Category Archives: scripture

Preemptive Weariness & a Ready Refuge

Is there such a thing as preemptive weariness? If there wasn’t, I am fairly certain that my thought-patterns of late have created such a thing.

Normally back-to-school season is my solace. I love the ordered anticipation, the list-checking, and the label-making that it affords.  I love outfitting my boys with new  (or new to them) lunch bags, book bags, and first day of school clothes. However, this pandemic has been raining on everyone’s back-to-school parades.

I keep find my masked-self roaming school supply aisles in nostalgia and confusion. Should we buy the pencils and order the new lunch boxes?  Do they even need spiral notebooks? The surface-level supply confusion is nothing compared to the storms that rage deeper in my heart throughout the day. Do I have what it takes to challenge my children? What are they missing developmentally and emotionally right now? If can barely keep myself on task, how will I keep three different children in three different grades on track? 

If I feel this weary, I cannot imagine the potential and/or proven weariness of teachers and administrators, single parent families, and those who are treading water already. I  wake up with a weighted heart every morning, mentally tired from playing out potential scenarios before eating my Cheerios. This morning, after the initial wave of preemptive weariness came over me, the Spirit was so gracious to remind me of an old favorite hymn, “Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul.”

“Dear Refuge of my weary soul,
On Thee when sorrows rise,
On Thee when waves of trouble roll,
My fainting hope relies.
To Thee I tell each rising grief
For Thou alone canst heal
Thy Word can bring a sweet relief
For every pain I feel.” 

Anne Steele, the English hymn writer that penned these words, was no stranger to the storms of life. She lost her mother at age three, and then, at the early age of 19, she became an invalid. Some stories say that she was engaged until she lost her fiancee to a drowning accident; however, historical research seems to say otherwise. With or without the loss of a fiancee, Steele’s life sent her regularly running to the refuge of weary souls.  She remained single all her life, working alongside her father doing ministry. Her regular visits to the safety of the Rock of Ages seemed to prime her heart to write prolifically, as she wrote devotional poetry and hymns that have led other souls to her same refuge.

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It is likely that she had Psalm 46 in mind when she wrote these sweet words about her sovereign refuge.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,  though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling”
(Psalm 46:1-3).

The Hebrew word machaseh, translated refuge above, can also mean a place of safety, hope, and trust. It is derived from the Hebrew verb chasah meaning to run for refuge or  to flee for protection and safety.

However, the word I found most interesting in this verse was matsa which is translated “very present” above. This word literally means to attain or to find. A more literal translation might read, “a much found” refuge or a “well-proven” refuge.

The Psalmists implies that there is a well-worn, often-trod path to this sure refuge in the Lord. It has been sought out, found, and proven countless times. He has been found sufficient, spacious, and steady as a refuge for weary souls.

If preemptive-weariness exists, we can take great solace in the fact that a ready refuge long preexists it.  There was a day when the perfect Son of God wanted to run, as was His custom, into the refuge of the Father. He was not received. He was left refuge-less and ravaged on the cross. He endured this literal mountain-shaking catastrophe so that we would have constant access to the well-proven refuge.

In this season, may our feet better learn the path to the refuge of our weary souls. If this season continues to elongate, may we also elongate the list of God’s proven faithfulness to us and our children.

The Invitation Underneath Unforgiveness

Children of God are fully forgiven the moment they surrender and receive the atoning work of Christ packaged in the gospel; however, it takes a lifetime both to comprehend such fathomless forgiveness and to become those who forgive like the Father.

Jesus fully knew the depths of our sin-sickness when He swallowed to the dregs the punishment we had earned; yet, when we walk through the threshold of forgiveness, our knowledge of our own need for forgiveness barely scratches the surface of the canyon of our need.

Smuggling Unforgiveness
Periodically, usually when I am least expecting it, God reveals knots of unforgiveness that I have unknowingly smuggled into the kingdom of God. I don’t realize that I am still carrying such places of unforgiveness until God empties my emotional pockets, so to speak, revealing hidden remnants of hurt where forgiveness has not yet been fully applied.

