Heart Remodeling 101

The question that keeps coming back to us is How do we live this out? What does trusting God, and glorifying Him, and realizing He is sufficient for us actually look like in everyday life? And I understand this sneaking suspicion that spiritual truths are not entirely practical. We are not questioning whether they are beautiful and inspiring and worthwhile, but how in the world do they intersect with work projects and arguing about chores and relatives, and the never-ending task of cleaning up the kitchen?

It’s like faith becomes a room we have added onto an already full house, and life is going on at mad pace while we try to get away for some refreshing moments (in there where it all works) before coming back to our messy lives. We even try our best to bring bits of it out with us, to decorate our space. Or maybe we add more rooms on, like doing ministry, and helping our neighbors, and teaching Scripture to our kids, and supporting missions– as if we can make the faith portions of our house large enough to eclipse the everyday stuff. But don’t you keep wondering if that abundant life Jesus offered is possible without getting exhausted? And what if we could instead just bust down some walls and live free in the light? I am beginning to think that these spiritual truths are the most practical of all, and it is our perspectives on life that need remodeling.

I keep hearing the echo of Church-Planter Paul’s simple instructions to the early believers in Philippi: “Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.  For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him. ” (Philippians 2:12-13) We often take a detour at “work hard”….take a sharp left into self-effort and get lost in feelings of failure and guilt. But the working hard is all about focus and intentionality in life, not about our attaining anything. And Paul’s instruction is meant to be simple and straightforward– just look how he reduces all of life to worship and obedience toward God. This is the one thing we are to do, and even that is not depending on our desire and effort but on His. All that is up to us is to bow our hearts to the rightful King, Jesus. The constant refrain of the Kingdom is His “Not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42)

It gives us a different starting place. Instead of starting with my life and trying to apply faith to it, I can start with faith in Who He Is and what He is doing in me and then respond with awe and humility in all the down-to-earth details of everyday life. Regardless of season of life or marital status or where my work takes me, real life begins in my heart and where it is focused. The Wise King wasn’t just composing poetry when he wrote “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23), but speaking truth for our souls. Whether we are looking for a life change, or a heart change, or an attitude change….it isn’t about doing more good things. It is simply seeking the reign of Jesus over all things.

Simple and uncomplicated, but not easy by any means, and at times painful. The life we are building needs to come falling down so that He can build a new one on the foundation of Grace, with Himself in the center. So in faith we agree that His plans are best and true. By faith we throw Self down off the throne again and again, in obedience to King Jesus. In faith we persist in putting into practice what He says. One day at a time– in our work and our marriages and our parenting and our words– even when it runs counter to everything we are used to. By faith we swim against the current of popular opinion, and listen to His perspectives on reality and meaning and satisfaction and beauty, because we feel certain that having Him is better than having anything else in this world. By faith we trust the Creator and Architect who gave us life the first time to give us the abundant new life we long for.

We simply worship and obey… and miracle of miracles, we find that His Spirit is working out in us all that we cannot do for ourselves.

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Out of the overflow of a properly aligned heart, the mouth speaks and the obedience follows.

Christine Hoover

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For we are the temple of the living God. As God said: ‘I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be My people.’

2 Corinthians 6:16

The Safest Place

Originally published August 17, 2018.

On days when you are trying to be brave, holding onto faith for dear life, but there’s this frantic whisper in the back of your head that circumstances are more than you can handle right now, and what in the world does a person have to do to catch a break in this tempest, let this truth sink in deep: Jesus is standing beside His Father in Heaven paying attention to everything that concerns you. He is holding you securely in His strong arms, and even before you reach out to Him, He is praying for you.

The writer of Hebrews wants to make sure we understand the richness of our inheritance in Christ, and all the ways He fulfills the promises of God. The Law was God’s gift to Israel as His chosen people; but Jesus is the Father’s precious gift to all who believe– God giving Himself to us forever. The author of the book of Hebrews says it this way: “…He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them.” (Hebrews 7:25) 

Rest in this, that you are His own, and He is acting on your behalf. If you make your spirit comfortably at home in this truth, you will find all that you need for this day.

