Tuesday, April 22, 2014


It was next to the sidewalk in a mangled clump.  I might have walked right by without recognizing the damage had it not been for my own kids. Buckets in hand, they raced off to pluck flowers from the soft ground and gather pine cones to take home as treasures. My boy was searching for sticks and when he spotted the forgotten mess, I told him to back away.  It didn’t take me long to figure out what it was.  Next to the pile of sticks lay the eggs, smashed open and abandoned. The branch nearby and the sound from above confirmed the tragedy.  Birds were shrieking instead of singing.  My heart broke for that momma bird, helpless against the ferocious wind that ripped her precious family out of her grasp.  Somewhere in the chaos I heard my logical self ask, “Why?” 

We continued our walk, but my eyes went upward, searching for the birds that wailed. I wondered if they were all momma birds, because when someone’s nest is in danger, mommas are the ones who gather round with their prayers and their casseroles and their texts that say “This is hard.” Just this week a group of mommas circled in huddles around my kitchen, loving on each other and packing lunches for some precious kids whose mommas just can’t because life isn’t always fair. The focus is usually on the kids whose names are written on lunch bags with care. But as I thought about that bird, a different set of names came to mind- the mommas. And that's when I realized how important it is that we ask a different question.  

My natural reaction to tragedy is “Why,” but there is no answer to that question and it gnaws at my heart and leaves me raw.  Since I can’t answer the whys, I’ve found a question that has an answer- a really, really good answer. The question is, “How?” This is where one momma can do her part in a world full of unanswered whys. Instead of asking “Why,” I wonder what would happen if we all gathered up our momma friends and asked, “How can we help?” When we left the park and headed home, I knew that momma bird was going to be ok, and my logical self was silenced by the power of a momma’s love. 

This is a precious story about a momma and her boy that I’ve watched at least a thousand times this week. It’s a beautiful thing to let Jesus show us how. 

 Sponsor a child or learn more about Compassion International

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Take Me Back

It’s been with me ever since I snapped these pictures of them in their rocket-ship last week. Rocking back and forth in the over-sized recliner in the corner of my bedroom, his imaginative voice boomed, “Ready for take off!” She echoed the same and their squeals of excitement made me turn around and smile big. Decked out in headphones which every astronaut needs in order to listen, they urged each other to hang on in case the ride got bumpy. As I pushed the button, capturing this moment, I uttered a simple prayer in the middle of my crazy busy life. Take me back.

They were completely unaware that their pretending had been transferred to my camera, and as I watched them play, a similar snapshot came to mind.  It was taken almost four years ago in the very same spot in the very same chair.  It was my resting place, where I sat and listened, where I talked to Jesus.  The leather had been broken in during the last months of my pregnancy when sleeping had become a chore. I rocked them together in this chair the day we brought them home, tiny bundles of answered prayer.  I held them in this chair and I held on for dear life in this chair because the ride was certainly bumpy.  

What they don’t know is that this chair, over-sized yet ordinary, is so much more than a rocket-ship.  They pretend it can take them somewhere far away into space, but I’ve come to believe that this chair is more like a time machine. It’s the place I go when I really need to remember. Take me back, has been my prayer lately. Sitting with my bible open, Jesus is taking me back.  He is helping me remember.  It’s more than bringing memories to mind by flipping through old photographs. 

Remembering is looking back through the lens of Truth in order to move forward.  

My mind is renewed and my heart is revived as it sinks in that this Truth has the same power today as it did yesterday and way back in the beginning.  Being refreshed with then compels me to move forward now, confident that His promises for tomorrow are filled with the same love. Remembering always begins with sitting. The feet of Jesus is the place I go when I need to remember, and today I really need to remember.

The concept seems so glorious and holy and appropriate, but it also screams cliché and if I’m completely honest for just a moment, it sounds pretty unproductive to sit when there is a to-do list a mile long that grows every night when I turn off the light. I desperately need to know how this beautiful picture of sitting at my Savior’s feet connects to my everyday-crazy-busy-jammed-packed life.  So as Jesus takes me back and invites me to remember, a new question crops up in my heart.

How do I sit and remember, Jesus? What does that even mean?

I’m asking in between folding laundry, driving through the carpool line and making dinner; I’m listening while vacuuming; I’m watching for it to unfold at the same time I’m watching the kids run and play, wondering why this concept is so stinking hard for me to wrap my head around.  I’m waiting every morning with my bible open, eager for Him to show me what it looks like to sit at His feet. And this woman named Mary teaches me a thing or two.

Mary was one of those women who got it.  She was the one who sat and listened to Jesus’ teaching, hanging on His every word while her sister, Martha, was left with all the dishes and preparations.  At first glance it seems to me like Mary was just trying to get out of helping.  Martha thought so too, because she tried real hard to get Jesus to direct Mary to the kitchen to serve.  But His answer astounded Martha and it catches my attention too.

