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When you’re just so weak…

 

Last month, when we went through those 17 stressors all at once, I thought, “Oh good. There’s my break-down-and-cry session for the year. Let’s get back into our groove and start thriving again!”

But then. We were heading into a super full month ahead, so I braced myself for the busyness. The same day that I wrote that post, I found out I was pregnant. I’ll share more on that story later, why we were amazed and beyond thrilled, but suffice it to say the stressors all faded away in light of this new miracle. Yes, I was tired and nauseous, but it was worth it because it meant a little LIFE was growing inside my body.

But then, a week later, Heidi came down super sick with a high fever. I hoped it’d break quickly and she’d be better in the morning. She wasn’t. The next day she was sick. And the next. I had to leave for a retreat, and by then Jeff and Dutch were also coming down with it, so I reluctantly left them home and headed off to speak.

That night, I came down with it too. The whole retreat I felt so weak. I was also doing a fast with a family member to pray over a specific situation, so I had given up all caffeine for 40 days. Between no caffeine, being pregnant, being sick, and being away from home and not sleeping well, trying to have enough strength to speak to these dear women, I was at end of myself. I just kept reassuring myself that I’d be home soon, could rest and recover, and it’d all be better.

When I got home from the retreat, we were all four still sick. And then, that night, I miscarried.

In the middle of it, I felt so much peace. I knew God’s goodness, I was able to praise Him, trust Him, sing to Him. He spoke specific words of hope and encouragement to my soul, so although I cried most of the night, I was really ok.

But it isn’t usually the sudden blow of sadness that gets us, it’s the slow wearying effect of daily discouragement. That’s how I felt. The next day we were still sick. I kept up at my optimism, always believing the next day we’d be better. And then next day we were still sick. Heidi had hardly eaten anything in 10 days. Finally on Wednesday, I was feeling strong enough to get to Bible study, so I went.

Then, in the middle of study, I got a text that Heidi had a horrible allergic reaction to bubble bath, she was swelling up and breaking out in a rash over her whole body.

Seriously?!!

I went home, to find her face swollen, her lips sticking out, bulging, her tongue swollen, and a red puffy rash all over her body. While Jeff went for Benadryl, I sat up beside her bed, praying over her, hopeful the next day it’d be gone.

It wasn’t. It looked like chemical burns all over. It itched terribly, and no matter what we tried, we couldn’t seem to get it under control. The next day, it was slightly better but still there. And the next day, still there. This was day 12 of sickness, on top of the exhaustion, no caffeine, and miscarriage, and Jeff or I had commitments 7 nights in a row, and I was just. At. The. End.

By the time all the sickness and reactions ended, it was the day before I was supposed to speak at a conference, in a session for Pastor’s Wives. I so desperately wanted to give them a powerful, hope-filled message. I wanted to make the session worth their time. I wanted to encourage them.

But I had nothing. I had no special insights from the Scriptures. I had no clever 3-point sermon, no alliteration or outline or fill-in-the-blanks, I had NOTHING. And I still needed to pack for our week of travel and clean the house and do laundry and homeschool these kids and make a dozen arrangements, and all I could do was cry. I spent my last hour of “prep time” lying on my face before God, sobbing. No matter how hard I tried to pull myself together, I couldn’t stop crying.

And there, with my face on the floor and the tears and snot soaking the carpet, the words of Jesus came to me,

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.”

There it was. Not only the message for my session and the message for my soul. I grabbed my Bible and began scouring 2 Corinthians, amazed to see how often Paul himself pours out his own list of laments, how often he was weak, hungry, weary, sleepless. How often he was at the end of himself. And yet over and over we see the reason for it:

That the power of God can be displayed.

I’m always praying for God’s power to be in display. But how often I tend to think that God’s power will be displayed through my power. I want God’s power to be displayed through my powerful preaching, or writing, or wisdom. I want God’s power to be displayed through health and strength, through exhilarating times of worship, through energizing church services, through successful endeavors.

That’s fine, but there’s no denying that more often than not, in the Scriptures, God’s power is displayed through our weakness. In fact, God’s power is made PERFECT (its very best display) through my weakness.

Of course I’m willing to be strong for the sake of Christ, but am I willing to be weak? Am I willing to be humbled? Am I willing to look small and unimpressive? Am I willing to pursue a path that purposefully puts my weakness on display?

The next day, in a packed room of pastor’s wives, I laid out my story of weakness. It wasn’t polished or pretty. Some might say it was pathetic, but then we opened up the Scriptures and let them preach. Oh and did they preach!!! They preached hope to us all—they told us that in our sorrow we are comforted so that we can comfort others (that’s ministry!). We saw that the treasure of the gospel is contained in weak and unimpressive jars of clay (that’s us!) to show that the power if His not ours. We saw that Paul was shipwrecked and beaten and hungry and exhausted, and that he was content with all that because it meant the power of God was put on display. And we saw that a messenger of Satan was even allowed to harass Paul, because when he was weak, then he was strong.

God met us in a powerful way, not because of my strength but because of His.

No one likes feeling weak, of course. But the gospel gives us something greater to live for than just our own feelings and fancies. We get to live for Christ. And the Scriptures promise us a reward that is far beyond anything we can possibly imagine, for those who choose the way of weakness for His sake.

Are you weak today, dear friend? Don’t lose hope. You are in the prime position to see God’s power perfected in your life. Your weakness is not a sign of God’s absence, it is an opportunity for His glory to be in display this very day.

