Archives For faith

A Two-Part Invention

July 29, 2014

I have forgotten how to imagine. This year snuffed out my belief in the possible, brought me face to face with reality and it stung, over and over and over again.

I believe, help my unbelief.

I wake this morning in our new home, my bedroom at the back of the house cool, still dark, and quiet. The sound of a closing door, feet padding across carpet, the smell of coffee. These will be our morning rhythms now, the same, but different.

I believe.

Plans have changed and I find myself planted for another year in Texas. I’m grateful to have people wiser than I, and with better counsel, in my life, but cannot deny the panic I woke with yesterday, on moving day. I think I love our new home already, but want to imagine that imagination hasn’t gone the way of hope this year.

Help my unbelief.

Jesus is better than we imagine, but if we imagine nothing, then what is He better than? I feel soul-sucked and dry, that is the honest truth. Lonely and thirsting for things I love that he hasn’t promised me, not ever. But I want to imagine he’s better than all the mountains and seasons and people and clear air I ache for.

I believe.

The thing about mountains I love the most is not standing on top of them, though it is beautiful, to see so far, so deep. What I love more is standing beneath them. When the clouds part and the peaks show and I gasp. Who can imagine the time and folding and faulting that brings them to their full glory? I cannot. There is scope on the mountain top, bringing with it a grandeur. Here at the bottom, though, I am only small and inconsequential. Unimportant.

Help my unbelief.

He must increase, I must decrease.

I believe.

mountain

Jubilee

June 19, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 8.39.57 AM

I was 13 when I knew I would be a writer even though definitions of verbs and adverbs and gerunds were still a bit hazy in my mind, not to mention my atrocious spelling. I came of age in the coming of age of spell-check which ruined it for us all. No idea how to spell anxious or brevity or volatile or naive? No problem. I wonder what will become of us now that most digital devices anticipate our words before we can spell out even their first few letters. We are already less than literate, now will we be less than half?

I’m no opponent of modernity, nor am I antagonistic to those who spend their resources grabbing up every new resource as it comes. I am writing this on a 15inch MacBook Pro, on which I spent more to get the anti-glare screen and super impressive pixel ratio. I wake up every morning to the alarm on my iPhone which gets me to work on time so I can learn and earn more so I can buy gadgets such as these. Praise God for GPS without which I’ll bet cities wouldn’t grow so fast so quickly.

Stepping back from the whole of it, though, the writing, the spell-check, the convenience, the anti-glare screen, (everything except the alarm), causes a kind of built-in pause, as it is meant to, and this morning I think about the year of jubilee.

Rightly understanding the law’s place is one of the gospel’s great benefits, but sometimes I lament that He who set us free indeed didn’t keep a few of the more beneficial laws around for good measure. The Year of Jubilee would be one I’d have kept because I’m very bad at resting and my guess is you are too. Because we can do everything faster, better, and more efficiently, we can do more and more and more until we’ve lost sight of why we’re doing it at all.

What are we doing anyway?

There’s much talk of obscurity and the normal and going about our business, minding it in light of the Gospel and little else, and this resonates deep in me. But I wonder sometimes if the reason we have this conversation at all is because minding other people’s business is so tres chic these days. “All up in your bizniss” in the street lingo. Sharing it all brings this strange delight, a false sense of togetherness and a true sense of coolness.

I used to think the word community was derived from common and unity, or together and altogether. But it’s not. Com: together and Munus: gift.

Gift, together.

In the Year of Jubilee, God’s people would return to their own land, and return the land they’d inhabited to its original owners. They would set free captives and slaves and servants. They would forgive debts. They would celebrate all year long the gift of God to them. They would community: gift, together. A long year of gifting.

When I set myself down and rest my mind and eyes and ears from all that which threatens to steal my joy, I think it’s the stuff of it all that steals it most quickly. Instead of feeling gifted to by what modernity has brought, I feel stolen from. It steals my time and my energy, my opinion and my coolness. Apart from all that I do or have, I am not cool after all.

