I Am Angry

I am really angry.

On Sunday, I began thinking about every wrong and ugly thing that has touched my life recently.
My brother and his little boy, missing their wife and mommy for more than a year now.
My Papa, getting weaker and weaker, and my Gram, facing life without her husband of 63 years.
My sweet friend, who has struggled for years with disease and multiple transplants and who now has to stay at a rehab center in a town not her own, away from all she knows well.
A dear family from church, whose seven year old son was hit by a car and who is struggling to figure out their new normal as well as how to care for their other children (including a newly adopted daughter) while also caring for their son in long-term care in a far-away city.

I know that each one of you has your own list.

Are you angry yet? This world is broken and we have an enemy that takes full advantage of our brokenness. He is prowling and trying to devour all of us. He is hurting people who are dear to me, and that makes me angry.

It also makes me grateful. 

I am grateful for a God Who has already fought this enemy, has died in the battle, and has won the war through His resurrection. 

I am grateful for a God Who cares so much about bringing people to Himself, that He was willing to die. 

I am grateful for a God Who loves us so much that even though we were the ones who brought death into the world, He works crazy hard to help people stop running away from Him. 
Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But that is not what God desires; rather, He devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished from Him. ~ II Samuel 14.14
I am grateful for a God Who cares more about molding people into the image of His Son than about protecting them from danger or pain, and so is willing to allow our enemy to continue prowling. 

I am grateful that our enemy's time is limited.

I am angry. And I will allow my anger to drive me. I will allow my anger to motivate me to work, to show God's love to the hurting around me, to do my part in bringing God's kingdom to earth here and now. As my dear friend said, "Give fully, believing He will fill the space."


Because I am grateful.

Are you angry too? As I tell my four year old (and myself, too!) when rage threatens to erupt, getting angry is not wrong. It is what you do with that anger that is right or wrong. Instead of allowing that anger to harden your heart, allow it to soften your heart towards God and send you clinging to His peace. Let it send you off to battle for those that He loves. 

God has already done all the work through Jesus's death and resurrection. Now God allows me to join in the defeat of our enemy through the all-powerful love of God that moves through me.
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory." "Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. ~ I Corinthians 15.54-58


All Things Made Sacred

I've been thinking again about the idea of God being in everything, having bearing on everything, the idea that everything in our lives should be made sacred. Thus far, I have come up with two different spheres of thought (although they do overlap, of course).

In a broader or grander sense, I've been wondering if you can fully study anything without believing in God. (This truly is a question, not an "I have a definite opinion and am just phrasing it as a question" sort of wondering!)

Can you fully study anything without a recollection of the context in which you work? 

If, as I believe, all order, all created things, is a gift, then it seems as though if you study math or music, science or sociology, without an underlying attitude of gratitude as well as an understanding that there will always be mystery, then you are missing something. 

Without that context, are you really studying anything to its fullest potential?

As a side note, I love the idea that there will always be mystery in our world, our universe, for our curious minds to explore. The idea that we are at the pinnacle of knowledge is a bit ludicrous. As Isaac Newton said, 
I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.
I am interested to know what others think. Is it possible to study anything outside of the context of a creator God? (Forget, for a moment, what you believe about a relational God or about Jesus Christ...simply consider the idea of a creator God.)

In a more immediate and practical sense (I am well aware that not everyone is as much a lover of learning and studying as I am!), I am discovering that in order to find God in everything, to make everything sacred, I must work to develop habits of living more fully present where I am. I must truly pay attention to who and what is surrounding me. 

It is much too easy for me to just drift or skim through a day, usually focusing on what is to come rather than on what is. 

A huge part of living more fully present is completely relational. Every one of you reading this is a son or daughter, brother or sister, friend, spouse, parent, or grandchild. Finding God means developing every day habits of loving, patient, kind, selfless living in the community in which we are right now. It is discovering once again what family means, what neighborhood means, what community means.

It sounds, perhaps, too simple, but it is something that I can start doing and exploring right now and never reach the end. I can never get bored with this even if I work at it for the rest of my time on earth.

