A Soul Growing to Know Well

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works,

                                                                                      my soul knows it very well.

I remember sitting at a Women’s Conference many years ago and hearing this verse read and the admonition to echo it sank from my ears to my heart. The truth immediately elicited an emotional reaction. Tears burned the sides of my face as I tried to swallow and fight back the kind of cry one would rather take place in private. The thought that my body was fashioned to house my soul for those moments— for the years behind and ahead— made me marvel. The complex systems humans strain to understand, from the structure of skin on the outside to the minute hormonal, cellular processes on the inside, are apologetic arguments in and of themselves. Even with the presence of wonder in what it means to be intimately created by a loving Creator, in His image no less, the thought still brought a deep measure of sadness.

My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

Today, I feel much the same. For the past year, my thyroid, or what is left of it, has (at best guess) ceased to function. It is amazing that a gland so small can control so many vital functions! It has taken months to get me to a place where I am getting some answers. Some of those answers have come with a new set of questions. I do have a new doc— one with a medical degree, twenty years experience in internal medicine, as well as a degree in functional medicine. I feel like I am in a tunnel looking for the light at the end. I am sure it is there, I am just not sure how long until I can see it.

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.

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I have been unable to do some of the things I love— including writing! My brain has been foggy, a term I had heard but had not experienced. It is a thing.

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.

I generally don’t wrestle with symptoms of problems. This, along with a myriad of odd health issues peppered throughout my life and particularly in the last year, forces me into a head-on confrontation of the realization that this body is not made to live forever. The questions that most often permeate my thoughts are ones around trusting that God, who made me in fear and wonder, did so under the weight of the fall. As 40 approaches in the next couple of years, it seems this is the magic age for more to go awry. But even as I grieve the loss of taking my energy level, dietary freedom, and less dependence on interventions for granted, I am reminded of the mercy behind the misery of it all.

I was recently teaching through Genesis 1-3 again with a gal who will soon be married. As I walked through the drama of scripture:

{the admonition given to Adam about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, his communication to Eve about the command, their fall into sin, the consequences for all mankind, the curses to follow, and most importantly thread of hope that runs ahead of the brokenness foretelling crushing of the serpent’s head and the sacrifice that allowed for the covering of the naked and ashamed couple}

the phrase that always stands out to me, left unfinished, is, “Then the LORD God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—'” First, the differentiation of the two trees is important. Before the fall, eating from the Tree of Life was permissible. Eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was not. Adam and Eve had to be separated from the Tree of Life, lest they live eternally in bodies encumbered by sin. I have read commentators who say that even the thought of that was too much for God to imagine (if I may be so liberal in that term), so the sentence is incomplete. They are kicked out of the garden. In a way, it seems a great punishment to leave the place they walked with Him so closely. Yet for their own good, it was a great mercy. The older I get, the more I know that to live is to sin and know that I am a sinner. There is only one way out.

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

Adam and Eve, forced from the Tree of Life, leave with the wages of sin both in curse and consequence. But they don’t leave naked. They exit clothed in covering provided by the death of another— animal skin.

It seems terrifying to know that God knows all my thoughts— my anxieties and worry, desire to know and control everything, and all my attempts to get around suffering— unless the path of repentance and faith is safe. Just as He has searched me, he has made the everlasting way my way by the person and work of Christ.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!

Absent fruit from the Tree of Life, my body is beautifully made for a life which will meet an end. Without that knowledge, I may have never begun to wrestle with what comes next! I find it no mistake that the psalmist says “my soul knows” the Lord’s works are wonderful. My body cries, “What in the world is happening here?!” My soul knows it well— while flesh is wasting away, my soul is being renewed day by day. A growing knowledge of my dependence on the Lord has been and continues to be a source of life. There are many good gifts that delay and help, but they are only temporary. It is going to take my lifetime for me to shift my gaze away from looking for the cure apart from the work of Jesus on my behalf. It doesn’t mean that the wasting away part doesn’t absolutely stink! Sometimes it is absolutely terrible. Sometimes it physically hurts. There is no diminishing those facts. But the promise remains that God is continuing to turn my eyes from temporal things to the eternal. And isn’t that the struggle— to see all things in light of what He has done and is working to do. He is unmaking my body to make me His forever. My eternal body will work properly! The days of deteriorating will not last forever.

