God, Give Us Tears

What God would probably most love for Christmas is the tears of His people.

In LA, wild fires are raging, burning treasures memories and holiday hopes.  Across the globe, the fires of tension in Bethlehem, the city of our Savior’s birth have been reignited.

The same eyes that wept over the city of Jerusalem thousands of years ago ache to have us weep over the condition of our world, beginning in our own homes and hearts.

Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings and you were not willing! Matthew 23:37.

The wisdom of the wisest man, Solomon, tells us that for everything there is a season and a time. This is the time for tears. There will come a day when every tear will be wiped away from every year, but that time is not yet.

Simon Blocker powerfully captures this sentiment in his book Personality through Prayer. 

“A good case can be made out for it that perhaps the most immediate and imperative need of the Christian church right now is a flood of tears, a veritable deluge of tears for the sins and sorrows of the world…The tearlessness of average Christians in face of prevailing degeneracy partakes of the very blindness and insensitiveness to moral reality which marks the conscienceless conduct of contemporary society. ‘God give us tears,’ is a prayer that may well have justified claim to priority.”

God, give us tears. A scary prayer, but one that would honor our Father as much as it would disrupt our comfort.

When God promised to remove our calloused hearts of stone and gives us hearts of flesh, He gave us the gift of the capacity to feel both the heights of joy and the depths of despair. This gift of feeling is not meant to be wasted only upon ourselves.

Our tears show us where our treasures lie.  I cry when I am tired, I cry when I overwhelmed by my to-do list, I cry when I fail. I cry when things don’t happen as I planned or expected. I cry even at the slightest perception of pain for my children. These are my treasures.

My trail of tears betrays me, as does my lack of tears. I hate to admit it, but until this morning, I have not watched the news in quite some time. Part of not watching the news is wisdom in leading an easily overwhelmed heart; however, part of not watching the news is not wanting to experience discomfort, not wanting to cry the tears that God would borrow my eyes to cry over His world.

I am often so busy with my own schedule, so myopic about my own life, that my tear ducts are not available to the King of Kings. I long to be so connected and in tune with Christ, so consistently walking by the Spirit, that I cry tears that He would cry were He still walking this spinning globe.

This week, I have been asking God to give me tears. It is working. As I write this, my heart is heavy beyond words for the devastation of peace workers in Jerusalem who have worked tirelessly for decades to nurture peacemaking relationships among Palestinians and Israelis who are fearful of one another after centuries of mutual hatred. One announcement is enough to reignite the conflicts to a levels rivaling the California wildfires.

If you are looking for a small way to invest your tears into the peacemaking process, consider purchasing a peace doll made collectively by Palestinian and Israeli women in Jerusalem through the Preemptive Love Coalition. The dolls are sold out, but there are plenty of other items in their shop! https://preemptivelove.shop/collections/refugee-made

 

The beauty of the diversity of the body of Christ is that each of us have different causes and cares that tap into the aquifer of tears in our souls. You may not cry over the wildfires or the peace of a people that hangs in the threads of a complex conflict; but if you are in Christ, He longs to cry tears through your eyes. And now is the time for tears, because soon and very soon, Our King will come again and the time for tears will forever be closed. Let us learn to spend them wisely.

Oh, God, give us tears. Amen.

Enough with “You are enough”

This has bothering me for a while.  Every time I hear another well-intentioned person or motivational meme trying to tell me “I am enough,”  I have to wrestle down the lies again.

I want to believe you, I really do. And I appreciate your overcorrection of our performance and perfection, enhanced, photoshopped beauty culture. I understand that your heart is to help me and every other struggling women to walk in freedom and joy.

But your statement does not work. It does justice to neither the incredibly beauty and potential in me, nor the scary caverns of envy, angry and a myriad of other malefactors that I harbor in my heart.

I am at once deeply flawed and a cherished daughter of the God of the universe. Neither of those qualify in the department “I am enough.”

