held together, only home, and only in line with the Love and Laws of Heaven when I yield to Him.  When I acknowledge the brokenness of my gravitational toys and have faith in the power of His strong, centering grace, I am once again held together.  That center will always hold. Amen!

“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For in Him all tings were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:15-17 (NIV)

“In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil.” – Edward Mote

Today, where is my center?

Returning to Say “Thank You”

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I recently heard a sermon about the healing of the lepers.  The story goes like this: (Luke 17:12 – 19)

As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; 13 and they raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When He saw them, He said to them, “ Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they were going, they were cleansed. 15 Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, 16 and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? 18 Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?” 19 And He said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.”

Now, I’m thinking that getting healed from leprosy and re-integrated into society after having been an outcast would create a whole set of problems on its own.  Probably, those nine other men were thinking “thank you…” while feeling great levels of anxiety about “…what’s next?”  They were excited and pre-occupied, both.  They did not stop to say “thanks.”

Tonight, on my commute home, I was trapped in the “what’s next?” line of thinking.  I realized that I have neglected to “return to give glory to God.”  So, here’s a list of sweet and wonderful THANK YOUs to God for His work in our Clarkston adventure…

THANK YOU – for a house in the subdivision that is now owned and occupied by a dear ministry family.  Over the last week, we’ve been several times and seen life there.  A young boy swinging from a rope swing.  A sister entertaining her friend in her new bedroom.  A house church meeting – young men and women praying in the living room.  A trampoline packed with rambunctious boys.  A mom happy to be cooking in her kitchen and drinking coffee on her patio.  Life.  Thank you, Lord.

THANK YOU – for a day yesterday of meeting workmen and contractors at the bungalow.  All morning long, Doug and I kept scooting over to the front window of the house, looking at the youth camp being held right across the street.  Our friend who runs a worship and arts ministry was teaching precious refugee children how to clap rhythm in a round.  (Thank you, even, for the incongruous sight of the white guy leading the nations in rhythm expertise!)

THANK YOU – that this process has taken so long.  If it hadn’t, we would never have met the four separate friends who we ran into yesterday as we ran our errands around town.

THANK YOU – that I found a Publix and Chick Fil A within shouting distance of our new home.  That’s good news!

THANK YOU – for two more closings on the other two homes by the end of the month.  Life will continue to be planted and grow in that tiny subdivision that God carved out and laid in our laps last December.

THANK YOU – for our friends who are praying with us and for us along the way.  We are grateful.

Facts and Feelings

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The other morning, my husband came to the breakfast table with his Kindle.  He pronounced that he had a word for me from A.W. Tozer.  This pronouncement was made with a smirk on his face, so I knew there would be both truth and irony embedded within it.

He read these words: “I have had people tell me very dogmatically that they will never allow ‘feeling’ to have any part in their spiritual life and experience. I reply, ‘Too bad for you!’ I say that because I have voiced a very real definition of what I believe true worship to be: worship is to feel in the heart! In the Christian faith, we should be able to use the word ‘feel’ boldly and without apology. What worse thing could be said of us as the Christian church if it could be said that we are a feelingless people?” (A.W. Tozer, Whatever Happened to Worship: A True Call to Worship, Chapter 7)

When Doug read this quote, he completely hammed up the “TOO BAD FOR YOU!” line, so that I could hear his heart towards me.  I could hear my husband’s kindness and patience with my feelings as they skate all over the rink of extremes, especially during this season of transition. He works hard to give weight to the value in my feelings, just as I work hard to see the need for all of his facts.

You know, men and women are pretty different.  Yesterday, I had the privilege of spending the day with Doug and our 11 year old boy.  It was great.  The facts were flying and the feelings were few.  By the end of the day, I even knew how a Neti pot worked and had seen it in action.  My men were safe and sound knowing their worlds were in order and the facts were lined up, even down to the facts of nasal decontamination.

As we’ve moved toward Clarkston, my feelings have been riled up.  Excitement, despair, hope, anxiety, giddiness, discouragement.  As we’ve moved toward Clarkston, Doug’s facts have been riled up.  Spreadsheets, contracts, notebooks with tabbed dividers, conference calls, and more spreadsheets.  When things get dicey, I spin my feelings up so that they become my only reality.  He spins his facts up so that they become his only reality.  We are totally, painfully typical.

This week, I’ve been thinking about the fact vs. feeling / man vs. woman / head vs. heart thing.  I thought about it when we realized our house is over-priced and Doug predicted we’d need to solve the problem by planning very thoroughly, while I simply wanted to play through the scenarios of what it would feel like to have to drop the price.  I thought about it when Doug shared the facts of our shared vision with a group of folks we had in Clarkston yesterday.  I thought about it when I left a Clarkston city meeting daunted by the feelings raised by opening doors to 15 new relationships in one evening’s time.  And, I thought about it when we closed on the first home in our subdivision on Thursday (yeah!!) and my heart produced a celebratory thank you note to our buyer, while Doug’s fingers typed instructions for a wire transfer.  Facts and feelings.

Jesus talked to us (men and women, both) about distractions.  He said, “The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity. But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.” (Luke 8:14-15)

I think Jesus knows lots about facts and feelings.  I think He knows that the worries, riches, and pleasures of this world will cause us to claim either fact or feeling as ultimate reality, depending on our bent.   But, Jesus says that only seed that falls on a heart made honest and good by His redemptive work can hold the Word in the soil of faith, even when facts and feelings buffet.  I think He knows and appreciates our facts and our feelings.  I think He wants us to experience the amazing grace that happens when roots of faith anchor them both, and we begin to grow.