Will you join me?

art credit: photo of Eagle Nebula from NASA


Never! Said I

I would never do that.
No, never! Said I.
Horrified, confident, righteous within.

Never? He said
with a gleam in his eye.
Perhaps, yes perhaps, and yet.

This little thing?
What about this small little thing?

Oh, that? That's nothing.
Said I with a grin.

That surely won't matter
in the vast scope of life.
So yes, I'll do that and enjoy.

Well, what about this?
Just a teensy bit larger.
And the pleasure is much larger still.

Oh, that? That's still nothing.
Said I, standing tall.

This too, doesn't matter
it surely won't hurt
those around me or go against God's will.

Said he with the gleam
You're so close, just look
at what could be savored and gained.

I turned 'round
and suddenly saw with despair
my righteousness lying in shreds.

I did it, yes did it.
How could I? Said I.
with shock and confusion within.

Your confidence blinded.
Said he with the gleam.
You trusted in self not in Him.


Why You Should Make Mistakes With Your Kids

Our middle daughter (can I say "middle" when the youngest is still inside my belly?) turned two years old this week.

As I watch her and her four-year-old sister growing up so incredibly quickly, I sometimes start thinking about how much of what I do, both with them and in front of them, influences who they become.

This thought almost makes me start hyperventilating. I start feeling almost physically weighed down with the pressure to do things perfectly with my children.

I was recently reminded, however, of how much God loves these girls. He loves them even more than I love them. That idea is difficult for me to wrap my mind around, considering how deep is my love for them, but it is truth. 

God loves my girls more than I do, and He wants them to fall in love with Him even more than I want that to happen. 

And if God wants something to happen, well...
If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all--how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? ~ Romans 8.31-32
This is, like most issues in my life, a refusal to trust, a difficulty in letting go of my pride. I have to trust God with the hearts and lives of my children and I have to realize that I am not the most important influence on them

God is more than able to make up for my myriad of mistakes.

In fact, I am learning that it is good for me to make mistakes.

When I make mistakes with my little ones, when I mess up in front of them, I have the chance (if only I took it more consistently!) to show them how to make mistakes. I have the opportunity to teach them how to apologize, how to ask for forgiveness, how to ask God to change your heart and help you to do better.

How to do this, how to wisely use this chance, is something that is indelibly imprinted in my heart: it is the image of my dad asking me (a tiny, humble kid!) for my forgiveness. His actions taught me a beautiful lesson.

By messing up in front of my girls, I can show them that God loves them no matter what they do

My eldest is already learning this lesson. Every night, as part of her four-year-old routine, she says, "Mommy? Did you know that God loves you even when you disobey?" And I respond "Yes, darling. Isn't that a beautiful thing?"

This is what I want to teach my girls. That God loves them no matter what. That we can't ever be good enough and that is why Jesus came to rescue us, why the Holy Spirit has to work in our hearts to heal them. I want them to rest secure in God's love, enjoying His presence and loving Him right back.

I sit in awe and praise God that in His mercy and grace, He uses my mistakes, my imperfect and messed-up self, to show my girls just that.


A Difficult Anniversary

He buried his wife one year ago today.

I sat at the feet of this younger brother of mine as he said goodbye to his wife of four years, the mother of his one-year-old son.

Over the past year, I watched him struggle through despair, depression, doubt as he faced
 a long road of raising his son alone.

I watched my nephew cry and cling to his daddy, looking for his mommy and feeling afraid that his daddy will leave him too.

Through this long struggle that still is not done, through one piece of bad news after another, through the next days and months and years of memories, where is God?

When all pleas seem to go unanswered, when even 
let the end be peaceful is ignored, what are we to think? 

What do I really believe about God in all of this? 

God's Words tell us clearly that there is pain, there is heartbreak in this world. We should not be surprised. 

More often than not, God chooses not to save His people, chooses not to spare them sorrow and hardship. Hebrews 11 gives a long list of those who were killed or lost ones they loved, Jesus' closest friends died martyr's deaths, even His earthly father died without His intervention.