But it turns out things don’t steal my joy, my need for them does

What is beautiful about Sabbath and Jubilee and rest, is when I’m set apart from what I do or have, I am nothing—and nothing is what I bring to the cross. Nothing enables me to gift everything and come, trembling and grateful, empty-handed, atrocious spelling, without GPS or alarm, come. Quiet and aware. Stilled and stayed. Comforted by nothing but His grace and love toward me.

fruitI caught of a whiff of longing this morning. I’d almost forgotten what it feels like. I stood in the parking lot and let the Texas breeze wash over me—and I felt a burst of hope inside of me: I’m going home!

I am sitting at the table with two dear friends the other day, an elder from my church and his wife, one of my first friends in Texas. They are New Yorkers, upstaters like me, and they have loved me well in my time here. This year has been one long shove, I said, a pushing away from all the reasons I would have to stay here. But are you running? they ask. Is it still running if you’re going home?

New York is a big state, divided into sections. The City, Upstate, the North Country, the Adirondack Region, the Finger Lakes Region, the Thousand Island Seaway, the Catskills. It’s all New York, but so much more than just The City. I’m not moving to the same region from which I hail, but I’m moving to the state I call home. Is it still running if you’re going home?

When I first visited New York I was 18 years old, a sullen teenager whose parents wanted to buy an old farmhouse and homestead it, growing organic vegetables and raising animals. I was born and bred in an affluent county north of Philadelphia. The earthiness of our new home didn’t bother me, but the humbleness of it did. It was a bigger, grander house than the one we’d left, but the life we now lived was simpler. I never felt at home there.

New York took from me, from beginning to end, it seemed. The timeline of my time there is dotted with its thievery. Home, life, family, security, finances, faith. By the time I left, my small car packed with every earthly belonging, I would have been glad to never return.

I tell one of my girls this morning that it was the lonely, poor, and rejected times where I now see the providence of God. It was not New York that stole from me, it was God who pruned from me. Cutting off what didn’t bear fruit. My first three years in Texas I felt strong and tall and healthy, free of the dead branches. But new branches grew and they have to be pruned too. That is the truth I am learning: to bear healthy fruit, even new branches have to be pruned.

One of the most painful lessons God’s children must learn is that we are not God, and our strength is only as strong as our dependence on Him. He is our strength. That which bears fruit in us, is born of Him. He is the producer, not us. He is also the farmer and the vine-keeper. He decides what is not best, what is not fit to produce.

I have some fears about moving back to New York, going home to a state that took from me, a place where my faith withered and died. I have fears that feel paramount today. Fear that some will think I am running away. That some will think I will never settle down. That I am making a mistake. That there, where I am known, I will slip into old patterns and ways of thinking. Deadly things.

But at the bottom of those fears, I land on one solid truth: He prunes. He takes away and gives something better. And he does it over and over and over and over again until we are his likeness. Because He is the vine and the vine-keeper, and truest fruit-bearer.

trees

If you are a Villager, or you podcast The Village’s sermons, this weekend Matt is preaching from II Corinthians 5. If you struggle with doubt, I encourage you to listen. One of the things I love about my church is that it is a safe place to wrestle with sin and the brokenness that sin brings into our lives. As I’ve been reading Spiritual Depression by Martyn Lloyd Jones, I’ve been so freshly encouraged to be honest not only about my sin, but also the brokenness that trickles down as a result of it. Note: if you haven’t read Spiritual Depression, I cannot recommend it more highly.

From Chapter III:

What is the cure for [spiritual depression]? For the moment I shall give principles only. The first principle is evident: above everything else avoid making premature claim that your blindness is cured. It must have been a great temptation to this man to do that. Here is a man who has been blind. Our Lord puts spittle upon his eyes and says to him: ‘Do you see?’ The man says: ‘I see.’ What a temptation it must have been to him to take to his heels and announce to the whole world: ‘I can see!’ The man, in a sense, could see, but so far his sight was incomplete and imperfect, and it was most vital that he should not testify before he had seen clearly.It is a great temptation and I can well understand it, but it is a fatal thing to do. How many are doing that at the present time (and are pressed and urged to do so), proclaiming that they see, when it is so patent to many that they do not see very clearly and are really still in a state of confusion. What harm such people do. They describe men to others as trees, walking. How misleading to the others!

