Saturday, December 31, 2011

A New Beginning

I don't know anyone who doesn't like new beginnings.  Things that are fresh and real. Even the most die-hard Christmas decorator loves to takes down her tree and reveal the fresh, new, uncluttered look that was commonplace just 6 weeks ago.

We love to begin afresh, embrace the new and breathe in redemption.  This is, after all, the very essence of the longing that brings us to the place of surrender.

The Lord, so gracious and revealing, has placed new beginnings in our paths as we live these broken lives.  A quiet sunrise speaks to the power of a God to make all things new. The fact that the same sun goes down every night speaks to His power to remove the struggles and sins of that far as the east is from the west.  The mistakes, the pride, the outbursts, the hardships are erased as the sun rises.  If we only we will see and be cleansed.

And now...this day...another picture of a new beginning.  A brand new year.

Many people will make resolutions that will only be broken.  They will commit to try harder, wake up earlier, be more productive.  But what we all really need?  Not to make a promise we can't keep or a goal that will ultimately lead to failure.

We need the new beginning.  We need the promise that comes with January 1.  The promise that matter what kind of year you've had, or what kind of day you have tomorrow, or what happens to you this week, or what in the world plagues you and keeps you up at night...the sun will rise again.  

No matter how you've been hurt, no matter how you've been failed, no matter how hard or how far you have fallen...take heart...for your redemption is nigh.

Time passes and it plagues us.  It causes us to look backwards and lament its passing.  It forces us to remember the temporal state of our world.  It begs us to walk the path of regret and remorse.  If only...

If only...

If only we will look forward instead of backwards.  If only we will receive the promises of a Loving God.  If only we will count our blessings instead of our failures.  If only we will choose...yes see the hope that looms ahead of us.

The new year begins...the old one ends...and the Lord speaks silently in this spinning orb He has created.  He speaks of brand new.

He reveals Himself through creation and every year and He begs us to see the Glory in the redemptive power of new beginnings.

If you've had a good year, a great year, or a horrid get to start over.  And not just on January 1...but every day.  He makes beautiful things out of the wondrously miraculous, the nothing special and the resolutely abhorrent.

Beauty for ashes.  It's why He came. And it's why the sun rises.  Every. Single. Day.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Gift From Our Savior

We always bake cookies this time of year.  It's crazy messy, dirty and lots of work...but the kids love it and are able to relish in the baking without a single thought to the cleanup.  So we bake and clean and eat too much sugar.

This year, we wrapped up some cookies for a few of our neighbors.  I mentioned to the girls that our next door neighbors worship a different God than we do...that it would be a good witness to give them some cookies.

My five-year-old daughter...the one who hits her sister but cries about the orphans...the one who asked that I please stop talking to her about Africa because it's too sad...the child who requested that we all fly to China to hand out Bibles.  That child.  She states the obvious.  "Then we should give them a Bible."

I cringe inward...just a little...and her sister pipes in and agrees wholeheartedly.  "Yes! What a great idea!"

I am no religion scholar.  I know a lot about what God is teaching me...but not very much about the ins and outs of the Godless religions that mislead His creation.  Will they be offended?  Maybe they'll be upset with us?  Isn't this a little pushy?  

I end up at Wal-Mart that week and decide to stroll through the books.  Maybe I should buy a book...a Bible is a little much...maybe a good Max Lucado book about the Savior. 

I become frustrated with myself and wonder why in the world I am hesitant to give someone an unsolicited Bible?  I know the transformative power of these words.  I understand the love story contained.  Why the uncertainty?

Because I know the world hates the Bible.  I know Jesus is hated because He is love.  He is hated because He is just.  He is hated because He is radical. 

The world hates Him for the same reasons I love Him.

I buy the Bible and bring it home.

The girls painstakingly wrap their gift, full of excitement and anticipation.

I get one of our Christmas cards and, at the advice of my knitting mentor...a beloved woman and lover of Christ, I write a note.

We wrap a bow around it and the cookies and leave it on their front porch.

The next day, the neighbor marches over and hands me this:

"Thank you for the cookies...but we cannot accept your Bible.  We are Hindu and cannot accept this gift."

