Friday, March 29, 2013

Good News

Today is Good Friday.

To a Christian, this could arguably be one of the top 3 most important days of the year, alongside the day of Christ's resurrection and the day of His birth.  It is a day that should make us stop.  Stop and recognize what exactly it was that Christ did for us.

As I read the story of the crucifixion this morning I let it really sink in. The words are so familiar that there are times I don't fully appreciate what I am reading.  This morning I read the story like it was the first time.

And these words jumped out at me...

"'He saved others,' they said, 'but he can't save himself! He's the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him." (emphasis mine).  It was the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders who were saying this.  The people who consistently refused to believe who he was.  The very ones who plotted his death.

All Jesus had to do was come down from the cross and he would have convinced ALL who doubted him.  Don't think for a second that he couldn't have done it.  Jesus absolutely could have taken the nails out of his hands and feet and stepped down off the cross.  He could have stopped it, stopped them in their tracks.  And in so doing, he would have convinced everyone who doubted him and shouted for his death that he was who he said he was.  They would have seen that he was indeed the Son of God.  But he didn't do that.

He didn't stop it.  He didn't come down off the cross.  He stayed.  And he died.  Why?

For you.  For me.

It's that simple.  

Yes he could have done it differently.  He could have chosen to convince the doubting.  He could have chosen to prove himself to them.  But he didn't.  He stayed on the cross.  He suffered.  He died.  In an hour of desperation he felt forsaken by his own father, and he cried out to him.  And he did it all willingly.  For you...for me.

It can sometimes be hard to see the "Good" in that Friday.  But it is Good news.  So, so good, because that isn't the end of the story.  The priests, teachers and elders didn't win.  Christ IS the Son of God.  When the centurion and all those who were with him guarding Jesus saw what happened as Jesus died, they exclaimed, "Surely he  was the Son of God!"  It is good news what happened that Friday over 2000 years ago, very good news.  

Check out the rest of this very good news in Chapters 27 and 28 of Matthew.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

ALL 10 Commandments

My favorite thing about the Bible in a year plan I am following this year is that it has me in a different book each day.  Yesterday I was in Jeremiah, today finds me in the Gospel of Mark.  The plan definitely isn't for everyone, but for this attention deprived girl it is perfect!

Today Jesus met the rich young man.  I'm sure you know the one.  He wanted to get to Heaven, said he had kept all the commandments, what else would it take?  Turns out he didn't like Jesus answer and ended up walking away sad.  Oh how we can relate right!

But here is what got to me today.  Why did Jesus list out the commandments that he did?  Have you ever thought about this?  The rich young man asked Jesus how he could gain eternal life and Jesus responded by saying, "You know the commandments: Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother."

What about the others?  We all know there were 10 commandments and Jesus only lists 6 of them.  He doesn't even list the one that he himself said was the most important, to have no other gods.  What about that one?  Why didn't Jesus at least mention that one?

The Bible doesn't give us an exact reason but here is what I think (and if there is one thing I know, it's my own opinion!).  I think Jesus knew the commandments that the man had obeyed, and the ones he had not.  

Ask any upstanding citizen (Christian or not) of just about any country and they will tell you it wrong to murder, lie, and steal.  Most people, Christian, Muslim, Jew or Atheist think parents should be honored.  These commandments though given by God and lived out by Jesus are really very universal.  And anyone with any kind of integrity will follow them.  It's the other ones that will get you.  Have no other gods before me.  Do not make for yourself an idol in ANY FORM.  Do not take my name in vain.  Keep the Sabbath day holy.

That is when the commandments get tough.  And those are the ones that, like so many of us, the rich young man was unwilling to obey.  He had other gods, his money his possessions, his status.  They were gods and idols that he worshiped JUST AS MUCH as he worshiped God.   And I think Jesus knew that. 

So he asked him to give up those other gods and idols.  He asked him to follow ALL the commandments, but the rich young man couldn't, he WOULDN"T do that.  

How about you?  Are willing to follow them all?  Are you willing to put down your idols, to stop worshiping the other gods?  Are you willing to be obedient? 

Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.  All you have to do is follow him.

To read the story straight from the source go to Mark 10:17-31

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Belt

This morning I found myself in the 13th chapter of Jeremiah.  And what I read, has stuck with me most of the day.

In this passage God tells Jeremiah to go out and purchase a brand new linen belt.  Though that may not sound like much by today's standards, it was an extravagant purchase in 600BC. And just when I was beginning to wonder why God never asks me to make extravagant clothing purchases for myself, I read the next verse.  What God asked Jeremiah to do with it next was simply ridiculous.  

