Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Flying on New Year's Eve

Tonight, I flew from Chicago, Illinois to Seattle, Washington. If you get the chance to fly west at sunset, take it. It was gorgeous! I couldn't even believe how beautiful it was.

I do have some resolutions to share, and there will probably be a number of blog posts to come soon. First, I have a Bible reading plan that I started on the plane.

I'm doing the "Change you mind" plan: read a book of the Bible 20 times, then another, and another until you've read them all. I read Genesis 5 times through on the plane. Doing that, thinking about the Creator and how He led His people - He saw them, He knew them, He established His covenant, He remembered His promise - that made looking out the window that much more incredible.

I also read a large portion of Boring which I maybe like even more than Ordinary. More to come on that in the future.

I checked in with my last resolutions...um....well it wasn't a total fail. I was definitely mindful of these changes:


"1. Cleaning up (mostly the newspaper) in the living room each day 
We did ok...then we stopped getting the newspaper and the clean factor went way up. Then we moved and got two more roommates with boyfriends and for a time there were SIX pets. So if it wasn't a disaster we called it good.
2. Doing the dishes before bed 
Fluctuated. We did make a solid effort to stay on top of this. Mostly
3. Exercising every day (walking to work, conditioning with our kids, yoga, jump rope; it doesn't matter as long as you're moving)
Spraining my ankle limited this one, but I definitely did something active every day. I will count this one a success
To that I now add: 
1. Memorizing larger passages of scripture. January will be Ephesians 2. 
I did this one! Ephesians 2, Psalm 119, Hosea 2, Romans 8, Psalm 16, Hebrews 1, and this isn't Scripture, but the first 3 weeks of the Heidelberg catechism. 
2. Staying a little more in touch with a few more people. I've written a letter, sent a Facebook note and exchanged a few texts thus far. 
I feel good saying I stuck with this one. I did get way behind on the Betsy loves though. But I even talked to my family more! 
3. Attend at least one musical event a month. It doesn't matter if it's a rap concert at the Showbox or a cello sonata at a church. 
I didn't hit the goal, but it wasn't terrible. But I did well January - June. I maybe missed July and August, but hit up September and October. Missed November. And then I went to a musical and a ballet in December. And a wedding. So pretty close.
4. Eat at least 2 actual sit down meals per day instead of just random snacks."
This was probably the biggest fail. I consistently hit at least 1, though. 50%

I think I would feel comfortable giving myself a low B on this one. Fight me if you want, but if we're on a bell curve with other Americans, I definitely think I'm above average. I think what made the difference is that these are true lifestyle/mindset changes. When you can make the change, it gets easier. to keep making it. 

My theme last year was "to live with all my might while I yet do live." I honestly feel like I lived that theme out pretty well. I see myself growing up into Christ - I have a long way to go, but I do feel a deeper satisfaction in Him. And I'm so thankful because I know it's only by His blood and His Spirit that I am sanctified. It makes me love Jesus all the more. 

This year, I came up with a word, a theme, and a few goals. 

Word: hesed. Hebrew for love and loyalty, it's about loving when you have nothing to gain and everything to lose. 

Theme: live a life laid down

Goals: 

1. Change your mind reading plan, writing a haiku for each book, alternating between Old and New Testament (Genesis, Matthew, Exodus, Mark, etc.) [this will probably take more than a year. I have no idea] 

2. Watch t.v./movie only one day per week, and no more than two consecutive episodes 

3. Go out for a treat/meal/coffee 1-2 times per week MAX (excluding Bible study @Zoka). 

4. January with no refined sugar, February with no sugar (besides fruit) 

Here's to the new year! 






Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The 14 most important books I read in 2014

I have read so many books this year(my rate did decrease once we got Internet though), and a large number of them were high quality. A smaller number, however, had an impact on how I live my life, how I read, how I pray, how I cook, and how I see the world around me. I have 14 titles to share with you this year.

In no particular order: 

1. Finding Ultra by Rich Roll. Rich was a middle aged former alcoholic who ate plates of cheeseburgers while watching tv late into the night. When he was winded going up the stairs, he realized it was time to make a change. A juice cleanse led to vegetarianism led to veganism led to whole foods led to iron man competitions. His story inspired me in a massive way. I tried veganism for 6 months, and trained for a 50k run. I still stick to veganism when I can, but I am a lot more loose about it. I do read labels more carefully and am willing to spend a little more money on higher quality foods. This is a great book if you're looking for some inspiration to change in the new year. 

2. The Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon. Elizabeth has been a longtime fan of Angela's blog and pre-ordered this book for us. The only book I used more this year was the Bible. Angela creates delicious vegan recipes that anyone can enjoy. My favorites in the book are curried lentil oatmeal, black bean and sweet potato enchiladas, and fudgy mocha pudding cake. After you read Roll's book, you might need Angela's to help you get started. 

3. 7 by Jen Hatmaker. I was introduced to Jen by my friend Christina, and I am so thankful for it. In this book, Jen tries to tame the excess in her life by doing a 7 month experiment in 7 areas of her life. She eats only 7 foods one month, wears only 7 pieces of clothes (underwear and socks don't count) for another, etc. I was challenged to evaluate many of the choices I make and how it affects my ability to focus on what is actually important. What do I really need? How can I bless others? How can I make more time to spend with Jesus by cutting the less important things? This is a great introduction to the Hatmakers; I'm sure you'll be calling her your friend in no time. 

4. Depression by Ed Welch. If you or any Christian you know suffers from depression, please read this.  Welch writes primarily to the depressed person, adding in just a chapter to friends and family. However, I found the entire book immensely helpful. If you've ever read Job and wondered what his friends should have said to him in his suffering, this book will answer that dilemma. 