The second thing is the exact opposite of the first. The temptation to the first is to run and to proclaim that they can see, before they see clearly; but the temptation to the second is to feel absolutely hopeless and to say: ‘There is no point in going on. You have put spittle on my eyes and you have touched me. In a sense I see, but I am simply seeing men as if they were trees walking.’ Such people often come to me and say that they cannot see the truth clearly. in their confusion they become desperate and ask: ‘Why cannot I see? The whole thing is hopeless.’ They stop reading their bible, they stop praying. The devil has discouraged many with lies. Do not listen to him.

What then is the cure? What is the right way? It is to be honest and to answer our Lord’s question truthfully and honest. That is the whole secret of this matter. He turned to this man and asked: ‘Do you see ought?’ And the man said, absolutely honestly: ‘I do see, but I am seeing men as if they were trees walking.’ What saved this man was his absolutely honesty.

Now the question is, where do we stand? The whole purpose of this sermon is just to ask that question—where do we stand? What exactly do we see? Have we got things clearly? Are we happy? Do we really see? We either do or we do not, and we must know exactly where we are. Do we know God? Do we know Jesus Christ? Not only as our Saviour but do we know Him? Are we ‘rejoicing with joy unspeakable and full of glory?’ That is the New Testament Christian. Do we see? Let us be honest; let us face the questions, let us face them with absolute honesty.

Sawdust and Scolding

April 22, 2014

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset

I read a short story once about a man who died with a pile of sawdust in the corner of his bedroom. They said if he had seen the sawdust he wouldn’t have ended his life. The mystery was why.

In the end it was revealed his livelihood required the use of his wooden leg and his short stature. Someone had been sawing away at his wooden leg while he slept. Every morning when he woke, he seemed an inch taller. He feared being worthless and so ended his life.

. . . .

There are things gnawing away at our souls that lie to us or debilitate us. We don’t know to go hunting for the pile of sawdust, for the places our lives have been swept up, sitting in a corner, so all the while hope is shriveling up inside of us.

Misinformation about us is so deep inside that sometimes we can only identify the gnawing pain, but not the source of it.

Tim Keller tweeted, “For some people, the reason why they can never change is because all they do is scold their heart.” Oh, how my soul knows that well. Someone called me a spiritual masochist recently, and another friend challenged me that maybe my issues aren’t from sin as much as suffering.

Those words play over and over in my heart and mind these days. I champion in scolding my heart, sometimes all I do is scold, from waking until sleeping.

A friend told me the other day that in the Old Testament God’s children are usually called sinners, but after Christ, they’re called saints. Yet who among us feels that saintliness?

I don’t. Do you?

There are piles of sawdust everywhere in my life, lies the enemy tells and sometimes truths he exaggerates. But the real truth is that I am Christ’s, and what is Christ’s can never be snatched out His hand, and if I am held and His, I am a saint. Not because I feel like one, but because He has said I am one.

The nearer we draw to the culmination of all things, the coming of Jesus Christ to reclaim what has been His all along, the more it seems people despise clarity.

If we think the Bible is clear on one matter there are ten thousand others who think our clarity is prideful at best and historically inaccurate at worst. See, they point to generations before who walked in unenlightened truth, they thought the Bible was clear too—and see how wrong they were?

I have been reading Colossians over and over again in the past week. Colossians has always seemed the simplest book to me, clear, concise, easy. It’s a book that I point new believers to, and it’s a book that is deeply comforting to me in moments when my own faith seems complicated.

Today I read the section under the title, Paul’s Ministry to the Church. Would you read this? Read it slowly, read it as best as you can in Paul’s pastoral voice to the Church in Colossea, but also to the Church here today (boldface mine).

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.

To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”

. . . . . . . . . . . .

A few years ago I walked out of my local church with a new and powerful sense of trust in what God had worked in my life through the way I was parented. I don’t talk often about my family here on Sayable, but bear with me here. No family is the ideal, mine included. If you were to ask my parents, they would (and have) confessed a litany of regrets—and trust me, each of their offspring bears the scars of their unfortunate choices. But.

But.

But God.

Hebrews 12:10 says our fathers “disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them.” That short phrase set something free in my life, something I wasn’t aware even existed inside of me. A nagging unbelief that God would use the sinfulness of my parents to do a deep work in my life—and the subsequent unbelief that all my mistakes would be used in the future of another.

