I’m struggling with suffering these days. Not my own, but others. I have family members who are suffering, and I don’t like it.
I am a seriously left-brained person. There’s not an ounce of creativity in me. I am all logic, all the time. I don’t feel things. I think them. And then I overthink them some more. I want to know why. Why does this loving God who I place my trust in allow such suffering to go on? Suffering that seems so arbitrary, so unrelated to anything and clearly not the result of anyone’s bad choices.
I know all the theological answers, but they don’t really answer the question. Most of the time, I am ok with that. I know my place in relation to a holy God. I’m not meant to understand everything. I can only see one small piece of the puzzle. It’s like my dog wanting to understand why she can’t eat at the dining room table with us. I just can’t explain it to her, and if I tried, she wouldn’t get it. She’s a dog. [I’m not saying humans are dogs, just trying to draw some sort of analogy to wrap my brain around the issue.]
But it’s frustrating! I want it to end. I don’t want the people I love to hurt. I don’t want them to doubt that God loves them in the midst of their trials. And I know that my God can stop it.
That is faith. Trusting in something you can’t explain. Going back to the Word, to what I know is true. God loves us. Jesus wept for his people. We are in the midst of a redemption story, but all has not yet been restored and redeemed.
BB and I are dying to know – is there some sort of study that has proven that babies prefer the sound of the pan flute as opposed to actual orchestration? Why don’t these baby toys just play Beethoven’s Ninth by the full orchestra?
I’ve been warned. Being pregnant, giving birth, nursing, all these things will ruin my body. I’ll be all used up by the time Fred is 6 months old. It makes me wonder, what would I be saving myself for?
I want to be used. My body was designed (in part) to bring forth life. My breasts were designed to provide food. My body is here for a function. Even if it wasn’t child-bearing, my hands are meant to wash, build, create. My feet are to meant to walk, run. My back should be bent. I’m not a priceless work of art, meant only for observation.
Our culture strives to preserve – save your money, use the candlesticks only for special occasions, keep your skin out of the sun, wear rubber gloves, keep your shoes out of the mud. We don’t want to get dirty. We don’t want to be used. We want our bodies, homes, cars, brains, kept fresh until….until what? What are we saving ourselves for?
We are about to embark on another 7-style purge of our home. This one’s going to be bigger, deeper, more painful. I’m scared. I love my stuff. It’s not all materialistic – some of the love comes from the memories the things hold. The warm coat that’s insulated me at the bus stop, the running shoes in which I’ve logged miles, the skillet that has cooked many a meal, the platter given by a friend, the sweater picked out by my mom.
But then I kick myself. Here I’m giving away so many items that I was saving for something special. Why didn’t I use the wedding china more often? Why have I only worn that necklace once? I didn’t know that one day I would be called to give it all up.
Our vats are overflowing, and we build another barn to hold it. Spend it. Use it. This life is fleeting. You can’t take it with you…not in the next life, and sometimes in this one.
We save our money for an emergency. But (as Francis Chan once asked), is it only an emergency if it affects our family?
We save our time like misers. We have to work hard, and we will serve others later. We will have that date night with our spouse next month. We will spend more time with the children once we get this last errand run. What if later never comes?
Spend it. Wear it. Use it. Jesus’ body was broken, used. His blood was shed for us.
We are in Cincinnati this weekend enjoying this beautiful weather and time with family. Fred did great on the road trip, and I enjoyed my mandatory Chick Fil A milkshake.
I haven’t had a lot of time or drive to really ponder Holy Week. We missed church last week, but I enjoyed BB’s performance of the St. John Passion.
The passion story always brings me to my knees. It’s the real deal. The most powerful series of events on human history and will only be topped by Christ’s almighty return. His body, broken for us. The fulfillment of 100s of years of prophesy. How do I even comprehend a small part of what this means for me and the world?
And the resurrection. The true hope. Our only hope. The hope for the abandoned child, the homeless alcoholic, the young girl in chains, the murderer in prison, the sin-wrought young(ish) mother in Chicago. If Christ is risen from the dead, there is hope of redemption. If He didn’t, we have nothing.