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The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

Lamentations 3:25-26

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Jesus lives to endlessly, relentlessly and flawlessly pray for you….Jesus is praying for your holiness because He knows holiness is your ultimate happiness….Jesus is praying that you’ll be brave when you’re about to break, that you’ll turn from what’s tempting, that you’ll stand against what’s strangling, that you’ll escape into Him instead of trying to escape in a thousand unfulfilling ways.

Ann VosKamp

The Fear Factor

Originally published May 9, 2013.

I remember the conversation as if it happened only a little while ago, one of those pivotal moments when your perceptions change everything. It was one of our first adult conversations; he was no longer the professor on a pedestal and was becoming a colleague in ministry, and I felt brave enough to confide in him. “I have been struggling with fear. I think Satan is attacking me with this.” He thought for a minute and said in his gravelly voice, gentle and hesitant despite his many accomplishments: “Well, that is possible. But you know what another word for fear is?”  I waited. “Isn’t fear just another way of saying you don’t trust God?” Everything stopped…and turned… right there over lunch, and my life changed.

How could I say I loved God if I didn’t trust Him to take care of me? How could I believe Him for something as large and someday as eternal life if I could not believe that He was at work right here today in my life? For the first time I realized I could believe a lot of stuff about God with my head and never let it trickle down into my heart, could still wonder down deep if He was good and if He loved me…which made no sense at all. And the girl who was always so cautious and fearful told God she was sorry and wanted to change, though she didn’t know how, echoed the father’s prayer when he brought his son to Jesus: “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

This has been my faith walk ever since, “to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge…be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:18-19) And the further I go the more I find that when it comes right down to the bare roots of us, we are all on that path. Because the real question our hearts are figuring out is if we believe that He is Who He says He is. It was the very first question in the Garden and still every new situation is a crossroads of faith: “Can I trust Him in this? Does He love me still? Can I depend on Him to do what is best here?” It’s a growth process, and it’s also a cycle. The more I see Him clearly, the more I trust Him…and the more I trust Him, the more I love Him; and “Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear.” (1 John 4:18) 

No wonder this faith-journey takes an entire lifetime of experiences and situations. I am a slow learner, it seems, and life has cut deep in more places than I realize, taught my heart all the wrong things. But now when the fear creeps in and tries to take up residence, I know that this is what it feels like to not-trust– and with all my heart I want to be so convinced of His love and goodness that His peace will rule there. It takes purposeful cultivating of faith, and intentional choices to trust in each new situation, and when fear is clawing at me so that it is hard to breathe, it sometimes takes jumping off the cliff into reckless faith regardless of the way I feel. “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”

Someone shared with me recently, “Our whole lives have been this way, one thing after another, and you have to wonder when we will ever get a break? When can we just live and be happy?” I thought of our clean small town in light of the orphanages and the refugee camps and the cancer wards and the slums of the world. I thought how hard it is to trust anywhere, in the face of loss and pain, and told her that maybe there is no such thing as just living happy, and maybe that’s not what life was all about anyway. How you experience life is more about what you see when you look at the world; more about Who you are learning to trust. You can see the hurts and wonder where He is… or see that all is gift and Love standing right there in our midst with blood and tears running down. Maybe life is really about seeing Who God is and knowing we can rely on Him in everything…. “help me overcome my unbelief!”

Amy Carmichael went to India alone as a young woman over a century ago, and spent her life rescuing the children sold into temple prostitution while her own strength slipped away in long illness. She spent many of her later years confined to her bed and used the time to write to her little flock about her relationship with God. Her utter trust is so childlike in its simplicity that you would think it came easily to her, but when you read Amy’s story you see how her trust was forged and pressed in hardship and pain and danger…every situation a crossroads of choice, and she kept saying yes to Him. I am learning to recognize that fear is the opposite of trust, and even if I can’t always change the feelings, I can at least choose to say “Yes, I trust You” and move ahead in spite of them.  “I do believe…”

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The LORD is my light and my salvation–so why should I be afraid? The LORD is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble?