I would love to believe your platitude and am tempted to from time to time. However, when I lose it with my children after a long day of frustration and interruptions in other realms of life that have nothing to do with them, I see very clearly once again that I am not enough. On my best days when I play the part of merry baker of chocolate chips for an after school snack and get down on my knees and play Legos with my children, I am still not enough. I was never intended to be enough and neither were you.

We were intended to be so much more than enough. As masterpieces of the Master Artist of the Universe whose creative play created sweeping galaxies and microscopic diatoms, all humanity is meant for much higher things that “enough.”

“Man as he is by nature is not as he was when God created him. A vast devastation has struck him. Nevertheless he is great in his ruins. Like a glorious cathedral after a bombing, sinful man still displays the grandeur which was his when he first stood on the earth as created in God’s image. Man is but the wreck of what he once was, but even so he is capable of immense good.” Simon Blocker, Personality Through Prayer

My beef with this seemingly trendy phrase is twofold: it does not say enough and it says too much.  It waters down the two truths that I most desperately need to hear, making both of them inert and powerless. It holds me in a mediocrity that is both too little and too much.

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I am not enough. I am not enough for my husband who is not enough for me or my children. They need and are wired for a perfect parent and spouse.

Yet, when I admit and own that I am not enough, that I will fail them and falter, that even on my perfect days there are voids that I cannot fill in them, I find the power your platitude fails to give me.

When I admit I am not enough, I am forced to look to, to run to, to cling to and to depend upon the God who is every bit enough.

In Him, I far exceed enough. I rocket past mediocrity and keeping up with the Joneses, as His perfect power is displayed through my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). In Him I am transformed from one level of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:18), commanded to press on beyond any human standards to take hold of that for which he has laid hold me (Philippians 3:14), and conformed until I begin to resemble the One who redeemed me (Romans 8:29).

The gospel tells me two truths and holds both at full strength.

I am not enough. In Him I am more than enough.

G. K. Chesterton, in his masterpiece Orthodoxy, describes the way that only the gospel holds two paradoxes together without diluting them.

“Christianity got over the difficulty of combining furious opposites, by keeping them both, and keeping them both furious. The Church was positive on both points. One can hardly think too little of one’s self. One can hardly think too much of one’s soul.”

I reject your dilution, not because I don’t believe you mean well. I reject your dilution because God’s solution to the human dilemma is far more powerful than a platitude, even if it is harder to swallow at first.

 

 

 

The Sprouting Stump

A glimpse into our Advent devotions: Fighting over who gets to light the candle, followed by the near burning of tiny fingers. A beautiful butchering of the names of Old Testament people and places, followed by a few silly applications that usually include someone saying, “Bob” for no apparent reason.

We are trying, and I am so thankful that God can do things even with our distracted devotions. I know He has been using them in my own heart.

A few days back, Jeremiah 23: 5-6 was our reading.

“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as a king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In His days Judah will be saved,  and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: The Lord is our Righteousness.”

The promised Branch reminded me of Isaiah 53:2, our reading from the previous day.

And he grew up before Him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground.

A tender shoot pushing through a decayed stump.  The image resonated with me.

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A few backs, while driving in the middle of nowheresville, CA, I saw something that arrested me. A dead and fallen tree trunk out of which were budding the most beautiful Bougainvillia bush. A budding stump. What a perfect image of Christ’s death being the source of our life.

My heart and life often resemble rotten stumps, places of ruin. Yet, Christ promises to cause our stumpy places to sprout with His life.

I pray that this poem reminds you of the shocking death of Christ, the righteous Branch, to bring life to our stump souls.

The Sprouting Stump

From a little lower than angels
To stumps eaten by decay,
Humanity’s hope had fallen
To darkness and disarray.

Even the vine of His people,
Whom He had daily tended,
Fruitless, blighted and barren,
Beyond what could be mended.

Then rising from the ruin,
A tender shoot emerged.
In the birth of a child,
All prophecies converged.

He was the vine we weren’t,
Obedient and faithful in all.
God’s life sap pulsed in Him,
Under His smile He grew tall.

At the height of his potential,
The world at his discretion,
The vibrant vine, the Son divine,
Absorbed all our infection.