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42

Mary sat and listenedMary wasn’t just sitting doing nothing.  She was at Jesus’ feet listening to what He said. Martha was probably listening, too, from the kitchen.  But this kind of listening was focused listening.  It was focusing head and heart on one thing.  And this one thing was what Jesus said would never be taken away. I’m starting to see that the watching, the waiting, and the wondering are all part of listening, too.  It’s not a fast-and-furious-drive-by kind of conversation. It’s daily with a whole lot of waiting so that the good stuff has time to really sink in.

I read about these same sisters again in John. They called for Jesus when their brother, Lazarus, was sick. When He didn't come right away, questions started brewing and their faith was pressed. When reasoning begins to crumble, hope is easily lost in the wreckage. I have no doubt that Mary and Martha wanted an answer, an explanation from Jesus when He showed up four days after Lazarus had passed away.  Today I notice that these women spoke the same words, yet something was very different.

When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. John 11:20-21

When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. John 11:32-33

Their heads were full of everything that would have been different if Jesus had been there.  These sisters shared the same words and the same crushing heartache, yet their postures were revealing.  Martha may have reached Jesus first, but Mary was the one who fell at His feet in adoration.  I’ve always thought that seeing Mary’s sorrow was what deeply moved Jesus, but I wonder if her posture of worship even in the midst of heart break moved Him as well.

Mary’s posture revealed her love for Jesus.  

And here, I notice how head and heart meet at Jesus’ feet, how thinking is realigned and posture readjusted. I read one last time about these two sisters, the one who served and the one who sat, and I start to question what qualifies as serving.

Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him.  Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. John 12:2-3

Mary served Jesus. Martha may have been the one serving the meal, but Mary was serving, too. The truth of this jolts me as I consider that whatever I serve is also what I worship.  It is evident that Mary served Jesus. He was the center of her life and even when her life was turned upside down, she worshiped Him. 

Jesus is the center of my life, too. He was in the center when the fog convinced me He wasn’t there, when I had to strain with everything in me just to hear His voice.  He was in the center then and He is in the center now, not because I have put Him there but because that is His position.  He is the only constant in my life and He is worthy of every single bit of my praise and honor. 

Jesus’ position as King prompts a posture of praise.

Sitting at His feet has nothing to do with the words I speak; it's listening to His Word and letting it change me.  It's not about how much or how little time I have; it's recognizing that my time is His and believing that my life will be fuller when He directs how I spend it. It's not about how well I understand my life; it's worshiping Him regardless of my circumstances.

Jesus, take me back today because I really need to remember. Take me back to your precious blood that was spilled for my sake. Take me back to the anguish felt at the foot of the cross. Take me back to the sky turning dark, the curtain tearing in two, and the silence that followed. Take me back to those three agonizing days when all were at a loss for what had happened.  Take me back to the trembling of the earthquake that rolled that stone right out of the way. Take me back to the empty tomb where angels proclaimed that you are the Living God and your Kingdom will never end. Take me back to your victory over sin and death, so that I remember I can live victoriously in you.  Take me back today and then again tomorrow, because I need to remember every day.  

Jesus, take me back so that my posture reflects Your Glory always.  Amen.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Live Beautifully

Years ago I found myself surrounded by darkness.  I knew Jesus, but I was not living victoriously.  I was surviving at best. I felt defeated and questioned whether or not I even trusted God.  I was angry at Him. My heart had been smashed to pieces, and I had so many questions.  After years of struggling with infertility, I had finally become pregnant only to lose that baby.  And when it happened again, it was just too much.  I was hopeless, and I felt all alone. I was sure I had done something incredibly wrong. But in the middle of that darkness and in the midst of my loss, I found something precious; I gained something irreplaceable. I discovered this precious truth that began to heal my broken heart.
God’s Word is alive.  It is working constantly.  It has power we can’t even begin to understand or explain.  It is the very breath of God blowing like fresh wind into our very dry lives.
The prophet Isaiah talks about “treasures of darkness, hidden riches of secret places.” (Isaiah 45:3) This love for God’s Word was my treasure buried in that dark season I walked through hand in hand with Jesus.  In my struggle to find the words to pray to God, afraid He would not be able to handle my long list of ‘why’s and ‘how long’s, I learned that He welcomes all questions, and there is pretty much nothing He can’t handle.  Slowly, and over time, Jesus healed my heart completely and gave me purpose and a passion for His Word, along with a strange new boldness to share the story He has written for my life.  All of the parts- the good parts, the messy parts, and the downright ugly parts that led me back to Him.
Since that time, God has blessed us with two beautiful children who share a birthday and occupy a good chunk of my heart.  The journey to parenthood was a difficult one, but it was in that long treacherous hike that I really got to know my Savior and began to understand what walking with Him really meant. A transformation took place, and it seemed like the better I saw Jesus, the better I saw myself. The rest of Isaiah 45:3 says this: “And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness— secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.”
The whole point of the struggle, sometimes, is so that we may know that He is the God who calls us by name.
My journey with Jesus has looked very different depending on the season and depending on where He’s leading.  When I agreed to hand over my entire heart to Jesus, it meant that wherever He was going, I was going, too.  It meant that every part of my life was His.
I’ve walked with Jesus slowly, daily.
I’ve skipped along beside Him, beaming with joy and overflowing with gratitude.
I’ve crawled in the dust behind Him, desperate and dirty.
I’ve sprinted, trying to keep up.
I’ve run in the opposite direction, convinced I could hide from Him only to find that I couldn’t.
I’ve climbed mountains with Jesus that I didn’t think I could climb.
I’ve fallen flat on my face too many times to count.
I’ve sat in a boat full of holes caused by my shaky faith, wondering if I’d sink to the bottom.
I’ve watched from within the same boat as Jesus calmed the storm and flooded my soul with His peace.
I’ve asked questions. I’ve gotten it all wrong. I’ve messed up big.
I’ve spent precious time at His feet, wondering how He could love me this much.