Initially these moments of emotional exposure shock me and send me into a desperate clean up effort that still smacks of self. However, given some time and a long walk, God begins to shift my perspective to the invitation underneath the suddenly seen knot of unforgiveness.

When I receive an invitation, whether by snail mail or evite, I am being invited to a process. I open the invitation, process the information it reveals and then prepare and wait for the party. Likewise, when God exposes a knotted, gnarled place of bitterness in my heart, He is gently inviting me to a loving and often long process with Him.

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Underneath Unforgiveness
Underneath the ugliness of my unforgiveness is usually a place of deep woundedness and real pain. Underneath that place of deep pain is usually a hidden door into more gospel depths.

Like the man forgiven his massive debt by the king, I tend to find myself stingy in meting our forgiveness to those who have hurt me or triggered me in my most vulnerable places. My stinginess is a quiet invitation to enter another layer of the depths of the forgiveness that has been offered me in Christ. Clearly I must not understand the massive debt that He has completely forgiven me if I cannot forgive someone else his or her smaller, though serious debts.

I wish I could say that this descent deeper into my own sin and His costly love was quick and painless; however, I have found it to be quite the opposite: slow and sore.

To deal with my unforgiveness means to go to my most vulnerable places. My amygdala, that exquisite memory potion of the brain responsible for processing painful memories in an effort to protect us, often works against me at this point. When this complex component to my brain is triggered by a sight, a smell, a sound, a memory, I am tempted to fight or flee. However, I know what my amygdala does not; I am not who I used to be or where I used to be.

Security in the Savior 
My Savior then gets to speak into my deep and human need for security. Rather than go the easy way out of huddling my hurt around me as a protection and insulator from further such pain, He offers me another way. He reminds me that any security built solely or even mainly on circumstances or relationships is a deeply susceptible and inherently unstable security.

He reminds me that I don’t have to shield myself with unforgiveness as a protection or bitterness as a wall of safety.  He offers Himself as my shield and invites me to a safety that cannot be shaken, no matter what shakes all around me.

As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people from this time forth and forevermore. Psalm 125:2. 

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge,  my savior; you save me from violence. 2 Samuel 22:2-3. 

After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” Genesis 15: 1. 

I am safe and shielded in the arms of the One whom I used to raise my arms in rebellion against. He is my safety. Wrapped up more tightly into His strong arms, He will begin to unwrap and unwind the tight knots of unforgiveness that mar my heart in places of deep pain. It will be a process, but in the end, there will be quite the party to celebrate the stunning beauty of forgiveness found in Him and flowing from Him alone.

A Word to Would-Be School Marms

While walking around in my mask on a rare trip to Hobby Lobby for sanity crafts, I saw something that arrested my attention.  A precious little chalkboard plaque that was meant to charm me but paralyzed me, reading, “The future of the world is in my classroom.”

I might have been likely to buy something just like this for a cute beginning of the year present for my children’s new teachers, only this year, for all intents and purposes, I am their teacher.  

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There are moments when I have visions of being the next Mrs. Frizzle who wildly catches the curiosity of my boys and incites them to passion in the lanes of their giftedness. In those moments, the thought of the future of world living in my home/classroom/ restaurant/ spiritual greenhouse fills me with courage and hope. 

But there are many more very different moments when I remember that I often cannot remember why I walked into my kitchen or realize I haven’t fed or walked the dog by dinnertime. In those moments, the cute little plaque paralyzes me. After all, I should not be entrusted with educating the future of the world if I cannot be faithfully entrusted with the future of the week’s meal planning and bill payments. If the fate of our pet turtles and fish from the past are any indication of the future in my hands, things look bleak, friends. Very bleak. 

I don’t think that I am alone in these pendulum mood swings. As such, I feel the need to remind us all that the future is, in fact, fully secured and utterly ordered by the God of the Universe who has proven Himself good, kind, and capable. 