The long-promised shoot
Choked out by sin’s abyss.
The vine violated and vile.
Was ever a branch like this?

Yet from His expiration,
The life vine now has spread,
He sowed seeds of new life
As He rose up from the dead.

The stumps now are sprouting,
With hope does humanity hum.
The Righteous Branch reigns,
And He has a green thumb!

 

 

Ripples of Redemption

No better way to start off Advent season than spending the entirety of the Church service worried that one left the first purple Advent candle burning whilst rushing out the door with one’s slightly disheveled ducklings.

Good news: I did not burn down our house. It seems that I did, indeed, blow out the candle, perhaps in our frantic flurry to get to said distracted worship service.

Even better news: Advent has begun.

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I think I get as excited about Advent as SEC fans do about rivalry week, and that is saying a lot. I recognize that a fixation on liturgical tradition is not a widespread phenomenon; however, but I do recommend Advent practices, along with tradition, “the democracy of the dead.”

This year, I am endeavoring to write a poem each Sunday of Advent as a way to force myself to linger more longingly over the coming Christ.

Ripples of Redemption

At the epicenter of redemption
Lies the infant Immanuel.
His birth cries promising,
“In Me, all shall be well.”

Through His cosmic coming,
Heralded by a strange star,
God the Father went to fetch
His children, near and far.

Eternal ripples of redemption
Emanating out from a cave,
Against all odds and obstacles,
God His people came to save.

May these ripples reach us,
Stirring our deepest parts,
May they disturb our slumber,
Awakening again our hearts.

May the hope of Christ, the epicenter of redemption, ripple into our ordinary lives this week, reminding us of the extraordinary Coming of Christ which changed everything.

Where Grace Reigns, Grace Trains

The other soccer parents probably thought I was crazy, as I looped the track around practice, with notecards in hand mumbling to myself.  We had had a hard day at parenting, and, on hard days, I have to break out the Scripture memory cards.

While I shouldn’t be shocked that my children and I are sinners, I find myself shaken every time a new or different manifestation of brokenness and sin-sickness crops up in us. Seeing the latent sin in our boy’s hearts and also the sinful and my own fearful response as a parent had left me heavy.  Will they ever amount to anything? What are we doing wrong? How do we address sin patterns with grace but also move our children towards ruts of righteousness?

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I read and reread Titus 2:11-14, praying it over my life and the lives of our boys.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness ad to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
Titus 2:11-14. 

A pattern stood out to me. Grace as notion, devotion and motion.

We talk about grace often in our house. Every time we catch our children in the midst of sin, even the smallest things, we talk about owning and admitting it so that we can receive forgiveness and grace. Our kids are familiar with the notion of grace, and that is a good starting place.

Yet, I long for the grace of God to be more than a mere notion in our home. I long for the grace of God as seen through the Saving life, death and resurrection of Christ to become the object of our devotion.

Paul couldn’t help but talk incessantly about Jesus. He is the subject under every letter Paul wrote, including his letter to Titus.  The grace of God that appeared most clearly in Christ caused Paul to worship his “great God and Savior Jesus Christ” and to look and long for the full revealing of His glory in the second coming of Christ.

Grace is so much more than a ticket out of hell or a fresh start after sinning. Grace, while true in fact, emanates out of the person of Christ, who along is worthy of our devotion. Grace is not a concept, it is a person.

When Jesus is the center of our devotion, grace will always lead to motion.  Notice in the excerpt of Titus above that Paul attributes actions to grace. Grace (the person of Christ) has appeared for the purpose of bringing an exclusive salvation that is incredibly inclusive.  Salvation, being made right with God, comes ONE way, through Christ. Yet, that grace is incredibly inclusive, open for all people in all times and places who will repent and receive.

Grace not only brings salvation, but trains its recipients. Those who come bow humbly under the gospel of grace put themselves under the training of Christ.  Moving beyond notion and devotion, grace moves us toward motion, and that motion is away from sin and self and old manners of life and towards a totally other way of life.

