Thursday, January 6, 2011

dare to hope

""We call Abraham 'father' not because he got God's attention living like a saint, but because God made something out of Abraham when he was a nobody. ...Abraham was first named father - and then became a father, because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing." (Romans 17-18, The Message)

It's a new year. And with that comes a lot of resolutions, a lot of promises, a lot of determined grimaces to do something different, to be something different, and to make more out of ourselves. Funny, when you read that verse and realize: we are powerless. The only One who can make any changes in us is the Father, and He had those changes in mind long before we even came to be. He knows what's best - and He is the only one who will equip us to become something we're not. Something we resolved to be ten, fifteen, twenty years ago... and still haven't gotten right.

Over the holidays i took my six year-old daughter to see "Tangled". I was skeptical at first because lately, it seems most movies made for kids are, well, not. They're irreverent and chock-full of sexual innuendoes that I'll be crossing my fingers she doesn't repeat in, say, the checkout line at Target. So we pretty much avoid them. But we weren't able to get in to see "Secretariat" one day, and "Tangled" happened to be showing across the hall... so.... there we sat. I prepared myself for an overly "girl-powered" princess and a metrosexual prince who cared more about his perfectly preened coif than doing anything with integrity. What I got was something entirely different. Though we all know the story well, the depiction had a depth and a dimension to it that I'd never seen before. Rapunzel is a girl whose entire heritage has been kept from her, and whose "mother" - ultimately the deciever - has a deep, codependent need for Rapunzel to be kept in the dark. As long as Rapunzel believes she's the child of this awful woman, she sticks around and allows that woman to use her long, long hair as a tool for procuring eternal youth. And even though that woman is cruel, manipulative, degrading, and controlling, the fact that Rapunzel believes she's her mother keeps Rapunzel trapped. Then, entering onto the scene is Flynn Rider. Dashing, brave, noble... no. A thief who's running from the law - but who can see as plain as day that Rapunzel is a little off her rocker. After the two work out a 'deal' in which she will leave her captive tower for a day with him as her guide (and he will in turn get back the royal jewels he's just stolen), we get to watch Rapunzel experience freedom for the first time in her life. She runs through the meadows, she splashes in creek beds, she chases birds and lets the summer breeze send her hair flying. She's overjoyed. And then, she's not. She's wrecked with guilt. It feels so good to be free - but then again, it's awful.... if being free means rebellion and disobedience. And in her mind, she's called to be loyal to this 'mother' who's raised her all these years.

As I sat next to my daughter and watched, it struck me that I was catching a glimpse of myself. I've often - mostly - allowed a great deceiver to convince me that my inheritance is exactly what I'm looking at. My circumstances. What I can see, what I can get out of my life today. And strangely, I forget - forgive me for the extraordinary cliche about to hit here - that I'm actually royalty. That my inheritance was bought and paid at an extremely high price, and now, I'm a daughter of the King. My captor isn't a human being, but rather a way of living: following the rules, doing the right thing... "living like a saint". Maybe, just maybe, if I stick to that plan, I'll finally experience what i so long for: freedom.

What Rapunzel didn't understand, and what I so often seem to miss, is that the heart of deception is captivity. Her deceiver never meant to free her... and neither will mine. But Someone has. Someone did a long, long time ago. And it's up to me to walk in that freedom. There is no tower in my life. There are no chains. They're figments of my human sense of guilt - or shame, or confusion, or religious insecurity. Galatians 5:1 says this: "Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you!" (The Message). Rapunzel believed she belonged to the woman in the tower, and therefore what she believed kept her a slave. So often, what we believe about our circumstances or ourselves or God is the very notion that keeps us from living freely.

What I love about that passage regarding Abraham is that the opposite of living like a saint isn't living like a criminal; instead, it's letting God make a saint out of you. Paul, in that letter to the Galatians, goes on to say that freedom doesn't mean taking your life by the reins and turning it into something worth noticing... no, he says this: "Live freely, animated and motivated by God's Spirit. Then you won't feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit" (1:16-17). interesting. What's at odds with freedom? Selfishness. Thinking we can do it on our own because dadgummit, we're strong... we're independent... we're dedicated, determined, disciplined. The moment we convince ourselves our agenda will work is the moment the chains start creeping back around our ankles.
Only God can make us anything... anything. Not something better. But something in the first place.