Take courage, cling to Christ, for when you are weak, then you are strong.

{Thanks for reading.}

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My life and worldview rocked to the core…

This last week, I felt like chains fell from my wrists, ankles, mind. I opened this book and began scarfing down what I’ve been starving for for so long and didn’t know it. I cannot remember the last time I felt so FED by a book, by truth. About what, you ask?

Worldview.total truth

I know, this seems so dry, boring, unexciting. Please, track with me:

Even though my entire life is about the Sacred Mundane, even though my passion is destroying the sacred/secular duality and seeing all of life as a means of seeing and glorifying God, even though I just wrote a stinkin’ BOOK on this topic, I now see that I myself DID in fact allow my faith to be pushed to the margins of my life and relegated to a privatized corner of religious activity, safe and virtually ineffective, rendered useless for effecting change in the public spheres of life. 

See, I only spoke on safe topics. Only at religious events where Bible teaching was acceptable. I NEVER talked politics, current events, or spoke out on cultural issues. Truthfully, I was content to be the Bible-reading girl who shared little devotional snippets here and there about how to be more joyful in your mundane.

But here’s the thing that’s blowing my mind: God is the CREATOR of this world. Think about that for a moment. He’s the CREATOR. Not just of America. Of the whole world. So, He KNOWS exactly how things should be, all wisdom and insight and genius and creativity all come from Him.

He is the SOURCE of all things. All wisdom. 

So, we should then be able to see all of life through the lens of the Scriptures. I’m laughing as I type this because my book has an ENTIRE CHAPTER on this topic. BUT, I have never been taught how to develop a biblical worldview. That is, I’ve never learned how to intelligently engage with current events, culture, media, politics, arts, through the uniquely biblical lens of the Scriptures.

And here’s why:

In our culture, Christianity has been allowed to survive because it has been relegated to an obscure corner labeled “personal religious beliefs” which renders it completely useless for having any real impact on the actual goings on in our world. That is, we’re fine if people want to pray the sinners prayer, but DO NOT bring that Bible stuff into the workplace, government, education, healthcare, etc. No no.

Religious belief is allowable in your private life, but here in the public realm, we make decisions based on purely objective Reason.

Here’s the problem: There is no such thing as objective Reason

But, I’ve believed it. I’ve swallowed the pill that says, “Yeah, I can’t give biblical reasons for any of the things I believe which have widespread implications, so I guess I just can’t be part of this discussion. I guess we have to have public arguments based solely on secular principles.”

But secular principles are not neutral.

Nothing’s neutral. Nothing’s objective. Every philosophical system assumes some beginning “first principle.” That is, ALL knowledge depends upon religious truth. So even the secular “objective” reasoning depends upon some assumed self-existent truth. As Pearcey writes in Total Truth: 

“It’s a mistake to even to think of reason as neutral, in the sense of being independent of any philosophical or religious commitments. All systems of thought begin with some basic premise — some ultimate principle that is regarded as self-existing or divine. Reason is merely the human capacity to reason from those starting premises. In short, reason is always exercised in service to some ultimate religious vision. People interpret the facts in the light of either biblical revelation or some competing thought.”

Yes! See, ever so subtly, over the years, even during my college days and throughout the past 18 years, I have slowly and subtly believed the lie that “religious” knowledge must be confined to private spheres, while “objective reasoning” (which, doesn’t exist) is the only tool to use in the public spheres of government, education, science, etc. And since the only real knowledge I have is biblical knowledge, I figured that I better stay away from these public spheres because I clearly didn’t have anything to add.

So what happened was, God ruthlessly kicked me out of the private realm! During my nice quiet 40-day fast (a private religious activity where I minded my own business), He went and did something crazy — He told me who to vote for! And THEN, He clearly told me to share publicly who I voted for. GAH! I cried my eyes out, sweat, lay awake at night, and panicked. Even though I certainly wasn’t telling anyone else what to do or implying I had the corner on the truth, I was terrified to EVEN SET FOOT in that realm.

I was terrified to apply spiritual insight to a public sphere. 

And, because I didn’t have the tools to think critically and articulate biblically-informed views, when people asked me, “Why did you do that?” I shook my head, blushed, and said, “Um, I felt like God told me to.”

Not exactly a compelling answer.

See, I do believe that just by virtue of reading through the entire Bible 18 times, every single day for the last 18 years, that I have developed some sense of biblical worldview.

The Bible is the loudest voice in my life, hands down. I’ve “heard” more from the Scriptures than any person, even my parents, spouse, anyone. Nothing has spoken louder in my life than the Bible, applied supernaturally to my life by His Spirit.

So, that’s enough to at least make some sense of things, but I’ve never learned how to then intentionally develop a biblical worldview on public issues, and certainly never dared to say one out loud, for fear of being seen as idiotic, simplistic, uneducated, and narrow-minded.

And while I’m probably all those things, so is everyone else in light of Who God is, and His truth is TOTAL TRUTH. He has the genius insight on all things, and when we abandon His Word as THE SOURCE of all truth, then we inadvertently take up the “religion” of secularism, unknowingly falling prey to its false systems which are, at the core, contrary to God.

