Friday, March 29, 2013

Hurricane

For I will restore health to you,
    and your wounds I will heal,
declares the Lord,
because they have called you an outcast:
    ‘It is Zion, for whom no one cares!’

“Thus says the Lord:
Behold, I will restore the fortunes of the tents of Jacob
    and have compassion on his dwellings;
the city shall be rebuilt on its mound,
    and the palace shall stand where it used to be.
Out of them shall come songs of thanksgiving,
    and the voices of those who celebrate.
I will multiply them, and they shall not be few;
    I will make them honored, and they shall not be small.
Their children shall be as they were of old,
    and their congregation shall be established before me,
    and I will punish all who oppress them.
Their prince shall be one of themselves;
    their ruler shall come out from their midst;
I will make him draw near, and he shall approach me,
    for who would dare of himself to approach me?
declares the Lord.

And you shall be my people,
    and I will be your God.”
 
Behold the storm of the Lord!
    Wrath has gone forth,
a whirling tempest;
    it will burst upon the head of the wicked.
The fierce anger of the Lord will not turn back
    until he has executed and accomplished
    the intentions of his mind.
In the latter days you will understand this.
 
Jeremiah 30:17-24
 
Resurrection Day. Is there any other day that has brought such hope and joy? Impossible. Because without new life, hope and joy cannot exist for us.
 
On Resurrection Day, the Father brought about the ultimate fulfillment of his words which came through Jeremiah to a people in exile. Battered, bruised, broken. Suffering from a wound that could not be healed in and of themselves. They were a people desperate for hope. They had been given a terminal diagnosis and no doctor could help them. Life seemed to be over.
 
And then such a wonderful promise came to them from the very man who had been foretelling their destruction for decades. From the same lips which issued judgment on their sin came words of healing and hope.
 
I will restore. I will have compassion. I will multiply. You will be my people. I will be your God.
 
Have more beautiful words ever been spoken? Words of forgiveness pouring forth from a Holy God who had been wronged more times than anyone could count. Words of compassion for a people who had turned their backs on him time and time again.
 
But before the promise could be fulfilled: WRATH.
 
Not just a sudden, short burst of anger, but a whirling tempest. A fierce storm. A deserved judgment that brings utter destruction. It's what happens when a pure, sinless God turns his eyes toward wickedness. A raging hurricane.
 
But this wrath has a purpose. A point. An intention.
 
The fierce anger of the Lord will not turn back
    until he has executed and accomplished
    the intentions of his mind.

 
It is not just blind rage. An outburst of uncontrollable emotion. No, God has a point. A target, if you will. His wrath is sent out to do something that the people of Jeremiah's day could not understand. Understanding was promised, but not until later.
 
Not until after the cross.
 
Because the thing about this wrath was that it was not going to be targeted at a helpless people anymore. Healing had been promised to them. Restoration was coming. Because God was going to provide the target for this unbearable wrath so that the people could be spared. No wonder they didn't understand. Before the cross, who would have thought that the God who had been so terribly offended would step in on behalf of the offenders? Who would come up with a plan that would have God's Son plopped down straight in the middle of that terrifying hurricane, sheltering us from its destruction?
 
They couldn't understand, because it defies human logic. But we have been granted understanding. We know what he did. We have been spared the whirling tempest because the wrath was sent out and found its target. It accomplished its purpose when Jesus was crushed on our behalf. And we are left with the promise. The hope. Life.
 
But do I understand? I think so many days I don't. I can't comprehend what I've been spared from. As we look to the cross...as Good Friday looms before us, let's take a moment to contemplate the hurricane. The terrifying wrath of a righteous God. Not so that we can tremble and cower and plead with a distant, angry God.
 
So that we can realize what a gift we've been given. We are the ones...
 
Out of them shall come songs of thanksgiving,
    and the voices of those who celebrate.

 
...the ones who shout and celebrate and give thanks. We are the ones who can say...
 
He is mine and I am his.
 
“‘So fear no more, Jacob, dear servant.
    Don’t despair, Israel.
Look up! I’ll save you out of faraway places,
    I’ll bring your children back from exile.
Jacob will come back and find life good,
    safe and secure.
I’ll be with you. I’ll save you...'"

Monday, March 25, 2013

A Savior for the Small

Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Luke 21

If you knew you only had a few days to live, don't you think that every moment you spent and every word you spoke would be very intentional? We're always fascinated with the last days and moments of people's lives, because I think we know that they hold such significance.

Each year, Holy Week becomes a little more special to me. There is something that draws me to the portions of Scripture that give an account of Jesus' last days on earth. Jesus lived each moment of his life with purpose, but there is still something remarkable about that last week. It was a week that lead up to the greatest moment in the history of mankind.

After Jesus makes his bittersweet ride into town on Palm Sunday, his next days and hours are filled with heated encounters with the high and mighty of this world. You can feel the tension mounting as Jesus confronts those who are dying to kill him. He continues his work of ripping away the pretension and self-righteousness of those who think they know all, while he passionately preaches the truth to any who will listen.