I have pondered long and hard this question of what I believe about God in the midst 
of "it wasn't supposed to be like this". Here is my conclusion. 

I know my God, His character, well enough to trust Him when I don't understand, when I cannot see in the darkness. I know, from what He has said about Himself and from what I have seen, that He is always good and always love. I know that, if we only knew the reasons, we would adore Him for what He does. 

God promises that we will have trouble in this world. He also promises that if we are grateful to Him He will give us peace. He doesn't promise that He will take the pain away but that we will be at peace, that we will have joy. 

Isn't that a much bigger promise? 

No matter what, God is still God. 

Will I only praise and thank Him when He does what I like? Will I only accept from Him what I deem to be good? 

When I deeply think through the idea of declaring my circumstance to be bad, it seems incredibly arrogant. 

How can I think that I know better than God what is good? How am I more capable of naming something to be good than the One who is good? 

Will I trust that God has a beautiful, amazing plan only when I can see the beauty of it? Either God is God, and capable of having plans and reasons that I cannot comprehend, or He isn't God, and I am silly for blaming a myth. There is not really any in-between place for the things with which I do not agree.

...if I go to Jesus, he's not under my control either. He lets things happen that I don't understand. He doesn't do things according to my plan, or in a way that makes sense to me. But if Jesus is God, then he's got to be great enough to have some reasons to let you go through things you can't understand. His power is unbounded, but so are his wisdom and love...He can love somebody and still let bad things happen to them, because he is God--because he knows better than they do. If you have a God great enough and powerful enough to be mad at because he doesn't stop your suffering, you also have a God who's great enough and powerful enough to have reasons that you can't understand.
King's Cross by Timothy Keller
God is God, and since he is God, he is worthy of my worship and my service. I will find rest nowhere else but in his will, and that will is necessarily infinitely, immeasurable, unspeakable beyond my largest notions of what he is up to. ~ Elisabeth Elliot
I can trust God, trust in His nature.

Of course he's not safe. Who said anything about being safe? But he's good. He's the king. ~ Mr. Beaver in C.S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

When faced with the fiery furnace, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego told King Nebuchadnezzar that
If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up. ~ Daniel 3
When Job lost all of his children and all that he owned and was himself in great physical pain, he declared
Though he slay me, yet will I hope in Him. ~ Job 13.15
No matter what, I will praise God and offer Him my gratitude, my sacrifice of praise

God tells us over and over in His word that He has a beautiful plan for humanity and creation as a whole. 

And that he has a beautiful plan for each of our lives. 

Sometimes I doubt this promise, this truth. 

And then I look at Jesus, at His cross. 

I've been clinging to Romans 8.32 through all of this:

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
If God ever had to prove Himself, prove His love for us, prove that He is taking care of us, He has more than proved it all through the cross. 

I've also been thinking a lot about Hezekiah. In II Kings 20, he pleaded with God to "change his story", to give him more life when God had told him (through Isaiah) that he was going to die. God did change His mind that time, gave him fifteen more years of life. And in that fifteen extra years, Hezekiah's son Manasseh was born. This son that wouldn't have been born if Hezekiah hadn't asked God to change the ending of his story ended up as king and "lead (Israel) astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the LORD had destroyed before the Israelites". ~ II Kings 21.9 

Our desired story ending versus God's desired story ending. 

Perhaps, just perhaps, God really does know best. Perhaps He does know which story will bring about a beautiful, redeemed, transfigured people. 

When through the deep waters I call you to go, 
The rivers of woe shall not overflow; 
For I will be with you, your troubles to bless, 
And sanctify to you your deepest distress. 

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose, 
I will not, I will not desert to its foes; 
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake, 
I'll never, no never, no never forsake. 
~ How Firm a Foundation, att. John Keith, 1787 (modernized) 

a re-post from the archives for today, the anniversary of Kristina's death
credit for images: Lion photo, painting by Simeon SolomonCross photo