Tag: redemption (page 1 of 2)

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. 

Who and Whose is Your Church?

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You can just barely see me in the second row of this picture, taken at church yesterday. We celebrated the 60th anniversary of when believers first gathered on this corner of Minnesota in the midst of a farmland.

Outside the sanctuary more people – families with littles gathered around tables to participate with wiggle room. And outside the building, Minnesota couldn’t decide whether to be all blustery clouds, or sun-shiny. The weather reflected the many seasons we’ve experienced here.

As we worshipped, I cried because the picture above may look like a crowd to you, but we’ve been here 27 years, so it’s not a crowd. It’s a family of people with amazing stories of God’s love and redemption.

I turned and looked up to see my long-haired friend in the front row of the balcony who first rode up to church on his Harley, found love and acceptance and never looked back.

I was hugged by a teary woman I had prayed for a few months ago with alcohol on her breath at 9 a.m. She said “I’m making it.” referring to her recovery.

I laughed with the people who had been our first neighbors, whose kids created forts with ours, and came to Jesus through a backyard Bible study I hosted.

I met the new wife of a widower my age, and I watched a young widow pitch in as a volunteer for the bbq after worship.

As I stood talking, a 7 year old friend came and silently leaned up against me for a brief hug.

I cuddled babies belonging to young couples who were just engaged or newly married when I gathered them together as a small community 5 years ago.

Looking across the sanctuary I saw people we’ve done life with – 4th of July gatherings, weddings, births, New Year’s welcoming, and funerals. Together.

Among the folks gathered yesterday were also those who have hurt my feelings. Those who I’ve had to ask forgiveness. Some who have been critical. Others who have gossiped, including me.

This is the church.

I love Jesus. And I love the Church. But the Church isn’t Jesus.

We’re all a mess and we’ll let each other down from time to time.

We are both humble and proud.

Generous and selfish.

Open-handed and controlling.

Inclusive and exclusive.

Gracious and legalistic.

Brave and fearful.

But we keep showing up, because the grace of Jesus is why we’re here in the first place. 

We’re works in progress all.

In addition to the people I’ve named, I know there are some who are just watchers. Maybe wounded. Maybe shamed. Maybe feeling they don’t fit in. They stand on the edges. They slip out early. I try to look for them and take them by the hand and gently pull them in, but they’re slippery and they may not be ready.

If you’re a watcher, I understand. There was a season when I was a watcher too and the church just felt too dangerous. But I’d encourage you with this. It isn’t the church we trust in. It’s Jesus.

Yesterday I cried as I always do when we sang “Great is Thy Faithfulness”

We as a church are going to blow it, but it’s His faithfulness that carries us, that picks us up, that mends our broken hearts, that redeems our relationships and knits us together in love and forgiveness. And so we keep showing up together at 70th street and 100 with “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.”

 

 

 

The T.V. Preacher and Me

Very early most mornings at Starbucks, my elderly gentleman friend Stan, walks over from his home in the neighborhood to buy his morning paper and stops by my “office” to chat. The other day he was telling me about a new t.v. preacher he had discovered who he really likes.

I asked the name of this guy and when Stan told me I gulped and bit my tongue as I continued to listen. I wanted to say “Stan! Don’t you know about this guy?! Don’t you know about what he DID back in the day?!! I would never listen to him!”

And then the Holy Spirit tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, “What if you were judged by all your past sins? What if you weren’t allowed to grow and change?”

I thought, “Jesus is about forever tries and redemption and new life. Am I?”

It made me think about all the people I’ve “written off” with labels like “out-of-control”, “racist”, “addict”, “unhealthy”, “materialistic”, “victim”…

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I thought of the woman caught in adultery in John 8 and I wondered how Jesus’ grace affected her. Did she change? Did people let her become something other than the label, “adulterer”? Were they able to see the label Jesus gave her: “Beloved”?

Today there’s someone who comes to mind who I’ve given the label, “User”. I haven’t seen him for years, but today I’m praying for him and in my mind as I pray, I’m picturing that label being removed from him, and replaced by one that says “Beloved”.