God had told Abraham he'd be a father to many. Abraham was one hundred years old. His wife was as infertile as the day is long. Children were a laughable matter in their household (and laugh, she did, when she heard God's promise). But Abraham didn't; he "dared to trust". He "plunged into the promise and came up strong, ready for God, sure that God would make good on what He had said" (Romans 4:20-23, The Message). Not only did God promise Abraham that He would do something remarkable with his entirely unremarkable life (and trust me: without Him, we're all unremarkable) - God promised Abraham He would do something Abraham wanted Him to do, something he "dared" to hope for. How incredible is that? Not only is God interested in making something out of you - He's interested in making something out of your hopes. Your dreams. Your resolutions.

And just by believing God, by trusting Him, by daring to hope - Abraham was called righteous. Done. Sealed. Quit working, quit straining, quit striving, quit punching the air - you're good. Jesus offers us the same promise: if you will believe me, you will be saved. You'll be free. Not for a moment, not for a lifetime, but for eternity. Your first job is this: believe. God's first work for you involves one simple task: believe in Jesus (John 6:29). Start there.

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010


It has been a little over one year, to the day, since I last wrote on this blog. At the time, I thought I would venture out and begin something new... which I tried. And which became like a bad taste in my mouth and basically waned into nothingness. Writing for me is integral, but something I often have to work very hard at - and I know those two facts are contradictions. They swat at each other all day long. I hate to write... I love to write. I must write... I will never write again. I am temperamental, a flux of emotion and frustration and passion and, therefore, sometimes good for nothing whatsoever. But, the compulsion to write came upon me today, and while I have this other new blog set up, it annoys me and feels stupid and silly. When I came back here, just to browse, I found that it no longer bore the weight for me as it once had; it didn't feel like the black mourning band around my arm that a year ago it seemed to be. "I read the words/ Well - those sound right/ I see a face/ It's me!/ Why did I leave this lovely place?/ Where else but should I be?"

And so I am back.

Now, it is an impetus for me to write - not as much for you to read. So, if you are reading this, and find it very dull, don't feel the obligation to stick around and read anymore. I cannot promise it won't get duller. Sometimes, my fear of being dull has kept me from this place. And I fear that my monotony in life - or, if I'm honest, my peace - will make me a drudgery. Happiness has its numbing effects. As Emily Dickinson wrote, "I can wade grief/ Whole pools of it - /I'm used to that./ But the least push of joy/ Breaks up my feet,/ And I tip - drunken." It's in trial that so often we become sharply aware of everything - awakened to the richness and poverty around us, able to articulate with greater clarity what we feel and need and hope and grieve and pine for. But with happiness - in simple stillness - there sometimes grows stagnation. Perhaps I have grown stagnant. I hope not. But if I have, well - I suppose few will linger on to see much of it.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

and thus, until we meet again...

If you are reading this, you ought to be handed some sort of medal. Upon it would be inscribed: 'faithful reader of a not-so-faithful writer' or something to that effect. While for months my thoughts and hopes and fears were traceable here, on this blog, I find that now, in a new season, with so much more on my mind than what once was, it seems fitting to depart from this place and to embark on a new journey. As a member of a group of people who have committed hours of their lives to walking through the last couple of years with me, I hope that somehow the fondness that swells my heart for you will permeate that glowing computer screen and you will know what your prayers, words of encouragement and consistent companionship - even if alongside me via my incessant online ramblings - have meant to me. Were it not for you, I am confident I would not be where I am today.

As I consider what might have brought you here for the first time, I'm aware that many have their own seeds of sorrow to sow. Many have yet to sow them. And it would be naive on my part to believe my own grief is entirely gone; indeed, though the wound has healed, a scar remains, and sometimes, in the most unexpected moments, it will seem to spring back to life with a pain so acute I cannot do anything but pray it away. But I want to encourage those of you who are walking a road similar to my own: fear not. You will smile again. You will feel again, in the way you once did, without the struggle to breathe mixed in. You will laugh and sing and know victory, if you will ask for those things. Ask for them, and receive them, for surely if you will only ask, you will find your cup filled over. Don't compare your story with anyone else's, for in the comparing there is the promise of bitterness or guilt. Stand perfectly still if you must, looking neither backward or forward, and simply believe that you can make it through the day - or the next five minutes.