So, I don’t know where any of this will take me, other than to my knees. That’s where it’s taken me so far. I find myself feeling ALIVE like I have never felt before. I find myself feeling JOY like I’ve never felt before. I feel CONFIDENCE like I have never felt before. Not in myself, but in GOD! Sure, I don’t have the wisdom in and of myself, but HE has the answers, HE has the hope, HE has the truth, He has the words of eternal life, not just the ones that apply to private spiritual matters, but ALL THINGS THAT PERTAIN TO LIFE, are found in the knowledge of CHRIST.

In Christ is ALL knowledge. 

Christian, rejoice! There is a place for your voice in this world, for your Christlike care and compassion, for your wit and wisdom, for your humble critique and keen insight. Take heart, Christian!

Do not let your faith in Christ be relegated to a meaningless margin of your life. Jesus redeems ALL of life, for His glory. I’m excited to continue journeying this way with you. Thanks for your grace and patience with me along the way. Thanks for reading. 

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When you just aren’t strong enough to bear the load…

It happened Friday night — the unraveling, crumbling, ugly-cry, loudly-sobbing, can’t-talk sort of breaking point that seems to come along once or twice a year. I could kind of see it coming, but couldn’t quite put my finger on it.  I didn’t know anything was wrong, but the littlest thing can send you over the edge when you’ve been teetering on the brink and didn’t know it.

The thing is, I don’t usually sit down and consider how little things affect me, until it all piles up and I’m officially crushed. Besides, there isn’t time. When I was a teenager, busy with sports and school and work, my mom would remark how I was aways healthy until a vacation, then I’d come down with a cold. It was like my body knew to “hang on” through the busy season and then when there was enough space I could go ahead and “let out” all the stress, in the form of a cold.

I find that I’m like that now, emotionally. I will automatically hold it all together, until everything quiets down and there’s enough space, then I’ll go ahead and “get sick” emotionally. This is not a conscious decision, it just happens.

Anyway, it happened. And for awhile I couldn’t talk, I just silently cried, and Jeff waited to patiently, wiping my tears and holding me, and eventually I choked out the words that came from down so deep it felt painful to speak them:

“I’m not … tough enough to be a leader.”

That was it.

I felt like a butterfly trying to carry a brick up into the sky, and no matter how well-intentioned, those wings weren’t meant to carry that weight. 

Then, as I began reflecting back on the small things that had compounded, I realized that SEVENTEEN difficult/challenging situations to navigate or lead through had surfaced in my life in the last two weeks.

Seventeen.

And none of them are bad or catastrophic, but each one weighed on my heart. They caused me to ache, in some way. They took prayer. Several left me at a loss for how to proceed, at least for a time. Some hurt. Some left me confused. Some just took time and energy to determine the best course. Some took weighing how others would react or respond. Some required taking into account many different factors at play. Some required forgiveness. And most of them were things that wouldn’t be appropriate to discuss with anyone else.

So while no one of them was a “big deal” so to speak, they all piled up, and as I crawled under a blanket, in the dark, I cried out all I could think to say,

“God, help me. Please encourage me. Please help me be humble. Please … I feel so alone.”

Alone? It sounds silly to say, right? Certainly if I’m facing seventeen different people-situations, my life is not lonely! 🙂

But loneliness comes from bearing a weight that can’t be shouldered by anyone else.

But then I heard it so clearly, there in the quiet:

“These are My sheep.”

Oh. Yes. There IS someone who can shoulder this burden. In fact, He must. Because HE is the Good Shepherd and He loves people more than I ever could and He is GOOD and and He is for me, and for them, and when I am tired and weary and fragile and weak, He has already promised me this:

Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.…

Wow. When the words of Scripture spring to life and speak to your soul, you are changed.

Suddenly, the hopelessness slipped away. The warped perspective cleared. The fears fled. The anxiety dissolved. Peace flooded in. Rest settled. Hope rose. He held. 

Interestingly enough, one of the things weighing on my heart was writing the material for an upcoming Pastor’s Wives conference. I so desperately want to bring words of hope and life to them. I want to help them thrive. Guess what the verse is for our time together?

“Come to Me, all you who are weary…”

Yes. He’s so good. And so I prayed for God to translate every challenge into wisdom, into more revelation of His love and guidance, to turn every situation into an opportunity to teach the goodness and wonder and wisdom of God, to encourage these precious pastor’s wives, and any others who might just happen to feel weary along the way sometimes too. My seventeen situations weren’t all church-related, they were life related.

I know I’m not unique in this, we all sometimes feel like we’re not strong enough to bear the load. And Jesus invitation reaches to you too.

“Come to Me…”

Thanks for reading. 

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MANNA: First Sabbath

As I type these words I’m tucked under this quilt, snuggled up warmly with my Bible and books at my side. My stomach just growled so I ran downstairs and grabbed the already-prepared protein shake I’d mixed up last night. I feel downright giddy, curled up here in my happy place with time to think, pray, read, write.  Glory!

What a gift to have an accidental Sabbath.

Of course it’s no accident to God, He said Sabbath should be a thing. Right? But we don’t make it a thing and so then we have to stumble into Sabbath and go, “Ahh! What a great idea!”

See, today (Saturday), I had all-day plans. They were good plans. Godly plans. But then some things fell through and details changed, and next thing I knew I was needing to make a last-minute decision whether to go away for 11 hours (doing good things!), or to stay home. I sometimes panicked and paralyzed by having to make hurried decisions, so I asked Jeff to pray for me, and as we prayed I turned to my regular Bible-reading spot for the day.