God tells Jeremiah to take the new, extravagant belt he just purchased, just tied around his waist, a belt that has never been soiled, touched water or anything and hide it in the crevice of the rocks.  What??  Why??

A few days later God tells Jeremiah to retrieve the belt but it's too late.  After just a few days buried under rocks the belt was ruined.  Completely useless.  This amazing extravagant, beautiful thing was worthless.  

Then God compares the belt to his love.  Like a belt, his love binds us to Him.  It holds us close to Him.  But when we bury that love under the rocks, when we chose not to use it, not to trust in it, not to let it do what it was made to do, it becomes useless to us.

God loves you.  He loves you desperately.  And he wants to be bound close to you and for you to be bound close to him by the belt of his love.  He wants you to be bound to his word, to his truth, to his plans for you.  But sometimes rather than stay close to him, we loosen the belt, then it can't do what it is supposed to do, it doesn't hold us as close as we need to be.  Sometimes we even take the belt completely off, we bury it in the back of our closet with those shoes we never wear and we forget about it.  But it is useless there.  In the back of our closet where we can't see it or reach it.  It doesn't do us any good back there.  

Unlike the linen belt though, God's love will never get ruined.  If you have stuffed it back there in your messy closet, I urge you to pull it out, dust it off, and put it on, as tight as you can get it.  It is just as strong as the day you first got it.  It will never wear out, never give from too much strain.  It will always fit your perfectly.  It's a belt made just for you.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Sad Times

I just recently (like today) had a huge epiphany. 

I am an extrovert!

Okay, I didn't just realize that.  I have been an extrovert since I came out of the womb, just ask  my parents.

What I did just today realize, is that the hardest thing about this whole school, studying, writing thing I am trying to do is that I have to do it by myself.  That is REALLY, REALLY hard for this extrovert!  

I am lonely, lonelier than I have been in a really long time.  And I have to be, because this is something I have to do by myself.  I can't be social AND get 200 pages of Christian history read.  Something has to give and, as is often the case when God is asking you to do something, the thing that has to go is the one thing I love.  

But it's hard.  It's harder when Erik travels.  It's harder when the kids are home.  It's harder when my other activities are cancelled for things like spring break.  It's just hard.  Some weeks are harder than others, and this was a really hard week.

I feel foolish, because I know so many people are going through things far harder than I am right now.  Loved ones have died, bad news has been delivered, kids have been critically ill, jobs have been lost, homes have burned.  If you are one of those people, please know you are in my thoughts and prayers.  

But it doesn't always take great tragic loss to be hurting.  Sometime we just hurt.  For nameless, faceless, silly reasons we hurt.  And I want to validate that too.  When things are just off and you don't know why, when you want to smile, but instead you cry.  When people ask you what's wrong and you have no words because you honestly don't know.  You just hurt.

That's where God comes in.   He is there for you.  No matter what is going on in your life, he is there.  He loves you and he will carry you through, through the tragic times and simply the sad times.  He knows you and he loves you, even when you can't put into words what is breaking your heart, he knows.  He gets it, he loves you and he wants to help.  So turn to him.  In the devastating times and in just the sad times.  

Friday, March 15, 2013


I've been spending a fair amount of time in the book of Job lately.  

It isn't the lightest book to read.  It's not exactly the "feel good" good book of the Bible.  In fact at times it can be kind of hard to stomach.  It's hard to sit by and keep reading as Job loses everything, EVERYTHING!!  

It's not that I don't get what is going on. I get it.  

And it's not that I doubt what God is doing.  I know that even in this story God is in complete control.  He is the one who sets the boundaries for Satan.  And it's important to recognize that Satan never steps outside of those boundaries.  He isn't able to, even he cannot do anything outside of God's ultimate control.  It's just really hard to watch.  It is always hard to watch someone suffer.

Whether it is someone who lived 3000 years ago or a loved one you see everyday, suffering is hard.  It's hard to experience it, it is hard to understand it, and it is hard to watch.  It's just hard.  

I remember telling my friend years ago, after Erik's dad and sister passed away within 2 years of each other, that I no longer worried when Erik traveled.  There is no way God would take Erik away from his mother after she had already lost so much.  My friend gently reminded me about Job.  Sometimes people suffer.  Greatly.

As it stands right now, Erik is fine and safe.  The family has been tragedy free for over 3 years now.  And I still really don't worry when he travels.  But I know that right now, other people are suffering.  It seems like everywhere I turn people are struggling with BIG stuff.  There is suffering all around.

