Friday, December 24, 2010
I was reading this morning, to prepare my heart for Christmas I read Zechariah's song in Luke 1:68-79, and a phrase stood out to me. The entire song is beautiful as well is Mary's found in Luke 1:46-55, but one phrase in particular jumped off the page, Zechariah is reflecting on all that God promised to Abraham that will now be fulfilled and he says:
"to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days."
This was amazing to me. I struggle a lot with feeling the need to perform in my mind. Feeling the pressure to live up to expectations, and God has been working on me lately to sink the gospel deeper into my heart and continually remind me it is finished, and Christ's righteousness has been granted to me forever. There is amazing freedom in knowing that. To think about Zechariah's day, when it was keeping the law, and doing and doing, and making sure to stay within the bounds, they must have always felt fearful to break the law, then comes Christ, entering the world as a baby king, born in hay, and all the rules and laws were satisfied for those who believe. And because of that, I serve God without fear.
When I obey, or do something right, I do it with complete freedom to love my God with a pure heart, because the consequence of not obeying is gone. When I sin and fall short (which happens most often) I do it without the fear of any punishment or separation because I live (as Zechariah said) "in holiness and righteousness before him all my days." Did Mary have any clue when she looked at that tiny baby in that stable, that for thousands of years to follow the righteousness and victory that this man won, would be granted to countless people who were then freed up to walk in liberty and serve God freely with no fear?
So as I open my gifts tomorrow (some of which I am, materialistically, OVERLY excited to receive...yes, I buy presents for myself and I love it), I will think of the gift of Christmas. Not just forgiveness of sins, which would be more than enough, more than I deserve, but liberty to serve, a perfect record of righteousness forever, the constant love and acceptance of my heavenly father, the right to call Jesus "big brother", the prayers and intercessions of my savior, the freedom to run the race of life without any entanglements of sin or fear holding me back, and the countless other gifts that came to this world freely, wrapped in the humble package of a baby to a poor family. The tiny package, who's gifts would pour out to equal blessing upon blessing for generations. The light that broke into this dark world and shone on the faces of those dwelling in the shadow of death, inviting them to step out of that darkness forever. And all this granted to us by the same way Mary was blessed, "Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished." (Luke 1:45) By turning our eyes to him, day after day, believing that he's too good to lie to us.
Merry Christmas, may you open gift after gift of your great salvation this next year, or for the first time, see the light shining on your face.
Posted by Jenn at 6:46 AM
Thursday, October 07, 2010
So, I've been running....and one thing you should know about me is that I h a t e running. Okay, scratch that....I hate-d running. Till recently.
One day John and I were running and at the end of our run I started my usual monologues about "so-and-so" and how fast she is, and how good she is at running, and how she loves it so much so that's why she's so good at it, and he says something that was so profound and completely simple, "well, of course you're going to love anything you're good at."
well, that kind of blindsided me.
Then this morning I was running and I was thinking, "wow, this isn't as hard as it usually is, why is that?" and I realized I was on the run for the sake of running. Not for the sake of running 30 minutes, or 3 miles, or 3 miles in 30 minutes, or because I have to so I won't die when I run the homecoming race, etc.
These two thoughts have since really affected the way I think about my faith.
1. We love doing things we feel like we're good at.
So here's the amazing part. I don't feel very good at being a mom, or a wife, or even a Christian lots of days. I feel like I'm kind of grumpy, selfish, easily angered, etc. And as long as I'm focusing on those things....I kind of hate the burden of going what's right. It's too hard for me cause I feel like I can't do it.
But when I realize that God sees me as being "good" at it already, not cause of what I do or don't do on a daily basis, but because of what Jesus did, it helps me realize those moment to moment successes or failures don't matter. It doesn't bring me closer to God, or separate me from him, I'm already "good" at this not cause of anything I could ever DO but because of a savior that perfectly obeyed and won that righteousness for me.
Keeping my eyes fixed on this and not my failures makes obeying not a burden, but a joy.
2. As long as I'm keeping score, I'm going to be focusing on the failure, or the success and not delighting in the act.
If my eyes are fixed on "three screw-ups so far, five good deeds" I'll never be free enough to delight in the journey, the process, the identity that is secured for me. And half the time, I'll be so trapped by the numbers, quantities and measures floating around on my mental scoreboard that I won't even remember the crucial fact that I am loved loved loved, and accepted, right now, for who I am right now, and who I'll be in ten minutes when I do something less spiritual and more stupid than write this blog about Jesus.