It was Jesus saying, “The Sabbath was made or man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). 

Ah, that’s right. Sabbath

In that moment, I felt God was giving me the impression that I was free. Just as the disciples were free to eat the heads of grain in the field, I was free to do what was best for the refreshing of my heart and soul.

My choice was clear: I stayed home. 

And now, I found myself facing an accidental Sabbath. See, I had already made-ahead my breakfast and lunch, to take with me. I had already prepared the food ahead for Jeff and the kids for the day. Thinking I’d be gone, I had already tidied the house, caught up on dishes, laundry, etc.

The whole day stretched out before me gloriously blank

Sabbath.

And as I sat down to read, pray, and write, the things that fill and refresh my  heart like nothing else, I was reminded of the MANNA story again, and realized with awe, something I’d never considered before:

Manna was the first Sabbath observation.

While we learn that God rested on the Sabbath in Genesis 3, and it could possibly be that Adam and Eve naturally followed His lead (especially before the fall), there is no Sabbath commandment given, and no mention of humans observing the Sabbath, anywhere in the Scriptures …

… until Manna.

Exodus 16 is the first human observation of Sabbath, and God goes to such great lengths to explain what Sabbath is and how it all works, that clearly they had never known to observe it before.

And how it worked was this: Each day they were to gather that day’s portion. No more, no less. But on the 6th day, they were to gather (and prepare), twice as much. God would miraculously provide exactly twice as much as they needed. Why?

Because on the 7th day, the Sabbath, there would be none

On the Sabbath day, they were not to go out to gather, because there would be no manna (it would be a completely fruitless endeavor, so don’t even try), and they were to rest and eat what had already been prepareby them the day before. So, one day did require a bit extra work, but the next day was sweet, supernatural Sabbath rest.

And of course, again, in classic Israelite fashion, just as some of them had tried to save some overnight and it stank, some folks went out to gather manna on the 7th day, and guess what?

They found none.

Trying to get ahead, trying to gather-up on the Sabbath is fruitless labor. Sure, you can do it, but it’s pointless.

You won’t have any more to show for yourself than if you stayed at home and slept. 😉 

God’s economics.

And, miraculously, even though before when they disobediently saved some overnight it got worms and stank, this time when they obediently left half of it over night, it did not stink and there were no worms.”

God says,

“By the way, my laws trump natural laws. My word wins over what you’ve seen before. No matter what your logical mind tells you about how things work, My way will always stand.”

God’s Word pleads with us: My plans for you are GOOD. My laws lead to LIFE. My restrictions REFRESH your soul. My child, listen to me. 

Granted, we aren’t part of a theocracy today. Religious rules don’t govern our work schedules. No one day is always off-limits for events. Thankfully, Jesus doesn’t seem overly concerned about that. He reminds us that Sabbath was made for man. So if your Sunday looks like mine and it’s the busiest day of the week, perhaps another day might be better for rest. Or if you have six kids in soccer every Saturday, perhaps a worshipful Sunday morning service, followed by a crockpot meal and quiet afternoon nap might be just the ticket to make sure that even Mama gets the holy rest that every soul requires. What a great habit to teach our kids, that ceasing from activity is just as sacred as the greatest social cause or religious work.

It is in the holy rest that we remember, “Ah yes, He is God. We are not.”

So Father, teach us your ways. Grant us the humility to pull away and rest, to require our families to rest, to recognize our limitations, to learn your easy yoke and your light burden and let You be the One who holds the world. 

{Thanks for reading.}

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MANNA: Not heroes, just hungry.

So the Israelites complain, and God is so gracious that He hears their complaint, and graciously provides for them in this ingenious way that

1) Satisfies their legitimate need (hunger) while

2) NOT indulging their sinful cravings,

3) Teaching them priceless lessons on trust and obedience, and

4) Testing their hearts whether they will walk in His ways.

God is so smart. He says:

“Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not.” Ex 16:4

So, God provides food for them. It is a flaky substance, like wheat flour. It rested like frost, on everything, and they would go out and gather it up early in the morning, because by the time the sun was hot, it melted and was gone. So they had to gather it up in every morning, and then do something with it. 

What did they do with it? Boiled it or baked it. So their choices were basically pasta or bread.

But here was the beautiful thing about manna. There was always exactly the right amount.

“Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack. Each of them gathered as much as they could eat” (v. 19).

You weren’t to gather more than you needed, just what you needed. 

And there was no hoarding, or stocking up, or saving some for tomorrow. Each person had to get their own, every day, and they were strictly commanded NOT to save up any of it for the next day. Why? Because God had told them that tomorrow He would give them more. That’s why. He said each day He would rain down a day’s portion.

See saving up extra would be essentially saying to God,

“I don’t trust that you will do what you say you’ll do. I don’t trust that you’ll make good on your promise. I don’t trust you, and I don’t believe your promises. So I’ll do it myself. I actually trust my own ingenious methods more than your promises.”

Yikes. Right? So what happens? In classic Israelite fashion, they ignore his warning and …

“Some left part of it until morning (saved) and it bred worms and stank.”

See, this is no ordinary bread. God’s miraculous manna probably had the fiber of grains, the protein of meat, the vitamins of fruit, and the antioxidants of vegetables. It probably had the best enzymes and nutrients we can imagine, yet all miraculously wrapped up in a wheat-like flake that tasted like a honey-wafer (Ex. 16:31).