God takes what seems foolishness and works in us a great maturity.

Our job is to simply proclaim what seems true—with great humility—in the great hope that what IS true will be seen one day face to face, in full glory, in absolute clarity.

Did churches and men and women proclaim partial doctrine through the years? Did teachers through the ages get it wrong sometimes? Did they have opinions on slavery, gender issues, baptism, and the creation of earth that were wrong? Did they say something was clear that later seemed less clear, or perhaps more clear? Yes. But did they do the great honor of standing before the Lord in clear conscience and proclaim what they thought wisest? Maybe they did. Maybe they didn’t. But it is done and it has worked for us and in us a greater maturity.

Here is one thing the Bible is clear on: Christ is coming back to claim His own, He is coming back to see us face to face, with no dim glass between us, and I can trust His clarity in that.

And if He is certain in this one thing, He is certain in others, and so I will continue to proclaim and teach, with great humility, great hope, and great wisdom, what I trust He has said clearly.

The Promise of Place

December 29, 2013 — 5 Comments

Grey Texas days are my favorite. Because they are so rare, or because I love grey more than blue, I don’t know. Back home trees enclose me and so I feel safe. Here there are no towering pines or old maples, so I take the clouds instead and find a haven in them.

Being away for a month was good for me. I did not miss Texas, but I missed place.

The truth is I feel misplaced these days. Misplaced by God, misplaced by men, misplaced, mostly, by myself. I have never felt comfortable in my own skin, but these past months I have felt a foreigner even to myself.

Who is this person? I ask as I roll over awake in the morning, when I hug a friend, when I try to explain myself, excuse myself, examine myself. I feel a stranger to her and estranged from her. As though I’ve forgotten how to take my own pulse, as though I am unsure I have a pulse.

That sounds hyperbole and I know it, but I feel it all the same. The creeping darkness of discouragement snatches away courage, not its opposite, affirmation, as it might seem.

It is a dark day outside and there are dark days all around us. Have you felt it? I am not prone to pessimism except when I am.

I am reading Hebrews this morning, about Abraham and the promise, and I remember the promises God gave him: land, east and west and north and south; descendants as many as the stars; a son, a babe, just one. Just one.

God put Abraham in his place and gave him place and then gave him a place in history. We know him because of his son, and his son’s son, and his son’s son’s son and so on. Because God took a man on a mountainside, an old man, and gave him place.

I wonder sometimes if Abraham knew the gift of place on that day. If he knew he was destined for good things, a forefather of faith and many mentions in the canon. Or if he only stood there and just believed what God told him.

Romans says that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness (Rom. 4.22). The truth is my righteous anything has felt like a failure this year, but faith? Faith, not in the promise itself, but the giver of the promise? The promise of place, not for place’s sake, but for the promise-giver? Faith I can muster up, if I try.

He said He’s prepared good works for us (Eph. 2.10) and I have to believe that. When good anything feels very far off and very impossible today. He has prepared a place for us (John 14.2) and whether that is here, in this home, or in a new heaven and new earth, God said it.

Father, help me to know my place. That the very safest place for me is at the foot of the cross, as a temple of the Holy Spirit, as your daughter, as a discipler and learner, a friend. Most of all, help me to see Christ in His place, high and lifted up, seated on the throne, parenting a world, and following the direction of His Father, wholly unconcerned with His place even while He prepares a place for us.

Silent Sanctification

August 1, 2013

still

I’ve written here for 13 years, about doubts, fears, concerns, questions, deaths, divorces, heartbreak, joy, moving, lessons, and learnings. In many ways this place is the very public working out of my salvation. Were you to peruse the archives you would find much poor theology and even more straight up narcissism. This page was my heart splayed out for anyone to read and I bled myself dry for it.

Last night I said to one of my closest friends that sometimes silence is the best sanctification, and I gave her a numbered list of all the things happening in my life right now that I can’t talk about publicly. At least not this publicly.

