Saturday, April 28, 2012

speaking of jeremiah burroughs...

"Objection. You will say, Yes, but you do not know what our afflictions are; our afflictions are such as you do not conceive of, because you do not feel them. 

Answer. Though I cannot know what your afflictions are, yet I know what your mercies are, and I know they are so great that I am sure there can be no afflictions in this world as great as the mercies you have. If it were only this mercy, that you have this day of grace and salvation continued to you; it is a greater mercy than any affliction. Set any affliction beside this mercy and see which would weigh heaviest; this is certainly greater than any affliction. That you have the day of grace and salvation, that you are not now in hell, this is a greater mercy. That you have the sound of the Gospel still in your ears, that you have the use of your reason; this is a greater mercy than your afflictions."

from The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment  Jeremiah Burroughs c.1599-1646

Friday, April 27, 2012

he smiles when he thinks of me

Some days, I don’t think I have suffered much.  Not like some friends have.

My two month old baby never contracted meningitis.  I never sat in my doctor’s waiting room, watching as every TV channel in the world reported that my office complex across town was under terrorist attack.  I never had to help a dear friend bury her drowned two year old.  I don’t have children who regularly berate and belittle me.  I've never had a baby in my home and then taken away because the birth mother changed her mind.  But, I have friends who live every day with these realities.

One time at RUF Summer Conference, I heard a series of talks from a campus minister about suffering and the role that suffering plays in our sanctification.  Basically, he said that sanctification happens primarily because of suffering. (OK, honestly, I think he said that it happens exclusively as a result of suffering but, let’s face it, I’ve slept several hundred times since then and I don’t really remember if he went that far.) Initially I balked at that, but now I think he was right.

I have suffered through a divorce.  And it was… terrible. 

But there’s something I want you to know.

I would go through it all again.  When you’ve been searching for a way to change for so long, and then all the sudden by no real effort of your own you find that you have changed…  it’s just astounding.   I wanted to change so badly.  I wanted to be better.

This ridiculous thing that I’m getting ready to tell you is the honest truth.  I thought that if I just read the right Jeremiah Burroughs book, or listened to the best Tim Keller sermons, or went through the right bible study, or found the perfect verse for every situation, I would be better.   But, I could never get there.  I knew the gospel.  I taught the gospel.

But at the end of the day, I didn’t get the gospel.  I kinda knew it was true, but I didn't get that there was no way to earn God's look of approval by doing better.  He already approves.  He smiles when he thinks of me. Y'all really don't know me all that well so I just need you to trust me that this is truly amazing.  Shocking, even.

What a lifetime of trying could not do, God has begun to do for me by stripping away all my security, my dignity, and all my hope in anything or anyone that is not himself.  I have been humbled and humiliated, scorned, manipulated and violently rejected.  But I have grown.  I have known Jesus better.  I have rested in the work of Christ.  Do I want to suffer?  Am I happy that I have had to suffer in this way? (hmm - trick question?)  No.  This sin, this terrible, terrible thing that has happened to us - it's not the way its supposed to be.  But, God will redeem what he is pleased to redeem.

Nothing in my hand I bring ~ Simply to thy cross I cling.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

thanks be to God

If everything is lost, thanks be to God
If I must see it go, watch it go,
Watch it fade away, die
Thanks be to God that He is all I have
And if I have Him not, I have nothing at all
Nothing at all, only a farewell to the wind
Farewell to the grey sky
Goodbye, God be with you evening October sky.
If all is lost, thanks be to God,
For He is He, and I, I am only I. 

~Dom Julian Stead

Monday, April 23, 2012

jane and the hero

I came to Downtown Abbey a little late.  A few months before Season 2 started, my friend Shannon said, “You have GOT to watch this series on Netflix!”  So I did.  Instantly hooked.

If you had asked me (and someone did) why I like it so much I would have said, “Because it’s just spectacular – the castle, the grounds, the wardrobe.  But the thing I like most is that the hero Lord Grantham truly loves his wife.”  I mean, they sleep in the same bed when the trend is for everyone to have their own room.   They are open about their love.  They confess, though, that when they first married, this was not the case.  But over time they began to love each other deeply.  He managed his estate with integrity, kindness and love for his family.

I just loved that.  I began to realize that, in my mind, HE is a hero.  A man who loves his wife.

Then Jane came.  Poor thing.  She really did nothing wrong except be a new servant in a rich man’s house, a young widow, beautiful, and in the wrong place at the wrong time.   We saw it coming, didn’t we?  First it was a one-on-one conversation, and then it was just tiny, almost imperceptible looks from him to her.  

And then, the kiss.  That’s all it was -- a kiss.  (Wait.  Did I just say that’s “all it was”???  Ugh.  Listen to me; even I’m doing it.  It’s no big deal.  It’s just a kiss.) 

But, it devastated me.  I slammed my laptop shut, and yelled “NO!”  (I know.  I’m weird.)  I was genuinely angry.   I just wanted a story with a hero who didn’t disappoint, you know?  Just one flippin’ story, for crying out loud.  Is that too much to ask?  All around me are stories about heroes who disappoint.  I hear it in country music (now that my kids are OSU cowboys, there’s a lot of country music around here).  I see it on TV.  I listen to my friends cry out in fear for their own marriages and in pain of marriage covenants already broken.  I hear the cynicism about marriage leak out of my kids’ mouths.  And I’m reminded about my own story about a hero who disappointed me, my children, our community. 

Sometimes it’s too much.  Make it stop.

But then I remembered.  Jesus came.  Jesus came to be my hero.  God breathed life into Adam and Adam was happy and unafraid until he sinned.  And when he did sin, God began a work that is still going on.  He sent out Jesus to rescue his children.  He sent out Jesus to be my hero.  His journey has been misunderstood and misrepresented and even been used to justify evil.  But he is the hero who doesn’t disappoint.  He is on a mission to rescue me and his mission cannot fail.  He will not be sidetracked by beautiful servants in his house.  He will not be lured by any idols in his heart.  He came.  For me.  And he never stops coming after me.

All other stories may mimic the redeeming love of Christ, but they all fall short.  Thank God, every analogy breaks down at some point.  Only Jesus can be the perfect hero.  He is the only one who can love us as we long to be loved.  He is the only one powerful enough to rescue us from everything dark – around us and within.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

and so I blog

I have a story and I don't know what to do with it. 

Part of the story is really sad. It's about a dream shattered.

But, a lot of the story is fascinating.  It's a story about a grace awakened. It's about communion and repentance. It's about friendship. It's about the beautiful, terrifying work of Christ as he is making all things new. It is not, however, a story about how the shattered dream pieces were picked up one-by-one and glued back together as if it had never been broken. Sorry. In one sense I would like to tell you a story like that, but I cannot. 

But, the grace is sweet.  And some of those broken off pieces are being redeemed like mosaic glass.

Anyhow, this is my story… sort of.   My story is also his and her and their and your story. It's our story. Oh, and trust me -- I never wanted this role in your story. In my mind, my role would be much more like... I don't know what.  But, I think it had something to do with curling up in big squishy chairs drinking hot tea from real china cups in my breakfast nook. Long talks in which my vast wisdom (ha!) bubbled out of me in sweet, gospel-driven advice on life,  on how to raise children, on how to make a home, on how to love people.  Like... your husband.


Oh, well. This is the me we are all stuck with - the broken, wounded, scared, blessed, ridiculous, stronger me. I am a photographer, a full-time student, a Behavioral Health Rehab Specialist, and a divorced ex-pastor's wife with 5 kids and I
want to do something with my story.

...and so I blog.