He is at the center, gladly usurping the usurpers of myself and my children who take turns stealing that seat. He who created my boys with full knowledge of their unique foibles and frailties stands outside of time (Psalm 139:13-16). As such, He fully sees and secures their future. He knows the passions that He has planted within them  (Ephesians 2:10). While I am beginning to see tiny threads of their gifts  and driving desires, He sees the finished tapestry (Hebrews 4:13). 

While my year (or dare I say more?) of schooling them will certainly be shaping and significant, it is not central. He is (Colossians 1:17). And His will and ways will no more be thrown off by my mistakes and missteps than a tiny pebble would throw off Mount Everest. 

Neither Saxon nor Singapore Math will secure my children’s future; their Savior has done so. 

While I want to nourish their minds through classic novels, it is far more significant that they  and their mother be nourished by the promises and presence of Christ. Zoom calls may suck the ever-living life out of them, but we are promised the refreshing zephyr of the Holy Spirit who  will refresh and renew us as we go. 

The burden of schooling can feel crushing, especially when everyone is doing at the same time mostly involuntarily. This unique situation leaves ample space for the additional crushing weight of comparison and competition. “She made a cute chart and bought old fashioned desks for her kids, but my kids are sitting upside down on their heads and the dog just ate the chart.” 

Rather than buying an alphabet carpet for the future school room that we don’t have space to make, I need to set myself squarely in the center of the portion that God has allotted for me and for them. 

He who has entrusted me with these particular children in this particular time has already become my portion and my cup. The lines He has drawn up for us are secure (Psalm 16:5-6). 

He knows already the days where they will soar and the days when we will sink. The Lord has made one day as well as the next (Ecclesiastes 7:14).  

While Hobby Lobby’s plaque may not be wrong, it is incomplete. The future of the world is most certainly in my classroom, but their future has been long secured by the One who is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). As such, this future school marm has some planning to do in the presence of Christ. Godspeed, fellow mommas!  

Mercy Prevails

Our culture tells us in a thousand ways that money and might prevail. In an election season, we are being given highly politicized polls from both political sides promising that each will prevail.

While studying Psalm 65 this past week, my soul gravitated toward one word in one particular verse: prevail. Since then, I have been unable to unravel my thoughts from it.

“Praise is due to you, O God in Zion, and to you shall vows be performed. O you who hear prayer, to you all flesh shall come. When iniquities prevail against me, you atone for our transgressions” (Psalm 65:2-3). 

The English word prevail literally means “to prove more powerful than opposing forces.” The Hebrew word gabar, translated prevail in the verse above, literally means to exceed or to put on more strength.

The image that comes to heart and mind is that of a mounting, rising wave of sin and its consequences of guilt and shame. I have never experienced a tsunami, but I have been boogie boarding with my boys and watching what felt like huge waves growing before my eyes, filling me with fear.

In this season of unknowns, many of us feel anxiety, fear, shame, and the sins that they tend to spawn mounting up around us, seemingly ready to prevail against our hope, our perspective, and our faith.

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When Mercy Prevailed over Prevailing Waters

The same word gabar is used repeatedly in Genesis 7 in which the sins of humanity have become so pervasive that God decided to mostly start over by cleansing the earth through a massive flood. As the unprecedented flood is described, the writer the phrase “the waters prevailed” four times. The waters exerted themselves, rose, grew strong, and seemed to prevail. The situation seemed utterly hopeless. Until the beginning of chapter 8 when the writer pivots on two powerful verses.

“But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided” (Genesis 8:1-2). 

God showed mercy to Noah and his family by warning them, by commanding them to create a floating zoo of sorts. They humbled themselves under the Word of God and believed His promises of restoration despite the odds and all the evidence of their senses. God’s mercy prevailed over the prevailing waters.

In a similar way, in Psalm 65, David senses the mounting power of his sin and its consequences exerting themselves against him, threatening to drown him in guilt and despair. But then David records that God atones for the mounting sins. The Hebrew word   kaphar translated atone here literally means to cover, to pacify, or to make propitiation.

