Tag: life (page 1 of 6)

When Grief and Joy Collide

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This is a picture of the lovely bunch of roses given to me by my husband yesterday, in celebration of our fourteenth wedding anniversary.

As children across the world were fleeing violence, as race riots were happening over the death of yet another black teenager, and as we were having a national discussion about depression and suicide, it was my anniversary. It was a day of joy and gratitude standing in stark contrast to the day of lament for so many others. Also? I was sick.

Life is never experienced one feeling at a time.

We give birth to babies while others struggle with infertility. We hate our jobs or lose our jobs while others get exciting promotions. We join a friend at a birthday parties after going to visit another in the hospital.

What do we do with all that?

There is so much of it that is out of our control. We cannot will the good to rain down on us instead of the bad. We cannot manufacture easy answers to why some prayers seem to get answers and some do not. We cannot ensure that days of celebration do not crash against times of disaster.

So what do we do? How do we handle the collision of grief and joy that greets us each day of our lives?

Lately I’ve been thinking about the importance of the word with.

With is used over 1300 times in the New Testament. The first time is in Matthew chapter 1, as Mary is described as being with child. The second is when that child is described as being God with us.

With is the word of the incarnation.

With pushes us to feel the presence of God in our midst, through every high and low moment of our lives. With knows that comfort is found less in the search for answers and more in the manifestation of grace.

God with us was Jesus in perfect love coming into a world of broken love, showing us that the two are held together in Him.

We are raised with Christ and indwelled with the Spirit, so that we might follow in the legacy of incarnation. To bear with one another in love, to sit with one another in grief, to join with one another in celebration.

God with us can give us the courage to be present with it all. Present with those we love, even when it’s hard. Present with the news, even when it makes us cry. Present with our kids, even when something else needs to get done. Present with our feelings, even when avoiding them would be so much easier. Present with our experiences, even when they conflict with what is going on all around us.

God with us allows us to be present with God in prayer with it all, whether lament, gratitude, praise, anger, clarity, or confusion.

With is not an answer, yet somehow, it feels like exactly what we need to know.

I Still Believe in the Bible

With all the failures of the Church, with all the mistakes of leaders, with all the confusion across years and cultures, I still believe in the Bible.

I believe the heart of the Bible beats wild and free inside its binding, no matter how many times it is held down or torn apart or thrown across a room. It is a living Word whose breath bursts through any attempts to suffocate it.

I believe when the living Word joins forces with the living Spirit and flows into living hearts, something is unleashed unlike any other power in this world.

I have been afraid to admit this. Fearful of this belief being my voice. Unsure what box would be placed around me after this sort of declaration. Nervous about saying things in such a way that I might drive the nails into that box myself.

But my fear is no longer strong enough to hold back this fire within my bones.

I still believe in the Bible. I still believe this ancient Book can speak new things to humanity, even on the thousandth reading of a text. I still believe the Scriptures have power to change lives, transform hearts, and speak into the deepest crevices of our souls.

I still believe in the Bible

That doesn’t mean I believe the Bible is easy. Or clear. I believe the Bible is often frustrating, and usually confusing, but absolutely worth wrestling through. We cannot give up.

Which is why I believe we need each other. We need a community that reads and shares about the Scriptures with one another. We need academics to show us context, artists to show us beauty, doubters to show us questions, servants to show us surrender, and visionaries to show us inspiration.

I believe the life surging from God’s Word is meant to make its way into the world through every wrinkle, mole, joint, muscle, and bone of the Body of Christ. I believe the Bible is meant to be the lifeblood for each of us: anchoring us, encouraging us, and spurring us forth to the beautiful lives God desires for His beloveds.

I still believe in the Bible. I intend to spend my life cracking it open, breathing it in, and letting its life flow from me.

How do you feel about the Bible these days? Have you seen it change lives?

An Overfilled Christmas

 full Christmas tree

—-

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” – John 10:10

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This year, I put my box of Christmas ornaments away with one full layer of decorations still in it. I just couldn’t find any more room on the tree. After so many years of accumulation, it was full.

My overflowing Christmas tree seems symbolic of the entire Christmas season. Despite my best efforts, the older I get, the more it seems to fill up.

It’s exhausting. And not reflective of the life Jesus came to give us.

Sometimes my response adds to the sense of things being overcrowded. I get worried that the fullness of this season is overtaking the fullness of Christ.

