Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Peg Tuning

Tune my heart to sing Thy grace

Violins have two tuning mechanisms. When you are first learning the violin, your violin almost certainly has fine tuners. These are used to make minor adjustments; some more advanced students choose to have them put on, because they can make tuning easier.

However, not all tuning problems can be fixed with the shiny silver fine tuners. In many cases, you have to take to the pegs. The pegs are tricky because they are wooden, and the thin strings wrapped around them are silver. The pegs like to slip back and forth, and if you have a touchy violin like mine, even someone or something bumping a peg can send the violin straight out of tune.

Last night, I was walking home, exhausted. Weary. I've had a cold I just can't kick; my throat and head hurt, I have body aches. You know. I was just dreaming of that moment when I crawled into bed.

But maybe that wasn't the only rest I needed.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

Augustine famously wrote, "Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You" 

And I saw that while I was trying to fine tune, to fix a problem with a small adjustment. Jesus had His hands on the pegs. He wants to change where I look for rest and for comfort. He wants to change my heart. And that takes a lot of major tuning.

But by the time I settled in with my journal and a cup of tea, I saw it. And I saw Him. I saw how He had used my walk to tune my heart to sing His grace, and it was so beautiful. I'm so thankful.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Contrasts and Catalysts

I took a long break from reading Confessions. It's not the kind of book that needs to be read consistently, and I admit that I became distracted with other titles that were easier to read. Augustine was quite the scholar, and his writing is rather profound. Today, I was struck by this excerpt (direct Scripture quotations are italicized):

"How great was your love for us, good Father, for you did not even spare your own son, but gave him up to save us sinners! How great was your love for us, when it was for us that Christ, who did not see, in the rank of Godhead, a prize to be coveted, accepted an obedience which brought him to death, death on a cross! He who alone was free among the dead, for he was free to lay down his life and free to take it up again, was for us both Victor and Victim in your sight, and it was because he was the Victim that he was also the Victor. In your sight he was for us both Priest and Sacrifice, and it was because he was the Sacrifice that he was also the Priest. By being your Son, yet serving you he freed us from servitude and made us your sons"

Still sitting in Hebrews, it is amazing to read Augustine's succinct description of what that author works so hard to show: namely that Jesus is the One who enters into the veil on our behalf to give Himself.

And the Son made us His sons by being made perfect through suffering.

Jesus is it. He paid it all, and won victory and freedom for us. He gives Himself.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Your Treasure Will Testify

Tomorrow, I am meeting with the Anchor die hards to talk about the first six verses in the fifth chapter of James. This means that I've been stewing on it all week, reading different translations and really digging it.

At first, I didn't have that many thoughts on it.

Today, I read Young's Literal Translation, a very old very wooden word for word translation.

I saw in verse 3

the rust...for a testimony shall be to you and shall eat your flesh as fire ye made in the last days 

And in verse 5

ye did live in luxury...ye did nourish your hearts 

I wrote in my journal

This passage in James has been hammering into me how important it is for Christ to be my treasure. Like we talked about last week, have a savings account, spend time with your family, do your job well - but put all your hope in Jesus. Glory in your Redeemer, and not in the things He gives. What you hold dear is what you will have to testify for you. If you have the things of this world, they will be your advocates before a holy God, but if you have Jesus, you have the very Son to testify for you before the Father. 

Matthew 6:21 and Luke 12:34 say the same thing:

Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also 

And in case you were wondering about that whole Jesus testifying for you thing, Hebrews has the hookups

For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, "I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise" Hebrews 2:11-12

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 after the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 6:19-20 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Spirit Lead Me

So, for about a year, the song "Oceans" (Where Feet May Fail) has been HOT. I'd only heard it once or twice before yesterday, but it's been posted as statuses in my newsfeed about a hundred or so times.

Yesterday, for some reason, I woke up with the bridge in my head...roughly, because I didn't really know the words. The first thought of the day, recorded in my journal, was

Take me deeper than my feet (heart?) could wander...?  
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior 

I plunged into Deuteronomy, a book I actually really enjoy, and was struck by this passage:

And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you - with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill and cisterns that you did not dig and vineyards that you did not plant - and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 6:10-12

I read this and remembered Jesus, and grace. It is by grace you have been saved; you do nothing and you get everything.