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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. 

Until then, I am so thankful for a doc who is working so hard to help me. I feel hopeful that God will use him and his expertise to get a handle on my hormone levels! I am comforted when I remember that God has always cared for me by way of many means and promises to continue be with me. I am so grateful for each moment I can sing and dance, move and breathe, think clearly, and all the things that have suddenly become difficult! I also find rest in the Gospel— that Jesus gave His life so that I may live. He is my complete covering. The Spirit meets me and seals my soul. ~Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief~

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.

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All that said, please pray for me. This has come at an interesting time! Our dossier is now in the hands of the folks in Haiti. Now, we wait to be matched with our children. I can’t help but wonder if this timing allows for some gained stability before we travel to meet our Haiti babies. I pray that my needs are met with daily bread, sustaining strength, courage, and most of all, faith in the finished work of Jesus.

scripture reference, Psalm 139; Genesis 1:9, 2:16-17, 3:2-3,6-7, 14-19, 21-22; 2 Cor. 4:16 

 

 

Design for the Body & Soul

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This past Spring, I watched a Netflix original program called Abstract:  The Art of Design. It highlights different people who have found careers in graphic design, stage design, fashion, architecture and many other creative outlets. The artists featured are fascinating to me.

One of my favorites from the series is Ilse Crawford, a famed interior designer. She has had a part in creating spaces that invite folks in. Her work includes design for restaurants, hotels, homes, and furnishings. Her breadth stretches from high-end to more affordable, particularly in collaborations with Ikea.

I was fascinated at the dialogue of the program. She is an interesting person with obvious gifts. Ilse operates within the realm of engaging all of the senses. Not only does she have an eye for both form and function, but she also finds a way of treating those who enter the spaces she creates with a respect to their humanity, with empathy. When five senses are attended within design, a person feels differently and may act differently, she reflects.

In A Frame for Life, Isle says, “We are interested in integrating design with human experience, in investigating how design affects us, rather than how it affects the image. We don’t view design as a finished piece of furniture. Instead we explore how it can bring us together and better connect us, how it can make us more open and aware, how it can encourage us to keep learning and growing, how it can make us more active and encourage generosity and trust.”

Her words resonate with me as I spend so much of my time at home. In particular, my home is a canvas for life and love to dwell; a place of support for souls bound in lifetime connection, nourishment, and rest— or at least that’s what I would hope it would be. Beauty and order (or maybe intention in the way things are ordered) are inspiring to me. I have always felt a tension between aesthetics and the necessities of real life lived out in the most functional way possible. Regardless of the budget, I have had better and worse success blending the two in the many spaces we have lived through the years. All in all, I have wanted those living and visiting here to be affectionately invited in, needs met, and given some sense of freedom to be exactly where they are at any given moment.  I also love art and color, particularly having the ability to appreciate the beauty of a hue without it getting lost in busy display. Monochrome is my starting speed.

Having spent some time learning about other cultures and even other folk’s stories, I realize this is a luxury. Even at its best, home is a metaphor for the space where all of God’s promises will be fulfilled. Spaces are temporary. And not all have the invariable of safety.

That in mind, Isle inspires me to think about my own efforts. I would hope that through whatever the environment, people are the most valuable in the space.

I lose sight of that sometimes. I get all bent out of shape and less quick to offer whatever I have been given out of insecurity. And if I am honest, sometimes, my home is precisely the place where I feel the least attended. This is the place my lists accumulate. It is the place the project I began months ago lies in wait in the corner of the room, collecting dust and silently looming. It is the place that the fact that I am terrible at putting away laundry is on display. Then, there are the relationships here. Tear-stained pillows line the bed. It is the place conflicts erupt with the people I love most in this world. There are the places I stood and used harsh words and traded empathy for being “right”. Injuries, sleeplessness, anxieties, wrestling with hard questions— they all center here.