When sin, guilt, and shame seem to be so strong that seem invincible, when they seem to prevail against us, we have the Cross that reminds us that God’s mercy prevails. The wave of the wrath of God against all that is unlovely, unfaithful, and unjust in and around us crested and crashed on the perfect Son of God. It overwhelmed him. As he laid wrapped in death linens, the enemy seemed to have prevailed.

But our Christ rose and walked out of the tomb. He prevailed over the shadow of death that had prevailed over humanity since the tempter prevailed upon our foremother and forefather. He pacified the roar of death. He covered our transgressions.

Mercy Still Prevails

The once-barren Hannah who felt that infertility would always prevail against her knew something of the prevailing mercy of our God. After years of pouring her heart out and feeling hopeless, God provided her a son. In her song of thanksgiving that mirrors Mary’s Magnificat about another promised child, she penned the following verse.

“He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness, for not by might shall a man prevail” (1 Samuel 2:9). 

Because the One who was fully faithful had his feet bound to the cross, our feet our now guarded. We prevail, but not in the ways world prevails. We prevail through the presence and power of our merciful God.

 

Holding Two Stories at Once

Desperately broken. Deeply loved. Capable of creating hurt. Capable of creating beauty.

The gospel has us hold two stories that seem conflicting at once. Just like babies who developmentally can only hold one item at a time, we tend to want to hold one or the other, making an either/or out of God’s greatest both/and.

Maturity in the gospel, it seems, can be measured by our ability to increasingly hold both of these realities at once, both for ourselves and for others.

Just as in the garden, God left space in the newly minted (from his mouth) earthly paradise for Adam and Eve to choose to love him and trust him, the gospel leaves space for us to trust him by holding the two tensions of the gospel.

When we bifurcate these two realities, we are endangering ourselves and others.

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If, when people fail us or hurt us, we immediately and forever label them as only desperately broken, we are truncating the gospel which hurts the heart of the God who gave it to us. We throw them in a pit that God climbed in to rescue them (and us) from. Similarly, if when we ourselves fail or fall into sin, we remember only the brokenness that remains in ourselves, we throw ourselves into the same pit.

If, on the other hand, we expect brothers and sisters in Christ (and ourselves) to perform perfectly. we place them on a pedestal on which only Christ belongs. Likewise, if we expect ourselves to perfectly perform in all our relationships and endeavors, we will be crippled and eventually paralyzed. If we think we are performing well, we will wreak of self-righteousness which wreaks to God. If and when we fail, we find ourselves drowning in the shame that Christ bore once and for all in His body on the cross.

I know this. I know you know this. But, at heart, I don’t know this, nor do we.

Every time I hurt someone or am hurt by someone in the body, which happens more often than I care to imagine, I am tempted to fall from the glorious both/and of the gospel into the bifurcated, binary system of either/or. Through my broken lenses, either they are bad or they are good, for me or against me (or my cause). They belong either in a pit or on a pedestal. When I get to these places, the Holy Spirit sends up a flair to the Father and puts me in gospel triage.

I cannot see the world and the height of his creation (humanity) through a lens that my Father does not. It goes against Christ-in-me and the gospel on which I depend and which I am to declare.

The only way I know how to get from the broken lenses of my flesh and my frailty to the glorious lenses of the gospel is to follow Christ’s journey from the heights of heaven to the pits of sin and shame and back up to the righthand of the Father from whence he came.

I belong in the pit. The person who wronged me belongs in the pit. The person who wronged and hurt the person who wronged and hurt me belongs in the pit. The pit is wide enough to hold all humanity.

But compassion for us in the pit and obedience to the Father compelled our Christ down.  He left the heights to join us on the globe he created, orbiting around the sun whom he sourced. He walked with broken and beautiful people who were desperately broken and deeply loved. In fact, he walked himself up the Hill of the Skull carrying a splintered beam on his beloved back to rescue us from our sin and shame. He sat in that pit for three days. And creation wept at the thought that the light of the world had been extinguished.

