Free A’s And No Homework!

One of my favorite lines from THE INCREDIBLES movie is “if everyone is special, then nobody is special.” It comes from a villain who is plotting a way to make everyone into superheroes, thus negating the current superheroes’ power and prestige. I tried hard to prove this “everyone gets an A” picture as fake news… but alas, it is not. Where was this when I was crying over my math homework in fifth grade? Obviously, it didn’t exist because we lived in reality where you had to earn your grades. Interesting to note that homework and cupcakes are also banned at this particular school in Arlington, Virginia. Of course they are.

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First World Easter

Easter week. Holy Week. My favorite holiday and my favorite celebration. In the same way we observe advent, I think the time before Easter deserves our attention and willingness to quiet ourselves to hear with clear minds the story that changed everything. Our lives are not very conducive to this message, however, and the gospel gets lost in our hustle. As much as we may try, we won’t find any answers in our good works or our poetic brokenness… the answers are at the cross. Easter week is a week to remember those truths.

“The reality is that if we are seeking a better life for ourselves by helping others, if we are seeking to perfect ourselves by helping others, if we are seeking an aesthetically pleasing, pretty, romantic life and happiness by the brief emotional espresso shots/pat on the back sensation of helping others alone, we will never, ever be satisfied. If we are claiming to find perfection and happiness in our own brokenness and sin, we will definitely never be happy. Why? Because our first purpose is not inward, but rather it is to glorify God.

If we are getting our scripture and God’s holy infallible word from the Instagram Bible alone, if we are depending on aesthetically pleasing and pretty motivational blurbs with vague and fluffy words to push us through our first world lives and problems, we are not really looking for a relationship with God. We are looking to feel okay with where we are at. We are looking inward for emotional fulfillment. We are looking for our own idea of perfection.

It is good to help people. It is good to love life. It is good to love the beautiful and good. But this should all be the fruit of seeking to glorify God and follow His Will first. And quite honestly, as someone who tried to find the aesthetic, emotional, Instagram life, I don’t want that kind of first world, lavender lotion, piano riff, and local coffee someone-give-me-motivation-to-do-my-laundry-and-homework-oh-life-is-so-hard Jesus. I want the almighty King of Heaven whose bloody, painful, violent death saved me from the depths of the fiery and damning hell where I deserved to go (and still deserve to go, except for His mercy). I want to glorify and sing the praises of the God who gave Paul and Silas the strength to sing loud, fierce praises at the bottom of a filthy, nasty-smelling prison cell with their legs jammed into stocks for the entire night. I want the Lord and Savior whose astounding grace motivated Ignatius of Antioch to suffer through being dragged three thousand miles with ten abusive Roman soldiers to Nero’s Colosseum to be eaten alive by tortured lions in front of a jeering unsaved crowd and to write that he longed for eternity. These are true instances of brokenness, but instead of letting these situations break them and then holding on to their brokenness and saying “Oh! Look what I’m doing for Jesus!”, these men set their eyes on Christ and sought to glorify God and not themselves and certainly not their lives.

Faith is not pretty, and neither is life. Making it pretty by embracing our sin and the effects of sin around us and photoshopping it will not help us, either. Trying to find satisfaction through charitable acts will not help us either, if we are not seeking and embracing Christ and His Word first. For we do not find Christ in our brokenness. We find Christ in His Word and through there, realize our brokenness and the horror of it and seek repentance and sanctification. We are to rejoice in our suffering, as Paul calls us in Romans 5:3 and 4, but because of our hope in the glory of God. We are not called to revel in our problems and look for emotional nirvana. We are to look upward. ”  Rachel Stevenson

Look up friends, not in. Acknowledge the unfinished things, but rejoice in a Savior that died on a cross and announced once and for all that “IT IS FINISHED.”

Help people. Do the good works, but find your strength in the cross. That’s where all the power and joy are found… not in striving to impress. He died so we may live life and live it abundantly.

The cross wasn’t cheap or smooth, it was costly and rugged. It’s easy to forget that with our Pottery Barn table settings and easy coffee shop culture. I hope we can be reminded of it all this week, the brutal beauty of the whole story.