I pray if you do look at me, or where I am, or rather, where God has brought me, you can be filled with hope because I have been given "bouquets of roses instead of ashes, [a message] of joy instead of news of doom, a praising heart instead of a languid spirit" (Isaiah 61:3, The Message). God has exchanged my sorrow for elation, my weeping for dancing, my agony for peace. Though I hold in my arms a new baby, and what would seem a redemption for the life I lost with Copeland, in truth this peace came before she did, and I recognize that God often first gives us what we do not know we need before He gives us the things we long for. For we "do not know the thoughts of the Lord; we do not understand His plan" (Micah 4:12).

From now on, let this blog remain a tribute to God's faithfulness to me in the darkest days of my life. Let all who read it be blessed and encouraged, and let those who doubt the might of the Holy God be astounded at His goodness to me, a woman redeemed by the blood of the One who sees more in me than I see in myself.

I will continue blogging elsewhere, and would love for those of you who are interested to please come alongside me again. The Lord has given me a distinct passion for His Word and uncovering truth for the generations to come, particularly for my precious children who will fight a battle perhaps even fiercer than my own. It's on these topics that I hope to put down my thoughts on the next blog. I am having a sweet friend do some "maintenance" for me, and will shortly give you the web address.

Be blessed today, and everyday, as you open your hands to receive what the Father will lavish upon you. And may He grant us a thousand lifetimes in eternity with which to know one another and to rejoice in His goodness to us.

With deep love and affection,

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Saturday, March 28, 2009

a perpetual hallelujah

I have tried to find words to articulate what these images make me feel. Conor and I first saw them when the Discovery Channel premiered the BBC documentary series, "Planet Earth", in 2007. It took up many hours of our life when we were anticipating Copeland's arrival, and even when we knew of her condition, there was something calming about seeing the natural world in motion. It's difficult, in the face of grief, to watch humanity continue to twirl - people going to lunch, taking taxis, visiting the park, renting movies - but somehow, nature, in its finest display of continuity, routine and discipline reflected something more of a God who is not only creative in His storytelling, but also intentional.

Sellers has taken to great bouts of weeping whenever she sees this trailer; we weren't totally sure why at first, but as time has passed, and we've watched it over and over, we suspect it's because she, as a child, has a greater access to that part of her spirit that needs to connect with nature, a part that, without the dregs of time, is still sensitive to the beauty she sees and the impulse to be near it. I read, recently, a fantastic post on a friend's blog that discussed a possible correlation between our decreased interest in God and our decreased interest in the natural world. We say we aren't ones for camping, or hiking, that we don't like getting wet or dirty or that bugs or snakes or spiders or whatever else bother us - and perhaps this is true. But we are now a generation of people who see getting wet or dirty or dealing with natural elements as negotiable, a generation who could, effectively, almost avoid such events entirely by mildly calculated efforts.

I don't know what God wants for the rest of my life. Sometimes I find myself feeling suppressed, or depressed, or just anxious, as though my spirit knows there's more but my mind can't fathom what the 'more' is. I don't mean Heaven. I'm trained, as a believer, to understand that Heaven is great, Heaven is where we should want to be. But when I have absolutely zero framework for what Heaven might possibly be like, I find it difficult to imagine, much less look forward to. Isn't it odd that most of our musings on eternity focus on something more like a grandiose church service, white robes and Southern Gospel included? If the God who created the place I'm going to spend eternity also happened to create the place I'm currently residing in, wouldn't it benefit me to get a better glimpse of it than through my tinted windows as I drive 45 miles an hour to get groceries? Would it change your relationship with Jesus if you knew the place He was preparing for you was just like where you happen to live now - only redeemed, whole, new, fresh, more alive and vibrant? That when we look on these images of animals and plants and water and earth brimming with possibility, we can honestly know that, without voices like our own, each is singing a song of praise and anticipation and hope - a song that cries out for rebirth? What if you started a walk with God that began simply based on the acknowledgement of His creativity, the majesty and wonder of His works, instead of choosing to walk away from God because of a human effort to convert you? What if His message is stronger than anyone else's? What if this is all for you?