Did you catch that?!

Manna tasted like vanilla wafers!

Vanilla wafers that give me the nutrients of spinach and steak. Yes please!

But, immediately they have to trust that if they use up all their resources for any given day, God will give them the resources they need for the next day. But if they don’t, if they hold back from distrust, if they clench onto what they have, fearing tomorrow, anything leftover will rot, and the next morning will stink.

No rollover manna. No rollover food. No rollover resources. No rollover energy.

You have today’s. Period. That’s it. You have now. You have what you have. You have here. You have this reality. You have this life. You have this day. You have these children. You have this house.

Use it. Spend it. Cook it. Serve it.

Now, let’s talk as moms, just for a moment: Who do you think was cooking that manna? Who was kneading it, mixing it, boiling it, baking it? Who was tempted to save some for tomorrow? Who was the one responsible for feeding those babes, who was ever-mindful of the many little tummies in her care?

Mama. It was Mama’s manna. This was a test for everyone, of course, but I’m going to venture to say that the mamas felt it most keenly. Those mamas needed to trust that every single day, God would provide everything she needed for her whole family.

Which makes me wonder: What do we gather?

See, we will gather what we believe sustains us.

God’s Word actually fills and sustains us. So often we turn to what gives us a little jolt, a high, even if it’s negative. Just today in school we read about the propaganda of the Spanish-American war, how newspapers would print false information, making situations seem worse than they were, just so sales would go up. That tells me how much we often crave controversy, drama, conflict. But so often those sources actually drain. We might feel an initial buzz. But they leave us emptier.

Only God’s Word, His unchanging truth, His spoken word to our hearts in prayer, only this has what can sustain our hearts and souls.  Jesus said man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds by the mouth of the Lord.

This gives a whole new perspective on “quiet time,” or spending daily time with God, in His Word and in prayer.

It is not another thing on the list. It is FOOD.

See, If the Israelites thought that gathering manna was just an arbitrary chore they had to do, like God was trying to think of things to keep them busy, another box to check off their daily to-do list, they wouldn’t have gathered it. Time is too precious to waste outside gathering white flaky stuff off the ground.

But if they believed the TRUTH, that it was FOOD, you better believe they’d be out gathering it up!

We will gather what we believe sustains us.

We will make time for what we believe benefits us. What truly nourishes us and energizes us. What helps us.

They were out gathering up white flaky stuff because they were needed to eat.

See, never do we say, “Wow, can you believe how disciplined those Israelites were? They went outside and gathered manna every single day for 40 years. Wow, what heroes!”

We never say that.

It wasn’t that they were so disciplined, it’s that they were desperate. 

They weren’t heroes, they were hungry

Are we hungry? Are we desperate for God? Or do we think we’re so wise we have all the answers ourselves. Do we think we don’t need His wisdom, His insights, His direction, His guidance, His strength, His love.

See, the reason I get into God’s Word and spent time in prayer each morning is not that I’m a disciplined person. I’m a desperate person. You wouldn’t believe the junk I have in my heart sometimes. It’s ridiculous. You wouldn’t believe how clueless I feel when I face each day and the complexity of so many situations. You wouldn’t believe how NOT NATURAL this living-by-faith thing is, and how lost I am without His love and constant guidance. You wouldn’t believe how unqualified I am to lead or serve or speak or do anything.

Let’s not settle for being disciplined. Or having the right answers. Or finding a verse to tweet. Or checking off a box.

Let’s be desperate. Let’s be hungry. Let’s recognize our need and turn to the only hope. Our Manna. Our source. Our daily bread.

Thanks for reading. 

 

 

 

photo by vuk piper

MANNA: Cause for Complaint

Back to manna. After considering what it’d be like to have spiced almonds (my breakfast) for 43,800 meals straight, I’m really grateful that I have a fridge full of options at every meal.

Variety is such unsung luxury. 

Now, back to the Israelites. Keep in mind that in Exodus 16 (when the manna sitch is taking place), they have been traveling for 45 days. It’s been 45 days since they left Egypt, 45 days since they roasted the Passover lamb and had their hurried feast of unleavened bread.

This past fall, we took our 3 week roadtrip, and I packed most all of our food from home. We picked up a few fresh things here and there, but for the most part I brought it all. After 3 weeks I was ready for some new food!

Now, keep in mind the Israelites hadn’t had any new food since they left Egypt a month and half earlier. They probably packed extra raisins and dried food, maybe some skins of water and wine. But not much. Only what they could carry while they walked. And they’ve got babies, old people, animals. Millions of people. There were more than 600,000 military-aged men (20 and older), plus women and children, so we’re looking at somewhere around 2.5-3 million people.

This is roughly equal to the entire Portland metro area. (In the city are approx. 800,000 and in the Portland-metro area is about 2.5 million)

Can we even fathom that?

Now, consider the chaos that ensued when Portland just had SNOW.  Right?! When they were driving cars, through inclement weather. Consider the chaos of having people protest downtown. Consider the chaos of Christmas shopping. I don’t even venture into Portland in the month of December! We are talking a lot of people, and we have roads, buildings, cars, buses, max trains, cell phones, electricity, flashlights, convenience stores, police. Right??!

So, basically, the entire Portland metro area, 2.5 million people, minus all the modern conveniences that help us control crowds and manage chaos, all leaving the city, and traveling out into a vast wilderness desert, with no food or water. No cell phones or loudspeakers, no stores or hotels.