I long for our boys to see grace in active operation in my life, moving me away from my own particular controlling desires and toward Christ’s love being the compelling force in my life. I want them to see me renouncing worldly passions and living a self-controlled life, one that finds its source and its fight in the implanted Spirit of Christ.

As I looped around the track at dusk, the Lord began moving me away from frustration at the sin patterns I see in my boys’ lives and toward the sin patterns in my life, that grace desires to conquer slowly and methodically.

I found myself less fearful and more faith-full that what God, by grace begins, by grace He will finish. He will continually take me from notion to devotion to motion. If He can work in such a way in my broken, sin-stuck heart, He can do the same in theirs.

I am so thankful that where grace reigns, grace trains. In my heart, in our home and beyond.

 

Lingering Winter and the Cosmic Summer

The icy, wintery rhetoric of our current political climate leaves me longing for more than just a sunny day, but the cosmic summer, as C.S. Lewis so beautifully puts it. The frigid wind of broken humanity blows in largely publicized news headlines, with Las Vegas concerts, New York bike rides and Texas worship services gone terribly wrong. Yet, the chapping winds also blow through our homes in the unpublished, largely unknowns burdens that affect our families, from entrenched sin patterns to sudden sicknesses to the scourge of sibling rivalry. When a college student bravely shares her story of abuse with me or when I pass by homeless encampments, the wintry winds whip around me.

The freezing cold winter condition of humanity has been blowing of late, leaving my heart heavy and tottering to the more hopeless side. Advent and our celebration of the Incarnation of Christ could not have come at a better time.

In his short book, Miracles, C.S. Lewis calls the Incarnation of Christ the Grand Miracle, the central miracle from which all other Christian miracles hinge and to which they all owe their credit. In his incredible condescension to become human, Christ brought the first fruits of the coming cosmic summer in which all will be made well once again.

 “…God really has dived down into the bottom of creation, and has come up bringing the whole redeemed nature on His shoulder. The miracles that have already happened are, of course, as Scripture so often says, the first fruits of that cosmic summer which is presently coming on. Christ has risen, and so we shall rise… To be sure, it feels wintry enough still; but often in the very early spring it feels like that.”

My husband and I were on a getaway walking through frigid Central Park in the early Spring last year. As the ground crunched beneath us, I could not help but notice the brave little daffodils, pushing their colored buds out into the still-thawing air. Spring was not yet in full swing, but the daffodils were bravely declaring she was coming.

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Similarly, Lewis writes that in the Incarnation of Christ, a corner was turned on the wintery world of sin and brokenness.

“Two thousand years are only a day or two by this scale. A man really ought to say, ‘The resurrection happened two thousand years ago’ in the same spirit in which he says ‘I saw a crocus yesterday.’ Because we know what is coming behind the crocus. The spring came slowly down this way; but the great thing is that the corner has been turned.”

In the midst of the overwhelming chilly winds of the present day on this spinning globe, it did my heart good to be reminded that the corner has been turned. 

Christians have a secured and certain hope that the Summer will come on the heels of Christ’s second coming. We, of all people, should be the daffodils bravely declaring that the Winter does not get the last word, that the Sun is thawing the ice. Just as Lewis’ Aslan broke the spell of the White Witch who had held Narnia in perpetual winter, bringing life and vitality back, Christ has broken Winter’s spell.

It’s just that sometimes, the Winter seems to linger and the Spring seems long in coming. When a child is terminally ill, when a marriage seems stuck in the same rut, when another species loses its long-held, God-intended habitat to human greed, we can be tempted to fall under the spell of the long-lingering winter winds. Lewis reminds us that, like those brave daffodils in Central Park, we have the power to declare that Spring is coming, thawing the endless snowdrifts.

“We have the power of either withstanding the spring, and sinking back into the cosmic winter, or of going into those ‘high mid-summer pomps’ in which our leader, the Son of man, already dwells, and to which He is calling us. It remains with us to follow or or not, to die in this winter, or to go on into that spring and that summer.”

I wrote this poem along a similar theme. I pray that it would encourage those who feel trapped in Winter to continue to move toward and hope in that Coming Cosmic Summer.

