From the Archives: Preparing for Church

Reposted from the archives because every once in a while, especially near Christmas, I need to remind myself.

Hemmed In

This morning if you are going to church, remember these things…

There are people who will struggle to get there. There are others who will be there first because it’s the only place they feel any hope. There are people who will hate being there. For some it is the one day of the week they look forward to. For some it is exactly what they need. There are others who will come for the first time and no one will greet them. There are some who will come for the first time and be received in a way they never have before. Some people will hear the Gospel for the first time. Some people have heard it a zillion times in their life time but today will be the day when they actually realize Jesus loves them. Some preachers will deliver their message with no problem and…

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And So You are Nine

Nine years ago my doctor practically threw me in a wheel chair and pushed me (herself) across the street to Torrance Memorial so you could make your entry into this world.  Your heartbeat was doing strange and unexpected things and since then, you have made our hearts leap with unexpected joy more times than I can count.

Thankfully God showed more than mercy when the delivery was quick and you took your first breath.

That day and every one since you light up the rooms you walk in with your electric smile and passion for life.  You are kind, caring, compassionate and giving but the best thing about you is how you notice how people are feeling and what they need when others don’t seem to notice.

You have taught us how to slow down and the importance of being together.  Our family is better because of you.

Like your name sake, I know you will one day be a strong leader to others and you will cause people to sing and be set free from the things that hold them back.  Your faith is small and yet it is strong and I pray each day God will strengthen it as you go.

This year will be your last as a single digit and you are half way through you childhood.  Each day is a treasure and I pray you will know how loved and cherished you are by us but mostly by the God who made you with great joy, plans and hope for this world.

The Post Easter Post

Saturday evening before Easter is always daunting knowing the alarm will go off at 3am.  This year, some good friends and neighbors who were planning to join us for the early morning set up offered to pick me up.

These moments are 100% more enjoyable when shared with others.

As we pulled up to Veteran’s Park in the dark, I could feel my heart jumping as the headlights from other cars led the way to join us. One after the other.  Immediately, anticipation filled the air.  We struggled to keep our voices low, not wanting to disturb the neighbors.  The work that was to begin at 4:30, setting up chairs, pop up tents, egg  hunts and coffee stations was almost finished by 5.  There were people who stayed up all night to keep watch over the stage.  Josh worked tirelessly all week, especially Saturday to make sure the sound and the stage were just right.

Anticipation to celebrate the reason why we gather the other 51 weeks of the year.  Hope in the possibility someone may hear about it for the first time.  Staying alert and in tune with the others to make sure every detail is taken care of. Every wrinkle gets ironed out.

The first Easter Sunday in the still dark of the morning, 3 women will struck with awe and were filled with anticipation at levels much more than I could even begin to imagine.

Anticipation filled their hearts as something prophesied, something spoken began to unfold.  Nothing came to pass in the way it was expected.

Why are you weeping?  Whom are you seeking?

The first person told to “go and tell others” was a woman.   An unlikely choice as a woman’s testimony was often dismissed.  An earthquake that caused a heavy stone to be rolled back.  Those who tried to keep Jesus dead were defeated in every way.  Nothing could stop Him and nothing could stop them.

Two men walking and talking through their grief on the road to Emmaus.  They were met unexpectedly by Jesus Himself igniting their hearts with hope.

“Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”

The skeptic who was filled with doubt was met in his place when he thought he could never believe.

“Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side.

Do not disbelieve, but believe.”

May He meet you in the unlikely places and open you to the scriptures so your heart burns with hope and anticipation.  It is finished, death is beaten… now go.  Tell others what you have seen!

Random Thoughts on a Day Like This

On my mind on a day like today:

The remaining palm branches used to wave “Hosanna.” Were they left on the ground to dry up only to be used as switches to get in on the beating, the humiliating?

Many people wanted in on the action to put Him to death. Yet here we are, thousands of years later… longing to be in death with Him to really be alive in Him.

Today is Thursday. Maundy Thursday. Passover meals are being prepared and tables are being set for Seder.

All those who came to that table…

ADoubter

A Traitor

A Betrayer

A Fearful Man who couldn’t stand up for what was true

The Disciple Who was Loved

A Skeptic

Which one most closely resembles me?

All of them in one way or another, I think.

The table reminds me of how fully loved and fully welcomed I am. Do this in remembrance of Me.

He prepared the meal, broke the bread and poured out the wine so all would know… it’s not about where we’ve been but where we are going.

With Him.

I wonder about…

The ache of a mother, knowing her own soul would be pierced. Slowly… as the hours began to unravel towards Calvary.

The ache of a mother, comforted by the Love of the Father… balming her pain with grace and salvation.

The despair of a woman who had finally been shown love. Acceptance. Mercy. Peace. Dignity. Her confusion and fear when she discovered the stone was moved.

She was moved yet still unsure of where to find her footing.

Until…

She saw Him in the garden. The flood of emotion that brought her to her knees, clinging on to what she saw, only to be to told to let go… run… go tell the others.

Fear and trepidation mingled with peace and joy.

The unknown, the uncharted the unforgiven had been forgiven.

The pit in the stomach of a guilty man who was told to step off the platform because another would die in his place.

The first person to be keenly aware of death that brings life… before it even happened.

Did he feel guilty? Did he feel shameful? Or did he have a sense of peace that could not be explained?

The steward in the temple who saw the curtain dropping to the ground. Was he the first to step into the Holy of Holies? Did he tip toe in? Or did he run? Was he worried about getting caught or was caution thrown to the wind of freedom?

Redemption.

So much to take in. No matter how many times I read it, hear it, preach it, write it… it feels new.