Psalm 27:1

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…we trust all that the love of God does; all He gives, and all He does not give; all He says, and all He does not say. To it all we say, by His loving enabling, I trust. Let us be content with our Lord’s will, and tell Him so….The more we understand His love, the more we trust.

Amy Carmichael

Of Small Seeds and Little Lunches

Sometimes I wish I could say it louder, or different, or with more profound words to make it sink in to faltering hearts: Faith heroes and prayer warriors and legacy makers aren’t born that way. They do not inherently possess any piercing clarity of wisdom or rock-solid certainty of vision or even spotless purity of spirit. The heroes are just the ones who persevere, one hard step at a time. The warriors are the people who pour out their hearts to God every day, and labor over the hard things, until they want to see Him more than they want their answers. The legacy makers are those who decide to be faithful in the small things, doing whatever is in front of them with a desire to please the One who called them, and leaving the outcome in His hands.

What makes them great is that they kept pressing on in faith, even when they felt like they had lost their way…even when they felt bogged down in the mundane…even when they could not see any good outcomes from where they were sitting… because you see, there simply is no way to get from here to there except through the ordinary moments of Everyday. And the Church-Planter reminds the early believers, that this is all they need to do, because God is doing all the heavy lifting in this relationship: God will make this happen, for He who calls you is faithful. (1 Thessalonians 5:24)

See, the people we look up to and aspire to become are forged in the ordinary ups and downs of gritty everyday life. They are the slow growth of hundreds of small self-denials and choices to stand in the light, and only they know the tears and doubts and sleepless nights along the way. You don’t need to be gifted and strong and capable, or wake up one day with all your issues resolved– you just need to take the next step toward God. And then do it again tomorrow.

Jesus used the story-picture of a mustard seed, and said nothing would be impossible if it were offered up into God’s hands. Then He showed them in living color what He was talking about, when a child held out his food, released it into Jesus’ hands and they all watched it grow into a feast for thousands. And it strikes me how this little boy thought he would go hungry for the day, when he gave up his lunch as a love-gift to the rabbi who was teaching them about God. He had no idea what Jesus intended to do with it, no aspirations of greatness. He just took a small step of serving someone else on a long hot day by the lake, despite his own needs, and ended up in the middle of a miracle.

And in all our ordinary days of needs and disappointments and expectations, that is always what it comes down to– will we choose to do the right thing, walk toward the light, offer up our small seed of faith, choose hope, lean on grace? Again and again, in and out of weeks and through all the seasons and changes of life, until someday we will be able to look back and see how far we have come in our faith-journey and know it was worth it. The Church-Planter Paul assured us it would be more than worth it, as he leaned hard into God’s promises: I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18).

And who knows, from the outside looking in, someone else might well be saying Someday I want to be just like her.

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This is the air I breathe
This is the air I breathe
Your holy presence living in me;
This is my daily bread
This is my daily bread
Your very Word spoken to me
And I…
I’m desperate for you
And I…
I’m lost without you

Breathe, Marie Barnett

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Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:12-14

Things I Can See

Originally published November 9, 2016.

Whenever we talk about balancing faith and sight, somehow it all gets back to recognizing the fence-lines around my Yard of responsibility. Because here in the Everyday, in the realm of my words, my choices, my actions… I reap what I sow. I know this as a fact of life. But I also recognize that outside the fence there is a whole world of things that I cannot control: other people’s feelings and perspectives, even their behavior…and it doesn’t matter how much I love them or how badly I want to help (fix?) them. I could sow all the best things in their lives, with no guarantee of reaping. Their lives are their own, and it is harmful to everyone involved if I go rooting around in their yards. Boundary lines help keep relationships healthy, and keep us humble, realizing the limits to our own power. So I balance living my best, inside my circle of influence, with holding onto hopes for happy endings for the people and the situations I care about.