And then, in the midst of all the heated debate and tense confrontation, someone catches his eye.

As he looks up, past all the pompous men in sweeping robes, he sees someone small. Someone insignificant. Someone who is probably invisible to everyone else in the temple that day.

A poor widow. A lady whose life was very ordinary and who went unnoticed by most. A person who didn't have much to contribute in regards to money, influence, or power. Someone whose life seemed very small.

Sometimes, doesn't life just feel small? Insignificant? Pointless, even?

Laundry and cooking and sweeping and clipping nails and telling stories to preschoolers and making lunches and pinching pennies and communicating only through emails and wiping up never-ending dust and poring over lists of spelling words seems small sometimes.

It seems to go unnoticed.

But there is one who sees and values and takes note of. There is one who makes big things small and small things big. There is one who pauses in the midst of the heated battle with the enemy to applaud.

Almighty God in the flesh, who was on the verge of saving the world and defeating the enemy once and for all, stopped and noticed one small woman and her small offering. He not only noticed, but he pointed it out to those around him as noteworthy. He took a moment out of his last moments on earth to point out a job well done. He wanted others to notice what they would never see otherwise. There were too many "more important people" in the way, so he had to draw their attention to the one they'd never see or think anything of.

Jesus took the time, in the midst of the most important week that has ever been, to remind us of the potential we all have to make his heart happy. It doesn't matter our circumstances or our resources. The only thing that matters is the attitude of our heart. That's all it takes to make our Lord stop and applaud. A heart that does all things for him. A heart that trusts him for our next meal and our next breath and all our joy.

And it occurred to me, after I saw the tenderness of Jesus toward this one small woman...did she even know? The disciples knew and we know, but did she? In that moment, did she know that her Creator and Redeemer, the Lord of all, noticed her? Did she know how pleased he was? Did she even know that he picked her out of that bustling crowd to applaud? Or did she have to wait until she entered eternity to find out how pleased he was?

In this Passion Week, I want Jesus' tenderness and pleasure to settle on me. In the midst of the fiery battle for the souls of men, I want him to pause and notice. I want him to see a heart that joyfully serves him even in the little things. Even when I don't notice him noticing. Because isn't a Savior who notices the little things worth pleasing?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Hosanna! Or Kill Him! Whichever...

For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Today is Palm Sunday. Okay. Great. And that means what? One week til the egg hunt? Time to rush to put the finishing touches on the Easter outfits and frantically fill the baskets? Well, that makes me sound shallow. I do know that Easter really isn't all about eggs and bunnies, but Palm Sunday has always lacked meaning for me.

I mean, I know the story. Donkey, palm branches, "hosanna" and all that. But can someone please help me here? What's the real point?

Today, as we sang in church, one little phrase hit me afresh. "Love so amazing, so divine."

Divine. Of God. From a higher source than man.

Divine love. A love that's source is from something greater than a mere mortal. A love that man cannot muster, no matter how hard he tries. A love that, in some ways, is beyond our comprehension.

When I think of the people along that road on Palm Sunday who grabbed their palm fronds, threw their coats in the dirt along the path, and shouted praise to Jesus as he rode on that donkey, it's easy for me to condemn them. I mean, what a fickle bunch. A few days later, I would think it very possible that many of those same people would be shouting "Crucify him!" just a few blocks away, their shouts directed to the very same man.

It's baffling. Or is it? Aren't we all like that? Haven't we all fallen into the category of "fair weather fan" at one time or another? And so the story of the petty palm wavers can lead us all to ask ourselves the tough questions and do a little self-exam on our hearts. Is my relationship with Christ based on a self-serving attitude and blown back and forth according to the crowd I find myself in?

Still, that's a rather self-focused way to look at this event in the life of Jesus. Boy am I good at making everything about me. What kind of Christian am I? Do I love Jesus? Am I just a fan or a true follower? Would my faith stand up to a hostile crowd and the disapproval and persecution?

If we stop there, I think we've missed the point. This story is not about me, though we can all find ourselves in it. But look beyond the screaming, waving crowd. Look beyond the disapproving Pharisees and the bewildered disciples. Who do you see?

Jesus. A King. On a donkey. Headed to his death. Surrounded by shouts of praise and adoration that mask hard, selfish hearts.

The picture of divine love.

For the people who shouted praises one day and curses the next were the very people he was going to die for.

He wasn't fooled by the parade. He knew what was coming and what these people would do. He knew the agony and he knew their blindness. He knew that desertion and abject loneliness would soon come to him, though only a few days before he'd been surrounded by an adoring crowd and devoted disciples. 

He knew. And that's what makes him so amazing and divine. That's what makes his love a love we cannot muster or fathom. 

Because, if he grants me more days on this earth beyond this one, I'm sure to fail him again. I'm sure to be the fickle one whose devotion wavers depending on mood and circumstance. 

But his love will not waver or change. His love is steadfast and sure, totally independent of my actions or attitude. Whether my cry is "Hosanna!" or "Crucify!", his cry will be "Love!" 