Father, may I never forget from where I’ve come. Dead. By your sacrifice, raised to new life.
I had to have a c-section. We had planned a home birth. The Lord has his own ways. Waiting to be taken into the operating room, I was the most scared I think I had ever been. I wanted to run. I had a teeny tiny glimpse of the garden prayer – Lord take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.
Going into the procedure, I knew that my prayer would be for humility and submission. Rather than the empowered birth I had planned, I was being called to lie down and submit. Spread out on the table, arms outstretched and strapped down, numb, tubes, completely out of control. This was the exact opposite of what we had hoped for and planned.
I was terrified of the birth – not matter how it was to happen. Everything in the pregnancy had gone well. Fred was perfect from all we could tell. The lies kept coming – it was too good to be true. It would all be taken from me.
Stuck between a truth and a lie. Truth being that God had not promised me a healthy baby, a complication-free birth, survival for another day. God is good, but he’s not safe. He makes promises, but safety, health and security are not included. How do you go into something so important without any assurance of success? How do you not fear the worst? How do you trust an unsafe and dangerous God?
I always cringe when people say things like, Jesus is my buddy, my friend, my partner. While of course there friendly aspects of Jesus, Jesus is not our equal. If I were to see him face to face, I wouldn’t run up to give him a pat on the back. I would be on my face begging for my life. He is Lord of Lord, King of Kings, nothing but complete submission and fear would be appropriate.
He wants me to hold everything with an open hand. I have no choice but to obey. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord. He is wise, and he is good. How can I not follow him?
Can I just say how great it’s been to be (relatively) media-free for a day and a half? My brain feels so much calmer than normal. It’s actually possible to just sit quietly and not stare at my phone. Who knew?
Yesterday (because I wasn’t sitting in front of the computer all day), I read the book of Mark. I’ve also been reading Tim Keller’s book King’s Cross, which goes through the book of Mark. I’m no theologian or expositor on Scripture, so take this with a grain of salt.
I was struck by the plight of the Pharisees. We know they’re the “bad guys.” We look at them and scoff at how they were so wrong. Jesus was constantly rebuking them. They just. didn’t. get. it. I was feeling sad about it – I think because I can so often relate. Here I am in my ivory tower of wisdom, riches, and understanding. I’ve read the Bible times over, I’ve listened to 100s of sermons, I’ve read 100s more books about the Bible and Jesus. I meet with friends to discuss the Word. I can recite the prayers, the hymns, the feast days. I know the “rules.” I try to live a moral life. For all intents and purposes, my life looks a lot more like a Pharisee’s life than it does John the Baptist’s or Jesus.’
After all that, I still so often don’t get it. I still want this Christian life to be predictable. I want to work hard and get blessings. I want to follow the rules and get the reward. I want things to work in a predictable way. I want God to do what I think he should do.
The Pharisees knew the Scriptures that predicted the coming Messiah by heart. They were seeking him. They knew with clarity that they were part of a chosen race and followed the teachings of Scripture better than anyone. The problem was that they were unflinchingly rigid in what they believed the Messiah to look like, and Jesus didn’t fit that. There was no flexibility built into their religion. They had determined a set of characteristics that the Messiah would possess, and they had a limited understanding of the character of God.
Don’t I do that to? I have my list of things that God could never ask of me because it wouldn’t be fair. I have my own understanding of right and wrong, and surely God must follow that. When things are good, it’s God’s blessing, when they are bad, I must have missed the mark. In my mind, it has to work this way. There’s no room for flexibility.
God can’t be limited to my rules and my reading of the Bible. God does not act in ways that are predictable. As my pastor said today, 10 steps in a straight line with God tells us nothing about the 11th step. Of course, God always acts consistent with his Word and his character, but my pea brain doesn’t always put that together.
I’m looking for a King on a throne, but he’s a baby in a manger. I’m cheering for a knight on a white horse, but instead, he’s a lamb led to slaughter. I’m trusting in my knowledge, but Jesus tells me to be like a child. I want riches and fame, but God offers me a heavy wooden cross to carry on my back.
Lord, grant me eyes and see and ears to hear.