The one thing that I noticed about Job is that as devastated as he was through all his suffering, he never cursed God.  He cursed himself, the day of his birth, his friends, and a few other things.  But he did not curse God.  He questioned Him, he asked for understanding, for mercy and for healing.  But he didn't curse him.  He praised him, even in the storm.  And I wonder if I would be able to do that.

I pray desperately that I would never know the type of suffering that Job endured.  I have no desire to walk through the fire like that.  But I know people suffer and I can't help by wonder what I would do.  I have lost things in my life, I have lost babies, I have lost money, I have lost loved ones, long before I felt like it was there time.  There is plenty I have lost.  I would like to think that I have honored God in my suffering.  But honestly, I have never suffered like Job. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Parental Math

My favorite time of the day is the evening time, when all the activities are done, and it is just my family of five all snuggled in for the rest of the day.  Even if we aren't doing anything but hanging out, watching TV, or reading, I love knowing that all my little chicks are right where they are supposed to be, and no one is going anywhere anytime soon.  

My class this semester is every Monday morning from 9-12:30.  Three and a half hours, it can be a long morning.  Of course, half way through class, we stop, as does every other class at the seminary, and we go to chapel.  Yes, chapel.  We have a chapel service right in the middle of our day.  I don't know if this is normal or not, I've never been to seminary before, but this is the way my seminary does it.  

Yesterday, the seminary president gave the message.   He spoke on the prodigal son, he did a great job on a story we have all heard a fair number of times.  But then he shared an excerpt from a book he had recently read.  I honestly don't know the name of the book (I thought I did, but when I googled it, I couldn't find it), the focus of the book was on what the author called "Parental Math".

The author of this unknown book, shared the story of taking his first of five children to college.  A college located over 300 miles from their home.  He very eloquently spoke of his feelings the night before they left knowing that everyone was there in his house, sleeping right where they were supposed to be.  He spoke of how fun it was the day they drove up to the college and and he and his wife and son camped out in 2 adjoining hotel rooms, talking back and forth from their beds.  How different it was the next night when it was just he and his wife at the hotel and their son was spending his very first night in his dorm room, how quiet the hotel room was and how much they already missed him.  Then he so very sweetly expressed how hard it was to go home, and spend that first night in their house with four of their children instead of all 5.  He said it was still noisy, it was still loud, there was still laughter and teasing and all the things that made their family so close, but one child was missing and in parental math 5-1= not nearly enough.

I totally get that!!!  I love that my children are in the age of play dates and sleepovers.   I love having a house full of kids and friends and I love those moments when my kids are all playing elsewhere, but nothing, NOTHING beats having all 5 members of my family under the same roof.  5-1= not enough.  

That is how God feels about each one of us.  Yes he has thousands of children but it doesn't matter. Because 1000s-1=not enough.  He misses that one so dearly that even the best moments aren't quite as sweet when that one is missing.  If you are that one that is missing, you need to know how much he loves you!  He STILL loves you and misses you!  And he wants nothing more, NOTHING more than to have all his children at home with him, all under one roof.  That is parental math.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Broken Blessings

This is the view out my kitchen window where I sit to do my quiet time every morning.  It is the gate to the steps off my deck.  I see this every morning as I stare out my window, yet somehow I never really saw it until this morning

What you can't see in this picture is the huge gaping hole in the floor of the deck where one of the 2x4s has completely rotted through.  That is what usually catches my attention, it's really quite large, I could probably lose a small child down it!  But until this morning the gate had somehow escaped my attention.  I cringed a little bit when I saw it, thinking to myself, "great something else we have to fix, we probably just need to replace the whole deck.  I wonder how much that will be!  We are never going to reach that savings number at this rate..."

And then I stopped, I just stopped.  And I looked around my house, really looked (past the mess, the pile of laundry and dirty floors).  And I immediately recognized how very VERY blessed we are.  Yes there are things that are broken and ugly and messy but there is so much more that is beautiful.  And I, we, are truly, truly blessed.  

The thing that really struck me as I sat looking at the broken gate was that it didn't just break this morning.  My guess is that it broke awhile ago and I simply didn't notice it.  I was so busy looking at the gaping hole in the floor I didn't notice the gate falling apart.  That happens in other areas of my life too.  I get so focused on this one imperfection, this one thing that needs fixing, this one thing that's missing, like a big hole right in the middle of my life, that I stop paying attention to the other things around me.   I stop paying attention to the beauty that surrounds me in all other places and I stop paying attention to the little things that are quickly falling apart while I'm not paying attention.  