It is also where these relationships grow. There is a lot of laughing and a lot of love as well. There are marks on the wall that show the children’s heights. Their artwork is literally everywhere! They learn to live together and help each other within these walls. They break out in song and dance and share their dreams and thoughts about things. Marriage is challenged here and the foundation is poured upon resulting in, at least perseverance and at best, greater strength. People bind together in love. Provisions abound. As much as I try to combine aesthetics and application, space is still shaped in and through experience— and those experiences leave me wanting more. Design is not an end unto itself, and as much as it may foster or hinder the relational part, it is limited. My best and worst efforts leave me desiring to be better attended than a well-appointed space.

Not too long ago, I began a journey out of the church denomination I knew very well into one more Anglican. You and I could spend an hour or two over coffee and I could try to articulate the reasons why I gravitated toward this. Some of it was circumstances both geographically and divinely inspired. Let me stop for just a moment and say aloud, I am not a Christian by tradition or any corruptible thing. Faith in Christ Jesus alone, by grace alone is what saves. When I found myself in a place of a deep awareness of the sin in me as well as a renewed hope of the Gospel, God gave me a place of safety to softly fall. That place happened to be an Episcopal church with a deep appreciation for liturgy.

I realized recently that the church led in liturgy, by inspiration of scripture, fits my soul like a well-designed piece of furniture or well-appointed space, yet its elements do not change or wear with time. It meets me in need and leads to the One for whom it is fashioned to proclaim.

In Beyond Smells and Bells, Mark Galli says this, “The liturgy— whose basic outline is the same in all {these} traditions— remains the staple of Sunday worship and daily prayer for millions for a reason:  it allows people to enter into an enduring story that makes sense of life, and allows them to enter into communion with God in a way that touches body, mind, and soul.” (emphasis mine)

So much of what Ilse desires to do with her art— create safe spaces where those who come in have their senses wholistically attended— is a beautiful idea. I find that the body of Christ and the liturgy in which we all share, particularly at my church home, leads in remembering our humanity and remembering God’s divinity. Both perpetuate the proclamation of the Gospel and the life of the One who tabernacled with us and ultimately succeeds where design meets its limit.

It knows the shapes and curves of my body and soul, then supports, leads into repentance, reminds of truth, brings me to be fed with physical and spiritual food, reminds me that I need not work but rest in the work of Christ. I stand, hear, speak, kneel, sing, embrace brothers and sisters in peace. The fellowship, liturgy, and sacraments afforded the church are to engage my senses, not for the sake of religious method or aestheticism, but to functionally invite communion. With deep empathy, I am attended as a person between the cross and grave, saint and sinner. And on top of it all, it is as beautiful as the God-breathed language it follows.

We have been given so much in life, including art and design, that points to something greater, or more importantly Someone greater.

 

 

Hearts Toward Haiti

The day of the election, while our country moved on in its history, I stood at one end of my dining room table, Micah at the other, and we took another step in ours. We looked into each other’s eyes and while we used different words, we spoke in unison. For the first time in a long time, I was vulnerable and open. He was resolute and firm. In the quiet spaces, hearts had shifted. Clay was being quietly, firmly molded and pressed, given over to the thought that maybe, just maybe, there may be more. ~ This seems a dramatic scene, but I assure you, it is this vivid in my mind. And sometimes I feel like I live in a novel. ~

We had prayed for a large family. God granted what we asked— not in a way we could have dreamed or imagined but in a way that has and continues to direct our faces toward His love and grace. Micah and I have had the honor to love our five. They remind us every day that life is precious and in it, God writes beautiful stories that sing His love. They teach us more and more about His Fatherly affection, the forgiveness offered by the Son, and the nearness of the Spirit. We have had the opportunity to love more little ones beyond the five we see, even for such a short time. I am so thankful I got to know of them. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to love them with a motherly love. I am thankful to have the hope of meeting them again, when we all are whole. Until then, I find myself in the thick of it. There are dance parties, struggles, schoolwork, housework, conflicts, resolutions, tears, smiles, running, resting, failure, success, quiet, loud, and all that happens between. It seemed we had encountered a likely bookend to this season. Yet, there was always another thought. What if God would bring children once orphaned in different ways into this home? Our home?