I’ve had about 10 different types of blog posts in my head since last week’s shooting tragedy. The internet has been on fire with everyone’s thoughts that part of me wants to stay out of it because so many beautiful and thought-provoking things have already been said. What can I possibly add? But on the other had, this is where I process, and since I can’t stop thinking about it. I need to process.
I have particular selfish reasons for hating when these things happen. Immediately, my brain thinks about the horrible person who committed the crime, which then triggers in me a righteousness. Who would do such a thing? What kind of messed up person has such disregard for human life?
It only takes moments for the Holy Spirit to softly whisper (sometimes not so softly) the answer. You.
No, I don’t have any propensity to shoot up a school. I don’t harbor murderous thoughts about innocent people. But in my heart lies the same utter disregard for human life that lay in the killer’s heart. I need look no further than my own apartment to see someone who couldn’t care less about dying children.
You see, I don’t pull the trigger, but I make the choices and turn my eye. I cozily slink into my warm bed at night, stressing about what gourmet meal to make for dinner tomorrow night with nary a thought for the 25,000 people who will die of starvation today. I step over a homeless veteran on my way to buy a $5 latte because it’s delicious. I agonize over which designer diaper bag would go best with my wardrobe instead of spending $10 on a bed net that would actually save one of the children who will die every 60 seconds from malaria – a preventable and treatable disease.
It’s not guilt. It’s conviction. Guilt is worthless. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. It’s not my fault that evil exists in the world, but if I can do something to stop it, shouldn’t I? Conviction moves us to action. Knowing that my actions are wrong, repenting and trusting in the Holy Spirit to reform my ways makes real change.
You will say, cut yourself a break. God wants you to enjoy life and have fun. We can’t spend all our energy on serving others. I’m not so sure. Yes, there’s a time for celebrating, but haven’t I celebrated enough? Haven’t I had 30 years of feasting? Didn’t my Year of Jubilee end many years ago? When is the time that I start to say no? When will I truly begin to change my ways and live for Christ instead of myself? What will it take? How many more people will die while waiting?
If it’s real, then what do I have to lose? If I worship a God who came as a man to save the world from sin, who raised people from the dead and calmed the sea, and it’s all true, what am I so afraid of? If paradise waits for me, then why do I care so much about making this life paradise? Kay Arthur tells a story of a Christian man in prison. The prison was cold, but he had a blanket. Another man, badly beaten, was placed in his cell, but he didn’t have a blanket. The Christian man knew that without the blanket, the man would die (just as he would die if he gave it up). The Holy Spirit spoke to him, saying that if he died, he would be with Jesus, while if the other man died, he would go to hell since he did not yet know Christ. The Christian man gave up his blanket and died. The other man survived and lived to tell the tale of his sacrifice.
I am holding onto my blankets while people are dying because I want to live another day. Not only do I just want to live, but I want to live in all the comfort that I possibly can. Once I have it all, once I have everything I could possibly need, then maybe I will spare a blanket, but only if it’s easy.
I want to be Esther, saying If I perish, I perish.
The truth is that I my heart is so much closer to Hitler’s, Bin Laden’s and Adam Lanza’s than it is to Christ’s. It’s not even a contest.
This is Christmas. This is why Christ came as a baby in a manger. To save me from my sin. He knows my heart and knows that without him, I am doomed to death. He came that I might have life and have it more abundantly. He came to set me free from sin so that I can love others freely. Through his birth, death and resurrection, I can have a new life that’s not marked by this evil. Thank you Jesus for coming and saving me from myself.
For Advent this year, I want to reflect on the Old Testament verses that prophesied the coming of Jesus.
Today, we’ll start in the beginning – Genesis 3:15. This is God’s proclamation to the serpent after Adam and Eve sinned. It’s the very first reference to Jesus.
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
I never really thought much about this verse before, but when since we learned it’s significance when we studied Genesis, I feel like it comes up all the time. Not only does it prophesy that Jesus will come as a man, but it addresses Jesus’ ultimate defeat of Satan. It also references the fact that Satan will get a good shot in and bruise Jesus (Jesus will suffer and die), but of course, Satan will be crushed.