There’s so much of the blogosphere that lauds transparency and authenticity, but even that is rife with trophy stories and humble brags and I am strangled by the fear that I will join their ranks if I so much as whisper the numbers aloud. The truth is that even good things bring with them deep breaths and open palms. I do not know how this or that will turn out and I can’t even guess. And I don’t want to give you the opportunity to guess. Because I am selfish? Perhaps. Because I am fearful? For sure. But also because some things are best worked out in quiet, gentle, and still ways. Sometimes our rest is found there, in the stillness, in the mind’s sleep.

Sometimes writing in this place has been the best sanctification for me. But today silence might be my best sanctification.

In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.
Isaiah 30:15

daily

“Every morning, when you wake up,” he used to say, “before you reaffirm your faith in the majesty of a loving God, before you say I believe for another day, read the Daily News with its record of the latest crimes and tragedies of mankind and then see if you can honestly say it again.” He was a fool in the sense that he didn’t or couldn’t or wouldn’t resolve, intellectualize, evade the tensions of his faith but lived those tensions out, torn almost in two by them at times. His faith was not a seamless garment but a ragged garment with the seams showing, the tears showing, a garment that he clutched about him like a man in a storm.

—on Union Theological Seminary professor James Muilenburg by Frederick Buechner in Now and Then, pg. 16

A hedge of doubt

June 24, 2013

I woke this morning for the first time in weeks without the heaviness of condemnation on me. I haven’t been able to shake those feelings lately, no matter how hard I’ve pressed myself against the robe, no matter how much I’ve bent my face over Jesus’ feet. I’ll be honest, I began to doubt some things. Even now, writing this, my mind is replaying a litany of doubts. Do you really believe that God loves you? Do you really believe you’re worth something to Him? Do you really believe that anyone could love you at all? What makes you think He’ll be happy with you?

They pile up and attack what I know to be true. And so this morning when I woke up gently, quietly, I held my breath for a moment or two, waiting for the doubts to assemble and charge. But they didn’t. And I couldn’t figure out why.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

One of the greatest gifts God gave me was the gift of doubt. I doubt that many of us would see it as a gift, but I know it to be the deepest grace to me. He gave me the wide pasture of doubt and pleasant boundary line of truth. He wounds me with my doubt, but heals with me with His truth.

Like most who grew up in the church in one manner or another, I bought the lie that a fortified moralism would lead me to paths of great joy—purity until marriage, marriage by 22, children by 24, ducks lined up before me and behind me, I got them in a row. I organized my life to make sense.

And then life didn’t make sense. Life dealt me, as one person called it, a bad hand. I’ll never forget walking away from that conversation wondering how to play these cards. What do you do with a handful of threes and no partner in this game? I’ll tell you what you do: you doubt.

You fall full into it, bathe yourself in it, wash your soul with sin and shame. When the answers you’ve been given by well-meaning people fail, when the theology you believe (that God responds when we pray harder, give more, seek deeper, and repent faster) proves you the fool, and when God does not seem good, I’ll tell you what you do: you doubt.

And here’s the thing about doubt: it is a seemingly endless plateau. God has given us the gift of reason and logic and thought, and so doubt will take us where nothing else can because there is always another question, another possibility. Even if we bump up against a wall of truth, we are like little squares in Atari games, bouncing for eternity.

Doubt doesn’t seem like a gift.

This morning I read the first chapter of Job, the righteous man who we might also say was dealt a bad hand. But today I noticed a word: hedge.

“Have you not put a hedge around him and all that he has?” The enemy asked God before he unleashed upon Job the full fury of his minions.

God permitted the enemy to do what he would, only told to keep his hand from Job himself, and today I think about the hedge God has set around us. I want to believe that the hedge prevents the enemy from coming in, but that is not what we’re told. No, the hedge prevents the enemy from going outside the bounds of what God has set for him. It is Job’s hedge, but it is also the enemy’s.

This morning I woke up and felt myself hit the hedge. Not my limitations, but God’s. Not the end of myself, but the time when God holds up His hand and says “No more. This is the safest place I have for you. Within these boundary lines. Here. All the rest I have for you lies within these boundaries. All the struggles I have for you too lie within these boundaries. But do not worry: I have set this hedge around you and the enemy will not prevail.”

