The Day After Easter

 

The Day After Easter

Here it is, the day after Easter and I find myself going back to the tomb and looking in. This is what I think… the stone that sealed the tomb was rolled away not for Jesus to get out but for us to look in! And Mary (like me) is one of those that looked inside and contemplated the emptiness and struggled with doubt and unbelief.

Jesus said to her, “Mary.” (John 20:16)

I love this! Jesus called Mary by her name! She hears him. She knows his voice. She sees him. She immediately recognizes Jesus. Jesus speaks to her unbelief and Mary believes. I think it is good to look inside the empty tomb over and over again. Whenever I doubt that God loves me, I look inside the empty tomb. Whenever I doubt that I can trust God no matter what, I look inside that empty tomb. And when I don’t believe, I pray to God to help my unbelief while asking Him to forgive me for doubting Him. 

 

Easter flower art

Laugh at the Days to Come

Psalm 27:13

I want to laugh at the days to come. My prayer for this month is for laughter to fill our hearts and to believe that God is good and his plans for us are good. It is tempting to associate the good life with something physical, yet when the physical breaks, it’s hard to see the good in that.

I pray to remain confident of God’s goodness, even if I don’t get the things I have my heart set on. I admit being guilty of having a wrong assumption that because God is good he will give me the things I want. By God’s grace, he is freeing me from a limited and small understanding of what is good so I can experience the huge and satisfying good that he has planned for us.

This is God’s goodness to us today … he filled our hearts with laughter. He replaced our tears with smiles and refreshed our countenance with joy. By faith and hope, I believe that we shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! (Psalm 27:13) We will laugh at the days to come.

laugh at days to come

One of my greatest joys in this world is to sing with all my heart songs of our faith, of the Mighty Work and Victory of Jesus Christ for broken people. I especially like to do so in the face of all the suffering, pain, death, diagnoses, weakness, confusion, darkness and so, through faith, to lift up my heart to Him-who-is-my-Hope and laugh at the days to come. —Jason T. Dorsey, Lead Pastor, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Indianapolis, IN

The Lord is my Joy by Nathan Partain

The Lord is my Joy, the Lord is my joy
When all that I have is lost, I find
The Lord is my Joy.

The Lord is my strength, the Lord is my strength,
When I am too weak to go on, I find
The Lord is my strength.

My all in all is he, My healing King
My Master tends to me, for him, my soul shall sing.

The Lord is my rock, the Lord is my rock,
When all I have faith in fails, I find
The Lord is my rock.

The Lord is my delight, the Lord is my delight,
Above all the joys of life, I find
The Lord is my delight.

My all in all is he, my breath, my song.
In him I have everything; to him, my soul belongs.

I wait, and wait upon you, To come for me in rescue.
Give strength, my heart is failing, yet still, my lips will praise you.

And with his wings he covers me, he keeps his watch when I’m asleep,
I offer all my thoughts and dreams, I give my savior everything.

You who gave your only son, I dare not doubt your steadfast love.
Come, I beg you take my life, if am yours then all is right.

My all in all is he, my dearest friend.
I put my trust in him; on him, my soul depends.

Psalm 46:11

When Christmas Joy Becomes Sorrow Becomes Hope

Christmas tree

Well, hello 2015! So grateful to welcome the first Monday of a new year. A new year of adventures for our family and another year of meeting new friends to share our adventures with. All of us on separate journeys, each with different stories to live out, yet through our family and friendships, our stories take on the shape of God’s providence, weaved and held together by strands of grace, hemmed in behind and before by his unstoppable love and relentless mercy. (Psalm 139:5)

When Christmas joy …

The year of 2014 neared its end with an awesome Christmas Eve celebration at our church and a wonderful Christmas morning with just the two of us, my husband and I. And we actually had a fun time! I was quite surprised by that since it was our first year we were apart from family. We were hoping for a white Christmas but instead we had Indiana sunshine that is bright as a grey wool blanket. To be honest, I was struggling to feel the joy of Christmas this year and my grumbling about the circumstances that prevented us from traveling didn’t help either. I soon realized I was substituting family to experience real joy instead of reveling in the glad tidings of great joy, for unto us a child is born; unto us a Son is given. Isaiah says, “Once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder…” (Isaiah 29:14). An outrageous wonder of sacrificial love… Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace to all the earth. There was much joy!

