Saturday, November 17, 2012


Saturday morning in my jammies, drinking coffee, reading about Old Testament history and the sins and missteps of the tribes of Israel. One of those mornings I love to savor until the to-do list has to be taken care of.

I was tempted to keep reading in 1 Kings today because I hadn't read very far, when I remembered someone long ago suggesting that my time in Scripture should last until God stops me. He stopped me and had me scratching my head and searching my heart within just a couple of chapters today.

In 1 Kings 13 there is a man of God who comes to give King Jeroboam kind of a scary prophecy. The prophecy is not favorable to the king so he tells his guards to seize the man of God, and when he points at the culprit, his hand shrivels up. (Don't you love this stuff!?) "AAAHHH! Pray for me and heal my hand!" the king yells. (Wildly paraphrased by me)

He does; it heals; the king invites the man of God for dinner. (again, not a word for word translation, you understand)

"No can do," says the man. "You can offer me anything, but I've been told by God not to eat or drink anything on this mission. And I have to listen to God's instructions."

That was my first pause. What conviction, I thought. I will not be swayed by the king himself. I won't let power or influence or reward to sway me from listening to and obeying what God has said. I want to be like that.

Read on.

The king sends a guy after him, who also invites him home to eat. And again, the man of God sticks to his guns and says he can't eat or drink on his mission from God. (Is this where Dan Akroyd and John Belushi got their phrase?)

Never mind, says prophet #2. God told me you're supposed to come back with me and eat and drink with me at my house.

Ok, says prophet #1. He goes back and eats at prophet #2's house, leaves and gets mauled and killed by a lion on the way home because he disobeyed. You just can't make this stuff up, I tell you.

Prophet #2 gets wind of the tragedy and says, "Yep. Look what happened because he didn't obey God. Poor guy. Let's bury him."

The story made me think about the strength of my convictions and where they come from. If the man of God in this story had strong enough conviction to say no to the king, what or who finally wore him down to a place of disobedience? And what was it like to feel that surge of conviction and God-confidence in the first place? Finally, how careful do I need to be when tossing out the words, "God told me..."?

I can tell you that I long for a deep sense of conviction that comes from God in my life. How glorious to have heard His voice so clearly that I can have an inner, resounding, "Yes!" from him to propel me in my daily actions and life's purpose. I also know that it doesn't take much for me to waver in that. To wonder if it really was God after all. To question the wisdom, convenience or timing of it all. Truth be known, I probably would have caved in front of the king.

But sometimes I feel so superior in my spirituality that I want to make others question their own convictions. It doesn't make sense to me, so I say, "Did God really say that to you?" Huh. That's what Satan said to Eve in the garden. Real spiritual...

So my takeaway this morning, as I realize I simply MUST get dressed and be on with my day, is that I'm going to boldly ask God for conviction. To hear His voice. And for the inner fortitude, through the power of the Holy Spirit, not to be swayed.

And that I will have the grace and humility to trust that God is speaking to other people, too. And that Jesus died for them, too. And forgives them, too. It's not just about me. Ouch.

Lord, would you speak clearly to my heart and give me bold conviction to follow where you lead. Amen.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Lesson of the week: how an overflowing toilet and a lying teen have humbled me and reminded me of God's perspective.

We bought a new house. Which is really an old house. We are having a lot of work done: painting, two-sided fireplace put in, new shower in a bathroom, and various repairs that are too tedious to mention. All this is happening before we move in, so periodically (read: daily) I go over to see the progress. Yesterday I saw things coming together in a way that made me think we actually could live in this house. 

While I was talking to my painter in the living room, he noticed that the carpet he was standing on was wet. We traced the source of water to an overflowing toilet on the other side of the wall, where the bathroom floor was a vast puddle and the water had found its way under the wall into the carpeted living room. Panic ensued. 

After the water had been turned off, the mess cleaned up, and fans set up to dry the carpet, I left workers in place to continue progress on the rest of what needed to be done. 

Later that day our family had a gathering of sorts around some discrepancies in teen story-telling. (Read: lying) No matter what the infraction, I find that these issues are heart-breaking, and I've tried to explain to our son that when you lie to someone, it makes all the good in that relationship feel like manipulation, at worst, or questionable, at best. 

So I cried a lot yesterday.