 

It’s been a few months of feeling discouraged and one of the effects of that is I simply don’t want to write for you. I don’t want to write at all, but I especially don’t want to write for you. I don’t want to be found out, so to speak. I don’t want the world to know my first love feels likes seconds and my *gospel wakefulness feels tired. I don’t want you to know I’ve been struggling with condemnation, fear, insecurity, uncertainty, and weariness. I am ashamed of those feelings—especially because I know they are anti-gospel and they are born in me as a result of not reveling in Godward affections.

plant

Tonight I was remembering some of the things that set my soul free a few years ago. Not the sermons or books specifically, but the realizations:

1. I am the younger brother AND the older brother. I hate restrictions and I love approval, I hate poverty and love lavish attention.

2. God is not more or less interested in me because of my legalism or licentiousness: His provision is the same for both.

3. The gospel doesn’t only carry the power to save me, but also sanctify and sustain me.

4. I cannot put God in my debt by being good, holy, or faithful enough.

5. All my righteous acts are like filthy rags.

6. God is not beholden to my view of Him. My concept of good is not His definition of good. My ideal of His faithfulness is not His attribute of faithfulness.

7. Man’s approval is impossible to attain. God’s approval is completely wrapped up in His Son.

8. God is not surprised by my lack of faith or my abundance of faith, by my questions or my fears, by my pride or my sin. On the threshold of His kingdom He will not deny access to me because I didn’t understand an aspect of theology or walk in complete faith in certain areas.

9. The Holy Spirit is not tapping His toe waiting for my faith to be big enough or my ear to be tuned. He dwells in me, empowering me to accomplish everything God has ordained for me to accomplish with every gift He formed me to have before the foundation of the world.

10. God is for my joy. He is most glorified when I am most satisfied in Him. My complete confidence and joy in the Holy Spirit, through the finished work of the Son, to the honor of the Father, brings the triune God glory.

It was encouraging for me to simply write these things out, and so I thought I’d share them with you. Perhaps you’re struggling too, or perhaps you’ve never experienced gospel wakefulness, and these points will help you along that way. Either way, I hope you’re encouraged. Also, I suggest you take a few minutes to write out what the gospel means to you, or has shown you. Even just to remind truths or clarify errors in your thinking.

*Gospel Wakefulness is not my term, but Jared Wilson’s . Jared wrote a book by the same title, but he has also written extensively on it on his blog Gospel Driven Church. Jared is one of the most Godward gazing people I know. His blog has been a constant source of encouragement in the past few years and I recommend every one of his books with full assurance you will be encouraged. Seriously, buy his books. All of ‘em.

Did y’all know there are whole websites devoted to uncovering the supposed-salacious details of Christian bloggers and pastors? I didn’t until today when my inbox received a google alert that my name, lo and behold, was attached to some very salacious details of its own. Who knew?

I didn’t read far—my constitution is affected enough by truths about my own soul to bother with what strangers make up about it. Suffice it to say the underbelly is alive and well, folks, alive and well.

All this has me thinking about the ever shrinking neutral ground and whether it exists at all, or ever has. It seems nothing is out from under the watchful eye of bloggers and critics these days. Mostly because everyone has a platform these days and if not, they build one from crates, soapboxes, and grudges til they get one. I’m a peace-making sort, but even I feel the pull to build a Babel—even to just protect my own name and sense of peace.

What most of these watchdog sites and bulldog bloggers are doing, though, is attempting to make their -ism (whatever -ism and -ian or -ist they are) seem more appealing than the others’. And if they can’t do that, or have already failed to do so, they’ll do their darnedest to pull all the -isms down with ‘em.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

One of my favorite passages in the book of Acts is when those seven silly sons of Sceva tried to cast out demons in the names of Paul and Jesus without any faith of their own. The evil spirits replied, “I know Jesus and I’ve heard of Paul, but who are you?” and I-love-that.

I know Jesus and I’ve heard of Paul.

But who are you?

 

 

 

 

 

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

So tonight, this small writer, writing from a dark bedroom in a small, dark house in Texas, my roommate asleep next to me, her mom asleep in her bed, a friend asleep on the couch, and the rest of my girls snug in bed, I think about how small our lives are. How very, very small they are.

Who are we?