Divine love is a love that looks into the eye of the one who curses it and dose not waver in its intensity. Jesus knew what he was doing on that donkey. He was headed through a crowd who couldn't understand love to do the one thing that would demonstrate love.  

So, Palm Sunday. A day when our sinfulness ran smack dab into Jesus' selflessness and the picture of true love came to life. I'd say that's a pretty good precursor to the Resurrection. Wouldn't you?

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Friday, March 22, 2013

The End of Spring Break...and My Blog Break

How many times I've thought of my little blog in the last few weeks. And my thoughts usually go something like this...

Why in the world do I spend time doing this?

What in the world do I have to say?

Who in the world reads this stuff?

There are so many blogs out there, and mine is just okay. Boy, do I hate mediocrity.

I think I'm having an Ecclesiastes kinda month.

You know, a lot of

"Smoke, nothing but smoke. 
    There’s nothing to anything—it’s all smoke.
What’s there to show for a lifetime of work,
    a lifetime of working your fingers to the bone?
One generation goes its way, the next one arrives,
    but nothing changes—it’s business as usual for old
        planet earth."


And a little of

"Everything’s boring, utterly boring—
    no one can find any meaning in it.
Boring to the eye,
    boring to the ear.
What was will be again,
    what happened will happen again.
There’s nothing new on this earth.
    Year after year it’s the same old thing."


Laundry, nothing but laundry. Cook and clean and do it again the next day. Try to make ends meet, just to do it again the next month. Day after day, it's the same old thing.

Hi. My name is Eeyore.
I'm sure you can't guess, but it seems I've been down in the dumps. I usually love predictability and security, but lately, the monotony of life has been smothering me.

Grace, Grace, Grace. I think I could make that a constant chant in my mind and still never say it enough. Whew, I need grace. Rough times like these are a very clear reminder of how much I need it and how desperately hopeless I'd be without it.

Grace - God's unmerited, undeserved, unearned overly abundant and more-than-enough favor

I think I'm a bottomless pit for grace. Just keep pouring it in and I'll keep drinking it down. I can't get enough, though it is enough. Crazy.

Speaking of grace, you know how I was trying to decide the "focus" of my year. Last year, it was the Year of Humility and now that it's March, it has become apparent to me that 2013 shall from this point forward be known as the Year of Grace.

'Cause I need it and I need to give it.

I was going to write this whole fabulous post about it, but this other super fabulous blogger beat me to it, saving me lots of time and words. So, here ya go.

And last week in Bible study, the Lord spoke another little tidbit about grace to me. He gives us grace for today. As in, not tomorrow or two weeks for six months from now. TODAY. I am so bad about living in today...or living in the present moment. And if I'm not living in the moment where His grace is, how do I expect to find it?

So, for this week, I want to find contentment in the here and now and trust that His grace is sufficient for the moment in which I find myself. And let tomorrow find the grace it needs when it arrives.

.....

If you need some grace in the form of something healthy and pretty yummy and easy, too, here's a little recipe we enjoyed last week before all of our bananas disappeared. And by we, I mean Chris. Because he loves them and tends to eat them up before any of the rest of us can. But it's okay, because I'm always happy when I can make something nutritious that he actually likes and not just tolerates. :)

I added a little to this recipe from Skinnytaste.com.

My version goes like this:

2 ripe bananas, mashed (I used ones that were well beyond eating alone)
1 cup uncooked old fashioned oats
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts (or I'm sure you could use pecans, too)
1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 tsp cinnamon

Preheat to 350. Mix it all together. Place 1 tablespoon-sized blobs of your dough on a stone, parchment paper, or greased cookie sheet. Bake about 15 minutes.

I like the fact that they're so easy. It would be even easier if I didn't have a kid allergic to nuts, thus forcing me to decontaminate every surface the walnuts touched and then to worry the rest of the day about him having a reaction. So, if you're free of nut allergies, these are a cinch.

.....

And I will end my less than joyful re-entry into blogging with this good news:

The kids had a great spring break. The big kids got to fulfill their spring break wish by going camping and I got to fulfill mine by not. The perfect combo. They also got to make and decorate sugar cookies in a kitchen that is not mine. Also worked out wonderfully for me.

You could say that I'm not a fun mom. I prefer to say I know my limits...and camping and destroying my kitchen with food coloring and powdered sugar are definitely beyond them. But the pictures make it look fun. And Grandma got lots of fun points with the kids, as usual.


Sam is my kind of cookie maker...as much goes into the mouth as onto the pan.


See how happy they are? And you can't see the mess all over the floor.


I'm so sorry this kid doesn't live with you, because he is constant fun.


Maddie is the child of creative details. She made this lovely, orderly cookie, which made my heart sing. Then she followed it by making one with two layers of thick, fake-blue icing and two layers of food-dye and sugar filled sprinkles that looked about an inch thick each. And that made my heart cringe. Oh, well. No kid is perfect.


There you have it. Another spring break, and another less than stellar blog post, in the books. Though it may seem like vanity of vanities at times, life is good.

"The last and final word is this:
Fear God.
Do what he tells you.
And that’s it." ~Ecclesiastes