Winter Waves a Slow Goodbye

Oh, grief-stricken friend,
Though snow drifts seem high,
The spring she is coming;
Winter waves a slow goodbye.

The blankets of heaviness
Merely Protect a deeper life,
Which now lying dormant,
Will sprout from this strife.

Hope’s wings may seem frozen,
Paralyzed in Premature pain,
Yet, at the sun’s sure thawing,
They will beat bravely again.

Oh, grief-stricken friend,
The stubborn winter gives way.
Blade by blade, life is coming,
Spring shall have the last say.

A Cradle for the Coming Christ

Even though my turkey is literally still thawing,  Christmas trees are out and Christmas songs are playing on the radio. Preemptive holiday season has begun.

In an effort to preempt the preemptive, I have been reading some of my favorite Nativity poems. Beat that Costco, I have one up on you this year.

Seriously though, I am already having to fight hard core against the commercial and consumeristic strains in my own heart that tell me I have to find the best gifts and make the best memories in order to tap into the “magic of the holiday season.”

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As we are awaiting Advent’s advent, writing and reading poetry helps me to fight the tide of consumerism and to create a cradle for the coming Christ.

Incarnate Homily

A tear in time
A hope sublime.
Celestial anomaly.

A trinity drained.
A virgin strained.

Incarnate homily.

A babe in a cave.
A lost race to save.
Desperate humanity.

An obscure life.
A death of strife.
Miraculous vitality.

A new hope for man.
A salvific plan.
Glorious insanity.

A second coming.
A city stunning.
Joyful hilarity.

Not everyone is wired like me; in fact, it seems very few people enjoy Russian poetry.  But for every Christian, Advent bids us fashion spaces and places to receive Christ, to prepare room for Him in the midst of the shopping and singing and egg-nog sipping.  What helps you create a cradle for the coming Christ?

Stay tuned for more Advent poems and devotions; more importantly, stay tuned for the Coming Christ, the living and blessed hope of humanity, our hearts and our homes.

The Case for Clippers

I never thought I would be that lady, but I am. Every month or so, usually when their sideburns eerily resemble chops and the top of their heads could double as mops, I get out the clippers to cut our boys’ hair.

We are really professional around here. Our wobbly kitchen stools become the barber’s chair, our back deck becomes the shop, and I, against all odds, become the barber (ess?).

The boys and I both grumble about this set up, but both parties secretly like the arrangement for different reasons. The boys endure my slow work for the grand finale, the blower. Our efficient yet unconventional way of clearing off hair remnants includes directing the intense air stream of our electric blower at our children at a close range. They love it and don’t realize that they look like little chipmunks in a wind tunnel.

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As much as I complain about the squirming and impossibility of getting around their ears, I secretly look forward to this arrangement. And it is not because of the money we save, though that is a perk.

As my boys get older, cutting their hair provides a continual connection point, a place where I can serve them in a tangible way without being overbearing. When they were little, their actual and felt needs were ubiquitous. I remember longing for the day when they would not be quite so needy. Yet now that I have two boys on the precipice of adolescence, I find myself cherishing any and every opportunity to meet needs and spend precious time with them.

In the midst of helping with homework, folding laundry, stocking the pantry and driving carpools to sports practices, I sometimes lose touch with my boys as humans. They can too quickly become problems to solve or situations to manage rather than people to love.

As I cut their hair, I am reminded of the God who created them uniquely, who counted every unruly hair on their heads. I see their double crown or their thickly textured hair, and am reminded that I have been entrusted with these masterpieces of the Master artist of all Creation. Suddenly, our back deck, littered with tufts of dark, course hair and brown, thin hair, becomes sacred ground.

The nominal tasks entrusted to me, the ones that often make me sigh in exhaustion or roll my eyes in frustration, suddenly seem weighty. I get to know this little boy’s head, to shape this little boy’s mind, to help create habits that will stick to this little human into adulthood.

We are ten and nine years into the mammoth yet momentary task of making little men. That means that, most likely, we have less time with them under our roof left than has already passed.

