Hope

I had many conversations this weekend, but my brain keeps coming back to these two (which I had with different people.) The two thoughts below are fully courtesy of My Wise Friends, not me ūüôā
We see ourselves as caterpillars; God sees us as butterflies. Because of Christ’s work for us, we are not the lumpy mounds of fur and goop we think we are. We are priceless treasures — unlocked to our fullest potential — we are beautiful, glorifying the One who made us.

it's a butterfly

I tried to stay on task while looking for this picture….butterflies are really pretty.¬†

Effective correction (on either a personal level or a management/corporate level) has three components: first, a praise. Second, the correction. Third, a vision of hope for the correctee’s full potential and how this suggested change in behavior will help get there.

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I keep wondering how to unlock that “thing” — knowing that Christ died for me, knowing He loves and approves of me fully, knowing I am precious and fully loved in Him, knowing I have depths of unsearchable riches in Him. I keep wanting to see that change from head knowledge to daily heart experience. I want deep unshakeable joy. I long for it in my friends’ lives as well.
This weekend, the Spirit brought this verse to mind.

“And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, ‚ÄúTruly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Faith is coming to Jesus like a little kid. Faith is taking God at his word when He says He is with you, when He says He loves you, when He says He isn’t up in heaven getting mad at you for the things the humans around you get mad at. In fact, God is fully delighted with you — with me — with my silly comments and love of color, with my bad puns and my affection for dinosaurs.

My derpiness, forgetfulness, and selfishness do not put Him off. Neither do any of my other flaws. I do not need to live in fear of what God thinks of me. He told me what He thinks of me, and it is more wonderful than I can get my head around.

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Making it Work

I got engaged about a week ago. It’s still new and delicious, but because life is real and keeps going, and we’re on a tight timeline, the Fiance¬†and I have already planned about 75% of the wedding. (!)

An unexpected side effect of this life change is that, when I explain why I have a beautifully sparkly ring on my left hand, other people are more willing than normal to tell me about their own love lives. It’s been somewhat of a mixed bag. My parents are still together, happily so, and a lot of my friends growing up came from stable homes. But among my social circle from the last week and a half, the trend is overwhelmingly different: married twice, now divorced and single; two kids by first marriage, divorced, with a boyfriend;¬†just married, future uncertain; single, exploring options on Tinder.

The Fiance¬†and I have been reading “The Meaning of Marriage”, by Tim and Kathy Keller. I just finished the¬†chapter on¬†the difference between a consumer relationship and a covenental one. Consumer relationships exist as long as both parties are happy and receiving goods or services (or sex, or emotional fulfillment) that are to their liking; when conditions change and you are no longer pleased with the relationship, it ends, one way or another. As the Kellers point out, this is entirely appropriate in many contexts (did the plumber actually fix the sink? your landlord raised the rent?)¬†but marriage, biblically speaking, is something different.

Marriage, according to the Bible, is a covenant — a solemn vow¬†between two parties that they will keep their word regardless of changing conditions, emotions, or circumstances. When things get tough, or one party isn’t “feeling it” anymore, covenants act as a safeguard for the relationship: you promised to stick it out, so do it. Act loving and married, even if you don’t feel like it. American society still seems to view the parent/child relationship as covenental (you’re stuck with each other,¬†unless one party outright disowns the other) but marriage…that has largely slipped into a consumeristic view, the Kellers argue.

My little poll seems to agree.

And, for myself, on the brink of such a life-changing threshold, watching so many people around me end up breaking their vows is very sobering.

So today, it was a sweet breath of fresh air to hear another person at work say she’d been married for 30 years, that it was hard at times, but you make it work.

It is sweet to see my sister, deeply happy, loving and respecting her husband of (almost three!??) years; sweeter still to see my parents, working hard to know each other better and go deeper in the third decade of their relationship.

And it is sweetest of all, to know Jesus; to know His unchanging, inescapable love. He is the original Covenant-Maker, and the best Covenant-Keeper.

God is still at work, friends. He is sustaining marriages everywhere. And if you’re reading this, and you’ve made marriage vows, and it’s hard, let me encourage you (weird as this may be coming from a starry eyed engaged lady) God can give you the power and the strength to act as if you respected your husband. As if you loved your wife. As if the biggest problem in your marriage was your own selfishness, and not his.¬†God often works best in times like these, where we are weakest and most incapable.

This is not to say divorce is always wrong; there is strong Biblical evidence that sometimes divorce is godly and appropriate.

But if you’re married, and it’s not one of those few “divorce is biblically sanctioned” situations — please. Lean into Jesus. Ask Him for help. Stick it out.

He will not fail you or forsake you.

And by His sustaining grace and power, I believe the Fiance and I will be able to make it work.

 

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Ephemera

I collect little bits of ephemera — paper scraps, ticket stubs, notes, receipts, dried flowers, wristbands. All memories of sweet times spent with friends, or reminders of God’s kindness to me. Not everything is happy — there are two pages in my journal that are blank, except for the dried petals from my grandpa’s funeral five years ago. (I didn’t have words at the time, the petals seemed so much more eloquent.) But the first time my boyfriend took me to a movie? It was one of our first dates. You bet I kept that ticket stub. It meant so much, to have him drop $15 on me to see Star Wars.

These little memory pieces — they pile up.

I was going through one such pile this afternoon, and a little flower fell out. And I couldn’t remember where it had come from. The memory was lost. I’m sure it was a good one, or meant something important.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the transitory nature of our lives — barely three generations later, and you’re just a memory. If you’re lucky, your descendents are telling stories about you, remembering you imperfectly and losing something of the original in every telling. How much more, the innumerable smaller moments we each face every day, that rapidly fade into oblivion.