No campgrounds. No bathrooms.

And for the first 45 days they had nothing. They were probably completely exhausted. Desperate. Hungry. Losing hope. Sure, God had miraculously parted the Red Sea and delivered them from slavery, but now they were just wandering in the desert. And so what do they do? They do what I do and you do when faced with trying circumstances:

They complained.

If they had had Facebook, they would have pulled out their phones (which would have died by then anyway), and written status-update-vent in all caps: (v. 3)

WOULD THAT WE HAD DIED BY THE HAND OF THE LORD IN THE LAND OF EGYPT, WHEN WE SAT BY WITH MEAT POTS AND ATE BREAD TO THE FULL, FOR YOU HAVE BROUGHT US OUT INTO THIS WILDERNESS TO KILL THIS WHOLE ASSEMBLY WITH HUNGER.

Translation: Why do you hate us, God?! We’d be better off dead than in your care!

 Of course, they were slaves in the land of Egypt. They’ve forgotten that part.They were slaves, in Egypt, being beaten and mistreated horribly, and yet their current desperation has erased all memory of that and painted the past as a perfect situation compared to the present.

In other words: All they can see is the immediate problem.

Just like me.

How quickly I forget God’s miraculous provision! How quickly I move on to complaining.

How quickly my wide-eyed wonder becomes narrow-minded unbelief because I can’t see how He’ll make good on His Word. 

How quickly I forget His goodness.

Now, God is good and gracious and provides for them completely. More on that next time. But for now, oh how I long to ask my Father for things in a way that demonstrates faith!  I want to pray full of faith, not full of grumbling.

I want to lift my eyes to the hills and know His help will come, not cast my eyes on the ground and wonder where He’s gone. 

You too?

Let’s be careful how we pray. Let’s be careful how we speak. Let’s watch our words and be sure they rightly esteem the God who is constantly working for our good and His glory.

I’m not trying to be fake, reflecting something false, pretending everything’s perfect. (2.5 million people camping in a desert is anything but perfect.)

I’m trying to real, reflecting the TRUTH, that God is good. 

Thanks for reading.

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On loving muslims, my fears, and a few things in between. (1)

“There is … a time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak.”

Ecc. 3:7

What a heart-wrenching week we’ve had. Yes? I took a week off Facebook, just needing some space. But it seemed that events unfolded faster that I could mentally keep up, and by the time I logged on again I saw many outraged status updates along the lines of, “Ok Christians: Now is the time to speak up!”

I can understand. But honestly? I didn’t know what to say. YES I stand with refugees. They’re people created in the image of God. YES I stand with the unborn. They are the most vulnerable, truly those who have no voice. There are so many things to stand with because we stand with JESUS. I clicked “like” on dozens of them, but I just can’t sum up my own complex heart-ache in a simple status update.

The truth is, I still don’t know what to say, at least not in an articulate “Here’s the way it should be” kind of way. I don’t have the foggiest idea what the magic bullet for foreign policy would be. I haven’t a clue how I would ever make sense of the incredible complexities at work in our world. I can barely figure out my 10-year-old! I guess I agree with Heidi who recently said, “Man, I would NEVER want to be the President. It’d be the hardest job in the world.”

Seriously.

What I do know is that Jesus tells us to pray for those who are persecuted, to not oppress the refugee, and to honor and pray for our governmental leaders. So that’s what I’ve been doing.

But the heaviness just felt unbearable. Finally on Saturday, I cancelled some plans, and took several hours to just sit with the Scriptures and plead with God to speak to my heart. In prayer I respectfully reminded Him that HE was the one who told me to vote for this president! This was His idea! And I poured out my heart along the lines of:

“God, I felt you lead me so clearly how to vote through our time of fasting. But now it feels confusing. I LOVE people, all people, your people, and want to extend your love to them. But here I am, a stay-at-home mom. I’m doing nothing heroic in this area. I have no refugees on my doorstep to love. I desperately just want to obey you and please you, not just in certain areas, but in every way. Please show me what to do.”

Then it came in my mind to turn to the Psalms, and there it was. Psalm 4.

Be angry, and do not sin;
    ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah (Pause)
Offer right sacrifices,
    and put your trust in the Lord.

Ah. You know those times when the Scriptures leap off the page?! When it feels like God is speaking directly to your situation?! That was this. It might not be for you, but it seemed to say to me:

Be agitated, grieved, frustrated, confused. That’s ok. Those are human emotions that you feel in the midst of this broken world. But do not let these feelings cause you to sin. You can only control you. So above all, be mindful, and careful to keep far from sin, even in the quiet secret places of your heart. Above all else, keep your heart free from sin, which mars the image of God in you and always damages God’s work in this world.

Ponder all your thoughts, emotions, ideas — ponder them in your own heart. Be careful not to “share” every thought you have. Keep here, right on your bed, and ponder all these things in your own heart. And be silent. There is a time to be silent, and a time to speak. Things are not always as they seem, so be slow to speak, and slow to pass judgement. 

And then, offer right sacrifices. You know the good you are to do, so do it. Give generously, even if no one sees or applauds. Do what is right even if no one knows. Don’t let your emotions and feelings keep you from personal worship. Do what you know is right. 