Precious few of us are Pauls; most of us are probably Peters, running at the mouth and sinking after three steps. Or Thomas, that beautiful faithless skeptic. Maybe we’re Mary, the whore with the hair at Jesus feet, giving much. Perhaps some of us are just shepherds on a cold night, to whom an angel appears with great news. Maybe we’re Joseph, asked to do hard things. But at the end of all things, we are very small people living very small lives. I think that with every new twitter follower, every facebook like, every email that comes into my inbox, every new invitation to speak or write: who are you, Lore? Who the heck are you?

Because at the end of all things, the world won’t care about my -ism or my name. They won’t remember anything when faced with the all-encompassing God of the universe. They will Know Jesus. Every one of us will bow and confess Him alone as Lord.

And until that day, I want to simply do my best to preach the gospel in His name. That’s all I am. And I hope, I hope that’s all you are too.

luke-7-by-reubens

Drinking Often

March 13, 2013 — Leave a comment

mug

I am thinking of the first communion these days, more part of the Easter story than the Christmas, but how can we love the birth if we do not love the death? I am thinking of that cup of wine, the sign of the new covenant, the blasphemous words of a man at a table with 12 friends: drink this new way of doing things, this new kindness of God. Drink it in remembrance of me.

“As often as you do it…” That’s what he said. It’s odd that a man who was saying, “I’m doing away with your rituals and sacrifices, your habits and your rules,” was also saying, “do this often.” But this is what I think about last night falling asleep: He has set for us pleasant perimeters. He says do it often, but remember it’s not your religion anymore.

He knows us so well to use a word like often.

We need this, with our hearts so prone to attempting and trying, to sacrificing the modern lambs of our time, our tithe and our truant hearts.

We need this, we who do not understand that the kindness of God draws us to repentance and anything less is a marauder of faith and a shortcut to legalism.

I drink the cup this past Sunday with no resolve in my heart to do better next time or try harder tomorrow, no attempts to force a change of heart or fall into an apathy of my soul. I drink it with the freedom to drink it often, as often as I need a reminder of the new covenant, as often as I need the kindness of God drawing out my repentance. I drink it in gratefulness.

Someone said to me a few months ago: I’m only grateful for the Old Testament because it shows me where I’d be without the New Testament. I think about this often. That’s really what Jesus was saying, drink this small cup, this sip of wine, do it to remember where you were and where you are now.

Doesn’t that taste good?

(Published originally this past year on Grace for Sinners)

I’m a born fearer but I wear the mask of bravado well. If there’s a risk I’ll plan for it and if there’s a plan I’ll risk it. But there are knots tied up inside of me these past few months and I don’t know if I’m more afraid of what’s out there or what’s in here.

The old presidential adage, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself,” comes to mind these days because what I fear is not out there so much, but what arrests my soul, captivates my mind, and plays chicken with my heart. I fear the fear of a fear, or at the very least I fear the fear.

I’m reading a book about preaching to oneself and today’s chapter is on fear. I close the chapter and I receive a text message: “The truth is that God will do what He will do and provide what He will provide. Don’t be shackled by fear!” I look over my shoulder to see who else is following me, who has their finger on the pulse of my heart.

A week ago I sat across from two of my pastors and one asked, “What are you afraid of?” Not, “Are you afraid?” but “What do you fear?” We all fear something, one said, so what do you fear?

When you name the monsters in your closet and under your bed, you can personalize them or demonize them. This is what I am learning.

To name the fears is to say them right out loud: of being hated, of being unloved, of being alone, of being not enough, of being too much, of being misrepresented, and of misrepresenting. And their power is released in the naming, or the shackles cling tighter still. There seems no perfect potion for fear-loosing.

I am reading II Timothy this morning, the favorited passage: for God did not give us a spirit of fear, but power, love, and a sound mind. But further up it is Paul commendation to Timothy, his mother, and grandmother of their faith.

So often I think the opposite of fear is courage, but that is not it at all. Courage comes from within, daring comes from the belief that one cannot fail, bravery is the belief that even if one fails, it was a battle worth fighting.

But faith? Faith comes by hearing and by doing, but there is nothing of self in it. And I think on that this morning. All the questions of my heart are variations of can I? will I? should I? am I?

And all the answers of Him are finished: I already did.

For by grace you have been saved athrough faith.
And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Ephesians 2:8

notetoself