Roughly 72 more hair cuts per boy remain (assuming we skip a few months or pay money for a professional to correct my novice barbering). It is not a guarantee how many more haircuts my handsome boys will allow me to perform. They may wise up and begin to care more about style. In the meantime, I am fighting to cherish our sessions on the stools, to see the eternal underneath and all around the ordinary that seems to envelope me in motherhood.

But more than anything, cutting my boys hair leaves me in awe of the One who created them, knows them, loves them, weeps over them and prays for them more than my husband and I do (which is hard to imagine when you love them so much that your heart could burst at times with the weight of joy or strain of worry).

The One who numbers the stars and calls them each by name (Isaiah 40:26), has numbered their hairs (Matthew 10:30). He has numbered their days (Psalm 139) and entrusted their fleeting flight to us. Who is adequate for these things?

Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3: 4-6. 

 

The 200th Sacrifice

With eyes wide open to the mercies of God, I beg you, my brothers, as an act of intelligent worship, to give him your bodies, as a living sacrifice, consecrated to him and acceptable by him. Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-make you so that your whole attitude of mind is changed. Thus, you will prove in practice that the will of God is good, acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-6, J.B. Phillips translation.

I could write a talk on Romans 12:1-6, parsing out verbs and providing winsomely-worded principles in theory. But I struggle deeply to know what it looks like in the throes of marriage, parenting and the busyness that marks this season of life in which I find myself.

Even in the image is hard to imagine, as sacrifices are usually alive things that quickly become dead. But Paul purposely changes the images into an oxymoron of sorts, bidding us to live as living sacrifices.

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In his small but stacked book called Be God’s Guest: Feasts of Leviticus 23, Warren Wiersbe has deepened my understanding on the greater Old Testament context of this specific verse.  He notes that, perhaps,  Paul intended Romans 12:1 as an allusion to the Feast of Tabernacles.

The Feast of Tabernacles was the Israelite-equivalent to our modern day Thanksgiving feast. For a week directly following the harvesting of the fields, God’s people were to live in tents, remembering the early days of nomadic living through the wilderness after the liberating exodus out of Egypt. They were to recount all the ways that God had provided for them, past and present.

Built into the Feast of Tabernacles was the principle that joy leads to sacrifice. As Israel was looking back at the present baskets of harvest and remembering the past provision of manna with which God had sustained them when there was no land to till or harvest to glean, God called them to present sacrifices. 199 sacrifices to be exact (see enumeration in Numbers 29, pun intended).

199 is a strange number. Why not a nice round 200? The answer is not that Jesus is the 200th, because Jesus was the Atoning Sacrifice which hearkens back to a different feast, the Day of Atonement.  Weirsbe asked the same question, answering it with a powerful realization:

“I am supposed to be thankful sacrifice number 200,” and then proceeds to quote Romans 12:1.

In light of God’s ultimate and eternal provision of His only begotten Son, we have far more reason to offer sacrifices of praise and Thanksgiving than did God’s people in the Feast of Booths. They were thanking God with 199 dead sacrifices for His provision of physical food. We are called to thank God with 1 living sacrifice for His provision of His body, broken for us, our bread of life.

But how are we to do this? What does a living sacrifice look like?

It sure seems easier to provide a checklist of items that could be purchased or procured by some means, even if it were 199 of them. 199 dead sacrifices sounds much more do-able than one living sacrifice.

Elizabeth Eliot, in her cut-to-the-chase, faith with feet manner of living, has helped me greatly in comprehending and commencing with the Romans 12:1 living sacrifice concept.

In giving practical advice for how to actually offer our whole selves up to God, Elliot wrote the following in her book Loneliness.

“God knows your heart and will accept your offering in any way you can make it, I am sure, but a very simple thing has helped me. It is to kneel with open hands before the Lord. Be silent for a few minutes, putting yourself consciously in His presence. Think of Him. Then think of what you have received in the four categories mentioned (are, have, do, suffer)…Next visualize, as well as you can this gift, resting there in your open hands. Thank the Lord for whatever aspect of this gift you can honestly thank Him for….the, quite simply, offer it up.”