Redeemer Christmas Eve

Photo credit: Chuck Horn, Christmas Eve, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Indianapolis, IN

 When Christmas joy becomes sorrow …

We received a phone call informing us of sad news that a member of our family passed away unexpectedly Christmas morning. The harsh brutal bite of reality hurt, leaving an open wound of unsettling grief. I read that death is a thief whose robbery is profoundly felt during holidays. We pray our family will believe that God will never stop pouring out his grace upon them. God keeps track of all their sorrows, collects all their tears in his bottle for he has recorded each one in his book. (Psalm 56:8)

When Christmas joy becomes sorrow becomes hope …

It is hard to find hope on your own. At least I think so. I’ve never been strong enough to pull myself up by my bootstraps. I need others to remind me that joy will come in the morning. I should be reminded of God’s promises and assurance of a living hope through Christ. Here are a few quotes (and Bible verses) that have helped me to understand that it is God’s grace that joy springs out of sorrow and sorrow grows into hope.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This living hope is our hope of salvation that includes an imperishable inheritance. The new life that we have in Christ is something that can never be taken away. (I Peter 1:3-4)

When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows. How can this not be the best thing for this world? For us? The clouds open when we mouth thanks. [1]

We are not the Author of our story. We are the characters. [2]

Suffering is unbearable if you aren’t certain that God is for you and with you…We can trust God, because the biblical story will help us endure when our own little stories seem confusing and we feel forsaken. And we can pray, as Job did. Though filled with anguish and despair, Job continued to wrestle with God—unlike his friends, who talked about God but never really knew him. In that story, God reveals himself to be almighty and approachable, transcendent and personal, and the ultimate answer to suffering. [3]

Our stories are different, our journeys are different, but to keep on keeping on, in hope, is our deepest vocation, whoever we are, wherever we live, whatever we do. [4]

Behold, I am making all things new. (Revelation 21:5)

[1] Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts | [2] Kara Tippetts, The Hardest Peace | [3] Tim Keller, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering | [4] Dr. Steven Garber, The Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation and Culture

Looking Forward

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The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

You’re not stuck. You’re not encased in concrete. Your life is not a dead end. The possibility of change has not slipped through your fingers. Change is possible for you and me even in the places where change seems most hopeless. Why? Because the Giver of transformative grace has made you and me the place where he dwells! [1]

On this last day of the year, may we look back and remember the faithfulness of the Lord so that, as we look forward to the mystery and unknown future of 2015, we trust in the One who has proven Himself faithful already. For “The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price … He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” [2]

[1] Paul Tripp, New Morning Mercies [2] Bethany Jenkins, The Park Forum; Revelation 22:17, 20-21

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The Beauty of Grace

I am grieving over the sudden death of a good friend. I am deeply saddened for a family that no longer has a son. The evil of cancer attempts to break the most valiant warrior and the rampage of an incurable disease is relentless. My heart is heavy and burdened in prayer for precious friends.

God, please help them to wait patiently for you. Please incline your ear to hear their cry. Draw them up from the pit of destruction, out of the filthy swamp. Set their feet upon a rock, make their steps secure. Put a new song in their mouths, a song of praise to you, God. You are their help and their deliverer; do not delay, O my God. (Based on Psalm 40:1-3; 17)

In my downcast state of mind this morning, I recalled a song that I heard at Redeemer, an urban church in Indianapolis, where I worship and serve in children’s ministry. My friends ask, why did this happen … yet they may never learn the answer to that question on this side of heaven but what they are certain of is that they will experience the beauty of God’s grace in calamity … day by day, moment by moment, morning, noon, and evening. I know that his kindness is steadfast, He has anchored my soul in his peace.

Listen to the song here: For HIs Own Sake (live).mp3 written and performed by Nathan Partain, Director of Worship and Culture at Redeemer Indy.