Fitting under the Umbrella

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Last night, we had a friend over for dinner.  She lived with us for a year while she interned with the youth at our church, and she’s awesome.  One of those, “I hope my son marries someone like her someday” kind of young women.  Before dinner, we were chatting about life and love and the like, and she was sharing her feelings that sometimes she “doesn’t fit.”  She was referring to being single among the married, and I remember the feeling.  But, I also remembered the feeling from just a few hours earlier, too. Yesterday, as I drove home after work, I passed the line up of cars at the neighborhood swim meet.  My thought was “I don’t fit.”  I’m a non-swim team mom in a swim team neighborhood – I am not a mom whose kids are home all the time to even go to swim practice.  Custody gets in the way of so much – it hurts my kids, but it also feels like a rock in my own shoe.  Something doesn’t fit.

Isn’t that the lie that women all feel?  Perhaps my friends are all nuts, but I have had more conversations than I can count with friends who don’t feel like they fit – in one way or another.

Maybe that’s part of why I loved teaching high school so much and why I love refugee ministry so much.  Teenagers don’t fit.  Refugees don’t fit.  What we all feel on the inside is displayed on the outside in these two sub-groups.

I was so excited to find out from my friend that she is going to bring teenagers to Clarkston!  We’re going to hang out there next Friday with some youth who will help us do some work on the bungalow and visit with our new refugee friends from Somalia. Then, in July, we’re hopefully going to be able to do “block parties” at one of the complexes with some youth from our church, too.

As much as I am psyched about the individual opportunities to bring kids to Clarkston, I was encouraged by my friend’s heart…by what she sees in teenagers who serve.  She lit up when she shared about how much changes in kids when they serve.  She says that they change because they experience the gospel as good news, and she says they change because they realize that the people they are serving are just like them. Those who don’t fit become those who do fit.

So…I am encouraged by the gospel that helps us to see that we all don’t fit…and that we all do fit under the umbrella of the grace of Christ.  

Keller – Friendship

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Quotes from The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller, with Kathy Keller (Dutton, 2011)

“However, there is a third quality to friendship, and it is not as easy to put into a single word.  The right word, literally, is ‘sympathy’ – symp-pathos, common passion.  This means that friendships are discovered more than they are created at will.  Ralph Waldo Emerson and C.S. Lewis each wrote well-known essays about how a common vision can unite people of very different temperaments.  Lewis insisted that the essence of friendship is the exclamation ‘You, too?’ While erotic love can be depicted as two people looking at one another, friendship can be depicted as two people standing side by side looking at the same object and being stirred and entranced by it together…The paradox is that friendship cannot be merely about itself.  It must be about something else, something that both friends are committed to and passionate about besides one another.” (p. 113)

“Have you ever traveled to a mountainous part of the world when it was cloudy and rainy?  You look out your windows and you can see almost nothing but the ground.  Then the rain stops and the clouds part and you catch your breath because there, towering right over you, is this magnificent peak.  But a couple of hours later the clouds roll in and it has vanished, and you don’t see it again for a good while  That is what it is like to get to know a Christian. You have an old self and a new self (Ephesians 4:24).  The old self is crippled with anxieties, the need to prove yourself, bad habits you can’t break, and many besetting sins and entrenched character flaws.  The new self is always a work in progress, and sometimes the clouds of the old self make it almost completely invisible.  But sometimes the clouds really part, and you see the wisdom, courage, and love of which you are capable.  It is a glimpse of where you are going.” (p. 121)

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Our foggy view this morning

This weekend we spent time in the North Georgia mountains. The above photo was our foggy view this morning.  While there, I read the chapter “The Mission of Marriage” in Timothy and Kathy Keller’s book, The Meaning of Marriage, and discovered the above quotes.  Also while we were there, my mother-in-law visited with me and Doug about what exactly we were moving to Clarkston to do.  “What will your ministry be?” was her question.

As much as these two quotes have to do with marriage, they also express so beautifully one of the hopes for ministry that we wish to see fulfilled in Clarkston.  You see, so many people think of the world in terms of “us” and “them.”  “If my spoiled rotted child (“us”) could just see the poverty and hardship that poor teenager endures (“them”), my child would suddenly become grateful.” (cry of the suburban American parent)  Maybe.  Probably not for very long, though, unless they encounter something so precious and so valuable…friendship…with that other person.  With “them.”  So that, the “us” and the “them” gets so blurred that WE become friends.  We find common ground.  We see the clouds part in each other’s lives, and we rejoice at what could be…what will be.  Then, as we stand shoulder to shoulder, we are both grateful for the grace of friendship and the peculiar way that God uses friends to show us more of Himself and to make us more gracious, grateful folks.

Our desire through moving to Clarkston is to call families into friendship with refugee families.  To erase the “us” and “them” lines so that common passions are discovered – so that the glory that is mostly obscure in a fellow sojourner becomes obvious just once in a while, and both parties cry “Wow!  God is Good!”

This afternoon, I got an email from the very first family that has taken a dip into the waters of refugee relationship alongside of us.  The email was sweet and tender and so dripping with relationship and shared  passions of life.  It also broke my heart.  The young mom in this new-to-America family tells her new friend from suburban north Atlanta that she is eating and sleeping a lot, because that is all she knows to do. She is finding herself lonely and even depressed in her new home. Friendship is a priceless, free, gift that erases loneliness and opens doors to views of God that are impossible when standing alone.  I am so grateful that this new family has a friendship partner.  I pray their friendship grows and community ensues, the gospel is lived and shared, and common rejoicing takes place.  More than that, though, I pray that in five years, every family that is resettled to Clarkston will have a friendship partner to stand with them, to break down “us” and “them” barriers, and to gaze passionately at future glory made possible through Jesus Christ.

The picture below was our view before we left today, from the same vantage point.  What a difference the parting of the clouds can make!

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Our viewpoint after the sun broke through this morning