5.  Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. This book tore me apart. Louie Zamperini was a troubled youth who was transformed into an Olympic athlete. He was then drafted into the war and survived a plane crash for 47 days on a raft. He was then discover by a Japanese ship and survived brutal torture in POW camps for years before finally being set free. He returned from war beat down and having nightmares of his torturers; he trained and planned to murder him. Instead, his wife took him to see Billy Graham. Louie turned to Jesus and told his captors he forgave them because of how much he'd been forgiven. This story was so powerful, and this last idea especially so. He had every right to be angry and instead he showed grace. It was a reminder that the trivial grievances I face in my life are also worthy of forgiveness. 

6. Ordinary by Michael Horton. This is a pushback on Radical. For me, Radical was convicting and life changing. But I think what's been done with and to it has created a sub culture in which only the big things matter. I really believe that, read correctly, these two books say the same thing: Love God. Listen to Him. Love people. Horton's book did spark some great conversation with my former InterVarsity staff worker, though, and it also freed me to dedicate myself to the ordinary life to which God has called me right now. There's a lot to be said for being faithful and available, and that's what Horton really gets at in this book. 

7. A Loving Life by Paul Miller. If Rolls' book most affected me physically, it is Miller's that takes the cake spiritually. This book is essentially and extensive walk through the book of Ruth. I sighed when I figured that out because that's the poster book for women's Bible study. But this was unlike any other study of Ruth I had ever read. It focused on relationships of all kinds, not just the marriage of Ruth and Boaz. It talked about the severity of Naomi's grief, and how it was her faith in God that depressed her further, this shattering the stereotype of the depressed person of faith. The book looked at how loving and faithful Ruth was to her mother in law. It showcased not only Ruth's audacity, but Boaz's extreme respect and honor. The word of this book is "hesed", which means love and loyalty. It's about living a life laid down. Although I read this book late into the year, it has already affected my mindset and the way I try to approach relationships. I am so excited to carry this one forward. 

8. Fierce Convictions by Karen Prior. Many of you know of my interest in William Wilberforce and the abolition of the slave trade in Britain. Few of you probably know of the immense role a Hannah More played in both the abolition and society at large during that time. She was a bright, charming, bold woman who never married; choosing instead to invest herself into her writing and the improving of society. She founded many schools to teach the poor to read and wrote prolifically to change public opinion on slavery. She and Wilberforce were close friends and obvious allies. I am grateful to Prior for telling more of Hannah's story. Because she was a woman, More could not officially join any anti-slavery organizations, vote, or run for a seat in the House of Commons. And yet, she is one of the primary reasons abolition passed. History is indebted to this brialliant woman. Read her story and give her the honor she is due. 

9. A Meal with Jesus by Tim Chester. This is a book about a lot of things, but primarily, community and awareness. Chester encourages Christians to meet regularly and pray for each other, give thanks and do life together over food. He also challenged me to say grace more fully, giving thanks for the workers who grew the food and packaged and stocked it, as well as the hands that made it and those who share the meal with me. I cannot do this book justice in a short description; you'll have to see for yourself. If you read 7, read this one right after. They make a great pair. 

10. Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill. There were several books that came put in the wake of God and the Gay Christian, and this was one of, if not the best. Wesley writes of his experiences as a Christian who struggles with same-sex attraction. It is useful not only to those who are in the church asking about homosexuality, but also to very Christian who is tempted in any kind of sin. He writes beautifully and biblically on sanctification, and although he writes specifically about homosexuality, his lessons are applicable to the entire church. He also makes a strong statement about singleness and the need for a sound theology around celibacy that I think the Christian sub culture needs to hear. Not everyone will marry, and the church needs to know how to encourage singles and help them both in their struggles and in their fittings. 

11. All Things for Good by Thomas Watson. Watson has become my favorite Puritan this year. His books are a little tough to tackle, but so worth it. This book was my introduction to him, and it is a good one in and of itself. I read it while memorizing Romans 8, and the depth Watson reaches in discussing that famous verse, 8:28, is incredible. In joy, in sorrow, in the ordinary as well as the radical, God does work everything for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purposes. 

12. The Diary of Jim Elliot edited by Elisabeth Elliot. Although I was familiar with his story, I'd never read it from his own hand. Jim's diary covers his entire college career, his waiting for his call to missions and his mission until a few weeks before he was brutally murdered. It was so encouraging to be able to read from his Bible study, to his prayer, to his own struggles with doubt, an even his pursuit of marriage to Elisabeth. He is one man who made himself available to God and kept the faith, and his story should be a breath of fresh air to all who read it. 

13. Biblical Illustrator volume 28 by Joseph Exell. This is the volume on Hosea. I picked it up as a commentary for my church's Bible study. I have been immensely pleased with it. Exell layers commentary by Matthew Henry, John Calvin, Moody, Spurgeon, and many others with his own insights to provide an incredibly thorough commentary on the book of Hosea. I spend hours digging into a single chapter, with many thanks to this commentary. I can't wait to check out some of the other volumes! 

14. Salt, Sugar, Fat by Michael Moss. Moss is one more book that solidified by negative opinion of the corporate food industry. If you're the average American consumer, you can't helped but feel duped when you read Moss's exposĂ©. Another great read if you're thinking it's time to change what you're eating. I've learned this year that it's really hard to ignore these things once you know them. Or as my dear roommate says, "you can't un-know this stuff" 

Honorable mention: 
Eight Twenty-Eight by Ian and Larissa Murphy; Out of the Depths by John Newton; What to Eat by Marion NestlĂ©; The Year of No Sugar by Eve Schaub

Happy reading, everyone! 


