Thursday, April 17, 2014

celebrating passover and remembering true joy

Last night I flitted about in the grocery store, buying supplies to make our Seder dinner. I searched out bitter herbs, unleavened bread, an egg, some sweet apples and raisins, and grape juice. I stood at the meat counter and requested a lamb shank bone.

"No bones, but I can sell you the whole shank," the man informed me.

"Great. I'll take it," I casually replied.

He wrapped up the meat, printed out the price, and handed it to me. I reached out my hand and suddenly it all seemed absurd.

This is too easy. A pound of meat felt too light to be symbolic of my Lord. Five dollars for a Passover lamb seems a shoddy price to pay to for a Redeemer. My time spent preparing a plate of symbolic food for our friends and family is a piddly investment in light of His eternal love for us.

And yet, maybe that's the point.

Maybe I need to remember that my life is light and easily given compared to all that Jesus has sacrificed for me. And maybe the fact that He was willing to die for someone so small means I am loved more than I recognize most days

I left the meat counter and walked through the bakery. I absent-mindedly snatched up a box of chocolate cookies because I wanted to eat chocolate cookies after shopping. I literally smiled as I placed them in my basket.

My heart is easily distracted, obviously. What are cookies compared to eternal love? The words "wretched flesh" seem harsh, but that's what I'm dealing with here. I can make myself happy, but only God can give me joy.

Joy- true joy comes from a proper view of ourselves. 

The curse of death passes over the children of God. We are the of those who are spared from eternal darkness. We are the redeemed, the purified, the whole, the loved, the treasured, the saved. And we deserve don't deserve any of it.

The harder scriptures prove the humble truth and help us find real joy:

"We, too, writhe in agony, but nothing comes of our suffering.
We have not given salvation to the earth,  nor brought life into the world.
But those who die in the Lord will live; their bodies will rise again!
Those who sleep in the earth will rise up and sing for joy!
For your life-giving light will fall like dew on your people in the place of the dead!"
Isaiah 26:18-20

"We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." 
-Romans 6:4

"Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." 
-1 Corinthians 5:6-8

"God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed." 
-2 Thessalonians 1:6-10

“Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven,  whose sins are put out of sight.
Yes, what joy for those  whose record the Lord has cleared of sin.”
Romans 4:7-9

Tonight we will joyfully remember, the body broken for us, the blood of the final Passover lamb that was spilled to wash us clean, the nail-pierced hands that hold us securely. We are loved, our names are written in heaven, and His joy makes us complete.
Hosanna in the Highest. May our joy-filled lives bring glory to the Lamb who takes away our sins....

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

burnt toast book club: Interrupted: Week 1 {pgs. 13-43}

This is our first week discussing the book Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker. My community group discussed this face to face last night and it was fantastic. Below is the discussion guide we used, so you can take part in the discussion yourself. We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

For me, Jen's story brought back an old memory. I had my own conversation with God about poverty and my love for Him about eight years ago while sitting in my living room reading my Bible, praying.

I had been studying friendship in the Bible, and the thought suddenly struck me that I wasn't a very good friend to God.

Yes, Jesus defined friendship with him as obedience, and I felt I was holding up that end of the bargain pretty well, all things considered. But the truth was that I was happy to think God considered me His friend, caring about me, valuing me relationally, and laughing at my quirks. But I didn't really reciprocate in that way. It was all a little too much about me: how much he loved me, what he wanted me to do, what the Bible said about my life, my destiny, my marriage, etc.

I felt more like a fan of God than a friend of God, and I was annoyed with myself.

I prayed that day and asked God what was on his mind that day. I told him in wanted to be His friend, to pray for the things He cared about, to care with Him.

After a few minutes of quietness, I saw in my mind the earth, and all the poor nations were lit up, glowing in the light of God's concern. He told me to pray for the hungry. And I did.

That was the day I found out how low in the grand scheme of life some of my concerns truly lie. God doesn't care as much about the backed up sink in my house as He does about the millions of starving children in the world. They simply aren't of equal concern to a just and loving God, and they shouldn't be. I have what Mr. Fantastic likes to call "rich people problems", and although God lovingly listens to my prayers and mervifully acts on my behalf, he aches for His those who suffer in poverty.

It's so easy to get distracted by our to-do lists, busy calendars, and pressing problems here in wealthy America, and to forget that we who are free, fed, and comfortable are in the minority.

And if I want to be His friend, I have to ache for them too. In order to ache for them, I need to remember what's important to God.

I am excited to read on, to remind myself about God's deep love of mercy and justice, and His call to take part in setting His people free. Because more than anything, I want to be a good friend to Him.