What does it mean to love the almighty God when he allows calamity? What should we expect in this life? After spending much time in the word and prayer, after trying to teach these truths to myself and those around me, this song comes and it sums up one of the largest truths that has emerged during this season. That I do not love God for what he does for me. I love him for who he is alone. That is what it means to really love. He is worthy of my love, my strength, my devotion and honor. And it is not just that I am obliged to give my everything to him. I want to. In fact, there is nothing I want more than to give my all to my God. This song was recorded live in worship on Palm Sunday.  —Nathan Partain   http://partainwordsandmusic.wordpress.com/2014/05/02/for-his-own-sake/

For His Own Sake

I have seen the bright birth of the morning,
I have worked through the sweat of the day.
I have laughed as the summer rains poured down from heaven,
and I’ve harvested oceans of grain.

I have worked and I’ve worked and had nothing,
I have prayed and I’ve prayed but no rain,
I have lost to the fire, storm and locust,
And woke up to find all my land left in shame.

Still each morning and noon and in evening,
I will trust my Lord and bless his name.
Never seeking the gain but the Giver,
So I love him for nothing but for his own sake.

I have made the mistake that my blessing,
Means the favor of God on my ways,
And thought every hardship, his anger against me,
And cried out in darkness for grace.

Now I know that his kindness is steadfast,
He has anchored my soul in his peace,
So that suffering is now just the pangs of my hunger,
to know the embrace of my King.

Still each morning and noon and in evening,
I will trust my Lord and bless his name.
Never seeking the gain but the Giver,
So I love him for nothing but for his own sake.

I have learned that this world is not truest,
There’s a hope held securely beyond,
And since Jesus has suffered through my own destruction,
I entrust my all to my God.

I have seen deepest loss bring rejoicing,
Seen a mother with her stillborn sing praise,
I have seen those abused and those ravaged by sickness,
Through tears and in anguish give thanks.

Still each morning and noon and in evening,
I will trust my Lord and bless his name.
Never seeking the gain but the Giver,
So I love him for nothing but for his own sake.

—Nathan Partain

Sunday Respite | Needing Wisdom

James 1:5

After a year of being forced to stop running due to a physical set-back, I’m elated to be back on the road, pounding the asphalt, and tunes streaming through earbuds. My run this morning was especially wonderful with a cool temperature in the mid-60’s and the sun peeking out from behind the clouds.

As I normally begin every run, I started slow to warm up, and soon found the familiar and comfortable stride, in sync with the beat and rhythm of upbeat music. Before I realized it, I was no longer aware of the distance I had traveled as the exhilarating effect of a runner’s high resulted in a sudden increase of energy.

Once the runner’s high began to taper off, my mind wandered to daydreaming about wishful adventures, outrageous goals, and thoughts about painful, down-to-earth realities…such as the shock of learning that a good friend died and to process through some of the hard decisions my family will need to make.

I begin to pray. To talk to God about everything. The music is still playing in my ears, yet I’m not paying attention to the words of a song, only the words I am shouting silently to God, as I run. While I know I have God’s attention all the time, I particularly enjoy having his attention to hear my anxious prayers when I’m sweating and running.

Praying on this particular day, I asked God for one thing only and that was, “Lord, I need wisdom.” I’m facing a mountain of decisions and I need wisdom to discern the right choice. I need wisdom to navigate through the emotional pull from people in my life while my natural tendency is to “fix” their problems. I need wisdom to parent well, to discern when to speak up and when to shut up. I need practical, grace-filled wisdom…

And immediately there it was! I remembered this verse: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5) There is incredible peace and joy knowing that God will generously give the wisdom I need.

I’m home now, sitting on the back porch, unlacing my running shoes and drinking a bottle of cold water. It’s been a good run and a fantastic start of a new day. When I stop and ponder how it is to receive wisdom, it amazes me again that the way of the wise is earnest prayer and extended meditation on the Word of God. I’m so glad that this conversation with my Heavenly Father will continue throughout the day.

Already, there is clarity and direction.