I carried this with me to work at the preschool.

And then, my world was rocked.

I was given the opportunity for a long-term career and life in Seattle. It comes at a time when I am making some other big decisions, and this could either be a deterrent or an answer.

As I prayed through indoor playground supervision, and talked to Elizabeth, verses came to mind - I didn't have their references - I was just thinking something about not turning to the left or to the right. I found two passages that fit the bill (thanks google!)

 Let your eyes look directly forward and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your feet away from evil. Proverbs 4:25-27

And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher and your ears shall hear a word behind you saying, "This is the way. Walk in it", when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. Then you will defile your carved idols overlaid with silver and your gold-plated metal images. You will scatter them as unclean things. You will say to them, "Be gone!" Isaiah 30:20-22

And then, I started to sing

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me 
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger 
In the presence of my Savior 

I flipped back in my journal and saw that had been the first thought of the day. What wondrous love is this!

The 1,187th thing I love about best friend is that she can help me figure out exactly how I feel without in any way telling me how to feel.

So with all this, I'm not saying I made a decision, as I asked for three weeks, but I don't feel so anxious and in knots the way I did at first.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Christ Lives that Death May Die

One word for today could be joy.

Another could be life.

But mostly, my church was screaming Jesus with everything it had.

And it was glorious.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Hallelujah, What a Savior

The best Good Friday continues. Here's a description that I wrote for a friend who would have absolutely adored this service.

Good Friday, at my small, Jesus-loving, beautiful Seattle hipster church:
We're meeting in a small room tonight - we rent our space weekly. I walk in to dim lighting, and the Lord's supper on a simple table up front. Metal folding chairs line the room and kids run circles in the empty space. 4 year old Fjola holds the Jesus Storybook Bible and looks at me, saying, "Can someone please read me the story of the sick girl and the frail lady?" I sit with her and two of her brothers, and we read until the service starts.
Our pastor prays, and then sits in a chair up front. He reads 6 passages of scripture, giving space for silent prayer and meditation between each one. We take a quiet, reflective communion and then someone starts the acapella singing of O Sacred Head Now Wounded. The body stands and joins in. We pause together and lift hands to sing and proclaim, "Hallelujah, What a Savior". Our pastor comes and prays and then many join to go get ice cream together.
It was simple, beautiful, powerful.

Go On Up to the Mountain of Mercy

*Written in my journal after having run 20 miles up and down a mountain so bear with me if it gets weird*

Jesus turns sorrow to joy, and mourning to laughter. And oh how He had me laughing today. I ran up the foggy mountain and reached the creek crossing. The creek was high and fast and at first, I didn't see a way to pass. I felt my Jesus calling me to trust Him. In faith, I stepped out and found myself on solid ground, laughing as water rushed all around me.

I pressed on, asking Jesus to fill T with that simple joy that comes from trusting Him to be good, always. As I worked my way up, it started to snow. And I laughed again. Snow! I kept going, thinking of that beautiful scandalous night Jesus was slain.

I am so thankful. Thankful for T's peace and my peace and that He Himself is our peace. I look out at the cloud-covered mountains and remember that I couldn't reach God so He came down to get me. Savoring Jesus and what He's done in the lives of just two daughters, it takes my breath away. Well that, and the running. Oh, the running.

And then I'm down again and I look at the trailhead. There's a sign posted, warning hikers that the creek is impassable. I laugh again, because nothing is impossible for God. Through every high and stormy gail, my anchor holds within the veil.

I get back to my car and am trying to warm up and reflect and I think how nice it would be to hang out at the trailhead for awhile, if only I had a blanket. And I look behind me and I see a blanket I put there 7 or 8 months ago. God has been so faithful to provide.

I haven't seen or heard a sign of another soul in six hours. My car is the only one here. No one on the mountain but me and my God. And I think this is the most perfect Good Friday ever. To sit alone, and think on the enormity of God's grace. The blood that covers me. The life, the full life Jesus gives.

The same song I've had all week echos up Bandera Mountain -

Go on up to the mountain of mercy
To the crimson perpetual tide 
Kneel down on the shore, 
Be thirsty no more
Go under and be purified 

This is, by the way, the Ira Spring Trail. That water that rushed all around me now fills my water bottle, and I drink and remember the living water who died on the cross for me and lives for His Father's glory and our joy. I've tasted and seen, and Jesus is Lord!