Sunday, December 28, 2014

Psalm 139

O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. 


You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. 



Where shall I go from your Spirit? 
Or where shall I flee from your presence? 
If I ascend to heaven, you are there! 
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! 
If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. 

If I say, "surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night," 



Even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. 



Psalm 139:1-12



Pictures, in order:
Stone Mountain, Georgia. December 2014

Bare Mountain, Washington. August 2013

Bare Mountain, Washington. August 2013

Maple Leaf Park at sunrise (sunrise! I know!), Washigton. November 2014

Kendall Katwalk, Washington. September 2014

My parents' living room, Wisconsin. December 2014 

Friday, December 26, 2014

I had an amazing visit with T. The wedding was beautiful and I feel so thankful to have been able to travel to Atlanta this winter. 

Home has been mostly nice. J was pretty much a butt wipe from our first family dinner right until we took her to the airport for India, but that's what you get with her sometimes. 

Anyway, I have a few verses that always remind me to pray for T, and allow me to believe Jesus has her in his hands. 

I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you. John 14:18

So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. John 16:22

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share? 
Jesus knows our every weakness; 
Take it to The Lord in prayer. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

John Newton

I love everything that has to do with the abolition of the slave trade in Britain (William Wilberforce and Hannah More especially), so of course I've noticed that there was some amazing writing about the time period being done this year. 

Jonathan Aitken wrote a fantastic biography on his "disgrace to amazing grace". I've read a number of biographies on Newton, as well as his writings, but this was a wonderfully thorough look at his life. Until today, I'd never read his epitaph, which he wrote  himself

John Newton 
Once an infidel and libertine 
A servant of slaves in Africa 
Was
By the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour 
Jesus Christ 
Preserved, Reserved, Pardoned 
And appointed to preach the faith 
He had long laboured to destroy 


Newton's story is much more complex than the remix version that is often told alongside signings of Amazing Grace. I strongly encourage you to check out this biography by Aitken, and while you're at it, feel free to grab Fierce Convictions and Amazing Grace. You won't regret it. 

Psalm116:7

Return, O my soul, to your rest; for The Lord has dealt bountifully with you. 

I love this verse, but I don't think I've ever taken the time to really reflect on it. It's interesting that the psalmist tells his soul to return to rest. But when you first trust in God, there is an immediate peace that comes, for you know your safety; you trust His security if only for a moment. And then storms come: temptations arise. Trust is shake. Anxiety sneaks in to disrupt that peace. Circumstances drive you from the promised rest. As the psalmist, we also need to continue to prove that rest. The author of Hebrews tells us to strive to enter God's rest (v.4:11). We engage in the fight for joy. And the reason we do this, the reason we can rest is because The Lord has indeed dealt bountifully with us. 

Romans 8 reminds us of these marvelous, condescending, gracious dealings - 

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died - more than that, who was raised - who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us (v.31-34). 

We can rest because the only person in the universe whose opinion matters loves us. God is the only one who can rightly judge, condemn and punish us, but because Jesus took our punishment, our slate has been wiped clean. We have no reason not to rest because God is for us. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

On Friendship and the Gospel

I am 0% tired. I'm leaving for the airport in five hours to go see Christina so I thought I'd write about her.

Our friendship doesn't make any sense to the world. I'm going to give you a time line of the days we've actually spent together:

October 2011: We meet on a Friday on the Chapin quad at Beloit College. We see each other Saturday at a football game. We have dinner with Daniel, my sister and her friend Laney on Sunday. We become facebook friends.

March 2013: Christina comes to spend her spring break in Wisconsin. It snowed. Typical.

And now, December 2014: Daniel is getting married, so I'm going to Georgia. Also, I was praying for a good time to come see Christina and God provided this wedding date.

So. That's it. Our friendship hasn't been founded in time together. We haven't spent evenings watching movies and drinking wine. We're not friends because it's convenient or easy. We are not friends for a reason or season, we're friends for the journey.

We're friends because Jesus has made us sisters.

The love I have for her is rooted in the fact that we are family. We both love Jesus. We both love His glory. We are His people. And do you know what God says to do for your family?

"Feed my sheep" John 21:17

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:10 

Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God...Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:7, 11

It is a true honor, privilege and blessing to be able to know, love and serve Christina as my sister in Christ. I am so excited to finally see her on her turf so soon. My next night's sleep will come at her house.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Be Careful Who You Live With

My roommate Elizabeth is possibly too well read for our sanity. This year, she's passed over books like Finding Ultra, The Oh She Glows Cookbook, The Omnivore's Dilemma, What to Eat, and Year of No Sugar; and movies like Forks Over Knives and Fed Up. She also inspired my reading of Salt Sugar Fat, Thrive, and Food Rules, and the watching of too many food documentaries to name.

The results have been:

a 6-ish month vegan experiment, followed by a month-ish long break and then a mostly vegan but with sometimes holiday flavored milk chocolate is too delicious and why is this gross pizza so good right now moments.

more label reading than I'd ever imagined possible

an awareness of sugar and doing psychotic things like spending $3 more on pasta sauce without added sugar

training for a 50k, followed by going days and even weeks without running

trying ballet classes

group fitness

walking and biking to work

losing too much weight and being told to gain some of it back

growing a half inch (I doubt this had anything to do with anything but it happened this year so it's being included).

ridiculous cravings for avocados

learning to swap out refined sugars for maple syrup or honey

eating plain salt when I had a vitamin/mineral deficiency (I now take a multi vitamin)

green tea. lots of it.

sometimes making gluten free food just for the challenge and fun of it

bread obsessions

super healing muffins (courtesy of Oh She Glows). and several different experimental versions thereof

elderberry syrup and lozenges with zinc

sparkling water


And probably some other weird things I'm forgetting. As you can see, there were some positives and some negatives, and that's what I want to tell you: it's been a learning process and I am not an expert. You have no reason to take my advice. I'm just figuring out how to do me in the best way possible.