Four categories. Am. Have. Do. Suffer. I am to offer to Christ all I am, all I have, all I do and all I suffer.

To be honest, I have not done her actual exercise, as silence is hard to come by in our home and kneeling ends up with a dog licking my face. However, throughout the day, I think through these helpful four categories, as nearly every small or large part of my day can usually be traced to one of these four words.

As I wrestle with my personality or limits. Am. As I fold laundry.  Have.  As I am driving to pick up the boys. Do. As I cancel my plans to take a sick child to the doctor. Suffer.

May these four words move us forward as the 200th sacrifices, living sacrifices, unto our God!

 

 

 

Hope Buys the Field

In what would have looked like one of the worst investment decisions in Israel’s history, the prophet Jeremiah bought a field. His purchase doesn’t sound illogical and unsound until you know the greater context.

Jeremiah’s story started well. After all, as stated clearly by the Lord in the first chapter of the book chronicling His life and prophecy,  he was literally born for the job he grew into.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations….Behold, I have put my word in your mouth. See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms to pluck up and break down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.” Jeremiah 1:5 &9-10. 

Jeremiah then had the oh-so-unpopular job of declaring, in no uncertain terms and images, myriad ways that God’s people had played the whore and the harlot with lovers less worthy and wild than the One True God. Jeremiah was God’s mouthpiece of warning and judgment to wayward Israel. The job often proved too much for Jeremiah himself, as often throughout his heavy ministry, he begged God to take his life, wishing he had never been called to such a task.

“Oh that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people. Oh that I had in the desert a traveler’s lodging place, that I might leave my people and go away from them! For they are all adulterers, a company of treacherous men.”  Jeremiah 9:1-2.

The hard-to-speak and even-harder-to-hear indictments and prophesies continued, leading up to the promise of coming exile under Nebuchadnezzar. Unhappy false prophets and leaders tried to take the life of our unfortunate prophet, but God sustained him.

I’ll let Jeremiah himself finish setting the stage for the purchase of the aforementioned field.

“At that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and Jeremiah the prophet was shut up in the court of the guard that was in the palace of Judah…Jeremiah said, ‘The word of the Lord came to me. Behold, Hanamel the son of Shallum your uncle will come to you and say, “Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.” Then Hanamel my cousin came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the Lord, and said to me, ‘Buy my field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself’.” Jeremiah 32:2 & 6-8.

While Babylon literally had Jerusalem under siege, a siege which would end in the 70 year exile of God’s people, God saw fit to set up a real estate transaction. Seems strange, right? What’s the deal with the field and why did God deem it important enough to be chronicled in the Bible?

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Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, had many reasons to despair. His lifelong career had been the bearer of mostly hard news for people who did not want to hear it. Those people, whom Jeremiah had spent scores of nights weeping over, were literally on the brink of being taken away from their homes and homeland to a foreign land forcefully.

Yet God told him to buy a field in Jerusalem, the land they were about to be removed from for nearly a century.  And, in a bold declaration of hope, Jeremiah bought the field.

God knew the deep despair in the heart of his chosen prophet. He knew that His people would be reeling in conviction that would eventually lead them back to Himself and His ways.  God knew they needed to know that this was not the end.

They would return to their land, they would be changed in their hearts, softened toward the Words of the Lord again.  Thus, He bid Jeremiah buy the field in the tribe of Benjamin.

For in the far future, a greater prophet would rise up from the tribe of Benjamin. He would weep more than Jeremiah. Unlike Jeremiah, God would not spare his life. Rather, He would die a tragic death on behalf of the same sinful people bent on returning to the same harlotry.

And then He would fill His people with hope and laughter.

Although we live on the other side of the life, death and resurrection of Christ, we still struggle to hope.

Like Jeremiah, God bids us to follow him into bold acts of hope in what appears to be a shriveling, grief-stricken world.

Fostering a child who you know will be taken away is buying a field. Praying for a hardened family member even though nothing has happened for decades is buying a field. A widow waking up expectant of God’s purposes in her life is buying a field.

We all have fields to buy, acts of hope in Christ in grim situations. What’s your field?