On the hillside you will be delivered
At the foot of the cross justified 
And your spirit restored 
By the river that pours
From our blessed Savior's side 

At the wonderful tragic mysterious tree
On that beautiful scandalous night you and me
Were atone by His blood and forever washed white
On that beautiful scandalous night 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Being Wrecked

Remember when I talked about the sheer weight of this week? It turns out I hadn't even felt the half of it.

I am finally letting myself read Kisses from Katie, by Katie Davis. During her senior year of high school, this privileged teen took a trip to Uganda that absolutely wrecked her. She longed to go back and knew God was calling her to do so. She made a deal with her parents: one year in Uganda, and then she would enroll in and graduate from college.

Katie loved Jesus and was willing to follow Him anywhere.

Which is good, because she would never go back to the life she knew. She started out teaching kindergarten, and was crushed with the desperation she saw. She began loving children, one at a time. She founded a non-profit. And, eight months in to her "one-year" stay, she adopted three girls who called her Mommy. Her next two daughters came quickly into her family. She realized that she was never returning to her old life. She came back to the US to fundraise, and she felt uncomfortable, as though she was just a visitor. She is now a mother to fourteen children. They don't have a lot - they often don't even have electricity - but they have Jesus and He is enough.

Now I knew this whole story a long time ago. The book came out three years ago.

I, however, was terrified to read it.

Because, you see, I knew it would wreck me, too. I remember being devastated by Amma, Amy Carmichael, and how she became a mother to over thirty children in India, whom she rescued out of poverty. And Amy wasn't even my age.

But to think of Katie, who at 22 - my age - has fourteen children whom she cares for, provides for, teaches (11 are homeschooled) and loves is just unfathomable. The joy she has in pouring out Christ like love and compassion are unmatched. It shows me how selfish and hard my heart is, because I don't even understand that kind of love. It sounds impossible.

And yet, in smaller ways, God shows me that I am wrecked by my Savior, just like Katie. Because today, as I prayed for my dear friend, I cried quiet tears in a coffee shop and starting humming and people looked at me like I was insane. Carrying someone else's burdens, carrying someone to the cross of Christ, and showing them the empty tomb, it's one small act of great love.

I feel that weight, but it's not a crushing weight; on the contrary, I feel full, and the praise is just pouring out.

I literally can't stop singing Beautiful Scandalous Night, Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus and By the Mark this week (I wish I had recordings of how much church/I do(es) these songs. Nothing compares). It's getting embarrassing to go in public, and I don't really care. I don't know if you've ever sang the same three songs for an hour, but it's simple and beautiful and amazing.

Anyway, happy Maundy Thursday.

Ears to Hear

Over and over in the New Testament, Jesus as well as others say, "he who has ears to hear, let him hear" It's easy to read this and think of the prophecy that the blind will see and the deaf will hear, that Jesus open eyes and soften hearts. But something caught my attention as I was reading the psalms last night:

The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see; they have ears but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them. Psalm 135:15-18

I was struck by this truth that idolatry is what hardens hearts. The idolatrous are the ones without ears to hear. And it all makes sense - if you're looking at something other than the Lord, it's hard to see Him for who He is, and you're certainly not listening to what He might say to you.

The psalms have weight! It's not all the soft stuff, and it is so amazing.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Come Ye Sinners

Have you also felt the weight of this week?

I sat in awe of God's power and presence in the home of one of our pastors Sunday afternoon as a few members of my church family gathered to pray. We lost all sense of time and just poured our hearts out for our church, for the church, for those who need to remember Jesus,  for those who labor for that which does not satisfy.

And Tuesday, I ate dinner and then we shared hearts and were vulnerable and prayed honestly for one another. What a thing to share.

And then at 4:45 this morning, my friend texts me a list of the reasons she's absolutely drowning and ends with a one-word plea: help. It takes me time to open my eyes and wake up my heart to hear Jesus but I eventually give her all I have, namely, Jesus. Jesus. The Word. The Life. The Words of Life. And I knew the one-year anniversary of her deep tragedy was coming up soon, but I had no idea it would be Good Friday. And I'm thinking about this with a heaviness in my heart, because that's the day we all died.