And so, tonight, here's one more crazy thing we've decided to try, together:

Tackle sugar.

January will be refined sugar free. Things like honey, maple syrup and coconut sugar will be allowed.

February will be no sugar at all. Except, you know, actual fruit. because fruit. Also, Elizabeth has been doing this vegan cleanse and I weirdly accepted the invitation to join her in February.

Stay tuned, folks. It's going to get interesting.






Come and Stand Amazed

I absolutely love each one of our worship leaders for different reasons. Today was Conrad. He sat at the piano and he sang, and when he sings, he sings LOUDLY. And then the church sings LOUDLY. And then the piano fades and all you hear are the voices of the redeemed and being redeemed crying out in praise to Jesus. It is beyond lovely. Another thing about Conrad, is he always goes old, and not always well known. Today's set list was a good mix of that

Crown Him with Many Crowns
All Creatures 
How Great Thou Art 
Come and Stand Amazed 
Silent Night 
All Glory Be to Christ 

Come and Stand Amazed was a new one for us as a church, and for me personally today. When Conrad introduced he said something like, "So this is a really old Christmas hymn and you probably don't know the words, but it's to the tune of Come Thou Fount and you guys definitely know how that goes and the words will be on the screen, so let's do it"

It totally blew me away today.

Come and stand amazed, you people, 
See how God is reconciled! 
See his plans of love accomplished 
See his gift, this newborn child 
See the Mighty, weak and tender
See the Word who now is mute 
See the Sovereign without splendor 
See the Fullness destitute 

See how humankind received him 
See him wrapped in swaddling bands 
Who as Lord of all creation 
Rules the wind by his commands 
See him lying in a manger 
Without sign of reasoning 
Word of God to flesh surrendered
He is wisdom's crown, our King 

O Lord Jesus, God incarnate 
Who assumed this humble form 
Counsel me and let my wishes 
To thy perfect will conform 
Light of life dispel my darkness
Let your frailty strengthen me 
Let your meekness give me boldness
Let your burdens set me free

O Emmanuel my Savior
Let your death be life to me 

I was so struck by these words. I couldn't even get all of them out. The reality of what Christ gave up in being born a helpless infant hit me with full force today. He had perfect communion with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and He left that to be born, to live, to die, and to rise so that I could join that communion. And that last line of the song - let your death be life to me.

Wow.

What a powerful reminder.

He died for life. For freedom He has set me free. He was born for life. A life-giving life. And I receive His life to give it away. Christmas is so beautiful, because it makes Chris's humility and lowliness so visible. He was a dependent little baby born in a manger. And He was and is the Son of God. Christ's example is before me. Lord, let me see Your light, and be Your light in a world of darkness.

The people who were born in darkness have seen a great light...

Friday, December 5, 2014

Rejoice! Rejoice!

I have been completely taken with O Come, O Come, Emmanuel this first week of Advent.

Nancy Guthrie has a beautiful book for this season called Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room. In it, she writes about the longing that God's people had for the promised Messiah, and the longing we have for His return,

"Though it was hard for the people in Isaiah's day to imagine or understand how God would actually become a human, they began to long for this Messiah who would be 'God with us'. They looked forward to the day when God would fulfill all his promises by coming to live with them. We identify with them in their longing for God to full his promise to send Jesus when we sing, 'O Come, O Come, Emmanuel'"

I particularly love verses 2 and 4 right now:

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave

[Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel]

O com, Thou Key of David, come
And open wide our heavenly home
Make safe the way that leads on high
And close the path to misery

In all this longing, this thousands-years longing, the command is the same - Rejoice! Rejoice Because He is coming. And today, we get to rejoice because Christ has come, and will surely come again.

Enjoy this version by Red Mountain Church


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Hesed

I've been reluctant to write this post, mostly because once you put your goals on the internet, everyone knows and is watching to see if you follow through. I'm thankful, though, for the grace of God, and that grace is not in vain. He is continually transforming me and working through my biggest failures and messes to show the power of His glory.

Last week, I read A Loving Life by Paul Miller. It was a thorough walk through the book of Ruth unlike any I'd ever heard. Ruth is pretty much the  women's conference/Bible study/blog book in Christianity. Most of the time, the focus is on how Ruth was so bold in ask Boaz to be her redeemer, and it was her humility, purity and audacity that won her a husband and preserved her line.

Here's the quickest run down of Ruth I can give:
Naomi is the mother in law whose husband and sons died.
Ruth is her daughter in law.
Naomi tells Ruth to return to her people so she can get married.
Ruth says, no way, and follows and serves Naomi.
Ruth goes to work in Boaz's field.
Boaz protects Ruth and shows her kindness.
Naomi tells Ruth that Boaz is a redeemer and can marry her and keep her dead husband's name alive.
Ruth sneaks into his dwelling place in the middle of the night and asks for a protective covering (marriage).
Boaz buys Naomi's land, marries Ruth, and they have children.
Ruth is celebrated (some scholars think that Proverbs 31 was about her!).

It's only 4 chapters, and that was a poor summary, so you should probably just go read it.