It is real.

It is true.

It is amazing. Amazing grace.

20 Questions for 2011… Answer One

Simple Mom posted over on (In)Courage yesterday her list of 20 questions to reflect on the past 365 days.  It’s a great list to discuss with family and friends over dinner the next few weeks.  A little bit at a time or all at once, the answers may be interesting to you and others.  You can go to her blog to download the document in full but I’ve posted a few of my favorites:

1. What was the single best thing that happened this past year?  This is a no brainer… His name starts with an “N” and he is happiness embodied in a person.

6. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe your 2011 (don’t ask them; guess based on how you think your spouse sees you).  Hard.  Hectic. Good.

8. What were the best books you read this year?  1000 Gifts by Ann VosKampThe Grace of God by Andy Stanley.  With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God by Skye Jethani.

10. What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year?  My body. Pregnancy will change that in a big way. Okay besides that: I am learning to receive.  Never have I felt more needy than this year. It’s been super humbling the way our friends and family have given of themselves to our family this year.  I am grateful and spurred on to be more generous as well.  I will never forget the kindness shown to us this year.

14. In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others?  This was the year I finally was able to let go of some of my unrealistic expectations of my parents.  They love me more than anyone or anything on this earth and gave me their best.   What I used to think I needed from them, turns out I don’t really need… I’m learning that Christ is sufficient.  Finally being able to let go of these has set me free to love them more authentically and enjoy my parents more than I ever have.

15. What was the most enjoyable part of your work (both professionally and at home)? Getting to speak at a Women’s Retreat for another church.  Getting to watch people discover how they are wired and bring their contributions to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Being on maternity leave all summer long and enjoying my baby and big boys while they were home from school.

16. What was the most challenging part of your work (both professionally and at home)?  See #15.

19. What was biggest thing you learned this past year? Not only does God know what we need… He knows exactly when we need it.  If you are looking for him to provide {friends, financially, a baby, a spouse, a job, help, healing} trust Him to show up with it not a minute before or a minute after it is necessary.

20. Create a phrase or statement that describes 2011 for you.  Expect the unexpected and know it will all be redemptive.

Would you be willing to share one or more of your answers? 

Happy New Year!

Adventish – the Fourth Candle

Adventish this week took an interesting turn when Steve and the big boys left for a last-minute visit to Arizona.  Nathan and I spent Sunday night lighting the fourth candle of LOVE.

While most of the people I love were away, I was left alone with my God and His biggest reminder of late of just how much He loves me.  I think back to a year ago today and how anxious we were about a fourth baby.  Yet this little man who has been nicknamed “The Bonus” has become a gift like no other. 

In a year full of worrisome thoughts swirling around provision for our family, care for my parents, and solid employment, God has shown His love in the most creative and unexpected ways.  Never did I imagine we would be in this place, but I am learning to be still and to look around for indications of His love which leads to His peace which brings me joy and is the anchor for my hope.

God so loved the world that He brought Jesus into this world to show us in flesh and blood how much He loves us.  Jesus loved us so much He surrendered Himself to humiliation and bore our sin and shame so we would begin to know the depth of His love.

I’ll never fully understand the scope or depth of God’s love for us, but each day we are given an opportunity to receive it, be enveloped in it and give it away to others.

This week as we shop, wrap, give, bake, prep, rejoice and love, let us remember the Love that entered into the world that cold and quiet night in Bethlehem.

May your days be merry and bright from revelation of His love for you.

Favorites on Friday

It’s Friday and there have been a lot of good posts this week.  Here are a few of my favorites:

On Leadership: Jeff Goins guest posts on Michael Hyatt’s blog on the One Essential Habit of Every Effective Leader.  Do you have difficulty making decisions?

On Advent for which I am particularly hopeful in this year: Emerging Mummy

From Elizabeth Esther.  Her story continues to break me and remind me of why the Church is supposed to be the primary display of God’s grace and hope to this world.  I rejoice for her freedom and the love she’s discovered in Jesus.

Nicole Cottrell’s blog Modern Reject is becoming one of my favorites.  Here on the Good Women Project, she tells the truth about Porn and Marriage.

Did you read anything notable this week?

Giving Thanks

Giving thanks.

In the midst of trials, joy, suffering, wealth, no matter what… Give thanks. In everything…we are exhorted give thanks.

To give thanks requires movement on our part as opposed to the state of just being thankful. It’s an exercise to give thanks to bring health to your soul much like the exercise you don’t always feel like doing that brings health to your body. It’s often an obedience that precedes understanding.

Could it be the command is given despite the circumstances to fertilize the soil of our hearts?

Despite the rain or sun, well tended soil will spring forth life. Lush and green, bearing much fruit. Giving thanks acknowledges the miracle of Grace, the joy set before us, the hope on the other side of what may be in front of us.

On the night before He was betrayed, Jesus broke bread and gave thanks. Thanks for a body that would be broken and blood that would usher in a new covenant. Thanksgiving that preceded a miracle. Thanksgiving which anticipated hope on the other side of despair.

“Do this in remembrance of me.”

Giving thanks in the face of fear produces courage.

Giving thanks in the unknown produces trust.

Giving thanks on the course of suffering increases faith.

And yet in times of plenty we often forget to give thanks… Here where we live, in the land of plenty, we have much to give thanks for and many thanks to give away.

There is much to give thanks for in this household. Good health, resorted health, the hope of healing, a plan for the future {whether we know it or not}, marriage that can tolerate and flourish under fire, provision beyond expectation, a home, cars that run, family that surrounds, friends who are like family and God who makes His presence known through these things.

My heart is full and humbled with gratitude.

What do you give thanks for today?