Tag: God’s character (page 1 of 4)

Soul Food for the Redeemed

Hey Friends,

If you’re new to the blog, I try to take most Fridays to share a hodgepodge of resources that may be encouraging, interesting, beautiful, or funny. This week I’ve been thinking about the word, “redeemed.”

I love the word, the image, the value of God as our Redeemer!

The dictionary defines redeem: “to make (something that is bad, unpleasant, etc.) better or more acceptable” or “to recover ownership of by paying a specified sum”.

 But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. Isaiah 43:1

I had a friend years ago who used to buy her clothes at a resale shop as a tangible reminder that she, like her clothes, had been bought back by Jesus.

And then, there’s this…

Isaiah 53:1-2 describes the joy of the redeemed this way:

The desert and the parched land will be glad;
    the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom;
    it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
    the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the Lord,
    the splendor of our God.

And then this picture on Instagram illustrates it.

Recently I received an advance copy of the book, Redeeming Ruth, to review. Meadow Rue Merrill writes with journalistic authenticity and detail of her family’s response to God’s prompting to adopt a young girl with disabilities from Africa.

Counter to our desire to paint everything as “up and to the right” in the Christian life, in spite of their sacrifice, this family suffers and loses. Nevertheless, they trust a good God to redeem their pain in ways they didn’t choose, and may not readily understand. This is a story of obedience and hope.

As I read it, I thought of so many friends living hard stories. I thought of my friend Emily who also adopted kids from Africa, and I gave my copy to her. I asked her to share her thoughts below.

As the mother of an adopted daughter, I resonate with much that Meadow describes in her book. She is honest about the journey towards, in and through adoption- a rare view inside what it truly means to bring a child from a hard place into your home. One strong theme in the book was that redemption comes only through suffering and how Meadow and her family chose to take on much of Ruth’s pain – emotional, physical, mental – so that Ruth could move towards health and wholeness. This is a hidden cost of intentional relationships, not just limited to adoption.

Redeeming Ruth is a great read for anyone who has trusted God with an important piece of life – whether a dream, a hope, a fear or a relationship – and has had that piece get crushed or remade or unearthed in a new way. Trusting God doesn’t mean everything is going to turn out okay. Our hearts may be bruised along the way, but He will be with us.

Redeeming Ruth releases May 1st. 

The One Thing About Yoga that Helps My Christmas

really wish I liked Yoga more. It’s healthy.  And it’s so in.  But I’m not crazy about it.

Here are the only things I like about Yoga:

  • the comfy pants that are like legal pajamas,
  • the fact that you do it in a group with great people, and not, for example on a stationary bike in your basement (like a crazy introvert),
  • the corpse pose (where you lay still with soft music playing)…

And one more thing…

They remind you to breathe.  In fact, I think that’s the only part I consistently get right when I go.  I mess up all the poses.  And I can’t make myself pretzelize (is that a word?) like my friend Brooke.

But then they say, “Don’t forget to breathe.” and I think “Yes!  I’ve got that down!  Score!” (Can you tell I’m better at competitive sports than contemplative ones?)

Sometimes the best I can do at Yoga is to just keep breathing.  Sometimes in the Christmas season it seems that way also.  You too?

Continue reading

The Question Fear Asks

This weekend I had the privilege of preaching on Matthew 14:22-32 – the super familiar story of Jesus and Peter walking on the water. I LOVE this story and I felt like God had so much to teach me as I prepared.

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One of the most important things I learned as I was studying the passage of Peter walking on the Sea of Galilee and sinking, was that it was about more than Peter’s faith. It was about Jesus’ greater grace.

Jesus reaches out when we’re sinking and lifts us up. 

This morning I was thinking about a related story I heard a million years ago about a little boy trapped in the bedroom of his home which was on fire.

He was at the window, the home swallowed up in flames, no way out.  Smoke everywhere.

Below, a fireman called up to him, “Jump son!  I’ll catch you!  I’m here!”

The little boy screamed “No!  I can’t SEE you!!!”

“I know,” yelled the fireman, “but I can see YOU!  Jump!”

Cheesy story?  Maybe.  But it makes me think about the question fear asks of God.

The underlying question in the little boy’s heart was the question that fear asks:

What if…?

What if you don’t see me?

What if you miss?

What if you’re not strong enough?

What if I get hurt?

What if I look silly?

Sometimes I can’t see God.  And I’m afraid to jump. (or step out of my boat)

 

What does Love ask of you today that’s scary?

To go someplace uncomfortable?  Talk to someone uncomfortable?  Serve in way that’s uncomfortable?

Quit a job, or stay in a job that’s hard?  Give something away?  Build a bridge, or shake the dust off your feet?

Are you afraid to jump?  I am.  And I’m thinking about the lyrics from this Nicole Nordeman song:

But what if you’re wrong?
What if there’s more?
What if there’s hope you never dreamed of hoping for?
What if you jump?
And just close your eyes?
What if the arms that catch you, catch you by surprise?
What if He’s more than enough?
What if it’s love?

Jumping, or taking a step outside our boat of comfort. There are different things that God may use to prompt us.

Invitation to go on an advocacy trip with World Vision when that’s not “my thing” prompted me to step out this summer.

Frustration over the lack of sanitary equipment for girls in northern Uganda, causing them to miss school, prompted our daughter Maggie to step outside her “boat” and solve the problem.

Fear of the overwhelming emotions around returning to church after her husband died, prompted my sister-in-law to cling to Jesus and take the hard step back.

Loss of her beloved son Brett, who had Downs Syndrome, prompted my friend Nan to start ministries to kids with special needs.

What are you afraid of?

What might God be using to prompt you to jump, or step out, trusting Him? 

If we step out and sink, we can be assured that God’s grace is greater than our faith.