But then he rose. And in so doing, he created space for us to be both desperately broken and deeply loved. He climbed the pedestal that belongs only to Him, but he invites us to be wrapped in him and enjoy his privileged place.

I cannot hold someone, be it another or myself, in the pit when Christ raised us up with him. I cannot expect someone,  be it myself or another, to live up to the perfect standard that Christ came to fulfill.

This is the gospel. To believe this both/and for myself and others is the great fight of faith that the Apostle Paul wrote about. The more I believe it and receive it for myself, the more I will be freed to invite others out of pits or off pedestals. It will be a fight, and it won’t be easy, but it is worth it because Christ is worthy.

Grace at the Edges

I don’t like edges. When we were small, our wild and zany grandmother and her equally brave and brazen sister took all the grandchildren to Niagra Falls. While I loved eating milkshakes for breakfast and being spoiled rotten, I remember cowering in fear at the edges of the falls. My younger sister and cousins were hanging on the railing, in awe, while I sat four feet back shaking with nerves.

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It seems old habits die hard, as I am still not my best at edges. I don’t like change. Where others feel adventure, I feel anxiety. Where others teem with excitement and hope at new wineskins and ventures, I shrink back, clinging to old wineskins. They may be shot, but they are known. They may be haggard, but they are comfortable. I just don’t like the ends and the beginnings; I much prefer the solid middle to the bumpy borders. Given the choice, I would live my life without edges.

Thankfully, I have a Father who pushes me gently out of old wineskins, off the solid ground of the known and into the unknown.  I have known the stubborn love of the Father with His long-view to my sanctification that forces me to overcome short-term discomfort, inviting me to venture out of the stability of the boat and onto the wavy water. Yet, of late, I have seen it anew and afresh through parenting my own children.

For years we have been praying and wrestling about schooling decisions, always approaching education on year-by-year, child-by-child basis. This past year, we sensed the Lord calling us to switch schools from a place that has been a precious haven to our boys for the past 6 years. While we feel convinced that this is His best for our boys, they are terrified to leave the known, a small, intimate Christian school for the unknown, a larger charter school with 4 times the students.

For months, bedtimes have been tearful, honest times of sharing fears, hopes and nerves.  It seems my big boys, like me, have an aversion to edges, especially big ones.  In my flesh, I want to appease them, to let them be comfortable; but my love for the Lord and desire to obey His call, coupled with my desire to see them stretched and grown in grace and maturity, keeps me gently leading them to the edges.

I know that in six months, they will look back and see God’s gracious provision of courage and friendships and will have solid ground to stand on. I know that they will be able to look back on this major transition at the next major life transition and remember the Lord’s faithfulness and steadiness in a sea of change. But they don’t know that yet. All they know is the discomfort of the edges.

I think of God’s people being led out of Egypt, purposely doubled back to stare at imposing sea.  It must have seemed like they had been led to the edge of annihilation rather than to the edge of liberation. Yet, at those edges, God met them mightily. The  parting of the Red Sea would become a memorial to God’s faithfulness, recounted in the Psalms over and over when God’s people found themselves at yet another edge.

When we find ourselves at edges, at the outskirts of various seasons or stages, we would do well to remember another set of edges.

Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of him! But the thunder of his power who can understand?” Job 26:14

What we have known and experienced of God up to the present are only the mere edges, the outskirts, the fringes, the beginnings of His power, His presence, His promises. He has so much to reveal, so much more to expose and strengthen in and to us. He will continue to call us to move toward the middle of His power; He loves us too much to let us linger on the outskirts, to let us stay splashing in the surf. He would have us continue to move toward Him.

To get past the edges of His ways, we must cross many edges. To move toward the middle, toward being more and more conformed to His image, we will cross countless borders of change.

Thankfully, our Father holds our hands and leads us across the liminal places. I find great rest in my troubled soul when I think of the Father walking my nervous boys over rough edges and into more experiences of His grace.