The Other “F Word”, part 3

One more repost…#3 F- word. We’re all a mess! Let’s celebrate that God doesn’t leave us that way! We are beloved works in progress.

I once put 2 CUPS of salt into a recipe of lasagna instead of 2 teaspoons.

Ok, actually I ran out of salt after a cup and a half, but still…  Inconceivable that anyone could be such an idiot?  A failure?  I know, I know it’s hard even for me to believe.  I can only chalk it up to the fact that I was multi-tasking and my mind was elsewhere.

You’ve never made a stupid mistake?  Or failed at something serious you worked hard for?

Did you fail your driver’s test the first time?

Fail to make the varsity tennis, football, or swim team?

Been fired?

Have a failed marriage?

Failed to get a promotion you applied for?

Failure.  Another uncomfortable “F word”.

Even writing the word brings feelings of humiliation and embarrassment.  A sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

I have plenty of failures to reflect on.  I’m a passionate, fire-ready-aim kind of gal.  Leap before you look.  It’s all good.  Enthusiasm wins the day.

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As a result I’ve inadvertently stepped on toes, lost money, received rejections for less-than-best work submitted too quickly.

Maybe your pattern is different, but you can still think of failures that make you cringe.

As I’ve been reflecting on failure I’ve read some inspiring stuff.

“Grace means our failures don’t define who we are anymore; they just shape who we’re becoming.”Bob Goff

“If you know you are the Beloved, you can live with an enormous amount of success
and an enormous amount of failure without losing your identity.
Because your identity is that you are the Beloved…” Henri Nouwen

Somebody asked Winston Churchill one time, “What most prepared you to lead Great Britain through World War 2?

This was Churchill’s response: “It was the time I repeated a class in grade school.”

The questioner said, “You mean you flunked a grade?”

Churchill said, “I never flunked in my life.  I was given a second opportunity to get it right.”

What we would like to delete, God wants to complete?

We all are going to fail, but what’s next?  How do we “fail forward”?

Stop trying for a minute and hold your “failure” (whatever it is) before God and say,

Here it is Lord.

Use it.  Redeem it.  Teach me from it.  Show me my next step.  But don’t let it define me, paralyze me, or tempt me to turn from You.  Thank you that I am Your beloved child.  No matter what.”

What have you failed at that God has redeemed?

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1

For A Hurting World on Christmas Eve

This morning I sit in Starbucks with Faith Hill singing Silent Night in my ear. This Christmas Eve morning while it’s still dark, before the family wakes and the hustle starts, I think of my sister-in-law without David for the first Christmas.

I think of my friend whose due date was two days ago, still waiting for her new baby to arrive.

I think of the dying woman who I visited in the hospital yesterday afternoon, just a couple of hours before she fell into the arms of Jesus.

I think of friends, barren, longing for new life, and those with prodigals, waiting for them to come home.

I think of Syria and refugees and Isis and friends serving in hard places like Palestine and Iraq.

I think of family and friends gathered around our table this week – the loud laughter and joy and thanksgiving, but also the brokenness that lurks beneath the surface.

We all have our stuff, right? We’re all so desperately in need of restoration and redemption and relationships being set right.

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And so, tonight, the rescue mission begins, for all of us longing and lost, hurting and hopeful. Love arrives like the allies landing in Normandy. Not really, but only in the sense that we know how the story ends. The battle against pain and evil, loss and brokenness will be won.

Help is here.

God enters in.

Love wins.

The world will be set right.

This Christmas we rejoice in the now, but long for the not yet. And Jesus takes our hand and says, “In me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (Jn. 16:33)

And I hear a father whispering to his fretful baby, “It’s ok. It’s gonna be ok. I’m right here. I’ve got this. It’s gonna be ok.”

Merry Christmas, friends.

Three Questions to Ask When You’re Dinged

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I got this scar when I was 16 years old.  You can barely see it in this picture, but it’s there. Trust me.

I wish it was a scar from a bullet I got moonlighting as a spy (cuz I do have those skills you know), but no, not this time.