And I can have hope, because out there in the unseen world– in God’s wide reality– nothing is impossible, and He “is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” (Ephesians 3:20) His Wind blows everywhere and no fence-lines can stop it.  No wish-dreams we hold onto so tightly can get in the way. He plans from beginning to end for the good of all His creation, and His loving-kindness never fails…it falls like rain on every Yard, because it is all His. The Song-Writer David could not find a single place on this planet where God was not at work: “If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” (Psalm 139:9-10) So when we talk about living by faith, we really mean acknowledging how small is our Yard and how big is creation, and Who is its rightful King.

I find that in the balance of understanding my Yard better, there is a different kind of Hope, something more than wishing hard. God’s overarching plans are for sure and certain, like the sun coming up in the morning and the way Winter always melts into Spring, whether or not we can see how it works. We can build our lives on Hope like that. And it is prayer that bridges the gap between the two worlds. “The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and His ears are open to their prayers.” (1 Peter 3:12) Big-brother James goes so far as to say that “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16) I have no delusions of power– the older I get, the more clearly I see all the things in this world that are outside my control– but I understand that prayer allows me to participate in the work of an almighty God, to reach beyond the fence-lines of my small Yard. This kind of Hope motivates me to turn fears and concerns into prayers, balances how helpless I feel at times, because the King’s plans are real and good and indestructable. Faith says that all I have to do is take care of my own Yard, and for everything I cannot do, there is Grace and all the Father’s good gifts.

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And far be it from me to not believe
Even when my eyes can’t see
And this mountain that’s in front of me
Will be thrown into the midst of the sea
And through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
And through it all, through it all
It is well….
So let go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name

It Is Well, Kristene Dimarco

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So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.

Matthew 6:31-33

Hidden Treasures in Hard Times

It is remarkable to me that the man in the Bible with the most healthy perspective on suffering also speaks the most about joy. It’s like Paul had some secret reservoir of joy that carried him through the hardship of being a pioneer messenger of the Cross. Or maybe he discovered joy along the way, because he had learned how to speak truth to himself in suffering. He would probably answer Yes to both ideas. When you read his letters to the early believers, and see how instruction gives way seamlessly to worship and thanks-giving, you catch a glimpse of the inner streams of joy that energized him. And is it any wonder that the bulk of what we call the New Testament comes from this man? It’s like God laid out Paul, his life and experiences and all that wisdom for us, and said “watch and learn, people.”

Lately I have been pondering the way we avoid hardship and pain at all costs. We chase happiness as persistently as our neighbors, even while nodding our heads that this world doesn’t satisfy, and all we really need is Jesus. Wouldn’t you think that people who follow the One called “man of suffering, and familiar with pain” (Isaiah 53:3) would be a little more comfortable with it themselves? Paul seemed to take hardship as a matter of course– and sure the ancient world was a difficult place to survive, but maybe we rationalize his perspective away too easily as a function of his surroundings, and assume that if he grew up in America he would have more modern expectations for his life. Have we lost some valuable perspectives along the way, in our all-out pursuit of happiness and prosperity?

I know well that the gap between what our heads believe and what our hearts want can spread impossibly wide, and it isn’t until the hard times come that you have to choose which direction to leap. And I have found myself holding on for dear life to the words of Scripture, not so much out of certainty in what I believed, as in the knowledge that if I let go of this faith there was nowhere else to turn…nothing else that rings this true. The father looking for his child’s healing was in the same white-knuckled place when he cried out, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24) Here is stripped-bare honesty, a man pushed to his limits, and though he does not have the eloquence to say it in theological terms, he is hanging onto the same truth the famous Church-Planter learned. Paul wrote it out this way: “for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10). Clearly he had learned some valuable secret in his life-struggles, and although it sounds like an absolutely terrible marketing slogan for a new belief-system, it does ring out with the authority of experience. Here is a man who has learned that when you hang onto the Savior, you have everything you need.