What if — what if that’s how God wanted it? Our lives to be so full of sweet little blessings that our brains physically can’t hold them all?

So, I thanked God for the flower, chucked it, and am now eagerly looking forward to a new string of memories He is going to give me.

Because God is really, really good, and I look forward to imperfectly, fleetingly, remembering His kindness and faithfulness to me.

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Does loving Jesus make you a nerd?

I go back and forth on this “nerd” label. I know (and love!) some people who self-identify as nerds. I myself am quite passionate — yes, to the level of nerdiness — about certain subjects. And, sometimes I meet people who are ridiculously nerdy about things I don’t understand or enjoy — which usually means I end up avoiding them, because their nerdiness makes me really uncomfortable.

I think it’s precisely because I don’t want others to perceive me the way I perceive this last camp of people (annoyingly obsessed with something I can’t stand) that I resist the label “nerd”.

But a while ago, I started to think about why we have these deep, life-forming interests — where do they come from ultimately? Why?

And how do you think about nerdiness as a Christian? About other nerds?

And then, this question: does loving Jesus make you a nerd?

Loving Jesus does change you. Not that everyone who loves Jesus necessarily¬†becomes a ministry/church nerd (granted, it’s a great goal), and with a life of consistent Christian discipleship, He eventually makes us into Jesus nerds.

But on a different level, your profound love for Him should start to change you. To give you true satisfaction and open your eyes to see and love many things in this world of His. And to love them deeply, passionately, intensely. He makes you alive to be more like Him, and to love more in His world.

And… to love the people in His world.

Including those nerds who are TOTALLY into something¬†I don’t get.

I’m still trying to untie that knot in my stomach that forms whenever someone else finds intense delight in something I judge pointless, ordinary, or boring.

But I could start by trusting the Lord, and seeing their delight as a reflection of His image in them.

And that would probably help a lot.

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Tasty gospel tidbits

More sermon gleanings. Galatians 5:1-15 deals with the freedom we have in Christ, and why and how to stand your ground. So many things want to take away our freedom, but in Christ, we never have to go back to slavery!

Relying on your performance results in slavery to the fear of losing God’s approval. (Which is silly, because nothing can make us lose God’s approval.)

How would you live (sing, laugh, deal with uncertainty….) knowing that God is for you 100%, and that His purposes are good and unthwartable?

In Jesus, our record is Jesus’s record. One day, our perfect righteousness — through Him — will be fully displayed. That’s glory right there, folks. Biblical hope is a confident expectation, a powerful assurance of God and His promise-keeping. Hope isn’t worrying, stressing, or striving, it’s eagerly waiting with expectant confidence, because our Savior King is coming. Wait well.

Point 3 was to embrace the offense of the cross. We aren’t good people; we need saving. There’s only one way to heaven — Jesus. He is our only ultimate hope. Naturally, this is pretty offensive to our pride, but we need to embrace this truth if we want to cultivate freedom from our natural, gross, disgusting, all-encompassing pride.

In Christ, we are also free to starve our fleshly desires, and to serve others instead.

Practically speaking, we are free to overflow in love and practical consideration for each other — roomies, neighbors, community members, family, friends — as an overflow of God’s love for us. Only the gospel can make people like that.

And, because it’s still so good – this week’s corporate confession:

 

Gracious God,

We confess that we often approach You out of duty rather than love.

We often choose self-reliant slavery rather than standing in Your freedom.

We do not wait eagerly for you. We can be offended by the offense of the cross.

We use our freedom for the flesh, rather than for loving others.

So, we fly to you for forgiveness, refuge, renewed strength and joy.

Forgive all our sin, known and unknown. Help us to never return to it.

In your great mercy, help us to never lose sight of You as our greatest Treasure.

Help us know that we only truly live, when we live with You.

Hold us fast, in your overflowing love, and never let us go.

We are Yours by grace and grace alone. In Jesus name, amen.

–Downtown Cornerstone Church, 20 March 2016, pastor Adam Sinnett.

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Try confessing your sin sometime. You might like it.

We keep doing these corporate confessions at church. They’re so good.

 

Holy and merciful God,

In Your presence we confess our sin and offenses against You.

We have wandered from Your ways. We have wasted Your gifts.

We forget Your love. We prefer ourselves and our ways to You and Your ways.

We have learned to live with un-holiness and see it as normal – even desirable.

Take away our roving eyes, our greedy appetites and our lustful hearts.

Have mercy on us, and wipe away our sin, guilt and shame.

Help us see that all things are shadows, but You are the Substance;

That all things are shifting, but You are the Anchor;

That all things are temporary, but You are Eternal.

Convince us every day that to have You is to have everything.

We ask all of this in the name of Your precious Son, Jesus Christ.

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Thankfulness, humility, and hilarity

Happy New Year, blog!

 

Today I had coffee with a new friend. We’ve only known each other for about a month or two, but she’s one of those: the kind you know will be a keeper, almost from the start.

 

We chatted of many things: languages, churches, the hand of God at work in her life and mine. And we laughed about the way He rewrites your life plans. She told me her past self’s idea of where she would be today; I (having recently come across a life plan for age 35 that I wrote at 19) shared my own stories of life’s trajectories, and their changed course. It was hilarious! I was so far off the mark — and that’s a good thing, too. I can’t imagine being any place but here in my life right now. We spent a solid five or ten minutes being thankful that God knows better than we do, that He writes a better future for us than we could ourselves. And, thankful too that He shows us what’s ahead in small, merciful steps.

 

Where will I be five years from now? I have no earthly idea.

 

But maybe I should make a guess — so that I can laugh about it later!

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