Invited, Part 1

One of my favorite times is in the hours before guests arrive at our front door and shed their hats and boots.

Some are nervously wary, like deer in the woods, others eagerly expectant, diving into hugs and conversation like happy golden retrievers.

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Before they arrive, I love the prep, the anticipation – the chopping of veggies and lighting of candles, the prayer that each person would feel our delight in them, the strategy considering flow and food.

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Hospitality is a gift I relish. I love connecting people around a table with thoughtful questions and laughter and meaningful conversation.

But whether the idea of opening your home makes you want to do a jig, or curl up in a fetal ball and hide, it’s still a spiritual practice.

We practice inviting because Jesus invites us.

As we include and gather and host, we mirror the image of God in us, welcoming all around His table.

Recently at a prayer gathering, we did this exercise. Continue reading

Soul Food for Halloween

Halloween is one of my husband’s favorite days of the year.  I know, odd for a pastor, right?

The pc answer should be Easter,right?  And yes, it’s the most important, but honestly, I think he likes Halloween because it brings him so much joy to welcome kids at our door with enthusiasm, handing out candy and oohing and ahhing over every single costume like they were the one and only.

He looks forward all year to parking his chair by the front door and waiting for kids to come.  Even though he’s terrible at figuring out what the costumes are, he greets each kid as if they were THE most amazing, creative, delightful goblin of the night.

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Last night he took it to a new level.  He carried his rocking chair outside and our firepit along with a jack-o-lantern and a big basket of candy.  As I was watching him it struck me how much his posture towards the kids is like God’s towards us, only we usually miss it. Kind of like the dad waiting and watching for the prodigal son to come home. Continue reading

Got Worry?

One night recently this fall I had a group of women gathered in my living room. I asked them what character quality of God they need most right now.  They were brave and vulnerable and one after another said they long for Peace in the face of anxiety. Almost every one said she was struggling with worry, fear…Feeling out of control.

I’m not usually a big worrier, but I confess there have been a few nights recently where the “what if’s” and “what should I do’s” have swirled around in my brain like the eddy in a fast-moving stream.

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In If, Mark Batterson notes that “A ship’s anchor doesn’t just keep it from drifting. An anchor can be thrown in front of a ship and used to help it navigate through treacherous channels. The nautical term is ‘kedging'”.

So here’s what I think. Peace is anchoring ourselves not to our circumstances, but to the character of God.

Experiencing peace is not based on what I feel but on who God is.

We need to participate in the discipline of throwing our anchor out in front of us so that we’re continually filling our mind with the power and provision of God.

When we see God as He really is, we see our worries in perspective.

If I’m anchored to the all-sufficient God I’m not focused on the problems, but the Problem-solver. Continue reading

What Are Your Monuments?

As I write this John and I are in Washington D.C. for a few days of meetings and a chance to see our daughter and friends. Here, I am surrounded by monuments meant to remind us of the freedom we enjoy and the ways it was purchased at a high cost.

We lived here for a couple of years and are back frequently. Every time we come back we do new things, but we also return to visit the monuments we know.

Monuments help us remember our roots.

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Returning to these and remembering their significance brought to mind a time when God prompted me to go back to another kind of monument. Continue reading

The Five Hardest Words You May Ever Say

My phone pings and I look at another text update from my sister-in-law.

My brother David, who is two years younger than me, my brother who is strong and fit, my brother who is faithful and kind and always has a great sense of humor, has cancer. Stage 4.

And day and night we, his home team, in the bleachers and on the bench, pray for healing. For relief from unbearable pain and nausea, for strength and courage.

We are a family of Jesus-followers with a long heritage of belief and a sound-track of “Great is Thy Faithfulness”.  We trust in a giant of a God. We know without a shadow of a doubt that our God is powerful and loving and can heal David with both hands tied behind His back (so to speak).

In the past two years one of our closest friends was healed from Pancreatic cancer. Unheard of. A miracle. Another close friend died of Pancreatic cancer. Both were faithful, both trusted the goodness of God and the power of prayer.

So what do we do with that as we walk with David through this fiery furnace? How do we pray with total faith and hope for the kind of healing we want for David while acknowledging that, for whatever crazy reason, it may not be God’s will to show off?

I think the hardest thing we do is to join Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in being “if not” Christians.  Continue reading

When Jesus is Not Who You Thought He’d Be

I grew up in a predictable world.   It was “Mayberry”, complete with sidewalk games, little league baseball, and town parades.  Everyone was nice.

My dad got the 5:40 commuter train home to our little town from Chicago every night.  Each day ended with my loving, family gathered around the dinner table joining hands to pray before eating. We went to church.  We did the “right” things and we were “blessed”.IMG_8824God was predictable.  He was safe.

In my world “good” things happened to “good” people.  Trust came easy.

It was hard for me to relate to the 99% of the world who lived with chronic pain, and hard for them to comprehend the “It’s a Wonderful Life” snow globe I lived in.

All this delightful predictability made my crash all the more dramatic. Continue reading

More than Enough

Monday I wrote about being “enough” and it’s continued to be on my mind this week.  One of the reasons I think people love Thanksgiving is that it’s all about focusing on the “enough” before the holiday season when we’re prone to be stressed about not enough.  Not enough time, sleep, or money, and too much food, noise, and activity.

Maybe one of the reminders we need to carry with us into December is that God is always enough – enough grace for our sin, enough strength for our weakness, enough patience for our striving.

But more than that, maybe we need to be reminded that we are always enough and never too much for God to love.  He’s crazy about us “as is”.  Our picture is in His wallet, our number is on his “favorites” list.  He grieves with us in our despair, and happy dances with us in our joy.

I came across this song that I thought might be encouraging as we head into the weekend.  Enjoy!

Where are you tempted to think you’re not enough?

 

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