If you are a believer, it is your responsibility to honor this masterpiece. Satan has used the political dialogues we've taken to engaging in when it comes to caring for this planet to turn our eyes and ears away from what is true, and right. God has said that He has created this wonderland, this place of majesty and might, so that "everyone will see [it, and so that] no one can miss it— unavoidable, indisputable evidence that I, God, personally did this. It's created and signed by The Holy of Israel" (Isaiah 41:20). Who are we to question our duty to treasure and cherish this gift? We would never refute a Christian's calling to preach the Gospel by word or deed. Why, then, are we quick to shove the very creation upon which we stand aside, declaring it ours for the taking, assuming no passion or fear or respect for what God designed as His most faithful evangelist? It was the Pharisees, those who considered themselves the most devoted in their religion, who were stunned to hear that, even if Jesus' disciples kept quiet, the stones themselves would cry out (Luke 19:40). Oh, that we were more aware of the hallelujahs going up around us every moment!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

winds of change

I don't remember a time in my own personal history - nor the history of the world as I've known it - that everything felt so perilously out of order. Everywhere we turn, homes are being lost, businesses are shutting down, people are living in a much less free-and-easy sort of way. Perhaps this is good, perhaps this will be a blessing in disguise; in fact, I'm inclined to think that's exactly what it will be. But blessings in disguise rarely feel like blessings as they are being experienced. Mostly they feel like fear and uncertainty and pain.

As I drove to the park today (marveling at how our weather patterns can be, well, so patterned, back and forth like the zigging and zagging of the stitching in a dress), I noticed some daffodils growing beside a mailbox on a back road. And though a carefully examined patch of yard might not testify to its imminent arrival, spring is coming, and splashes of green pushing up in pastures and fields declare it over and over again. Spring is God's anthem of redemption. Every gentle breeze, each proud new blade of grass, the dizzying scent of a hyacinth bloom - all of it singing a song of promise. And today, as I drove, I realized: if my God does not forget to orchestrate all these things, in fact purposefully sets them into motion again and again, year after year, then who am I to worry? Who am I to question?

I must borrow from my pastor now. Two days ago, I listened to him speak about sanctification. His definition of it seemed rather clumsy to me at first; almost too much to digest. To paraphrase: "Gradually becoming what we already are and what we're meant to be." What? It felt word-heavy, as though it would topple under its own verbosity. But in essence, what he was saying about sanctification was that it's both a one-time thing and an ongoing process. We have a maple tree in our yard that wears each season boldly on its branches. In the summer, it's vibrant and lush. In the fall, its leaves begin to crumple and crisp, turning bright shades of reds and golds. Winter strips it of any and all signs of life. But spring. Spring comes and never has that tree looked so glorious. Green, yes, and on its way to vibrance and fullness. But still new, still young. still just dappled with color. Spring is that first, early morning yawn of summer. Spring is pristine restraint to summer's tawdry decadence. My tree seems to stretch its weary limbs up against the bluing sky and reach out for life again. Always the same tree - never the same tree. It, like me, is in a continual state of transition.

If you believe in Jesus, you are like that tree. You, too, are changing. Perhaps not in drastic leaps and bounds, not all at once, but the change is inevitable. It is not by choice but by His spirit. Sanctification is a difficult word. Maybe it's easier to digest when you think of it as this: being the you He intended you to be. Not in a you kind of way. But in a Jesus kind of way. After all, you were made in His image. Sin has stripped us of that, has made us prisoners to something other than what we were called to. But salvation sets in motion a metamorphosis, a hearkening back to what was the original design.

First we are set free from the penalty of sin - hallelujah! I, like the church at Corinth, have been "called to be holy" (I Cor. 1:2). My sanctification is immediate. But it's also ongoing. With each day that I remain on earth, a battle will be waged to keep me free from sin's power. I must keep awake so that I can resist the temptation to drift off into apathy. I will feel the transformation, slowly but surely, as I become more like Him, "from one degree of glory to another" (II Cor. 3:18). Always the same girl - never the same girl. If I am a believer, if I am walking with Jesus, walking in true relationship with Him, my growth will never stop. Just as my maple tree is constantly changing, even if not to the naked eye, I, too, cannot help but be constantly changed, as well. It is not choice. It is inevitable. When we finally reach eternity, however that door may be opened before us, we that are believers will be done. The transition will be complete. Emerging from the fog that was our understanding now, we will be perfectly holy. Just as He intended. "We will be like Him" (I John 3:2), free from the presence of sin. There will be no more death, or tears, or pain.

He is making all things new. It is immediate, and ongoing. He was, and is, and is to come! There is an end to this story. There is a purpose. And there is a calm behind the chaos. He is making all things new. It is happening in you who believe, and He is urging you on in the metamorphosis of the world around you. Breathe in and know: change is coming.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hey Everyone- This is Conor. Thought I would upload a couple of my favorite new photos...I cannot tell you enough how much we are blessed by your prayers and words. Thanks!

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