Then, this morning, as I continued my slow trek through Isaiah, praying for my son, and wondering if we've made a mistake with him, the house, or other things, I saw the blue highlighted words through the chapters that indicate qualities and names of God. I was reminded that God is:

- The LORD my Maker
- Sovereign LORD
- My Redeemer
- The LORD Almighty
- The first and the last
- A righteous God and Savior
- My King
- The Holy One

There may or may not be a lesson in or a reason for our suffering, as it were. A sin to confront. Character to build. Stories to share. But I do know that God wants to be found, He wants to be known, and He WILL be glorified. 

I'm reminded that He loves me and is high and lifted up, seated on His throne, ruling the universe and my crazy little life. He sees my tears and hears my voice. And He transcends it all. And He says, 

"I, even I, am he who comforts you." (Isaiah 51:12) 

Yes, and amen. 

"Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God." (Isaiah 50:10)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Over two hours in the dentist's chair today.

Awesome. (Another well-deserved shout out to Dr. Yang!)

I had a couple of crowns replaced, one of which was the right front tooth. It's been needing work for a while - 20+ years, to be exact - and today was the day.

Back in 4th grade I hit this tooth on the bottom of the swimming pool while trying to show off for a friend and do a smiling back flip under water. (I know. Whatever you're thinking, my mom has probably brought to my attention. And now that I'm a mother...well...)

Anyway, I lived most of my adolescence with this slightly shorter front tooth to tide me over until I could get a "grown-up" crown. One day, in Seymour, Indiana, between 1989 and 1991, I did just that.

And it was a fine tooth. Shiny porcelain that introduced my smile to many new acquaintances. But over time my gums receded, revealing the black metal beneath the porcelain at the gum line, and I couldn't bleach it like the rest of my teeth, so it took on a recent buttery shade. Considerably less attractive.

Today I got a new crown. It's temporary, but it's already so much better than my old one!

Before I could see this beauty, however, the old crown had to be sawed in pieces by a diamond drill and cracked off my real tooth, which was lurking beneath the surface.

What did that look like?

I should never have asked to see it.

Have you seen versions of Snow White's witch?

That's pretty close.

A short, narrow, brown stump is what I have for a front tooth in reality. It was horrifying. Like an Appalachian witchy woman, grinning over her cauldron at the entrance to her cave.

But that's my real tooth. This creamy white temporary crown isn't me. It's the beautiful cover my dentist put there.

A crown I couldn't have applied myself.

A crown that covers a rotting (or so it appeared), shriveled stump that has become useless and appalling.

"That's good to remember, when I'm tempted to get cocky about my beautiful smile!" I thought to myself, while admiring my new crown in the mirror this evening.

Then it occurred to me that this crown is just like what Jesus did for my sinful nature when He took my sin upon Himself on the cross.

He covered my sin with His spotless life. A beautiful crown, a white covering, a righteousness I did nothing to earn and couldn't possibly have provided for myself.

The prophet Isaiah said this:

“Come now, let us reason together,”
    says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
  they shall be as white as snow,
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool. (Isaiah 1:18)

Our sin has been washed away by the perfect sacrifice of Christ. We did nothing to earn it. We can't do anything to keep it. So I can be comfortable revealing my weaknesses and my sin because we all have it! Why would I pretend this beauty that covers me is mine?! 

I have a brown stump for a tooth, and I'm not ashamed to admit it! 

And I have a Savior who has washed away my sin and given me a righteousness I don't deserve. 

My sins were as scarlet; now they're as white as snow!

Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Fear and Splendor

While beginning another trek through the prophet Isaiah last week, I took note of some powerful imagery in chapter 2. Now, I like the major prophets as much as the next gal, but sometimes the fire and brimstone imagery is a bit of a downer, I find. This beginning section was no exception:

"Go into the rocks, 
hide in the ground
from the dread of the LORD
and the splendor of his majesty!" (Isaiah 2:10)

The updated version of the NIV says, "from the fearful presence of the LORD", and the ESV calls it "the terror of the LORD".

I couldn't help but wonder who these unfortunate people are who have to fear and hide from God. The heading of Isaiah 2:6-22 is "The Day of the LORD", which usually describes something pretty dramatic, if I understand a lot of the Bible right. But the stunning thing about this verse wasn't the specific dramatic imagery here as much as it was the exact repetition of the phrase again in verses 19 and 21. I wrote in the margin of verse 2, "You can't handle the power and beauty of God!" and I still think that's the case. Let's call that the Holy Spirit's primary revelation to me that morning. God is too much for mere mortals to comprehend. 