And finally, and most importantly, PUT YOUR TRUST IN THE LORD. Do not put your trust in being right. Or being applauded. Or being understood. Or accepted. Put your trust in Me. I am the God of every refugee and the God of every unborn soul. No matter how crazy things look, keep trusting me.

And then, the very next day, our gracious God gave us a tangible way to live this out, and love. Maybe more on that later. But for now, perhaps this simple Psalm might encourage your heart as well, if you also feel all tangled up inside. Let’s pray. Let’s love. Let’s forgive. So much I don’t understand, but this I do.

On the journey with you. Thanks so much for reading. 

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MANNA: Death by monotony

What did you eat for breakfast this morning? 

Coffee and eggs? Yogurt and granola? Oatmeal?

Chocolate cake? (I won’t judge.)

Whatever it was, what if I told you the good news that God was going to miraculously provide you and your whole family with [whatever you ate for breakfast]–and only that– for every single meal, for the next 40 years.

Yes, 40 years. That’s 43,800 meals of [whatever you ate for breakfast].

You’d never have to buy it. Never have to grocery shop. Never have to meal plan. Never have to wonder what you’re going to fix for dinner. Never another question from your kids or husband about what was for dinner! You’d be eating [whatever you ate for breakfast] no matter what day, time, meal, or year it was.

Aren’t you excited???

Some hesitation, yes? Some hesitation because on the one hand, Yesit’d be awesome to have this miraculous provision. It would certainly save some $! If you spent $500/month on food, this would save you $240,000 over those 40 years. That’s great!

And yet.

Most of us recognize that we are slaves to variety, and the reality of eating the exact same thing, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, for not one, not two, but forty years would be virtually intolerable for us.

We’d have to coin a new term to describe our demise: Death by monotony.

Or, consider the clothes you have on right now. What if I told you that what you had on would never wear out for 40 years? That is, you are now going to wear exactly what you have on, and only that, for the next 40 years, and God will miraculously make it so it never wears out? Aren’t you excited?? Never have to spend another cent on clothing. Never having to decide what to wear. Wouldn’t that be great?!

Um…kind of. 

In college, I had the joy of traveling to Europe for a month. Because I knew we’d be covering many miles each day, on foot, I packed light. Very light. A few black knit long dresses, a black t-shirt, one pair of black walking shoes, a black sweater, and underwear.

That was it. I will say, I was glad to have packed that light, when traveling all those miles. It was nice not to make many decisions each day, and I splurged on a pair of jeans in Paris and then felt absolutely spoiled rotten with choices. But, by the time I got home, a month later, I never wanted to see those clothes again. The local Goodwill was still too near. I wanted them burned. 🙂 And that was only a month!

Similarly, I mentioned before that this summer we did a 40-day fast. Each day, we had a protein shake for breakfast, a certain smoothie for lunch, and spinach/brown rice for dinner. That was it. Every day. And although we truly felt great physically and spiritually, and each of those meals was satisfying and sustaining, it’s also true that when we were done I really, really really wanted a break from spinach and brown rice. It actually took a couple months before I was ready to eat that combo again. Again, that was only 40 days.

Who knew we were so driven by a desire for variety? 

I’ve been struck afresh by the miraculous manna from Exodus 16. We’re probably all familiar with this story, but I’m seeing some personal applications in a whole new way.

Now, the original plan was not 40 years. Their journey was lengthened significantly by sin: Namely complaining and unbelief. More on that later. For now, How many of us would actually be thankful for this provisionHow many of us (my hand’s up) would be howling in protest, maddened by the monotony, instead of thanking God for His miraculous provision?

On Sunday night, as we gathered for Bible study, we began by simply going around and sharing something simple we were grateful for. Girls, it was SO eye-opening. I had just deleted Facebook off my phone because it feels like an onslaught of sarcasm, divisive comments, complaining, arguing. It’s great for some people, but I’m apparently too weak to handle it, and I end up feeling sad, hurt, or agitated. What a powerful perspective-changer it was for me to sit around with these women and hear their dozen stories of all the ways God is good, of His grace and generosity.

Even the girl whose dad had just died a few days before was so eager to share the ways she was grateful for God’s goodness. What a gift! With tears in our eyes we rejoiced with her, so encouraged that she was seeing God’s goodness in the midst of her pain.

Gratitude is so contagious.

We’ll talk more about manna in the days to come, but for now, I’m endeavoring to be grateful for God’s provision.

How has God provided for you this week? 

Thanks for reading. 

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Hope for those discouraging days…

From last year, but the truth is the same: Just in case you’ve had one recently…

~

Some days end with tears. You too, right?  I don’t know about you, but sometimes I can feel the pressure mounting. A hard day, some unpleasant conflict, challenges with the kids, sad news, incessant rain, sometimes it can all just mount up, slowly through the day, and the next thing you know you’re reading aloud Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and the kids are asking, “What’s wrong with your voice?”

Well, kids, it’s cracking because I’m about to cry but now’s not the time, I have fifteen more minutes until you are tucked warmly into bed, and then I can crawl into bed by myself and cry my eyes out and let all those waves of discouragement just crash over me.

Maybe you don’t do that. I don’t very often, but I had one of those days recently, and woke up the next morning and the first words that ran through my mind: I don’t want to do this day.

But that wasn’t really an option, so I pushed off those warm covers and dragged myself into the cold morning. I found coffee waiting for me (that good man!) and this small gesture of love lured me out of my pit, just a tiny bit. I curled up, under layers of quilts, and pulled my Bible onto my lap.