***For next week: read pages 47-72***

burnt toast book club: Interrupted: Week 1 {pgs. 13-43}

general summary:
Jen Hatmaker walks us through her realization that God wanted more from her than life lived in a faithful incubated church world. She found she was unfulfilled by chasing the American dream of personal prosperity, even though that dream includes a great love for God. Hatmaker presents statistics that reveal the real problem of poverty in the world, as well as scriptures that prove God’s great desire for His people to love justice and mercy for the poor and oppressed.

Excerpts to discuss/ Discussion questions:

“Holy Passion meets Remedial Shepherd”
{from p. 25} “...the verse read, “Jen, do you truly love me more than anything?’ I don’t know how to explain Jesus’ presence- more intense and terrifying and gently at the exact same time…. Seriously? Do I really love You? Are You serious, Jesus? To be honest, I felt a little insulted, kind of injured. Only because I really love Jesus.”

{from p. 27} “I saw my exact reflection in Peter: devoted but selfish, committed but misguided. And that is not going to be enough. It won’t suffice to claim good intentions…. Not with God screaming, begging, pleading, urging us to love mercy and justice, to feed the poor and the orphaned, to care for the last and least in nearly every book of the Bible.”

Have you ever felt insulted by God? If so, are you willing to share about it? How do you make space in our lives for God to press hard on our lives like this? What do we risk if we don’t let God do this in our lives?

“James, Jesus, Amos, and Them”
{p. 30} “for all myself-proclaimed love of God’s Word, what I really loved were the parts that worked for me. For my good. For my blessing.”

How do you generally feel about God’s Word? After you encounter difficult to understand or difficult to live passages, what do you do? 

What are some biblical themes/ teachings that are hard for you right now? How have you been changed by challenging teachings from the Bible? (ie. dying to self, forgiveness, loving your enemies, turning away from sin, discipline, grace)

“Warning: The Problems Are Bad”
On pages 32-34, Hatmaker lists some stats re: poverty and America’s wealth. What were your initial reactions to this global perspective of wealth? Were any of these surprising for you? Will this information change anything for you? If so, what?

“Giving the Good Stats Some Play”
{p. 40} “Alone we can affect a few. Together, we can change the world.”

Do you sponsor a child, go on mission trips, buy products that elevate the poor, or give to any organizations working to alleviate the problem of poverty? Is there a cause that you feel called to support, or an issue that you’d like to take part in championing? 

Feel free to link up to any great causes in the comments. Here are a few that are dear to my own heart:
Ordinary Hero: orphan care and adoption grants
All Girls Allowed: sponsorship of poor mothers and baby girls in China
Casa Vallado: A foster care home/ orphanage in Mexico

***For next week: read pages 47-72***

Monday, April 14, 2014

warrior boys, wounds, and women

Last Friday night, I was tucking Boy 3 in and he sat up in bed.

"Look at my back, Mom. I have, like, six cuts on it from the playground."

On Saturday, Boy 2 faced a great, fearsome commitment, and was torn between two decisions.

"Do you really want to do this?" I asked him.

"Yes," he told me.

"Then I know you can make it happen."

And he did.

Yesterday in the car, Boy 1 stuck his hand I my face.

"Look at my finger, Mom. It's all cut up. I have no idea how it happened."

These boys don't want band aids or pity. They aren't awaiting a trophy or a good word of wisdom from me.

Just see the wounds, Mom. See what is difficult, what hurts, my scars, and believe in me.

I am learning so much from these warrior boys.

I am learning what I can and can't do for them, what they do and don't need from me.

I stand beside the fertile ground of future manhood, and I see the seeds of our relationship growing into their future understanding of what a woman who loves them should and shouldn't be.

She shouldn't baby their wounds.

She shouldn't coddle their fears.

She shouldn't stop their attempts to climb a little higher than seems safe.

She should look at their wounds and be awestruck at their courage.

She should believe in them when they strike out and let them wink at her when they cross home plate.

She should let a few tears fall, and wait for their brave hearts to rally a bit before she tells them she wants to see them try again.

She should see their failures, affirm their talents, and glory in their victories.

These boys of ours will be men someday, and they will want to be giant-slayers, mighty men of valor, and brilliant world-changers. They will need to marry women who believe they are all that and more.

Because that is who God has made all our boys to be. But they will settle for less if we don't see who they really are and believe in who they're becoming.

Look. See. Believe. Cheer. Cultivate greatness.

God is raising up a generation of warriors, may His grace be upon us to mother them well.