Over the last few years, Micah and I have talked about adopting again.

((I am going to give you just a minute to gasp, or laugh, or whatever emotion that last sentence might evoke))

Until the last several months, we might mention it and laugh too, often with an eye roll. There always seems to be a little crazy in calling. I can’t say I know what exactly has changed but something most certainly has. As the country was watching election results either reeling or rejoicing, he and I spent the majority of the evening reorienting our thoughts around what was happening much closer home. We were and are all in.

Adoption. Yes. International. Yes. Where would we be both geographically and circumstantially approved? Most importantly, where might a child or children live as orphans who we might call by our name? In just a few days, reckoning information, thoughts, feelings, desires, it was clear to us. The answer was Haiti.

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As of right now, our home study has been approved. The piles of paperwork have aligned (with the help of an awesome social worker).

Since last November, God has given us hearts for Haiti; for its beauty, for its struggle. Micah had the privilege of visiting for a few days with an old Seminary friend of his. Many of the people there have great needs, as do we, but markedly and variably different. They also have great resilience. I try to follow the landscape of need, and am aware that there exists, sometimes in whole countries, a kind of desperation I do not know living here.

I am thankful that in the last few years, Haiti has come under the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. It seeks to make children the priority and serve their best interests, limiting corruption and the exploitation of children. It addresses trafficking— which is utterly evil. It affirms children given for adoption are true orphans.

We are praying for a child or two siblings— opening our hearts for who might be on the other end of this. Part of our preparation has been learning as much as we can about the Haitian culture. We’d love to learn the language. It is our desire to honor their heritage and learn from them.

One thing I want to make clear, we are neither saving children or being saved by them. They will be a precious gift to us, as we hope we are to them. If there would be a child or children who would benefit leaving the home they have always known to come and live with us, we are available. We want to be their forever family. I know the people who live with me and they (as do I) have a lot of love to give, as we have been so loved first.

I am still struck by the gravity of what adoption means. It would be desirable for children to be raised by one or both birth parents and I am grateful to groups who help hold families together by helping provide the means for steady income. These orphan prevention programs are such a blessing to many families, particularly in countries where extreme poverty and the effects of major natural disasters are constants. Regardless of those efforts, and as I know well, there will still remain orphans because we live in the land of broken things. In recent past or even as I type, a mother and/or father are feeling the weight of caring for a child or children they cannot. The resources provided them aren’t enough. Or, death separates. Whatever the circumstances, hearts are breaking. Lives have been or are being torn apart. This is where the need for adoption begins. The weight is necessary. It cannot be glossed over. It cannot be denied. We look to honor it and corporately remember the One who brings family together and promises to redeem broken things, us included.

So— this is an invitation. We ask your prayers; for Micah and me, for our children, and for “Haiti babies” (as our triplets call them) who will, God willing, also be called by our name and come to be with us.

It Is Well

When law and life press in, I find the words I have sung so boldly meet the question, “Is this still true?” The gift of faith through grace affirms, yes. The theologian in me asks, “How can this be?” The Spirit leads again to Gospel, to the old road, to the Good News. It is the thing I quickly forget when flesh and heart fail. It is the most fleeting thought when I am sinking in sin or circumstance.

Day by day, new mercy by new mercy, the Lord continues to teach me. By word, sacrament, sermon, suffering, and in holy community, my Father continues to gently remind that He is the One singing to me, in the person and work of Christ Jesus.

When peace like a river, attendeth your way.
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever your lot, I continue to say
It is well, it is well with your soul. 

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded your helpless estate,
And hath shed his own blood for your soul.

Your sin, oh, the bliss, of this glorious thought
Your sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and you bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, o your soul

It is well
With your soul
It is well, it is well
With your soul. 

It is well, it is well
With my soul.