Things like my ability to be patient, my capacity to love, having a thankful heart, these things start falling apart when I focus on the broken things in my life.  All of the sudden my blessings, which are great, seem so spread apart.  Perhaps I need to look at the broken things in my life in a new light.  Perhaps I need to stop seeing them as broken, and start seeing them as the blessing that they are.  They are a reminder that my house, my life, my very self is not perfect, it can be pretty broken at times, but God loves me anyway and he has blessed me abundantly anyway.   Even though I am broken, just like my gate.

I don't think I am going to add the gate to the "honey-do" list, at least not yet.  I kind of like it just the way it is, a broken blessing.

Monday, March 4, 2013

That's Just How God Works

I spent most of my day today worrying about something that was completely out of my control.  

The outcome of what I was worrying about has already been determined.  And although that outcome has not yet been revealed to me, my worrying about it will in no way effect it one way or another.  

Yet still it took up the majority of my thoughts today.  That is until I got a phone call from one of my mom's dear friends.  

Her son and daughter-in-law recently moved to the Kansas City area (recently, like last week, in the middle of the snow storm!)  Her son had gone back to Colorado to wrap up a few things there and her daughter-in-law was home alone, in a strange city, with her six (yes, 6!!!) kids.  And the baby is sick.  So sick, that momma loaded up all 6 kids and took her to Children's Mercy Emergency Room at 11:00 this morning.  It was now 3:00 in the afternoon, no one had eaten, they didn't know if baby was being admitted or not and momma couldn't even run down to the cafeteria to get food!!  She know NO ONE in the entire metro.  My moms friend, who lives about 4 hours away, asked if there was anyway I could do to help.

You bet!  So I called up a stranger, introduced myself, and asked how I could help.  Could I bring her food? Could I watch her kids for her?(yes I called up a stranger and asked if I could come and take her 5 kids from her!)  What did she need?  We settled on baby holding.  So I drove down to Children's Mercy Downtown and held a sweet, sweet baby, while her momma took a break.  A baby that was so sick she didn't even mind that it was a total stranger holding her and not her momma.  Right before I got there the nurse let  them know baby was doing just fine and would get to go home as soon as they could discharge.  I only spent maybe 45 minutes there but I am SO glad I went.  That momma needed to feel some love! 

I was home in time for dinner, smelling like a baby (and refusing to wash that sweet smell from my hands!) and realized I hadn't worried about my "problem" since I had gotten the call.  Isn't that just how God works.  When you are doing what you are supposed to do, being the hands and feet of Christ, serving others, you tend to forget all the little things that sometimes eat you up.   I was delighted to be used today, and I'm pretty sure I got a bigger reward than the person I was trying to help.  Isn't that just how God works!

Sunday, March 3, 2013


In the spring of 2002, Erik and I lived in this adorable little neighborhood in the Brookside area of Kansas City MO.  We had been married for several years and our neighbors a few doors down asked us to join a small group bible study they were starting with some church friends.  It was designed for newly married couples with no children.  Well, little did they know we were three months pregnant with our first child!  We lived life with that group.  We met every Thursday evening for our study, we spent our weekends together, went to church together, fixed up our houses together, raised our new babies together (within a few years we all had kids).  That group met on a weekly basis for the next 9 years.  They were our community!

Although our busy lives, kids, and distance from each other forced us eventually to stop meeting each and everyone of those people are precious to me.  

Our current bible study has been meeting since the fall of 2010 (I think?)  we see each other at church each Sunday, for study every other Sunday.  I see the women every Thursday at our moms group, I see most of the kids on Wednesday evening at the kids choir practice and a lot of them on Monday and Wednesday when JT goes to preschool.  They are our community!

Do you have a community?

This weekend was all about my community.  I got to have a 3 hour lunch on Saturday with the women from our old Bible Study, women whom I no longer see on a regular basis but still have a heart connection with.  A connection I firmly believe time will never change.  We filled each other in on our lives, shared our struggles, and lifted each other up.  It was such a blessing.

Saturday night we got together with Erik's family to celebrate a birthday.  The kids played with their cousin, the adults filled each other in on our lives and shared our struggles, and lifted each other up.  It is my family community, and it is such a blessing.

This afternoon, in just an hour or two I will go to our current Bible study.  We will fill each other in on our lives, share our struggles, and lift each other up.  What a blessing.

Do you have a community?  

We are called to live in community.  God made us to live a life of community, we need other people, and they need us.  We need others to share our struggles and help carry our burdens.  We need others who will speak truth in to our lives and hold us accountable.  We need others to share our victories and celebrate our joys.  It doesn't matter how extroverted or introverted you are, everyone needs a community.  It is who we are.

Do you have a community?