Dumbfounded, I mumble something that might resemble an apology and close the door. The girls ask who was at the door...I (again) mumble something to the effect of, "It was the neighbor thanking us for the cookies..."

I still haven't told them.

As this plagued me, I found it was tempting to shake my head, and mutter, "What do you expect from the world?"  But I couldn't go there.  What I'm learning...through this journey called that the lesson I think someone else should be learning is usually mine.

Then, it happened.  The Lord...never willing to let me perish in the bowels of self-contemplation, revealed a truth and put me in my place hours later.

I was filing up a sippy cup tonight for about the...I don't know...10,000th time over the last 7 years?  And I muttered, "Lord, I'm really tired of filling up sippy cups."

And just like that, the image of the Bible amidst torn up paper flashes bright.

My complaints over the years tumble forth and the truth paralyzes me.

"I'm tired of never sleeping all night.  I'm tired of cooking meals.  I'm tired of teaching math.  I'm tired of being touched all day.  I'm tired of holding children.  I'm tired of finding shoes...zipping coats...sacrificing...self-denying...loving unconditionally...serving...fighting for my kids' hearts...

Why don't I just say what I really mean?

This gift, Lord?  The one you've given me to become more like you?  This holy life of sacrifice You've given to me to live?  I don't want see, my religion is self and I cannot accept this gift of becoming more like You every day.  It's offensive to my god...she trembles beneath all of this and is waning away.  This life I live...daily sacrificing's killing her.

The Lord smiles. "Exactly."

To sacrifice daily...self-deny unconditionally...hug freely...fill sippy cups kills self.  And isn't that our goal?

His gifts are sometimes (usually?) wrapped up differently than we might expect.  A Savior in a trough...a King at the thief's table...a Redeemer on a cross...the Murdered among the living.

This gift?  This one He's given us?  It's Life wrapped up in a whole lot of giving.  The peace for which we long...the Christ-likeness we strive so hard to's buried deep in the trenches of self-sacrifice.  In the well of motherhood, there is Living Water.

We can refuse His gift.  We can lament, complain, dig in our heels and renounce it.  Or we can abandon our lifeless god and dive deep into the mire...into the well...wade in the trenches of self-denial and give thanks all the while.  Then...and only then...will we, mothers on a path toward holiness, be set free.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Humble Spirit Magnifies the King

I was looking through pictures of our trip to Colorado this summer.  I adore our trips to Colorado.  I spent a month there as a new believer and nothing...NOTHING...reveals the majesty of Jesus like the mountains.  At the end of my month, my now-husband-then-boyfriend-of-3-months drove out to propose to me.  This place...the place where earth meets sky and the valleys speak's special to me.

As I was scrolling through the pictures, I began to wonder why I am so enthralled with mountains.  What is it about the high peaks that cause my head to spin and my knee to bend?  Then it hit me...

Because they make me feel small.

The mountains put me in my place. In a flesh-ridden body that is continually self-seeking, self-fulfilling and self-worshipping, I am pushed low.

Have you ever tried to take a picture of something enormously amazing, but in your camera it continues to look insignificant?  I have countless pictures of mountains...but it isn't until you take one with a person in the shot that you see the enormity of God's creation.

Perhaps it is the same with God's redeemed and their Redeemer.

Could it be that the height of God's glory can't be known until it's revealed through the lives of tiny, insignificant us?  That perhaps the full weight of His majesty isn't clear until a picture is taken with us standing alongside?

Next to this Landscape so Wondrous, we look tiny and...dare I say it...insignificant?  Isn't that the point of a Christ-centered life?

Now, don't get me wrong.  He doesn't need us.  To be sure it is we who need Him.

It is I who need to embrace this God who was made low for my sake.  This God who created the mountains that reach toward the heavens and the valleys that cascade down deep. This God who traded His crown of Glory for one of thorns.  It is I who need the God whose tomb is empty and who has made me whole.

Could it be, however, that His glory is only truly manifest in the lowliness of His creation?

And just as I walk alongside the mountain, highlighting the glory of its, too, I walk hand in hand with a humility magnifying this God-Man come down.

And there it more reason to bow low, self-deny, and take up our cross.  To take part in the glorification of this God of creation...the God who created these peaks that caress the's the pinnacle of all our reasons.