I was working on a car wash in a church parking lot to raise money for a high school athletic club I was part of.  There was a metal piece of trim sticking out on the side of the car, and as I swiped, it sliced my finger open leaving a deep cut that required stitches.

This is a scar that (almost) everyone can see. But I have “invisible” ones too.  I know you do too.

That teacher who shamed you. That boyfriend who dumped you. That parent who let you down. The friend who said “You’re too…” or “You’re not enough…” That time you were fired or betrayed or overlooked or compared and found lacking.

They may not be physically visible, but these wounds are deep and long-lasting.

What’s an invisible wound or painful memory you carry with you? Continue reading

Among the Ruins

qtThis is my view outside Latimer house where we’re staying while husband John is in meetings.  I know!  Pretty wonderful!  It looks a little like Downton Abbey but with trees around it, on a hill overlooking the Chess Valley in England.

Earlier I was in the library, but it is an unusually beautiful spring day and the English countryside kept whispering to me to come outside.

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All that to say, I’m feeling very British-y.  Our cab driver in London actually said “Cheers, mate!” with a straight face.  I didn’t know that was an actual thing.

Yesterday we walked Oxford and now I’m longing to go back and re-read everything C.S. Lewis wrote.

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I came across a quote from Lewis that really sums up what I’ve experienced over the past few weeks.

“Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some to see.”

Continue reading

Choosing Life When All We Can See is Death

It’s “spring” in Minnesota which means when I woke up this morning and it was gray and cold my first thought was, “Thank God it’s not snowing or raining again.”

Spring in Minnesota looks like a boat-load of ugly.

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Yes, this is the mountain of soot-covered snow still in our parking lot.  We’re thinking we could raise money for missions if we take bets on the date it will finally be gone (and 4th of July is not out of the question).

It does NOT seem like an easy time to choose life.  Or to remember that life is there, beneath the surface, hidden in the ugliness of brown dirt.  It’s hard to remember that God WILL actually transform that ugliness at some point in the near future.

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It’s much the same with seasons, or days of our life.  We can recite “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him.” but we think, “HOW in the WORLD is God going to change this mistake, this sin, this pain, this relationship and bring LIFE and Beauty from it???  How will God redeem it at all?” Continue reading

Good Fights

I think I had a pretty good fight recently.  Not great, but it was progress.  Let me backtrack.

Someone did something that made me, well… furious!

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I grew up in a home where there was very little conflict, and when there was, we ignored it.

You know, like a kid who thinks if he closes his eyes no one will see him.  So conflict’s not really been my thing.  It’s had to be a growing edge for me as an adult.

And I’ve done it wrong. A. Lot.

When someone said something thoughtless, or did something mean, or (gasp!) was controlling or dismissive or disagreed with me…

I’ve done the angry email thing and the passive-aggressive thing, and the withdraw and punish thing…

See, I told you I was bad at this!

But the other day, once I settled down, I experienced a tiny (and I mean tiny) victory.  Continue reading

A Salvage Mission

I love, love, love Christmas cards with the beautiful scenes of pristine snow and a lovely stable and winsome sheep.  I love to imagine the cleaned up version of Christmas.  Like I prefer the cleaned up version of me.

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I’d prefer not to face the reality of Christmas that involved manure and labor pains, sweat and body odor and afterbirth.  Jesus didn’t come into a Christmas card, but into a sin-filled dump.

We are fragile and broken and God comes into the junkyard of our lives not with a bulldozer, but with loving hands that sift through our shattered pieces and gently put us back together, better than new.

Recently I read this quote from The Drama of Scripture by Bartholomew and Goheen:

When his good creation was fouled by human rebellion, God immediately set out on a salvage mission.

He had created it, and it thus belonged to him by right. Now he would redeem it, buy it back for himself, so that it might be restored to what he had always intended it to be.”

I love the image of God’s “salvage mission”.

And then I saw this Youtube video that seemed to be a beautiful picture of people literally living out that phrase.

Continue reading

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