So I pack shame and regret and frustration on top of it all, wondering how I lost track of Christmas, worried that my kids will grow up without the sense of the true meaning of it all that I hope to give them.

But that response does not help take me back to the fullness of Christ.

One of the wonderful things about the life Christ offers us is He never withdraws His offer. It is always there. If we lose track of this Christmas, we will have another chance next Christmas, as well as all the months and days between now and then.

It’s true that life is made of moments, but is it also composed of a lifetime.

I’ve often heard stories of how the innkeeper missed his chance to partake in the miracle and wonder of the first Christmas. But I don’t know if that’s actually a helpful thought. Yes, he did miss that one moment. But he had the rest of his life to find Christ. He didn’t lose the opportunity forever when he missed the moment before him.

Maybe 30 years later, the people of Bethlehem heard stories of a miracle worker, teacher, and prophet who was born in their town. Maybe it triggered memories of how the sky shone unusually bright one night about that many years ago. Maybe someday they were able to find the peace, hope, and fullness of life with Immanuel. They may have missed it that night, but they might not have missed it forever.

Christmas comes every year. Perhaps this Christmas needs a do-over for you, but that’s okay. Christ is still here, and He will always be here, offering you His fullness and peace.

—-

Dear Jesus, replace our busyness with Your fullness. Replace our shame with Your love. Replace our guilt with Your forgiveness. May we never stop searching for You. May we never stop seeking what You have to offer us. Amen.

—-

O Little Town of Bethlehem- Sarah McLachlan

“Where meek souls will
receive Him still
the dear Christ enters in.”


NoticingImmanuel

Noticing Immanuel: a series for Advent. Each day starts with noticing: a picture of an everyday Christmas moment. That picture leads to a verse, a meditation, a prayer, and a song. My hope is that when we see those Christmas moments a second time, they will strike us differently. That we might feel the presence of Immanuel this Christmas season, whether we are sitting in quiet or moving in chaos.

On preaching, inadequacies, and life in Christ

If you would have asked me as a child or even as a college student about some future life aspirations, preaching sermons would not have made the list.

 

Especially because I am a woman, and I grew up a paradigm that would not allow for me to be upfront.

 

Yet here I am, having preached for the fourth time in as many months and wondering what crazy work God has done and is doing in my life.

 

Before and after speaking, I swim in a swirl of emotions from wonder to frustration to doubt to joy to regret to fulfillment. I love it and hate it at the same time. I never feel a clear call that I am the perfect person to speak that message- or a clear call that I am not.

 

But I know my main goals are to step in and to listen.

 

Sometimes that listening is difficult.

 

The preparation for my message this past Sunday was particularly exasperating. I felt completely under qualified. The subject was new life in Christ. Which is pretty much the subject of the New Testament.

 

What could I add to the words of Peter and Paul? And what could I say in 30 minutes that would even scratch the surface of this message of the Gospel?

 

As I read and sifted and processed, I often wondered if I should pass the baton to someone who would be better at this than me. But I didn’t. Somehow it seemed that feeling inadequate was actually the perfect place to begin.

 

If I authentically believe that what I do is through the power of the Holy Spirit, in the strength of Christ, for the glory of God, then it’s not about my adequacy. It is about my trust. I have to lean into God more than I count on my gifts.

 

So I did that the best I could.

 

Does that mean I walked away with a message I wouldn’t tweak if I had the chance, with points completely polished, and with a conclusion that would take your breath away? Not in the slightest. There are several things that went well, and many more that I would do differently if I were to give this talk again.

 

Yet I believe that God uses broken vessels to shine His light. I believe He can speak through me because of my gifts or in spite of my gifts, depending on the circumstance.

 

If you would like to listen to the sermon, you can find the audio here. It has my name below it, and is titled “Abundant Living.” Using the text of John 10, I talked about how Jesus offers us a full life in which we are saved, we are free, and we are known.

 

The message kicked off with this video called “Something more.” Definitely worth a watch.

Something More from Moving Works on Vimeo.

How would you describe life in Christ?

*Dear readers, would you like me to continue to link to my messages when I speak? Is it interesting or helpful to you in some way? Or does it feel like some sort of awkward plug not fitting for this blog space? I would love to hear your honest feedback if you have any. Either as a comment below or an email. Thanks!

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