Miller, though, took the time to look at many different relationships, all through the lens of hesed. Hesed is a Hebrew word that is a combination of "love" and "loyalty". It is sometimes translated as "steadfast love". Hesed is a humble, faithful, self-sacrificing love.

Naomi shows this love when she tries to convince Ruth to leave her. Although Naomi has no other care giver or hope in the world, she lets Ruth go because she loves her. But Ruth also loves Naomi and is willing to give up everything to serve her. I was moved by Miller's description of Naomi's brokenness and how Ruth stepped into that -

"To enter a broken heart means that our hearts will be broken as well. That's what happened to Jesus. That's the gospel"

Ruth serves diligently in the fields to provide for herself and her mother in law. Boaz is moved and has compassion on this pair.

He is a man full of integrity and legally and honestly buys the rights to be their redeemer.

Their marriage is blessed.

All because of hesed. All because of the hesed that Jesus does for us.

"Hesed love is a determination to do someone good, no matter what, to be faithful to a covenant regardless of its impact on you. It wills to love when every fiber in your body screams run. This determination to love is at the heart of Jesus's relationship with His Father, and at the heart of ours as well"

They lived their lives laid down.

lives
laid
down

That phrase has been running so strong in me these days.

Sunday, pastor Joe preached hope. And then he challenged us to respond to that hope -

"Lay down your life so that others may see the hope that is only in Christ Jesus"

"Let us be a people who live lives of worship, who live
Lives
Laid
Down"

In all this, I reflected -

I'm trying to apply what I'm learning about hesed love, but it is so hard. I've been noticing a growing wall between {} and me. I don't even want to like/forgive/serve them sometimes. I want to have a clearer heart and be able to serve them with my life - looking always to Jesus as my example, and the Holy Spirit as my empower-er

From Psalm 51: 

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love, according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! (v1-2)

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. (v7)

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. (v10-12) 

And then Ann Voskamp, with her upside down Christmas in The Greatest Gift.

I think I actually gasped when I got to the end of today -

"Think of three people who are not easy to love. What would it look like to love those people with God's love?"

Praying more. Bless those who curse me. Forgive as I have been forgiven.

Hesed.

Life
Laid
Down

More from me:

I welcome Christ's coming; as I long for maranatha once more, I pray that I would love with hesed and lay down my life as Christ laid down His life. It's hard for me to wrap my head around this one, but should be easy when I look at Jesus. Jesus loved me and died for me when I was beyond unworthy. My kiddos, roommates, bosses and coworkers may not always be worthy, but it doesn't matter. Agape loves regardless of the object of its love's worthiness or value. Lord, let me remember Jesus as I follow you in living a life laid down. 

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12

Do all things without grumbling or disputing Philippians 2:14 

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:10 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

A hope that came, a hope that's coming

Advent has arrived. Today, the first Sunday, we celebrate hope.

Today's service was family style, so we kept the sermon short as we walked through selections from Luke 1, focusing in on the expectant hope we have in Jesus.

I wrote rambling reflection after the service today, so in hopes that it will stir your own heart, here it is

Today I was reminded that Advent is a celebration of fulfilled promise. God said He was going to come, and He did. Jesus said He would return for us, and Advent, the celebration of His first coming, is mean to rekindle our hope in that second coming. It's easy to relegate Christmas to an event that happened long ago, but it truly is a foretaste of redemption. 

Still dwelling on our second song today - 

Come thou long expected Jesus
Born to set thy people free
From our fears and sins release us 
Let us find our rest in thee 

The weight of this is immense. The entire Old Testament is a story of God going after His rebellious people, as they run from Him and worship pretend gods and break His commandments and disbelieve His promise. And yet it's a promise that will be fulfilled. Faithful prophets from of old proclaim, "Messiah is coming! He will save us! Repent and turn to Him!". John will proclaim this. And Jesus Himself will preach the same repentance. 

Because God comes down Himself in the person of Jesus Christ. Emmanuel. God with us. Sin and fear are both rooted in the same thing - failure to trust God. Disbelief in His character and His promise. And Christ's coming is a fulfillment of promise. For the Israelites then, and for us now, Advent is a guarantee that God is who He says He is. 

In Luke, when Zechariah speaks after nine months of silence, He praises God for having redeemed His people (1:68). 

And this is before. 

Before Messiah's birth. Before crucifixion. Before resurrection. Before the Holy Spirit comes as the guaranteer of the new covenant. Before our redemption and resurrection into eternal glory. Zechariah knows the fullness of our hope in Jesus, and what rest we have in Him. He will always be faithful, and when He says He will come, it's as good as done. 

We are free to live as children of the promise, right now, because as we celebrate Christ's birth, we also celebrate that we have been born again to a living hope (1 Peter 1:3). 

His name is Jesus. 



Come, thou long expected Jesus, 
 born to set thy people free; 
 from our fears and sins release us, 
 let us find our rest in thee.  
 Israel's strength and consolation, 
 hope of all the earth thou art; 
 dear desire of every nation, 
 joy of every longing heart.

2. Born thy people to deliver, 
 born a child and yet a King, 
 born to reign in us forever, 
 now thy gracious kingdom bring. 
 By thine own eternal spirit 
 rule in all our hearts alone; 
 by thine all sufficient merit, 
 raise us to thy glorious throne.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Alxamdulilaay

Alxamdulilaay. Thanks be to God.

I pulled out the Christmas carol chord book tonight. Advent may officially start Sunday, but my heart starts it at Thanksgiving.