No matter how my walk with Jesus looks, one thing remains the same.  He has never ever left me, and I trust He never will.  Trust is necessary for obedience.  You can’t have one without the other.  In fact, the word ‘obedience’ quite honestly makes me cringe.  It feels heavy, weighted, like punishment and condemnation are going to fall down on me as soon as I mess up.  Because I am going to mess up.  I am.

But following Jesus means there is no condemnation, because He took all of my sins upon Himself.  He already paid my debt on the cross and the curse of death and sin was forever reversed when Jesus rose from the grave three days later.  This is good news!  This means it is possible to live in victory, because Jesus already won the battle!  It means when I confess that I’ve mess up again, He is faithful to forgive me.  In Jesus, I have access to every eternal blessing, not because I have been obedient, but because He was. So obedience is just my response to His great love.  Obedience is a natural overflow of understanding how much Jesus loves me.
Obedience is my response to the gospel- the really, really good news.
Recently, I walked with Jesus through something I was convinced would turn out differently.  My version had a happy ending, not a painful one.   But obedience does not mean that everything will always turn out the way I expect.  Expectations get in the way.  They trip me up.  Expecting something in return for obedience means the motive of my heart is wrong.  I can trust Jesus, because He is trustworthy and obedience is what He calls me to.  Trusting is the faith part; obedience is putting that faith into action.  It’s walking even though I can’t see.  It’s continuing even when the path makes no sense and some days it just makes no sense. But each path He takes me down has purpose.  Every road leads to better knowing Him.
And because it is impossible to obey a God I do not trust, it is pretty important that I know Him.
Jesus is teaching me today about surrender.  It implies giving up after a struggle, a releasing of sorts.  The word surrender comes from the Anglo-French wordsusrendre.  The first part, sus or sous, means “an assistant,” like a sous chef.  The last part, render, has many meanings, but the one that caught my eye was this: “to represent by artistic or verbal means, as in painting.” Jesus is reminding me that I am not the artist, but the canvas.  The release of surrender involves accepting my role, and yielding to His authority. Obedience is surrender.
Before an artist can begin painting, a canvas must be prepared.  It has to be stretched really, really tight.  After the canvas is stretched on one side, it is fastened with staples to a wooden frame.  After the fastening comes more stretching. In fact, there is stretching and straining on all sides.  Then there is more fastening, because the artist needs to be sure that the canvas is firmly attached to that frame.  And after the canvas is stretched to its limit, the artist will sometimes take a hammer and pound those staples into the wood.

The gospel frames my thoughts, my perspective, my words, my actions.  The only frame I am fastened to is the good news of Jesus Christ.  It is why I follow Him.  It is why I trust Him.  It is why I believe His Word. And the goal of my life is to bring honor and glory to the Name of Jesus; it’s His goal for your life, too. And all of this makes obedience so much simpler. 
Surrender is handing over the brush to the Artist and allowing our lives to be stretched out, held tightly, and fastened to the frame of Jesus. 
Sometimes, it just feels like stretching. Sometimes, it can feel like there is no give.  Sometimes, the fastening is painful, the pounding unbearable.  But it is doing something. It is working toward a greater glory, a beautiful extension of the Creator Himself.  Believing that Jesus is worthy of praise and honor is one thing.  Allowing Him complete freedom to paint on the canvas of our lives is another thing entirely. Surrender means we allow Him to work even when the stretching hurts, even when the pounding of our flimsy, ordinary lives into that frame seems like it might never end.
It reminds me an awful lot of Jesus, stretched out in surrender, with nails through His hands and feet, fastened to the Cross of Salvation that now frames my entire being.
God knows that in or suffering, we get to know Him. We become like Him in the process and are prepared for the work of the Artist’s hand.  2 Corinthians 4:8-10 speaks of struggles, and I can’t help but think of stretched canvas.  “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”
The most amazing miracle of grace is that God created a way for ordinary, imperfect lives like mine and yours to reflect and represent the life of Jesus.  That is how much He loves us!  And though this passage reveals hardships, questions, and pain, there is such richness woven throughout.

We are not crushed.
We are not in despair.
We are not abandoned.
We are not destroyed.

Living victoriously is living beautifully.  It’s allowing your life to be a place where the Artist can express Himself fully. Accept your role as the canvas and allow Him to create something beautiful with your life. Hand over the brush. Surrender to His loving hand. 

It will be worth it, because Jesus decided you were worth it.
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:17-18