And it is strange but true– when you run out of your own ability and throw yourself upon the mercy of God, suddenly what felt like giving up becomes a solid place to stand. Not the kind of thing you learn while lining up your ducks in neat rows. I wonder, if our lives were all comfortable safety, would we ever even realize the fatal gap between the theology we believe with our heads and the theology we live out in the everyday? And isn’t that discovery, and the opportunity to grow up into what we believe, totally worth it, in the long run? No wonder Paul could write “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…” (Philippians 3:7-8) Considering that the only thing that will last in this world is our life in Christ, that kind of Ah-ha moment can turn suffering into priceless gain.

I remember the exact day I realized that Paul wasn’t just saying all the right things, setting up ideals and principles for people to follow. It was a grasping-onto-straws kind of day, and one of those moments when you read a familiar passage of Scripture and suddenly the light turns on. Paul wrote “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation….I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:12-13) Somehow it stepped right out of the flat impersonal page and into the mess of everyday life. I do know what it is to cry out for help, to need wisdom, need patience. I also know what it is to have a happy day when everything is running smoothly. The one constant in both situations is the presence of Jesus’ Spirit and His power at work in me. This I know because I have lived it. Paul’s secret to getting through any situation was to live through both good times and terrible times, experience them fully, and find God standing there with him in the middle of it all. And when you can say honestly, because it is tried-and-true, “The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need” (Psalm 23:1), there is joy.

See, Paul understood that when you are desperate and at the end of yourself, you are in exactly the right place to experience the riches of the Kingdom of God. The same inexorable grace that washes the rags of beggars clean drives nails into the hands of God, and the same persistent mercy that heals the outcast lepers trims away our self-indulgence so that we can fall headlong into the Everlasting Arms. I am slowly, slowly learning how big is the over-arching power of God and how consistent is His attention to detail. How good are His intentions toward me, how seriously He takes them, and how little I understand what He is doing. But what I need to know best is His heart, and that He has already given me, laid bare at the Cross. That I can trust.

A wise man once told me that trust and fear cannot live in the same place. If I want to know the secret of joy in suffering that Paul talked about, then all I need is to release my death-grip on the life I think I need, and accept the childlike life of trust that Jesus died to give me. Let my hands simply open.

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Because I AM is unbelievably with us, we can say even now: I am unbelievably safe.

Ann VosKamp

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Anyone who intends to come with Me has to let Me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow Me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, My way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?

Matthew 16:25 (The Message)

Prying My Fingers Loose

Originally published June 25, 2018.

It seems instinctive, this fear of loss, this near-stranglehold on what matters to us. Of course we’ve learned to cover it up well, to give it acceptable labels: we are concerned about the people we love; we value our friendships; we want to be good providers for our families; we want to take care of our health; we work hard and just want to unwind. We’ve learned to live with fear and to work it into our cultural norms quite well. But no one wants to dig below the surface and face the howling insecurities that drive us all.

So it goes against all sensibility, the way Abraham turned to Lot and said “Choose which land you think best for your flocks” as they looked out over the hills stretching away into the horizon– the land God had already given him.  And Lot chose and Abraham just nodded and let him go his way–Lot taking the best of land that wasn’t his to take and Abe giving what had been given, holding his Promised Land with open hands.

Makes me think about the things I hold onto, and why it is so hard to let go.

Maybe it’s the illusion of control when I hold onto things, the deception that still whispers that if I try hard enough I can shape my own destiny and keep my own heart safe, and the ones I love.  Because if I lose that security blanket (however flimsy) what is left is just me and my small concerns in a huge universe, at the mercy of the Creator, and is that really enough?  It is the same whisper of doubt that has echoed in the hearts of men since we first heard that lie in the Garden…. seems like we would have realized by now just Who is in charge, and how much better things were before we fell for that line.