Because what do we have to be more thankful for than God becoming our Emmanuel, being born, taking the lowest place, the baby boy who would deliver us all?

Remember Jesus.

Everything we have, it's because He gives without measure. Grace upon grace He lavishes upon us.

I have a new favorite Christmas album, from Rend Collective Experiment. They do an incredible job of combining musical creativity and the upholding of tradition. This album is a must-have for the season. Here's one that rings true for Thanksgiving as we give thanks for the God who has always been faithful to us.


"For All That You Have Done"






Sunday, November 23, 2014

Philippians 2 when I don't feel like it

Sleepover, easy on the sleep 

Shower water that would not get warm 

Sunday school with crazy kids 

Turn signals optional traffic 

Bad timing at veggie grill 

Trip to the airport 

Exhaustion. Irritation. Frustration. 

Wondering why Phillippians 2 made it into the canon. Why I remember "consider others more significant than yourselves". Why those verses when I don't want to do anything besides crawl in my bed and hide. 

I collect reasons to be upset. I hold on to them. And there's still Philippians 2. It's still there. Jesus was God but did not count equality with God as a thing to be grasped, but made himself lower than a servant. 

Jesus is there, reminding me that I will never measure up. I cannot collect enough hurts to touch even one of His. I cannot out grace Jesus. 

But I can have His grace. I can have Him. 

And sometimes it takes a 5-hour nap and a sermon at eleven o clock at night to get there, but I'm starting to release that selfishness, that conceit. And tomorrow I may have to start over and remember that Jesus came not to be served but to serve others and that I'm supposed to be last, but tonight, I see Him. 

And I will see Him again. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Letting Myself Die

Yesterday, I was thinking about how much I feel like I've grown in my relationship with Jesus this year. Not an explosion, not a flash, nor a stretching, more like a deepening. Like waking up to find myself more clued into reality. 

I was thinking about this more today and I realize how much I've let myself go outside of my comfort zone, even these last several months. From eating more real and plant foods to training for a LONG distance trail run, to trying new workout routines, all the way to ballet. 

Ah. Ballet. 

That walk home from the studio is too perfect for reflection. 

I switched from very beginners to intermediate advanced. Today was day 2. It's hard. I struggle. I am not even close to the best. I get confused. I go the wrong way on the wrong foot at the wrong time. I forget that we're doing a jete into a grand jete and wonder why I'm just that one beat off. I admire the grace, strength and beauty of the other dancers, wondering how long it will take for me to see a glimpse of that in myself. 

And then the teachers says 

You have great feet

Let's use that limberosity (is that even a word?)

Point your toe - there - feel the energy? 

It's a joy to have you; come again soon. 


And I remember that this is why I'm here. I'm here to let my drive for achievement and perfection die. To let go of my pride. To enjoy what I'm doing. To be satisfied. 

And although ballet might not seem like the way to deep spiritual growth, for me it is. I think that there are things in ourselves that we bring to our relationship with God that we don't even understand. I think it's impossible for us to see how our perceptions of our self and others affect our relationship with the Maker of all. And in pushing ourselves, in allowing ourselves to be different and out of our element, we peel back the layers of our love of self and love of sin. 

And we wake up and all we see is Jesus. 


Sunday, November 16, 2014

The hope that is in you

But in your hearts honor Christ The Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect  1 Peter 3:15 

I've always loved this verse. It's important because it's all about knowing what you believe and why. It's about being so rooted in the reality of your life in Jesus that it flows over into your relationships with other people. 

It's important because sometimes you only get 10 seconds to share the gospel. 

My church, Anchor Church, meets at a community center in the Phinney neighborhood. There are other groups who meet in this building while we do. As I was leaving this morning, I held the door open for two ladies coming from one of those other activities. This was our conversation - 

Ms. : Are you with that church? 
Me: Yes, I am 
Ms. : Does it have anything to do with fishing or sailing? 
Me: *confused* no...? 
Ms: Well it says anchor so I thought maybe you all fished or something? 
Me: Oh, no, there's a verse in the Bible that talks about the hope we have in Jesus being like an anchor for our souls because He's made us right with God so we're secure. 
Ms: Oh ok. Well thanks. 

And that's it. This is not one of those miracle I shared the gospel and they repented and came to Jesus right there in the parking lot stories. This is a do you know what your anchor is story. This is about putting all your trust and faith in the Jesus who saves sinners from death to life and gives a peace that passes understanding and a kingdom that cannot be shaken and full joy and life in abundance and hope as a sure and steadfast anchor for the soul. And a it's about knowing Him and making Him known. 

Anchor Church: 
Jesus
Gospel 
Seattle 

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever in the order of Melchizidek. Hebrews 6:19-20 


Friday, November 14, 2014

Sin and Longing

For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more. Hosea 2:17 

Last night, I was really hit by the weight of my sin. I see so many ways in which I need Jesus. In Hosea, God promises to make Israel forget the names of her idolatrous gods. I see how I reject God and can't even imagine the glory of what it will be to not even be able to remember what those other things were. Think about that one! And it made me long for heaven and for redemption of my body in a way I haven't in quite awhile. It's when you're faced with the reality of how far you have to go in sanctification that you see the wonder and joy in a life without sin. I wrote a haiku based on this longing and the picture of its fulfillment

Christ makes all things new 
And we can trust Him in full 
Because He is truth. 

And he who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new". Also he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true" Revelation 21:5 

On that day when freed from sinning 
I shall see thy lovely face 
Clothed then in blood washed linen 
I will sing thy sovereign grace 

Come my Lord no longer tarry 
Take my ransomed soul away 
Send thine angles now to carry 
Me to realms of endless day. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Table

Chris Tomlin's new album is killing me. I like it way too much for someone who doesn't like him.