When I read the rest of chapter 2 and saw those aspects of fear and hiding repeated, God's Spirit started to reveal something else to me. Descriptions of those who are going to have to hide and fear the presence of the LORD are sprinkled throughout this chapter. They are "the proud and lofty", and those who "bow down to the work of their hands, to what their fingers have made". Umm... that's me, if I'm being completely honest. And other places in Scripture point to the fact that there will be those who experience God's wrath during the day of the LORD, at some point in the future. But I didn't feel threatened or afraid, despite my acute awareness of these shortcomings.

I relate to the places in Scripture that talk about longing to come into God's Presence, not running away from it. The spots that elicit joy and comfort in being with God, protected and loved. What's the difference?

This is when I had my epiphany.

I wrote in the margin after verse 21: "I want to stand in confident awe in your presence, Lord. To experience the dread of the Lord and the splendor of your majesty." I know my sin and that I'm not at all worthy to stand in God's presence on my own. But I read these verses and they are, in my life, inextricably linked with these:

"Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water." (Hebrews 10:19-21)

I can run to God and not from the terror of His presence because of Jesus!

I can "approach the throne of grace with confidence" (Heb. 4:16) because Jesus paid the price for my sin and took God's wrath from me onto Himself. I can draw near to God - not run from Him - because the blood of Jesus sprinkled our hearts and cleansed us from ALL unrighteousness, so we can have full assurance of faith, based on HIS work and righteousness, not our own. 

I can experience a balance of assurance and awe. Freedom and fear. 

Author Francis Chan says,  “...when we love God, we naturally run to Him-frequently and zealously."

I heard another author say something about our only refuge from God being in God. And I think the combination of these ideas, albeit somewhat counterintuitive, is right. Yes, a parent will discipline a child he loves and the child wants to run away from the discipline when he's disobeyed. But there is also great joy and safety in knowing that same parent will protect the child and provide for him with all his energy out of fierce love. 

It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, says the author of Hebrews (10:31). Thanks be to God for Jesus Christ, who made a way for us to stand in His presence in full assurance of faith because of His great love and sacrifice. He has redeemed us from God's wrath and brought us into His family as sons and heirs. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Whose Honor?

Recently I've been reading The Five Love Languages of Teenagers, which I highly recommend when your kids are about eleven. As I've been pondering how to best fill my teen's love tank, I've also had a couple of interesting and challenging conversations with folks about parenting. It seems the best we can do for our children at any age is pray and love them toward the most solid foundation of God-confidence possible. Not to modify their behavior or spare them any pain in life - that's how we learn, after all - but to train them to lean on God and depend on Him only for their sense of self and security.

This morning I was reading the story of a man whose parents either didn't have this goal or whose heart was just to hard to be molded. His appetite for man's praise and power was insatiable. Here's just one example of the warped perspective Haman lived with:

"Calling together his friends and Zeresh, his wife, Haman boasted to them about his vast wealth, his many sons, and all the ways the king had honored him and how he had elevated him above the other nobles and officials. 'And that's not all,' Haman added. 'I'm the only person Queen Esther invited to accompany the king to the banquet she gave. And she has invited me along with the king tomorrow. But all this gives me no satisfaction as long as I see that Jew Mordecai sitting at the king's gate.'" (Esther 5:10-13)

Even though the king had honored Haman, he had a fertile family, and everyone in the kingdom recognized his power and accomplishment, "that Jew Mordecai sitting at the gate", who wouldn't bow down to him, overshadowed everything good in his life.

It got me thinking: whose honor do I care about most? Where does my sense of well-being come from? Who do I strive to please in my daily activities?

The Bible tells me that the answer to all these questions should be God, of course. But is that how I live it out when I worry more about a friend being mad at me than being obedient? Is that the reality when I set professional or personal goals without consulting God or considering His perspective? Am I living for God's honor alone when I choose to lie? When my insecurities drive me to treat others poorly? When gratitude for all of God's blessings are minimized and I focus on the few things I want that I don't have? What about when I fall prey to the green monster of envy over someone else's good looks, good fortune, or good life?

These behaviors and attitudes all reflect a Haman-esque perspective. A focus on self and a pride that keeps me from experiencing God's best in my life and peace in His presence. And when I recognize the symptoms, the only remedy is to repent.