Proverbs 9:10

The Story of All Things New

All Things New

“Behold, I am making all things new.” Revelation 21:5

This is the first time we have lived next door to farmland and I’ve grown to appreciate the barren fields of a farmer’s life. To be unabashedly honest, when we first moved here, I would drive by those fields and glance at them with a disinterested nod. Oddly, I’m beginning to see the beauty in those flat treeless fields with straight lines of plowed earth.

All Things New

We moved here mid summer during a scorching heat wave with record-breaking high temps that made Arizona seem a cool place to be. The farm lands looked depressed lined with dead dry stalks. Then fall arrived with a picture book view of splendorous colors surrounding the brown fields. My husband and I began to prepare ourselves for the biting chill of winter soon to arrive. There was great delight when the harsh gray days were brightened by the sparkling glare of white snow covering those acres of barren fields.

Finally, spring is here. Trees are beginning to bud, daffodils splash bright yellow and orange colors surrounding strong leafless oaks and front lawns are bursting new with the fresh green color of vibrant life. The colors remind me that the fields are waiting for harvest to come. It reminds me that what God has promised, will indeed come true, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:5)

I can’t wait for God to make all things new. For those barren fields to show new life, ready for the harvest. I can’t wait for God to make all things new in our lives, which can seem at times like a barren field. It is good to have our hearts turned and plowed. To feel the tug of the Holy Spirit groaning in our prayers; our efforts to grow are delayed by drought. Our hope is in the Lord, as we worship Him, to make all things new.

All Things New

I’ve been reading through the book of Ruth over and over again. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve read this book and every time I finish reading it, I have a deep contented feeling, to inhale and exhale a deep hopeful sigh of relief and joy. In terms of storytelling, the story of Ruth begins with tragedy…pain, sadness, and bitterness yet it’s one of the most beautifully written love stories in the Bible that shows the providence of God; demonstrating his glory by way of his justice, kindness, and faithfulness to keep his promise, to make all things new.

There is a famine in the land. The barren fields have gone through the seasons of waiting for a harvest…a season of new things that will not come. There will be no harvest until there is a change in the people’s heart to love God and desire to honor him more than anything else. So much time goes by and the barren fields become parched, cracked and dead from lack of rain. This harsh reality and existence takes the lives of three men. The wives of these men, Ruth, her sister-in-law, Orpah and her mother-in-law, Naomi, have become widowed.

What begins as a heartbreaking story ends as a fairy tale of living happily ever after, only this is not a fairy tale, although I imagine that Ruth had hopes that her dreams of a knight in shining armor would come true. Finally, there is celebration and delight in worshiping the one true God. The rains came.

God causes the rain to pour down and the place where barren fields once were are now rich with all things new. Eventually, Ruth and her mother-in-law travel back to the place where God has deliberately shown that He is in control.

Through the providence of God, Ruth meets her “knight in shining armor” by way of a brave and courteous announcement of her presence. God has been designing this introduction for many years already. I love the fact that God writes a magnificent love story! While reading this awesome story, I pray to become more like Ruth. To live my life story in anticipation of God making all things new. I appreciate Ruth’s bravery to glean from the harvest that God has caused to grow. She is bold and self-confident and trusts a wiser and older woman, Naomi, to coach her. I value her humbleness in listening to wise counsel.

As the story of Ruth unfolds, we read that she left her home for a greater purpose. Even though Ruth had no idea what was before her, she packed up and moved because she believed God had called her to something greater…the “something greater” was to worship God alone. Ruth met her beloved kinsman redeemer, her knight in shining armor while gleaning from the harvest that occurred after a dry season of barren drought. God rescued her by providing a “knight in shining armor”…a redeemer! I  love this picture of God’s ultimate kindness and grace towards us.

This causes me to ponder…

I place myself into the story of Ruth. I am rescued.

When the fields are barren, this is the time to worship God.

When I glean from the fields, this is the time to worship God.

The story of Ruth begins with barren fields and ends with rich crops of grain and a bountiful harvest. A love lost and a love found. She ventures by faith to meet her kind redeemer and through God’s providence becomes linked, in a very significant way, to the genealogy of Christ.

This is me. This is us. We are, by God’s providence, linked to Christ. We are living every day experiencing God making all things new.

All Things New