The day when the King of everything did not look like a king at all. In fact, he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (Isaiah 53: 2b-3)

And yet he was ready. He was willing. It was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. (Isaiah 53: 10-11). 

I've been singing Come Ye Sinners (Sojourn version)  with all my heart this week, remembering that this is my invitation. Good Friday is coming, and it is my invitation to die to myself and to the cares of this world and to live to and for and in Jesus. It's a reminder that we live in a broken world because we broke it. And we keep breaking it. We break it a little more with our sin every day. But that is the sin for which Jesus died. And so we're invited to come to the cross, where Jesus is ready to save us to the utmost.

Come ye sinners, poor and needy
Weak and wounded, sick and sore 
Jesus ready stands to save you 
Full of pity, love and power 

Come ye thirsty, come and welcome 
God's free bounty glorify
True belief and true repentance
Every grace that brings you nigh 

Come ye weary, heavy laden 
Lost and ruined by the fall 
If you tarry 'til you're better 
You will never come at all 
You will never come at all 

On the bloody cross behold Him 
Sinner, will this not suffice
Lo! The incarnate God ascended 
Pleads His perfect sacrifice 


Let not conscience make you linger
Not of fitness fondly dream 
All the fitness He requireth
Is to fill your need of Him. 

Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Isaiah 55:1-3 

Friday, April 11, 2014

From Yesterday

I forgot to blog this. Sorry. 

Yesterday we had observations at work. Even though I consider myself to be good at my job, they get me so incredibly worked up. It's hard to describe the anxiety I have over them because it's so senseless but severe. And I've only ever received good feedback from them. 

I was praying over this anxiety on my break yesterday and I was so convicted! The Lord showed me that the reason I get so worked up is because I am so obsessed with myself and my own image/how others see me. But Jesus died to set me free from that kind of captivity! The Lord also showed me how seeing myself as being there to serve the kids can be an antidote to that self obsession. I'm here to reflect God's glory to them, to humbly serve them as Christ has served us. He laid down His life for me; how can I lay down my self for my kids? 

Sometimes we don't see how conviction like this is for our good right away, but when it happens like it did for me, it's easy to remember that it is. 

The Lord disciplines the ones He loves. It's a fact. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

What Makes the Gospel Good?

I'm reading a John Piper throwback, God is the Gospel. In it, Piper asks a simple question:

What makes the gospel good news?

Gospel means good news. But why is it good?

Over the years, people have said it's good because:

We gain forgiveness

We gain life

We gain hope

We gain peace

We gain security

We gain joy

It shows how much God loves us.

And while those things are good, they are only the gifts. They are not in themselves what makes the gospel so good. The first six items listed are things. They are meant to point us to the ultimate good. The last item, while it is true that Jesus' death shows God's great love for us, that isn't the ultimate goal of his death and resurrection. If the gospel is only about us, and the things that we get, we end up in a state of idolatry. We worship self, we worship things.

But what is the gospel about?

Or should I say, Whom?

It's about God. The gospel is good because it gives us God! God is the good news. God is the gospel.

You get it now?

Piper writes,

"The goal of the gospel is not our ease or wealth or safety in this age, but our dependence on Christ and our delight in his glory" 

The gospel is about Jesus. It's about seeing Him. It's about savoring the Savior.

He continues later, commenting on the too frequent misstep of labeling the good news to be about our value:

"Love gives us what is best for us, and what is best for us is knowing and enjoying God" 

Would the good news be good if we didn't get God? Or if we saw God but couldn't enjoy Him because we trembled in fear of His wrath? Of course not! Yes, Jesus died for us. God so loved the world that His only Son died for us. But He died so that we could see Him and His glory and have unfettered access to the Father!

What love is this, oh my soul!

I was thinking on all this today, as I let my tongue roll over the words of Psalm 119, verse 154, that impressed itself into my heart last night:

I rejoice at your word like one who finds a great spoil.

Is this how we feel about the word? What about the word made flesh?

And then I was bent low on the floor, guitar over my knees, thinking on how time in God's presence is the good news in which I live, praising, praising Jesus. I wrote in my journal,

Today I was just on my knees with my guitar and I didn't want to leave. Jesus was showing Himself as so sweet to me. I sang my heart out the whole way to work. My heart is just full. Savoring the Savior - there's nothing better on earth, and nothing else in heaven. Selah! Think on that one! 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

When You're Done, and it's Only Wednesday

I don't think you'd know, by looking, how I worn I feel. I coach with smiles. I grasp at the Word. I April fool. I run. I cook. I play with kids in the parking lot. I let them sit at my table at Starbucks. I deliver food for a family that grew and spin a three year old round and round. I strum the guitar and sing softly.