Hot coffee and His Truth. Even the worst funk is no match for that combo.

In the way that only He can, by His Spirit, through His Word, these ancient truths, always fresh, envelope my heart and bring me back to light, back to hope. Two friends, who I texted to ask to pray for me, responded right away with Scripture. (Note: Pick friends who bring you back to the Word when you are down!)

Despondency is no match for Truth. The darkness is no match for Light.

His Word is sharper than any two-edged sword. It discerns our thoughts, motives, intentions. Nothing is more powerful for diagnosing the heart-issue, what’s really going on. All other wisdom falls hopelessly short — only His truth is strong enough to cut through to the core.

And the voice of Jesus, gently, softly, authoritatively, sets aright all that had been off and heals what is broken. He carefully leads us out of lies and self-centeredness, back into truth and joy.

I slowly read and re-read the Beatitudes, Jesus’ precious words for the weary, with promises and perspective to put everything aright in our souls. As I read, wrote it out, prayed, I could clearly see my wrong-thinking. I could see the skewed perspective.

Though I hate crying, the discouragement was so helpful, because it brought to the surface something out of whack.

When we respond to discouragement by masking it, faking it, or covering it up through coping mechanisms — shopping, eating, vegging out, escaping– then the issue isn’t solved, it’s just buried deeper. It’ll surface again, guaranteed.

But when we respond to discouragement by going to the Truth, the Source, the Life, He will speak that word that brings all hidden things to light, that reveals and comforts and changes us from the inside out.

In that way, discouragement actually works to our advantageit brings that broken place to the Light. Therefore, when we come through it, with renewed hope and faith, we aren’t just at the place we were before …

we’re further ahead. 

We’ve seen new truth. In some critical area, we’ve been healed. We aren’t who we were before, we’re better. We’ve proved God’s faithfulness, experienced His love, and come through the fire just a little lower, but better, than before. We’re worshippers in a whole new way.

Friend, if you are tempted to turn away from Him in your time of discouragement, to turn to a “filler” or some sort of escape, can I just plead with you to turn instead to the pages of His truth? His Word never returns void, it always accomplishes His work, it always reveals sin, brings light, brings life. If we turn to him, this discouragement can actually leave us better than before. Such hope!

{Happy Monday. Thank you for reading.}

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Everything can change in an instant

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
    but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.

(Prov. 13:12)

Everything can change in an instant. 

Five minutes before Jesus said, “Come forth!” Lazarus was dead.

Five minutes before Jesus broke the bread, thousands were famished.

Five minutes before Jesus said, “Ephphatha!” the man was completely deaf.

Five minutes before touching His garment, the bleeding woman was 12-years hopeless.

Five minutes before Jesus said, “Talitha cumi,” the little girl lay lifeless.

It’s darkest before the dawn, and it’s bleakest five minutes before the miracle.

As I journey through Genesis again this year, I was struck all over again by Joseph, faithful in prison, completely in the dark the day before he interpreted Pharoah’s dream and was instantly promoted. Overnight, he was put in a position of power, in order to save many lives, was given a wife, and saw the incredible fulfillment of God’s plan for His life.

But just the night before, as he was sleeping alone in jail, he must have felt confused, alone, lost, forgotten.

I remember last year, I had shared with our Bible study women about an area of discouragement. A long journey. Years. Some confusion.

And five minutes after I closed my eyes in sleep that night, a message buzzed on my phone.

The answer.

Literally, it had come to pass, I just didn’t know it. As I listened, and learned, I realized God had done what I’d prayed for, waited for, longed for.

In an instant everything changed. 

How easy it was, then, to rejoice in this new perspective on challenges! I was ready to shout to the world, “God does answer prayer, people! Trust Him! It might take time but He is faithful!” In the rearview mirror, that long rugged path of struggle and confusion is just a distant ribbon of road, past and forgotten. I was brim-full, overflowing with hope, ready to encourage any weary travelers along the road of prayerful perseverance.

But two days later, another hope plummeted.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick. How quickly my hope wavers, heartsick. Yes, God accomplished one amazing feat, but this one? Maybe this is the one that’s too audacious. I’m so foolish for praying for something so seemingly impossible. Why risk disappointment? Why subject myself to these tears, this heartache?

Why not just “accept” the circumstances and move on?

Because Jesus didn’t tell us to do that.

Because just that morning in my Bible study with the kids our passage was Matthew 7:7-11. Heidi had moved her tiny finger along the lines, slowly reading aloud in her sweet little-girl voice,

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”

The kids giggled at the thought of me handing them a  stone for lunch, or dishing up a bowl with a slithering snake in it. Of course not! They understood this lesson loud and clear.

Jesus knew we’d need encouragement. He knew we’d lose heart and lose hope. He knew we’d be tempted to believe that our Father doesn’t want to give us good gifts. He knew we’d be stray from truth and begin crafting theologies to justify our experience instead of pressing in to see our experience fall in line with God’s Word.

He knew hope deferred would make our hearts sick, but He urges us to keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking, because that answer is a tree of life. It will buttress our beliefs and give us new strength to fight. There’s nothing like experiencing the power of answered prayer.

No wonder there’s so much opposition, urging us to quit.

But let us remind ourselves: Everything can change in an instant.

{Keep on asking, seeking, knocking. Don’t give up! Happy Monday; thank you for reading.}