You see, I want my son to have a strong sense of identity in Christ, but I want it for myself, too! I want to focus like a laser beam on the things of God: what pleases Him, what is holy, serving others. But I'm incapable of that kind of life without the powerful intervention of the Holy Spirit and the redeeming work of Christ's perfect sacrifice on the cross.

Thanks be to God that we have access to these because of the grace and love of God our Father! He speaks ALL the love languages, because He is love. What better place to turn in order to be transformed!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

So I met a guy in a bar last night.

Let me explain.

I was meeting a couple of friends who used to work for my husband, and when we meet, we meet at the restaurant my husband used to own, which is where they used to work. As we were catching up on jobs, relationships, and the state of politics and the economy, a man seated a few barstools away from us joined our conversation.

First, he commented on the frustrations of the aging process. Brother, I hear you there! We nodded politely, then turned back to our conversation.

After he'd had a couple more drinks and our conversation seemed more interesting to him, he chimed in once again. This time he had overheard us talking about gay marriage laws and differing views Christians had on the subject. My friends and I have agreed to disagree on many issues, this being one of them. Our new friend directed his comment to me when he said, "so you're one of those judgmental Christians who thinks all gay people will go to hell." Awesome. I responded that if by judgmental he meant putting myself in a superior position to others, then, no. I'm not judgmental. (This after he wondered why I just didn't embrace my judgmentalism.)

"Do you believe there's a hell?"

"Yes," I replied.

"Do you believe people will actually go there?"


"Do you believe all gay people will go to hell?"

"Absolutely not."

His eyebrows raised, he pursed his lips and nodded slowly, as if to say, "tell me more". So I did.

As my friends had quickly exited for a cigarette, throwing me under the bus to engage our new friend alone, I continued:

"You see, I don't think it's what anybody does that determines whether or not they go to heaven. It's who they know. If someone knows Jesus and accepts what HE did by dying on the cross for them, that's what determines whether or not they go to heaven."

More nodding.

Then, after some talk of Americans not knowing the difference between consubstantiation and transubstantiation, and illiterate spirituality, and "slaughtering" religious differences, we discovered that the barstool denizen was, in fact, Canadian. He'd been living here for 10 years and had assessed the American spiritual zeitgeist so thoroughly that there really was nothing left to discuss.

So he finished his meal, paid his tab, and left.

My friends and I debriefed.

Turns out they really agree with a lot that he was saying. But he was such a jerk about it that they didn't trust themselves to engage calmly in my defense as he ranted about "literalist Christians" and their problems interpreting the first 2 chapters of Genesis (idiots!). There was some awkward head-shaking and sighing before we moved on to the next topic in his absence.

This morning I'm replaying the conversations in my head. Did I represent Christ well? Did I speak truth? How can I keep engaging people on issues like biblical interpretations of social issues without appearing to be (or actually being) ignorant or condescending or rude?

Thank God for the power of the Holy Spirit! I was leaning heavily on His direction last night, for sure. And so, this morning, I release my second-guessing and hand-wringing to His sovereignty. May my Canadian spiritual nemesis find truth and peace in other conversations as God reveals Himself more and more.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

He is risen!

Easter Sunday.

What better opportunity for teenage boys to ride, jump with, and fall off bikes? Last weekend we travelled over the river and through the woods - to Grandmother's house we went. There, we found skate parks and piles of dirt to make a young boy's heart pound and adrenaline race through his veins.

A few crashes? Not to worry. Our chiropractor will soon put everything back in order.

The beauty of the huge mounds of dirt on the neighbor's property was the height to which bikers could soar if they had enough momentum. Some went higher than others, of course, but everyone involved caught some air.

The freedom and joy in the faces of the bikers this weekend was more than apt for Resurrection Sunday. As I contemplate all that Easter means for us, I am more and more in awe of the perfect plan and effect God's sovereign power wrought.

As we embrace the glory of the cross - the ultimate victory over all the sin that weighs me down and the death that threatened to separate us from God forever - we have access to God's Holy Spirit, who will empower and transform us to live in freedom with God.

Because He is risen.

Death could not hold Him. The grave could not keep Him from rising again.

And because of that glorious sacrifice and victory, I am free to soar. I'm free to live without the burden of my past. I can run unhindered by sin that trips me up and makes me stumble.

Because He is risen.

I want my life in Christ to be like the bikers who caught the most air last weekend: exuberant, free, and exhilarating. Defying gravity and moving forward in power. We can live like this!

Because He is risen!