In all of this, I've come to love and treasure the words of this hymn:
"Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine,
Oh what a foretaste of glory divine.
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of his Spirit, washed in his blood."
Posted by Jenn at 2:13 PM
Saturday, June 05, 2010
You should maybe go get your Bible, cause you don't want to miss this. Or go to this website and look up Psalm 37 (www.biblegateway.com)...seriously, go ahead....I'll wait.
I was reading in Psalm 37 the other day, and felt led to make a list of all the words that described the righteous man listed there, here's what I found:
Do not Fret
Do not Fret
Are you sensing a theme? I was amazed at the lack of words like, strive, work, acquire, be good, etc. I mean, those words were not even in there, then this list made me want to make a list of all the things God said he would do for this person:
Make your righteousness shine like the dawn
Know their days
Make their steps firm
Will not forsake
Will not leave
Are you catching the difference? God does it all. We rest, trust, dwell, and wait. He SAVES! Now, I think we can apply this to our salvation and then somehow forget about it, and start striving in other areas of our lives, thinking that we are now supposed to be appropriately matched against our battles. This is a lie! We are ALWAYS ill-matched on our own, and our God is the one who works out the victory in our lives for his glory.
Think of every great Bible Character, and you will not see heroes who were completely competent, and strong, handsome and witty, ready to meet every challenge with perfect completion and readiness. Not in my Bible at least. My Bible has a laundry list of people who God chose (and he DID choose us if we're believers) to accomplish his purposes, who were completely unable to do it in their own strength. Moses, Joshua, Gideon, David, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Daniel, Peter, Jehoshaphat, Mary, the Israelites...ALL OF THEM!
He doesn't want people who are competent, he wants people who realize their incompetence and trust in an abundantly competent God. We MUST remember this the next time we are confronted with our lack (which for me, is daily). Surely there is some area where you have currently been made painfully unaware of your insufficiency. Surely there is some battle or foe in your life that seems larger than you and is coming from all sides. Surely there is some area where you start hearing a voice that's saying "You can't do this", or "This is bigger than you". If you have nothing like this in your life, then you're not living life!
Doesn't God allow times like his to deepen our trust and reliance on him. Doesn't he expose of insufficiency and tear away our strength at times so we are forced with the choice of running to a God of refuge who is bountifully strong. In Deuteronomy Moses says to the Israelites,
"The Lord will judge his people and have compassion on his servants when he sees their strength is gone and no one is left, slave or free. He will say "Now where are their gods, the rock they took refuge in, the gods who ate the fat of their sacrifices and drank the wine of their drink offerings? Let them rise to help you! Let them give you shelter! See now that I myself and He!" (Deut. 32:36-39) Right after this Moses tells the people, "These are not just idle words for you, they are your LIFE!" (verse 47).
Do you see that? There is life in recognizing our God will fight these battles for us, and we are not strong enough on our own. I am hoping you are facing something impossible right now. Not so you can have to go through hard things, but so you can see that God allows us to face things that sap our strength and reveal our lack of ability (for me that's just being a wife and mom). And then in light of that insufficiency, you can find life, strength and refuge in a God who is overflowing with power, and wants you near him. In his grace, he exposes the things that we start to put our life, trust and strength in (and often that's our own capability) and lets us scamper from thing to thing trying to find something to put our trust in, till we ultimately realize...the only place to go is God.
He is shelter, he is strength, he is refuge and he is mighty to save. Rest, trust, seek, enjoy, delight.
"As the scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame" (Romans 10:11)
Posted by Jenn at 7:04 AM
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Most of these posts of mine are the same old stories, told in different ways. This one is no different.
This week I got into a car accident. I don't even have a cool story to tell that makes me look like the suffering victim. Nope, it was my fault. I drove into the back of a car. And I'm not even talking while I was driving. I was stopped at a stoplight, thought the cars in front of me were moving, and drove right into the back of the car in front of me...with gusto--I mean, this was no tap.
I get out of my car in the rain to see the 67-year-old man in front of me, using our Lord's name in a less-than-praiseworthy manner. Afraid, and unable to see very well through my tears I get back in the car. Sit there for a moment and remembered the discussion from small group the night before, about how God can use any hopeless stupid choice, and turn it around to work all things for good for those who love him (Romans 8:28). I immediately prayed through sobs and shaky limbs "God, please use this for good somehow".