May God’s grace meet you at your edges.

 

 

 

The Difference Between Submission & Resignation

“There is a significant difference between submission and resignation.”

I don’t remember the full details of the context, but I will never forget the phrase uttered our dear friend and mentor, Judge Bill McCurine. I believe we were having a college gathering in their home, a chance for brand new believers in the beginning of their spiritual journeys to learn from two seasoned veterans of the faith. I believe someone asked about trusting God with singleness. To be honest, I am thankful I don’t remember the immediate context, because the phrase has led to rich application in nearly every arena of my life.

The Difference Defined
According to the Oxford Dictionary,  resignation means, “the acceptance of something undesirable but inevitable.”  In fact, the usage example says “i.e. a shrug of resignation.”

I, along with the rest of the Chick-fil-A loving hordes, sigh in resignation every Sunday when we, like clockwork, have a craving for a sandwich and waffle fries, only  to remember it is closed on Sunday.

On the surface, resignation bends the will, changes the schedule, and faces the reality of something unwanted; however, under the surface, at the soul and heart level, it can leave an insidious residue of bitterness, distrust, and frustration. Much like the teenage, “Fine” that is accompanied by huffing, puffing, and foot-stomping, resignation bows but does not fully trust.

Submission, on the other hand, is something altogether different. While they may appear almost identical initially, the degrees of separation between resignation and submission become more evident over time.

Biblical submission is much different than the world’s version which seems often to include force and demonstrations of raw authority and power. The Greek word, hupotasso, translated submit, is a compounding of two words, one meaning “under” and the other meaning “arrangement.” Thus, a biblical definition of submission is to place yourself under God’s arrangement of things, to submit under the Lord’s plan in trusting obedience.

While its outward bowing and releasing of control mirror resignation,  its internal source is quite different. Rather than sighing out of inability to change something, it sighs and submits in a trusting way,  believing that the heart of God knows and does better than we could ever know or do.

The Difference Experienced
If  I am being honest, I my soul has been swinging back and forth between resignation and submission these past few weeks since COVID-19 settled in to stay. If you know me, you know that my Sabbath time on Sundays is my lifeline.  Since my oldest was a  few weeks old,  I have been escaping away to a coffee shop for vital connection with God through His word and prayer and wrestling. As silly as it may seem, the getting away feels like going to a secret place to be alone with the Lord, not as a mother or a women’s ministry director or a wife, just as his desperate daughter.

Another example of my routine being off. I resigned to Sabbath by walking our neighborhood, but I was not happy about it, as evidenced by my pace and posture. A fuming little teapot speed-walking through the neighborhood was I. It was not just the monkey wrench in my treasured Sabbath rhythm, it was all of  it.  Disinfecting groceries, Zoom phone calls instead of face-to-face gatherings, tight spaces and tighter wallets.

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But in that walk, the Lord reminded me that this is not what trusting submission looks like. He began to undo my  grumpy heart and remind me of the absolutely proven nature of his love.

Stay

The too-much-ness out there,
Draws out ineptness in here.
What busyness used to filter,
Now gathers in latent fear.

Your love blocked all my exits,
Enticing my going soul to stay.
Fleeting flings aren’t enough:
You would have me all the day.

It’s scary to sit so still, so long,
Without demand or distraction.
You want uninsulated intimacy,
The whole of me, not a fraction.

Your blocking love can be trusted,
When the checking seems unchecked,
For You died to unblock life eternal,
Giving abundance for my neglect.

Though chosen,  I feel choice-less,
Yet an important choice remains;
Resign in apathy or submit in love.
Your submission my choice trains.

So, stay I must but also shall,
Living within lines You’ve drawn.
Come again You can and will.
Your word is sure as the dawn.

May we learn to submit this season to a trustworthy Father rather than resign in avowed apathy.  This too shall pass.

Blessed be the Lord, for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me when I was in a besieged city. Psalm 31: 21.

