He is Good (And You Are Loved)

A few years ago my family and I moved to a new town. We craved the community of a local church body we could call home. A friend told us about a small “strange” church she’d recently tried and invited us to join her. We looked it up online, found little information and decided to try it anyway.

The first few weeks came and went with little fanfare. Our youngest was terrified of any sort of childcare program and we were little more than “careful observers.”

About a month in, a man named Vinny preached. His sermon was about the love of The Father. He shared pictures of the boys he’d be going to Ukraine to adopt and his eyes shined as he anticipated their “gotcha” day. He went on to explain how our Heavenly Father had adopted us, and what this meant. I don’t remember it being a fancy sermon with a lot of hermeneutical breakdown, but I do remember the presence of God being palpable. I do recall people weeping aloud before the altar call ever hit.

Eventually, he said words I don’t remember which ended in an invitation to come forward for prayer. I accepted this invitation. Because God’s love had felt far away, mythical even for a while now. Somewhere along the way this lie had been planted in my heart that I’d become sick and then remained sick because God was angry with me. Somehow, my circumstance had become irrefutable evidence of God’s negative feelings towards me and my soul desperately longed to remember something else. Oh yes, my mouth was still saying all the, “Jesus loves me this I know yada yada” party line stuff. But deep down my heart believed I’d surely failed him somewhere I couldn’t see and as a result, I had been cast aside, no longer loved.

I didn’t know this man who laid his hands on me to pray that day, but as he did I laid my head on his shoulder and began to weep out the pain of believing a thousand lies. It was profoundly embarrassing and wildly freeing. The woman who went back to her seat was snot-faced and changed. She saw everything through the lens of God’s love again.

Vinny is now the Pastor of his own church. His family and ours have become dear friends. Last night, our families attended service together. And as we were worshipping, singing, “You are good, good, good. You are good, good, good. Oh, You are good, good, good. You’re never gonna let me down.” The Lord asked, “Can we write this on your heart again, that I’m good?”

You see, this year has been hard. And I admit to you that while my mouth has continued to say the words, “God is good yada yada.” My heart has choked on them a bit. They haven’t always felt true. I have allowed my circumstances to tell me something other than the truth. My circumstances have said God is sometimes good.

So as we sang, I said,

“ You were good when the insurance company denied my treatment.”

“ You were good on the day I was too sick to get out of bed.”

“You were good when those people made me feel rejected, not good enough.”

“You were good when the pain seemed unbearable.”

On and on, because I needed to speak truth to myself. I needed to remind myself my circumstances do not define God’s love for me or his goodness.

And I am wondering today, if there is something you might need to say?

If you might need to remind yourself:

“You loved me when…”

“You were good when…”

Because you see, our circumstances may be all over the map, but our God is never changing. His love for us, his goodness, they’re never changing.

What do you need to remind yourself today? What is he asking to write on your heart once again?

 

 

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How to Let the Master Quilter Do His Work

As I child, I loved to run my fingers along the stitching of my grandmother’s quilts. They were a labor of love for her. Each time my mother reported an impending visit from the stork, my grandmother would smile and say, “I’ll get started on the quilt.” She’d stitch and pray, petitioning heaven with her hope that each of my siblings would “love the Lord all their days.” In this way, quilts and Jesus have always been deeply interconnected for me, almost like the patterns on the quilts themselves.

Not long ago, I took a seemingly straightforward trip. The goal was to support someone important at a crucial time, but the outcome was a mess of conflict and confusion in my heart and mind. I thought I was ready to revisit this space attached to old wounds and questions from my past, but instead the experience was as though someone ripped off a dirty old bandage, uncovering an oozing infection beneath. I felt woozy, unsteady from this discovery. I’ll be honest: my first instinct wasn’t to clean out the wound; it was to slap the bandage back on the wound and pretend I never saw it.

Continue reading at http://theglorioustable.com/2016/07/how-to-let-the-master-quilter-do-his-work/

The Lean Years

There are few things Christians love to talk about as much as “going deeper in our walk with Christ.” We love to gather and read books about it, sing songs about it, pray about it, and even write about it. But one thing it seems we don’t enjoy is actually going deeper with Christ. Why? Because often, it involves loss and requires obedience and sacrifice (more topics Christians love to talk about but not actually live out).