Be blessed this Easter friends, cling to the old rugged cross and the great hope it brings to our old rugged lives.

Searching For Spring – And Finding It

March is a funny month, in like a lion, out like a lamb and all that… we here in Colorado enjoy warm days and blizzards all in one weekend at times. I’m a seasonal girl, I love the flow of one season to the next, and I get as excited for fall as I do for summer. Winter is harder though, once Christmas passes I kind of lose my mojo. The rhythm feels a little off, there isn’t much to be excited about when the sun sets at 5:30. March brings a little change though, something is on the horizon: Target puts out their cheery spring decor. Under all that sloppy snow some green shoots are beginning to poke out of the ground. My boys are getting restless with school and starting to talk about their summer plans. I’m aching to just make it to spring break vacation so my pale self can soak up some warm sun. March makes me start to search for springtime.

I was honored to get to review Christine Hoover’s new book Searching For Spring because it addresses one of the very cries of my heart… how can we find beauty in the winter of our lives? Are we meant to just hunker down and pray for spring, or does God actually have something beautiful for us in the midst of our winter waiting? Using Ecclesiastes 3 as a backdrop, Christine takes us on a sensory journey through the seasons as God created them and reminds us that we can’t place all our hope in decaying things, but rather in a God who has promised to make all things new in their time.

Admittedly, I am not a fan of the popular Christian-ish idea that “life is messy and broken! embrace your big messy broken life!” That little mantra covers real sin up as no big deal and makes a mockery of the redemption story. This book does a beautiful job of addressing the truth of our current brokenness while providing us with hope that there is a light at the end of this dark tunnel. It was refreshing to see the whole picture presented. Hoover does a beautiful job weaving together the truth that while we live in a broken world, we belong to a Savior that has promised to make all things beautiful, including our “inconsolable things” as she calls them, the things that simply will not be made whole in this lifetime.

I look out my window and see bare trees, dried up grass and the remnants of last summers raspberry patch. It looks just awful right now, but I don’t wake up lamenting the barrenness of it all because I know something is happening down in places I can’t see. In a few weeks I’ll be able to see tiny buds on the raspberry stalks. A rogue wildflower will pop up in the backyard. God wants us to recognize that drumbeat, that rhythm He has created in our lives as well. It’s hard sometimes to see any beauty in our long winters, but we must not believe it isn’t there. His creation knows it: there will soon be a nest on my front porch, the geese at our little pond will disappear for another year, the black bear in the ravine will poke his head out into the sun and start to roam. Because life continues on.

We need to act in a way that honors God’s rhythms. “To everything there is a season” He tells us, but how often do we demand a perpetual spring or summer?

“Perhaps you’re waiting for something to be made beautiful. What can you do in the meantime? Give yourself to creative good. Give your life to love and serve in the ways you’ve been gifted. Draw your own perspective back to the small beauties of everyday life.” (page 196)

Just like nature renews itself through death and new life, so must we. Jesus never told us life would be a perpetual summer, in fact we are assured that sometimes there will be suffering. We don’t need to run from it, and we aren’t exactly supposed to embrace it either, we are to walk with Jesus where He leads. There’s a beautiful part of the book where Hoover talks about faith in the “minor keys” and how that rubs us the wrong way, because the minor keys aren’t natural, they call us to repent and lay down the selfish parts of ourselves. We like life to be in the major keys because it just feels right and good. She does a great job showing us how we need both, just like winter and summer.

“We’re made to be beauty seekers but too often we’re merely surviving. We are restless from a lack of wonder and sometimes we’re pierced by more than just restlessness; depression, anxiety, apathy, bitterness, and hopelessness. We exist in a crafted busyness where we attempt to silence our heart’s craving. What is the point of seeking beauty anyway? Why awaken our hearts to the risk of emotion when life’s pain is too deep? 

Because beauty is the most potent weapon we have with which to fight back.”

What a blessing and what a relief. Beauty amidst ugliness. Beauty in wintertime. Hope that our spring is coming and that Jesus has made and is continuing to make all things new.

Here’s a link for the book if you’d like to check it out, it was a huge blessing for me and has me getting out some of those Easter decorations already… enjoy friends!