But mostly it’s the fear of losing, when I hold onto things– fear that what is precious can be ruined and my heart can break at the loss.  Fear of not having enough that drives me to hoard and grab and fight for what is mine, like any starving child. Only it has far wider application than physical food; it’s about all the things I think I need: security, love, respect, significance, some meaning in this world. Life feels like a battle, most days, and we have all suffered casualties. We came right out of the Garden knowing how fragile life truly is, and how you can lose it all in a few warped moments. Ever since, we have been clutching onto everything good with both hands as it runs through our fingers, trying to hold on and never lose it again.

But Abraham didn’t, even though he had left home behind and come so far to get what had been promised him.  He knew that it was all gift anyway, so he let his nephew take what he wanted, and kept on trusting the Giver to be faithful to His promises. Traveling through the harsh desert should have made him more wary, more mindful of loss, but somehow blessings overflowed into thankfulness enough to fill up his heart and open his hands. It strikes me as the best way to live, out of wholeness and contentment instead of fear….the only way to live, if we truly believe that when we have God we have everything good that is needful, and all things are working together for good, according to His promise.

So pry these fingers loose from the things I can see and touch. Deliver me from the instinct of Self-preservation, and the fear of losing that springs from mortality.  Let me live in full thankfulness, because all is gift, and there is a Giver who does not grow weary; I do not need to hold on tight, because You hold me and all the things I love in Your own love-scarred hands.

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He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

Romans 8:32

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The more I submit my desires to Jesus while letting go of outcomes, the more He seems to answer the deepest longings of my soul. His abundance always surpasses my imagination and fulfills the prayers I didn’t even know I needed to pray. 

Shelly Miller

But Still, Easter

There is a pile of Easter candy here on the table that was meant to go out to children this happy Sunday. And a flowery Spring dress hanging in the closet. And I hardly know what to do with myself this weekend without a pile of music to learn, and cinnamon rolls to bake, and meals with family and friends. I keep going back to the strange thought that It doesn’t feel like Easter… and yet that isn’t right either, because Easter never was about all those extra things. Makes me realize how intertwined our own traditions have become with the ancient story. Maybe Easter is more real than ever, this year, with these trappings stripped away, so that only iron and splintered wood, blood, and old rough rock remain. At the center of it all there is truth, and I know the Resurrection story is more ruggedly real than any of the pastel Springtime fairy-tales we have woven.

Maybe that’s what these times of upheaval do best: they peel away the trappings of a busy life, to find what is real and true beneath it. We would probably never choose to step back for this long and examine ourselves and the choices we are making. But when the noise stills and the merry-go-round slows its whirl, there is no other option but to step off and look around at what you have built. It can be slightly terrifying, and an odd relief, all at once. I feel a little like the woman near a well in ancient Samaria, asking, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” (John 4:15) There is no more distraction for the things that are broken, no more ignoring the disappointments we’ve been covering up, no more substitutes for the restless longing for something More. Just the need for real life-change. Somehow the Resurrection feels so much more ruggedly real when we are facing our own mortality– when I am vulnerable and small before the things I cannot control, cannot avoid. And the Church-planter writes with assurance that “The Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you.” (Romans 8:11) and I am trying to figure out what that means in the everyday mess and upheaval of this particular Easter.

That same Holy Spirit with the power to kill Death lives in my failing body. The same Holy Spirit who the Father sent to guide us into all truth lives with me here today. The Holy Spirit who Jesus sent to His disciples calls me a child of God and banishes fear. It is the same Holy Spirit who was in Christ Jesus, and the Church-planter Paul writes again that “…we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18) This is earthy, real, everyday miraculous stuff, and maybe it is good for us to peel away all the brightly colored shell of it and remember what is actually true. On that first Easter Sunday a body impossibly stepped out of its grave and suddenly new Life became a powerful reality.