Original lyrics:  Horatio Spafford

Prayer ~ For Those Suffering Miscarriage

I have made a practice of grieving. Moving toward, not away from, grief has been healing for me. It is the place where the brave acknowledgement of what is broken (death) intersects with a place to begin to hope (resurrection) in the power of the Gospel.

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In the middle of suffering, I tend to employ some defensiveness to varying degrees. When I lost little ones, I pressed into the pain as best as I was able at the time. I have lost eight through the years. The number on the whole is a source of gravity and weighty remembering. Here recently, I have tried to think of each particular child, begun to give each one a name, and work through their losses individually.

I also feel for those who continue to experience this most intimate loss, many times grieving or feeling alone. Whatever the circumstance, mothers (and fathers) know the void miscarriage brings. Knowing one is a mother or father without a living child or children to hold can be excruciating and isolating. For those whose arms are full, being aware of both our living children and the ones gone before when asked “How many?” can be a source of mental and emotional conflict. It is difficult to speak about. Difficult to think about. Difficult to process.

One of the most helpful gifts to the church in the Anglican tradition is the liturgy. The focus on gospel is verbal, literal, and woven into each and every Sabbath service. The union of the saints and continuation of the work of the Word both spoken and heard connects generation to generation of faith for centuries. Having appreciated the prayer book particularly when I don’t know what to pray has been a blessing to me. Knowing the verses have been repeated by so many multitudes of voices, experiencing both the agonies and joys of this life, is an encouragement. Knowing the writer’s, Thomas Cramner, commitment to the scriptures is profoundly meaningful as well.

The following prayer was born from these thoughts and influenced by the impact Scripture and the Book of Common Prayer has had on my soul. For some, it may not be helpful. For others, I wondered if having words to utter when the pain is fresh or even faint may be helpful in both the acknowledgment of hurt and leaning into hope. I also pray it proves that you (nor I) are alone in what we may feel is such intimate, private pain. The God described in Psalm 139 is for us all, both born and unborn, in the work of Jesus, and is near to us by His Spirit.

~

Heavenly Father, we come to you acknowledging the life of baby ___________. Our lives are forever changed as a result of knowing this child, even for a short time. We thank you for such a gift. We also feel the pain of death. Even as our hearts grieve, hold us in your never-failing love and in the hope of heaven where death will be no more and eternal life, secured by the person and work of Christ Jesus, awaits us. Thank you for accepting our praise and ministering to us as we lament. As you are close to the broken-hearted and save those who are crushed in spirit, draw near to us, Holy Spirit. Continue to hear our petitions of peace, soothe our pain, increase our faith, and provide mercy in times of need.

~

 

Christmastime in the Hope of Immanuel: Part Two

If you have not read part one, you may do so here.

The miracle of Immanuel always leaves room for deep reflection. From the time of nativity until the moment Jesus ascended into heaven, He fulfilled a mission. He was the promised one. He was the awaited one. His mission was to address mankind’s biggest problem. He lived a perfect life imputed to those who, from centuries past and for centuries to come, find life in His name. He suffered on behalf of sinners the fate all those bound in flesh and blood are bound, enduring the wrath of God. He descended to the depths and on the third day, emerged victorious over death and the grave, giving us a glimpse of what is to come.

The incarnation is pivotal to it. The sinless became sin for the sinful so we might be saved. There is no greater love than this. There is no greater Love than His. If this was all that could be said of the work of Christ Jesus, it would be enough.

Yet beyond taking care of my biggest problem, Jesus, both God and man, had a ministry – to love and serve in human form. He is not only the Perfect Priest offering a sacrifice once for all, but an intercessing one. This is most distinct from both past and contemporary religious leaders. I am painting with a large brush stroke here, but from what I know of those worshiped or followed in other religions, they either lead with authority or in compassion. Some offer “saving” (most often, save yourself) and others “loving” as the way to higher living. The triune God of the Bible offers both saving and serving.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Heb. 4

After Jesus came in flesh, He continued His mission and at the same time, met humanity in service. In the gospels, I am in awe of His response when met by sinners, poor and needy. He did not pass them by. In some accounts, it is said that He indiscriminately healed everyone He encountered (see Matthew 4 & 8, Luke 4 & 6). He wept with those who wept. He rejoiced with those who rejoiced. He felt hunger. He enjoyed fellowship. He entered in to all kinds of human suffering and frailty— casting out demons, healing, and providing for physical needs— to both fulfill the prophecies and moved with compassion. He did not only see needs, he felt them in His skin, and He did not leave those who came to Him as they once were.