And yet, it's only Wednesday.

It's only Wednesday and I've been aching for Friday for weeks, it seems.

Elizabeth feels ill and I can't sleep - not at 9:30 or 12:15 or 3 or 4:30 or 5 or when the cats come in at 6:23 wondering where breakfast is. I feed them. I browse my too smart for its own good phone and read this depraved world and realize I can't be the only one who's done.

I pack. An apple. Journal. Pen. Words of Life. Computer phone gets left behind. I throw together a steaming mug of chai and walk.

I walk and I think about Henry David Thoreau, who says he went to the woods to live deliberately, to suck all the marrow from life. I think of Ms. Zinos' sophomore English class and how bold and profound that sounded to me then. Oh, the things I didn't know at 15.

As I walk to to the lake, I think on it some more. And now, Thoreau sounds weak and cowardly and selfish. Because I just read the opening of Exodus and I think Thoreau and Moses had a lot in common. Thoreau saw his broken world and ran from it. He retreated into himself. Moses saw his broken world and begged God not to make him be the one to fix it. God said, "I AM" and would be with Moses and Moses kept finding reasons to shrink away.

But how do you live deliberately by yourself? How do you breathe life when all you do is suck it away?

I went out o the lake because I was tired, and I need Jesus. I didn't come because I thought I knew better or had another plan (remember when Moses killed that guy and tried to hide it...). I went out to the metaphorical woods because I. Had. Nothing. I don't have strategies. I don't have solutions. But I have Jesus. I have the Words of Life. I have life in my bones -

And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord...And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open you graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken and I will do it, declares the Lord. Ezekiel 37:6, 13-14. 

And I have to wonder if Thoreau just barely missed IT. If he was looking for the deliberate life when he could have had the abundant one -

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10 

But maybe, just maybe, it isn't even about the abundant life. Maybe there are two other words that we miss and if we didn't miss them, maybe we'd have it all. Two words that change everything.

I. Came.

Jesus, Son of God, Son of Man, came.
God. Came.

This is what Moses knew and looked for and why, instead of retreating, he kept moving forward. He let God do everything because he knew he had nothing and Jesus - Messiah - was the everything he looked needed.

And I have come down to deliver them...Exodus 3:8 

He [Moses] considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. Hebrews 11:26

Thoreau and Moses and Me. We look at our lives and our selves and our broken words. And we know there has to be a better way.

Thoreau tries to find it in himself.

Moses looks forward to it, as something, someone, hoped for but not yet seen.

And me, I have seen it. Messiah has come. He has given me life. His work will be completed.

My friends, if you are just done, look up. Look to Jesus. Let Him be what makes the difference.

He came. He is coming. And He gives more grace.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Babes babes babes

This is just a shout out to the dozens of babies being born in my life right now. It's crazy and it's filling my world and the whole universe with cuteness. The number of pregnant moms at the gym, the multitude of nursing moms at church, not to mention my aunt and Caco-bean who are also getting ready to have more babies...it's just unreal!

Yesterday, I went to visit a family from church. They have a bright birdie-loving three year old girl, and recently gave birth to a sweet, sleepy little boy. They asked for volunteers to bring meals over, and I volunteered because I love the church and cooking and babies. When I went over, daddy was holding baby and mommy and little girl were deciding where to hang her artwork. Daddy asked if I wanted to hold baby. I haven't held a baby that small (8 days old) in forever and never standing up! So as little girl danced around me, modeling her new dresses, and mom and I talked about how she's doing, I held baby boy and found myself swaying and rocking him. Little girl kept finding things to show baby boy; she is an enthusiastic big sister, ready to teach little brother everything she knows. I was very nervous holding the little one, but when he got hungry and realized I could not help him, I gave him back to mom and felt myself missing that weight.

That weight was replaced a number of hours later by 4-year old Ava, who loves being carried around the gym while her brother finishes class. Of course, she always thanks me with a kiss on the cheek.

love the kids