If we step away from the busy-ness and the little pleasures and the many hats we wear, what is left is just the rough reality of who we are on this earth before our Maker. In these stripped-bare places we get to choose what we believe as real and powerful– whether to trust that the same Spirit who raised the Son of God can also resurrect our relationships…turn sorrow into joy… redeem our wasted time and give us second chances. And one young mom says how they have found healthy rhythms with a houseful of children by the grace of God, and it seems so right to have everyone together at home. And a friend writes that he has spent time alone with God this week dealing with hard things from the past, finding forgiveness and healing in the cross of Christ. And all around, people make the effort to reach out to the hurting with encouragement and hope. This is the power of the Resurrection at work in us.

It’s Easter weekend and the azalea bush out front has suddenly burst into wild purple glory fit for a king.

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So let the ruins come to life
In the beauty of Your Name,
Rising up from the ashes–
God forever You reign!
And my soul will find refuge
In the shadow of Your wings;
I will love You forever,
And forever I’ll sing.
When the world caves in
Still my hope will cling to Your promise;
Where my courage ends
Let my heart find strength in Your presence…

Glorious Ruins, Hillsong Worship

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I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”

John 11:25-26

Peace Is A Choice

Originally published on October 28, 2013.

“…you and I make the sacrifice of trust when we face the painful and distressing realities of our life and then choose to trust God instead of panicking and falling apart. When circumstances in my life might tempt me to panic, feel terrified, become a nervous wreck, or be filled with dread, I can choose either to give in to those feelings or to trust in God and present myself to Him to be filled with His peace. And I must make this conscious choice each and every day….” (Elizabeth George)

This is the practical truth of God’s Word applied to our everyday. If Jesus is our Prince of Peace, then dwelling in His presence is all the peace we could ever hope for. Not the absence of stressful circumstances but the presence of the God who holds all things in His hand. When I know down deep in the very core of my being that He is Who He says He is, then I can echo the song-writer: “The Lord is my light and my salvation— so why should I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)

I see this, that if I am worried and frightened, it says more about the state of my heart than it does about either my surroundings or about His ability to do all things well for me. So each day I will choose to lay down my fears at His feet, sacrifice my fretful worries on the altar of faith, trust the One who is bigger than all of us.

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You hear me when I call;
You are my morning song.
Though darkness fills the night,
It cannot hide the light.
Whom shall I fear?
You crush the enemy
Underneath my feet;
You are my sword and shield
Though troubles linger still.
Whom shall I fear?
I know who goes before me;
I know who stands behind;
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side…

Chris, Tomlin, The God of Angel Armies

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Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

Grace is the One Word You Need Most

I look around this small group as they talk about how life turned out differently than they thought it would, this past year, see the unspoken sorrows and unexpected joy in the paths they have walked. And we try to put into One Word our goal for the New Year, knowing full well that we do not know what lies ahead, only that the One who goes with us has already provided what we need. It is His promise to us, from the pen of the Church-planter Paul: “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

This we can trust, that no matter what word we choose, our loving Father will be working in it and through it, both for our benefit and for His glory. This is His bountiful Grace, to walk amid our days and soften the sharp edges, lift up the weary head, light up the dark places. Grace is the biggest and best word He will give to meet us when we offer up this year to Him. That One Word became flesh and blood in the person of Christ Jesus, so that we could see for ourselves what Grace looked like in this everyday world. Nothing will take Him by surprise in this year, and nothing will take Him from our sides. So we will be okay, whatever comes. Because the Good Shepherd calls us by name and leads us on.

May we only be faithful to follow.

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“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
(2 Corinthians 12:9)

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“You don’t need to be perfect; you need to simply feel His perfect love. You don’t need to be in control; you need to simply be in Christ. You don’t need to be more because He is all you need.”
(Ann VosKamp)