He loved His neighbors like no other— both for His people as substitute and as a servant.

This gives me hope today as I think about the flesh and blood babe in the manger. The ones most aware of our neediness ~those abandoned, betrayed, exhausted, childless, sick, lonely, rejected, widowed, orphaned, suffering in every other kind of way~ our Savior also sympathizes with us because He walked among us. When it seems like no one sees us and no one understands, Immanuel does.

This Christmas, I want to sit with you vomit-covered or (hopefully) not, as a person in need of everything God has done and still promises. I wish to marvel at these things, sit with their weight in my chest, and wonder at the curious, compassionate nature of His ways.

God, in the person and work of Christ Jesus, has demolished our biggest problem and proves that He cares deeply about all our smaller ones. Our cries for help, when confronted with our biggest problem, sin, and all the myriad of others, suffering, reach the heavens into the ears of our Great High Priest. The God who has and will intervene. The One who came to save will come again to redeem. In the meantime, I pray for an increased awareness that I do not have a Savior who is unaware or indifferent toward joys and pains of life even now. He is Immanuel— God with us.

Lord I believe, help my unbelief.

 

Christmastime, in the Hope of Immanuel: Part One

Wrapped in the close and distant memory and not leaving much to be desired highlighting the expanse of human experience,  I feel the most deep, complex nostalgia in this holiday. I have read several written pieces that speak to the profound implications of the incarnation and its anticipation in advent. The ones I have enjoyed the most resonate the deepest, not necessarily because of their articulation of fact (which is always appreciated), but because they understand our ~my~ need. This has been the busiest year and I have felt my limitations more over the past several months than in years past. Who knew the pre-teen years could be so volatile;)! When someone, somewhere hints that I am not alone as I sit here, feeling so much mix of deep joy and sorrow, pain and pleasure, remembering Christmases past trying to feel something of the present, as the holy season is whirling by, I take a breath.

In another attempt to thwart the holiday bustle, my husband and I took the kids to Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb of God concert at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. It was quite the trip. I honestly felt like I was escaping the less desirable parts of the holiday— the ridiculous traffic, long to do lists, short tempers (including my own), the pressures, and all that is between— as we headed out. But the craziness went with me! I was overwhelmed as we hauled the luggage to the van, hurried as we traveled down the highway, anxious as we tossed our belongings in our hotel room and searched for a quick dinner, and exhausted as we landed in a clump in our seats before the concert. Literally covered in vomit, as one of my sweet gals had a bit of first-concert-jitters that spilled right out of her soon after our arrival, I listened, viscerally aware of human plight. (I just want to take this opportunity to apologize to those who sat around me with sensitive olfactory senses. So sorry people.) I don’t know about you, but this year for me has been so full. Not only was I spent physically, mentally, and emotionally from the trip down, but I am spent physically, mentally, and emotionally, from the year. I feel my humanity more and more as years progress and I wasn’t sure that anyone around me understood.

From the sound of the first guitar strum, I was enamored again at the thematic sounds of the season. I have always loved music and once again, found it to be a balm. The experience was fantastic. The artistry, benevolent and beautiful.

The triplets fell asleep right as the Behold the Lamb portion began. This was why we made the trip, as the music tells the story of the birth of Jesus through Old Testament history and the prophets. It is well-loved in our house. It is always ironic to me that even though I work so hard to make something work out, as the point of what we have planned to do arrises, someone misses it somehow! With my big kids self-sufficient, their rest was actually a mercy to me in a way. Four year olds move some part of their bodies constantly and their stillness allowed me to also be still. All the pieces well crafted with unique yet cohesive melodies. There is a song right toward the end where several vocalists echo lines from previous songs. It always seems appropriate to hear echoes of the past in present, like this Theme song. It is a lovely, chaotic, melodious sound, mixing past with present. The lyrics were so moving, I felt a collective sigh rising up, as the cries of the phrases, “pass over us”, “deliver us” and “glory to Jesus, ancient and strong,  come to your people, carry us home”  moved from my overwhelmed heart to my lips.