 

The Soul’s Referee

Had I known how much refereeing I would have to practice as a mother of three growing  boys, I would have gotten more training. I might have taken a course to pick up hand signals and deescalation techniques. I might have at least been prepared with a whistle, a rule book, and some penalty flags.  Alas,  I did none of the above and have found myself woefully unprepared.

I love peace. I am a middle child. I detest conflict with every fiber of my being. But conflict, whether it comes on inter-personal or intra-personal playing fields, is a reality that offers both burden and opportunity. Thankfully, my soul has a referee in the Holy Spirit who steps in to order my conflicted heart around the love of Christ.

I am not celebrating conflict for conflict’s sake. There is no need to add to a conflict-consumed world.  However, the more I do life, ministry, and family,  the more I am forced to lean into conflict. What I used to avoid with more precision than our nation is avoiding the coronavirus,  I am learning to endure by God’s grace.  Constructive conflict can be a powerful, albeit painful tool in the hands of the wounded surgeon.

It exposes our idols. It reveals the hidden places of our hearts. It highlights our need to give and receive forgiveness. It trains our souls to depend on the only perfectly dependable one. Healthy conflict can lead to healthy intimacy with the Lord but also with others.

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I am writing these things because I need them tattooed on my heart. I am reminding myself that Jesus is worth awkward conversations about differing personal convictions about face coverings. I am reminding myself that conflict in our home is not something to be shut down or ignored, but shared and investigated.

When an aged Peter was concluding his first letter to his flock towards the end of his watch as a shepherd, he highlighted the need fervent love that fights to forgive.

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins (1Peter 4:8). 

What I find in my own heart is that my own wrestling to forgive exposes the paucity of my love. On my own, I do not have the capital to float forgiveness to others that cancels their debts. I have precious few pennies. But that bankruptcy of my love forces me to look to the God of Abundance. Conflicts in relationships compel me to remember the One who paid my eternal debt with his ineffable love.

His love must be let loose afresh in my heart like the letting out of a dam.  As it begins to fill the crevices of my heart, the bitterness and shame seeking to grow there can find no footing. I wish this were a one-and-done deal. But this is an ongoing choice, as Peter hinted in using the present progressive in his exhortation above. In order to keep on loving one another with love that covers sin, we must keep our hearts in His love. We must continually let His love cover our own sins so that we have storehouses of love to lavish on others.

That can only happen when I invite Christ to come and act as referee in my rowdy, conflicted soul. In fact, when the Apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians about letting the peace of Christ rule in their hearts, he used a Greek word that meant a referee (Colossians 3:15). As I process conflict without and within me, I desperately need the Lord to referee me.

Referee Me

Settle my unsettled thoughts, 
Rule these unruly desires.
Order my inordinate passions, 
As flesh against Spirit conspires. 

My rowdy heart needs a ruler
If I am to persist in your peace.
Loud lies linger and lance at me, 
To you alone I look for release. 

My hope has hurried away from you
On false deliverers it has dissipated.
Oh, that you’d house my hopes again, 
For in You alone I am truly sated. 

I cannot advance a kingdom
That doesn’t first rule my heart.
Consistently conquer my soul, 
Let me never from you depart.

 

Be Still

Life consists in triads which makes sense being that humans were made in the image of a Trinitarian God, three in one and one in three. We are knit together body, mind, and soul.  We experience time in past, present, and future. We experience life through thinking, being, and doing.

In the lattermost triad, I tend to try to live like a two-legged stool. I am comfortable in the land of thinking as my resting state. In my excited state, I become a dogged doer,  checking things off of my list and getting things done. I wrestle deeply with being. I  usually only get to a place of being by exhausting myself from thinking too much and/or hitting a wall from running myself ragged.

Last week, when I collapsed into my Sabbath time at a shaded picnic table near my home, the Lord gave me a little hummingbird who landed right above my head.