Anyway, here's The Table



I will feast at the table of the Lord
I will feast at the table of the Lord
I won’t hunger anymore
At His table [x2]

Come all you weary; come and find
His yoke is easy; His burden light
He is able; He will restore
At the table of the Lord

There is peace at the table of the Lord
There is peace at the table of the Lord
I won’t worry anymore
At His table

There is healing at the table of the Lord
There is healing at the table of the Lord
I won’t suffer anymore
At His table

Come all you weary; come and find
His yoke is easy; His burden light
He is able; He will restore
At the table of the Lord

I know He has a place for me
Oh, what joy will fill my heart
With the saints around the mercy seat of God

Come all you weary; come and find
His yoke is easy; his burden light
He is able; He will restore
At the table of the Lord
At the table of the Lord

I’m invited to the table of the Lord
I’m invited to the table of the Lord
He says, “Come just as you are”
To His table

Don't miss the miracle.

This morning, after TRX, I could tell it was a great sunrise, so I went for a little walk. I felt like I was sneaking up on the majesty of Mount Rainier. The clouds were hovering right over the rest of the range, like shadows wrestling the glow of the sun.

Pictures don't do it justice.

I couldn't help but remember a word from my dear deceased friend, John Owen,

Think greatly of the greatness of God

Boy did I see His greatness this morning. I'm so glad I'm still in awe of these mountains. It never gets old. It's still a miracle. I hope it's a miracle every time for the rest of my life.

It's a miracle I'm alive to see the Master Craftsman's hand and not dead in my sin. It's a miracle that I who was once a prisoner of darkness have been set free to run toward Christ's marvelous light.

As another favorite pastor of mine says,

Every day that you know Jesus is a day that you are alive in Him instead of dead in your sins. Praise the Lord.               Andrew Pack

Don't miss miracles:
Receive them with thanks, and watch
As they multiply.

(That's a haiku for those of you who missed it ;)  )

I came home and heated a muffin and spread honey peanut butter and steeped green tea and I gave thanks.

The great God who made those mountains and told the sun when to rise also planted the grains and taught the herbs to grow. And He raised my dead heart to life. Praise the Lord.

My sin, oh the bliss, of this glorious thought; 
My sin, not in part, but the whole 
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more 
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, oh my soul! 

It is well 
With my soul 
It is well, it is well with my soul 


But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. "The Lord is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him". The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. Lamentation 2:21-26. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Before and After

Before. Around 8am. 

Today's a day where if I didn't trust Jesus, if I didn't believe in the church He's built, if I weren't quite me, I would skip church. I would lay in bed and wallow.

The reason I'm not skipping church is not because I'm teaching kiddos today. I could "call in". They'd figure something out. We always do. My church doesn't need me. 

I need them. 

I need to go and see all the faces that Jesus has made my family. I need to hear the children learning about God and about people. I need to watch this diverse family live out the gospel. I need to see the pile of diapers for our neighbors in need. I need to taste His body, broken for me and His blood, poured out for the new covenant. I need to remember Jesus, and give thanks. I need to praise Him in His church. 

After. About 12:30pm 


Feeling filled. I just want to pour over my Bible and bask in the finished work of Jesus. These kids, this family, everyone just helps me want to know Jesus and love Him more. It's amazing the wonders God works in our obedience. It's just as Screwtape points out - 

"Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending to do our Enemy's will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys" 

Seeing all the kids so hungry to learn about God reminds me of my own need for Him. 

I've been loving a song we've been rocking lately, and we sang it today, with our final chorus as an acapella 

The Benediction 

My friends, may you grow in grace 
And in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior 
My friends, may you grow in grace 
And in the knowledge of Jesus Christ 

To God be the glory 
Now and forever
Now and forever 
Amen 

To God be the glory 
Now and forever
Now and forever 
Amen 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Devils, dryness and the Genius

I've mentioned at least once that I believe The Screwtape Letters to be C.S. Lewis's greatest, most brilliant work. I'm currently reading Lunch with Lewis by Allister McGrath and while I love it and appreciate its rich analysis and engagement of many of Lewis's key works, I'm disappointed to read yet another book on Lewis that gives almost no mention of the genius it took to write as Uncle Screwtape, master temptor, to his nephew Wormwood, an apprentice. It communicates such profound nuggets on what it means to be human, and works through the spiritual realm in a creative and masterful way. For that matter, I also believe The Great Divorce is grossly underrated. Whereas Narnia is a work of fiction crafted to imaginatively communicate deep spiritual and human truths and experiences, these two fiction works are built to provoke these massive theological questions. 

I would like to quote Screwtape at length. Here is the 8th letter reprinted in full. Savor it. 

My dear Wormwood, 

So you "have great hopes that the patient's religious phase is dying away," have you? I always thought the Training College had gone to pieces since they put old Slubgob at the was of it, and now I am sure. Has no one ever told you about the law of Undulation?

Humans are amphibians - half spirit and half animal. (The Enemy's determination to produce such a revolting hybrid was one of the things that determines Our Father to withdraw his support from Him.) As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time. This means that while their spirit can be directed to an eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change. Their nearest approach to constancy, therefore, is undulation - the repeated return to a level from which they repeatedly fall back, a series of troughs and peaks. If you had watched your patient carefully you would have seen this undulation in every department in his life - his interest in work, his affection for his friends, his physical appetites, all go up and down. As long as he lives on earth, periods of emotional and bodily richness and liveliness will alternate with periods of numbness and poverty. The dryness and dullness through which your patient is now going are not, as you fondly suppose, your workmanship; they are merely a natural phenomenon which will do us no good unless you make a good use of it. 