Keep Reading at The Glorious Table

Come Close

I sat in the flimsy black chair, exchanging pleasantries with the young doctor at my follow-up appointment. We’d go over my test results; he’d say they were fine—- my new symptoms surely the result of Lyme and then he’d tell me what to do about them. After all, that was why I’d come, for relief from the sudden, new joint pain that was crippling at times, causing my fingers to swell and preventing me from typing or texting, sometimes even bringing tears to my eyes.
But instead, he opened his mouth and formed different words. Words I hadn’t been expecting, the weight of which crushed my soul. In addition to all the other fun I’d been enjoying, the markers for Rheumatoid Arthritis had come back positive. I’d be sent to a Rheumatologist to confirm, but it seemed quite clear to him.
I drove home in a stupor, working up a good cry. What I wanted most at that moment, more than I wanted to unhear those words was for my husband to come close. I wanted him to tell me that we were still going to be okay. I needed him to say that one more diagnosis didn’t change the commitments we’d made or God’s goodness.
He was on a conference call when I came home. (As he often is) I did my best to hold my cry in. But the second his finger touched the “end call” button, tears streamed my face, and I said, “Can you come over? I need a hug.” The rest was a blur of blubber and snot. But I heard the words I needed to hear. “We’re still okay.”
This morning, I stood in the shower, and I whispered to Jesus, “Come close.” I’ve been drowning in a sea of symptoms and struggles, and I’ve just needed to feel the Lord near. I thought about the wonder of the cross. What a bold, demonstrative move of “coming close.” Is there any doubt that he longs to be close to us?
It’s the goal of every marriage, the coming close. It’s why we commit our lives to one another so that we can live all of our days up close to one another. And maybe somewhere along the way, hurts and disappointments come in and crowd out this goal of coming close, but it is the starting place.
And so it is with our walk with Jesus.
The desire on both sides is the coming close to one another. How many times have I heard the still small voice of my Savior inviting me, “Come close“? And maybe somewhere along the way, hurts or disappoints come in and crowd this desire out and we no longer want to come close.
But today, he’s still whispering to you, to me, “Come close.”
What if we laid our hurts, our disappointments, and our busyness down and we let him embrace us? Maybe the rest will be a blur of blubber and snot. I don’t know. But what I do know, is that we will hear the words our hearts long to hear. “We’re still okay.”

Santa Jesus

aliferepaired

Dear Santa Jesus,

I think you will find that I have been a very good girl this year. Check out my church attendance. Spot on. I have even opened my bible a few times in between services. That has to be good for some extra credit points, right? I haven’t cussed much (mostly just in my head, and we all know that doesn’t count). I don’t drink, and I don’t dress like a street walker like those other girls, bless their hearts. I sometimes even put extra money in the offering. I talk at you and ask you to help the people I like, so I know for a fact that we’re in awesome shape, and I’m pretty much the best Christian of them all.

In return, I’m just asking for a few things- because, you know, that’s the deal. I’d really like a better job that pays more money…

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Starving Fear

I was a teenager when my brother was engaged in a battle royale with cancer. Only one of them would come out alive. He needed a bone marrow transplant to aid him in his fight. I was honored to be his match. It seemed like a bad time to mention I was also very, very afraid. My fears turned out to be irrelevant as the cancer returned with a vengeance before we could move forward with what was said to be (at that time) the very painful procedure for me of extracting my bone marrow and dangerous procedure for him of transplanting it in him.

I’ve known fear in many shapes and sizes over the course of my life: Fear of what an illness would do to me, what it would do to others, fear of the end of relationship, fear of losing loved ones, fear of living without said loved ones, fear of never being forgiven, fear of what someone else would do to me, fear of being hurt, fear of my kids being hurt, fear of the plane going down, fear of not being able to provide, fear of letting the pain take over, fear of surgery or its outcome, fear of being ruled by fear, fear of never fully being or doing all God called me to, fear of getting it all wrong, on and on.

I clearly remember the day they took my brother away in an ambulance, telling a friend so matter of factly that I would kill myself if my brother died, that I could not live without him. I could not even think of living with pain that great. How I feared living without him.

I’ve heard it said that fear is completely dependent on us to feed it in order to stay alive. I wonder what you fears you might be feeding today?

Psalms 16:1 says, “Keep and protect me, O God, for in You I have found refuge, and in You do I put my trust and hide myself.”

Psalms 56:3 says “What time I am afraid, I will have confidence in and put my trust and reliance in You.”

I cannot tell you what the outcome will be in any of the circumstances that you face, but I can tell you with absolute assurance that you can trust the God you serve. I cannot tell you that you will not hurt along the way, but I can tell you without absolute certainty that the comforter himself will be with you every step of the way. I cannot tell you that your strength alone will be enough, but I can tell you with absolute certainty that through his strength all things are possible. When you feel afraid, remind yourself of who God is.

He is mighty.

He is madly in love with you.

He works all things together for your good and his glory.

He is love.

He is mercy.

He is justice.

He is beauty.

He is life.

He is hope.

He is healing.

He is redemption.

He is freedom.

He is creator.

He is giver of all good and perfect gifts.

When you feel afraid, you can trust in him.

You can trust him to be who he says he is and do what he said he would do.

You don’t have to be ruled by fear.

You can starve your fears to death. Starting today.

You can look your fears in the eye and say, “Only one of us is coming out alive.”

Jesus already gave you a transplant. His blood runs through you.

You are no longer fighting in your own strength.

When you feel afraid, you can trust in him.