Hummingbirds press the limits of metabolism. They are the smallest of all birds, yet they flap their wings at dizzying speeds between 12 to 80 beats per second. They have been clocked in wind tunnels at flying nearly 35 miles per hour, which may sound slow for a  car, but it fast for something that can weigh less than a nickel.

I have an affinity for hummingbirds. In addition to the fact that they are fascinating to watch and breathtaking to see, my soul is drawn to them because I tend to fly too quickly, forgetting to stop and be.

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Be Still

Even hasty hummingbirds
Who fly at inhuman speed
Must rest their wild wings.
A sacred stillness they need. 

You flit, fleet, and fly about,
From petal to petal you buzz. 
You press metabolism’s limit,
Forgetting what busyness does. 

Come now, my self-serious one,
Slow your pulse to my pace.
In my firm grip, cease a second,
Come now,  look at my face. 

I am He who made the Hibiscus.
I am the winder of these wings.
I am your Creator and Keeper,
I am He who controls all things.

Be still, little one. I will feed you full. 

I pray that this poem helps those who share my affinity and likeness (only in busyness) to the hummingbird find a perch in the presence of the Triune God to rest and be still.

Sarah’s Laughter

Hiding unseen in the tent, Sarah laughed. Angelic visitors would have been cause enough to laugh a cynical, confused, awkward laugh; however, her laugh originated from the eavesdropped announcement that she, an aged, long-disappointed, and empty-wombed woman, would finally bear a son.

While I have admittedly eavesdropped on my son’s late night conversations from top to bottom bunk, I know nothing of tents or angelic visitors. I do, however, know about Sarah’s laughter. I know about the triple pits of fear, cynicism, and self-centered self-doubt that give rise to the nervous laughter of disbelief at the Lord’s extravagant promises.

The story captured in Genesis 18 is as old as Sarah’s womb was when she heard the news. But, of late, it has taken on fresh meaning in my heart and life.

We have found ourselves asking questions and peering into the seemingly unbelievable promises of God’s provision and protection for those who step out in faith. And I have found myself joining Sarah in her laughter.

We all have seasons or scenes in our lives where we are with Sarah in her laughter. While our dubious laughter may not be about a promised son, we may repeat Sarah’s response at the thought of God’s provision of a job after a long season of unemployment, God’s promise to restore the ruinous places of generational sins in our lives, God’s ability to change a sin-hardened, addicted loved one, or myriad other scenarios.

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As we scan the horizon of our lives and the topography of our hearts, it seems impossible that God could do what He has so clearly promised. Just as Sarah’s womb showed no physical hope of housing a child, we look at the facts of our lives and the statistics around us which invite us to scoff at the seemingly sensational promises of God.

Poetry is my way of processing through my unbelief and giving the promises of God time to slowly scoot from my head to my heart.

Sarah’s Laughter

I hear your laughter, beloved,
A laughter fraught with fear. 
I’m more real than your concerns,
But come whisper them in my ear.  

I hear your laughter, beloved,
A laughter tinged with tears.
I know it is hard to risk
After the disappointed years. 

I hear your laughter, beloved,
A laughter drawn from doubt.
Looking within you find lack,
But My provision lies without. 

I hear your laughter, beloved,
A laughter broken and cynical.
Age is an assault on naivete,
But hope is never so clinical. 

A different laugh comes, beloved;
It will rise, buoyed by belief.
My sufficiency suffocates fears;
Your laugh will reflect relief.  

You can’t see it yet, beloved,
Hindered by heart’s blindness
Your future is sure as my word,
Soon you’ll recount my kindness. 

Cynicism will be upstaged by wonder.
Trust will silence the cacophony of fear. 
You’ll laugh the laughter of love
Even by this time next year,  

I don’t know where you are laughing with Sarah. I don’t know the particular places of doubt and fear that haunt your heart, but I do know that the God of Sarah sees and hears you fully, just as he did her.

In His perfect timing, your laughter shall be transformed into the laughter of wonder at the God who says to us, as He said to Sarah, “Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son” (Genesis 18:14).