In my experience, echoes of the past live simultaneously in the present. I remember joyful gatherings with families intact, the ones that follow with dear ones missing, first Christmases with Micah as newlyweds, those waiting and aching for children, first celebrations with my big boys, miscarriages, realizing I have far more than I deserve, feeling anxiety over not enough, three babies in-womb, relationships gained, relationships lost, seasons of sickness and isolation, times of wellness and celebration— the list goes on. My life story reprise plays on and on. Regardless of experiential joys or pain, there lives beneath the surface a cry for intervention. A stubborn neediness. Who knows this song better than I? Who knows all the parts that make up the whole? When I cry for deliverance, Who knows the references of experiences past? Who is outside the bounds of my limited understanding creating the even larger theme? The Creator and Center of remembrance and the One who has intervened, the God who came to be us—Immanuel.

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The God of Judges and Kings

There is nothing new under the sun. For as long as humanity has walked the earth, we, collectively and individually, have had an unsatisfied longing. For those who have the privilege, we raise up and elect officials to make the way better. For most of the Old Testament years, the leaders for whom Israel so adamantly plead ended up being evil. Some were God-fearing. “He did what was evil” and “He did what was right” in the sight of the Lord are many times the summations of entire legacies of the judges and kings of Israel.

Beyond the reaches of law and policy, culture and society, with various effect throughout centuries, the Bible affirms that regardless of the circumstances, God has been for His people. He has remained faithful to His promises. Even while the Psalmist laments in his current circumstances facing death, famine, and sometimes silence, God was always working. Psalm 136 is a beautiful song with the lyric, “His steadfast love endures forever” because for the author, it did, and it does.

It is so fitting that the hope of the nativity is right around the corner. God is with us. He doesn’t usually work in the ways we think He should. At the appointed time when again people wanted a dictator or king, He sent a baby to a stable. When the proud were perpetuating religion for the sake of god made in the image of man, He was living life on the behalf of His beloved image bearers for the sake of their righteousness. When folks wanted someone to overthrow the government, He used its constructs to satisfy the wrath of God and the penalty of death to guarantee salvation for those who believe. And when some bent to prove His demise with a sealed and guarded tomb, He defeated death so we may have the hope of heaven. It is in the quiet of history that the most profound works of the Maker and Savior of men produce lasting effects. Forgiveness of sins reaches all the way into today, as souls are stilled and sealed in the quiet spaces.

We want leaders— people who will stand beyond the fray, tell us the truth, and bring safety and fulfillment to our generation, and for good reason. Sometimes, we try to fill the space with ourselves, thinking that if we only had the influence, voice, and resources, we could do what should be done for the sake of our cultures and our communities. There are times heaven breaks through and we enjoy gracious gifts. Sometimes, we feel the weight of the world and come up far short. Through it all, the longing remains.

One thing is sure:  the One upon whom all authority, justice, and mercy has come to make our future sure and will come again to judge equitably. Until then, our hearts will cry out for the land of truth, rest, and peace. Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.

Lord, help me to hold loosely to the things of this world and keep my eyes focused on the world to come, loving my neighbors along the way. For the days of *pointing* peace, I praise you. For the days of want, I petition you. For all the days in between, give me an awareness of Your presence.

Oops!

For those who receive my blogs via email, I just realized that a blog draft was sent out by mistake. Sometimes, I write incomplete thoughts as I work through things myself and leave them in a drafts folder. Those thoughts were mistakenly published! I was able to delete them from the blog, but those “subscribed” may have received them in your inbox. I apologize for the mistake. I may finish my thoughts at a later time, and I might not! We shall see. Until then, those on the inside know my some of my secret thoughts (ha!). I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.