To decide what the best use of it is, you must ask what the Enemy wants to make of it, and then do the opposite. Now, it may surprise you to learn that in His efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, He relies on the troughs even more than on the peaks; some of His special favorites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else. The reason is this. To us a human is primarily food; our aim is the absorption of its will into ours, the increase of our own area of self good at its expense. But the obedience which the Enemy demand of men is quite a different thing. One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth. He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself - creatures whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because He has absorbed them, but because their wills freely conform to His. We want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons. We want to suck in, He wants to give out. We are empty and would be filled; He is full and flows over. Our war aim is a world in which our Father Below has drawn all other beings into himself; the Enemy wants a world full of beings united to Him but still distinct. 

And that is where the troughs come in. You must have often wondered why the Enemy does not make more use of His power to be sensibly present to human souls in any degree He chooses and at any moment. But you now see that the Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of His scheme forbids Him to use. Merely to override a human will (as His felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for Him useles. He cannot ravish. He can only woo. For His ignoble idea is to eat the cake and have it; the creatures are to be one with Him, but yet themselves; merely to cancel them, or assimilate them, will not serve. He is prepared to do a little overriding at the beginning. He will set them off with communications of His presence which, though faint, seem great to them, with emotional sweetness, and easy conquest over temptation. But He never allows this state of affairs to last long. Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs - to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best. We can drag our patients along by continual tempting, because we design them only for the table, and the more their will is interfered with, the better. He cannot "tempt" to virtue as we do to vice. He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles. Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy's will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys. 

But of course the troughs afford opportunities to our side also. Next week I shall give you some hints on how to exploit them. 

Your affectionate uncle 
Screwtape 


C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters. 


Friday, November 7, 2014

They Ate and Were Satisfied

This year has been full of changes when it comes to food and me. I have learned so much and tried a million new things (flax "eggs", scrambled tofu, sweet potato "cheese", tempeh "bacon", cashew "cream cheese" and fakeadillas to name a few). I think I've read more labels in the last 10 months than the rest of my life combined. I've found myself migrating to things with fewer ingredients, and real ones at that.

This past week has helped me to take another step on this journey. I've been giving thanks for each meal...not perfectly, as habits can take time to form, but I've been thanking Jesus for the food, for the earth that grew it, for the people who harvested it, the people who packaged and stocked it, the people who made it, the house it was made in, the seasonings that flavored it. I've come to have a more meaningful connection with my food. It gets me thinking about all the pieces coming together. If you don't know what's in your food how do you give thanks? If you don't know where it came from, it's made more shallow? If you don't know who made/grew it, you lose the element of a person to person relationship. And if you don't know the One who made all the creatures of the land and the sea and every plant on the earth and put the water in its place and called it good, you might be missing something.

After Jesus gave thanks to multiply the fish and bread, Mark's gospel records

And they all ate and were satisfied. Mark 6:42 

And when He does it again,

And they ate and were satisfied Mark 8:8 

I caught this today and was struck by that word satisfied. Jesus gave thanks and all were satisfied. They weren't stuffed. They weren't sick from eating. They weren't craving more. They were satisfied.

I think that saying grace is more about receiving grace than earning it. It's not something you check off on the list of habits of a good Christian. It's a recognition of being filled, of having been provided for. It's a lifting of empty hands and saying, "Yes, Jesus, I will take what You give, and I will give thanks because You have satisfied my deepest needs".

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Mashed sweet potato

I am eating the most delicious sweet potato ever. I have no precise measurements so experiment as you will. 

I had half of a baked sweet potato I needed to do something with. Results were magical. 

Heat between 1/4 and 1/2 cup of almond milk with about a half tablespoon of earth balance. 

Add your half of roasted potato. Stir to combine, mashing with a spoon as needed. My potato was probably overly roasted so it was very soft. You could also boil a sweet potato, drain the water, add warm milk and spread and mash from there. 

Season with cumin, garlic, sage and salt to taste. 

Oh my gosh this is too delicious. Share it with the world. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Guide to Working Out at Darkbreak


It's fall, and it's Seattle, which means it is dark until almost 8am. It's also usually wet and quite chilly so working out in the morning requires preparation. This method has been working for me, although I've definitely woken up for a 6am class and then opted for the 8:30 instead. Listen to your body and go with the flow. 

Step 1: Quit watching Cupcake Wars or Harry Potter at a reasonable time, no matter how awesome your roommates are. 

Step 2: Set alarm with quality wake up music. Bonus for putting alarm across the room for your bed. 


Step 3: Gather all necessary clothing items (leave shoes by the door with your keys and water bottle. Filling water bottle is unnecessary and can be done at the gym. 

(Hey, I didn't say it had to be pretty) 

Step 4 (conditional depending on activity type/location): Open class reservation page in web browser for easy access in the morning. 

Step 5: Put away electronic devices. I strongly encourage the use of a bedside lamp for winding down reading or journaling. 

Step 6: Turn out lights and sleep well. 

Step 7: Alarm goes off. Reserve your space in class. Now you have to go. I like to do this in the morning instead of the night before just in case of a terrible night of sleep or sudden illness. 

Step 8: Bathroom and drink of water 

Step 9: Clothes and hair 

Step 10: I like to grab a small portion of almonds or sunflower seeds and a small glass of water. 

Step 11: Shoes on and out the door. 

I haven't had a just for fun post in awhile so I thought I'd get one out there.