The Real Cause of the Storm

Watching the opinions and fingers come out this week has been a bit much for me. I can’t help but think most of it is well-intentioned people spinning their wheels. Questions ranging from “why would a good God allow this” to “what laws will prevent this” are bombarding us all. I have to humbly submit that, until we as a people get a hold of some very basic but profound spiritual truths… The wheels are going to keep on spinning. We must see a God who HAS acted and intervened on our behalf. We have to turn towards Him and not away.

http://www.ransomedheart.com/blogs/john/why-newtown-more-important-we-think

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Five Smooth Stones

Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them.

“I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off. Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.

1 Samuel 17:38-40

The story of little David and his victory over Goliath is my 6 year old sons favorite thing to read. It’s the first story he looks up when he gets out a picture bible. I’ve become accustomed to it, memorized it, and I confess, tired of it at times. Little guy defeats big giant, with only a stone and God’s divine help. Got it. Check. It is an amazing story – and I feel bad thinking I’ve read it one too many times. I ask him if he wants to read a different story – nope. So we read it again, from a different kids Bible. We talk about how little people can do big things for God. We reaffirm that we are in Gods army and He is in charge of winning the battles we face. It’s all very good stuff. And I believe it. But for some reason, it was more of a picture on a page than a truth in my heart.

God never meant for us to be bored with His Word, not ever, but sometimes those truths just stay there on the page, flat and lifeless. We need them to be life and truth, but sometimes it just isn’t there.

I was flattened most of this past week. Sick to my stomach, I was horrified in a way that I cannot put into words, and I won’t try. We are accustomed to hearing awful things on the news, but Newtown was different. I walked around all week in their shoes, as did every parent I know. I found myself no longer caring about the mud on my floors or dried toothpaste mess in the sink. Truthfully, I was damn thankful for my mess. I went through the motions of sending my boys off to school acutely aware of how exposed we really are. Painfully aware that I need to go to the Lord with these anxieties, I asked that He show me what true protection really means.

We fashion our own little worlds as best we can, organized and tidy. I send the boys off to school – every fiber in my body fights against it while my head tells me to chill out. Later that morning, digging for a Post-It note in the kitchen junk drawer, I came across a little red and black bag given to my 6 year old a few years ago. It contains 5 little stones from the Valley of Elah, where David took on Goliath so long ago. Some very thoughtful friends had given it to us, knowing my little guys love for the story. I wondered how long it had been in there. No matter, I picked it up and put it in my purse. I started thinking about little David. I thought of how he tried to put on Saul’s armor and went instead for a sling and some rocks. The armor didn’t suit him. It didn’t fit him. It weighed him down.

I took out a rock and held it for awhile. Could it be that this is all we need? I started thinking of all the armor I walk around with that is anything but the armor of God. It’s so easy to pile on things in our lives that make us feel less exposed. We organize. We collect. We control. We build our suit of armor until it becomes too big and too heavy. Suddenly, we are too weighed down to fight the giants. David was successful because he went into battle in the name of the Lord. Period. Holding the little bag of rocks, I felt a kind of surrender that I had not felt in awhile.

We need to drop the heavy armor. We need to drop the fears and anxieties we walk around with all day. Accept that we are exposed – accept also that the God of David goes with us into battle and will fight for us.

The world tells us we have to be ‘holly and jolly’ this time of year. The world tells us we need to be dragging around a ton of armor to be happy and secure. God tells us to give up the charade. It’s ok to be broken.  As Christmas approaches, I pray God’s supernatural comfort over all those who are mourning.  The idea of a ‘holly jolly’ Christmas seems woefully artificial  right now. We need the truth to come off the page again. As we mourn the loss of innocence, I pray that we would turn our eyes to the child that came into a world just as dark as ours 2000 years ago. He came so that this sadness would not have the final word. This present darkness is too much for any of us to handle. In spite of all of this – because of all of this – Christ came into this mess of a world.

Don’t let the story fall flat. Don’t let the repetition make it dull and lifeless. May the story of Christmas come off the pages this year like never before. Let those who are hurting look through the artificial and straight into the heart of God. The Light of the World has come to dispel the darkness once and for all.