I'm then informed that the man in the car I hit had just had shoulder surgery, and was being taken to the hospital in an ambulance on a stretcher. I know...I'm a jerk.
So I go throughout my day, looking for something even remotely positive in this when I find the man's address amidst all the tickets, and paperwork they gave me. I decided to put together a little care package, with some bread, homemade chili, cookies and heat packs for my new enemy. The one who cussed me after I rear-ended him.
I drag my husband and kids along with me, thinking, "if this dude cusses me again at least my husband will feel sorry for me", and when I get to the door I look at John and say something really brave like "I think I'll just leave it on the doorstep, ring the bell and run away". To which John refused and prayed for me. I walk up to the door and ring the bell holding my pathetic little peace offering ready to ask forgiveness and the man answers.
He takes a moment to survey the situation (me standing in the rain with my food bags) and begins to tell me how glad he is that I showed up because he wanted to apologize to me. I stand there shocked, next to my husband, and we begin to have a 15 minute conversation with my new friend about life, parenting, God etc. He mentions that he lives alone, and gets so lonely sometimes that he'd talk to the walls. So, it's my new plan to take him cookies every couple weeks and talk with him for a few minutes since, well...we're now friends.
So the point in that is that God can bring good out of even the most hopeless things.
Which beings me to part two of the story.
The very next day I'm babysitting a friend's sweet little daughter and we're all having a great day, for about the first 20 minutes. Then my kids decide to call all the powers of hell to rebel, scream and throw fits at any opportunity they can find. At one point, after about 2 and a half hours of my kids working in tandem to ruin my life (I know, they weren't really, but you didn't see them!) I'm sitting at the top of my stairs, while Linc is screaming in the bathroom and I decide I absolutely must start praying.
I start praying "God what do you have for me in this? Where is this going?" and much more faith-filled things like "I can't do this" and "you should have picked someone else". When God turns my ears to the tiny voice of the little girl I'm babysitting singing at our kitchen table. This still small sweet voice singing the same simple refrain over and over again. "It's not an end, it's a whole new beginning."
And I stare straight ahead, dumbfounded as to why she'd be singing something this profound over and over. Then find the strength to continue in my day to day, all the while this refrain ringing in my ears.
In the days that follow God used the previous two stories to encourage me again and again.
Our pastor said once that God's address is at the end of ourselves. And I find great encouragement that even the most bleakest of times, the deepest miry pits, the darkest valleys are capable of turning into the most promising scenarios as we rely on a God who can turn all things to the favor of his children. He is infinitely resourceful and unfathomably loving. And as I come to the end of myself, I find the beginning of a life surrendered to a purposeful God.
Harriet Beecher Stowe said, "When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn."
The next time you're at your end...have hope and thank God for his new beginning, that is waiting to break forth.
Posted by Jenn at 3:00 PM
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Have you ever contemplated the depths or lengths that God would go to just to pursue you? I'm not talking about before you became a Christian (although that's true as well) I'm talking about once we already accept Christ as our Savior and then choose to blatantly disobey and choose our own way, our own sin, over God's best.
Let me provide an example.
Most of my blog posts start with a story about how I am an awful sinner, as well they should, because a realization of my own poverty provides the utmost bedrock of a foundation for the gospel and glorious grace of Christ. So..we begin.
I am a sinner. An awful one. I'll skip through a few juicy and ugly details to let you know the gist of things. I was completely awful to my husband. I mean, not loving, rude, sharp-tongued, awful. You would have stared at me with your mouth open. I'm not proud of it, I'm not boasting in it, I know...it was bad.
And I don't typically have a problem accepting grace that comes after repentance when I've done something particularly stupid, but this time was different. I was having a really hard time knowing my forgiveness, walking in it, and receiving the gospel afresh after having screwed up so badly. I spent the morning groveling (which is just pathetic) to both my husband and my God. And praying that God would somehow be able to reaffirm his love for me, and wash my mind in the truth of my salvation anew. So there I am, two hours later, sitting at my Bible study and the leader asks for an answer to the 2nd question. I look down at my answer, and see it, almost blushing at the specificity with which God was speaking to me and then quickly look back up (making sure to avoid eye contact with my leader, lest she call on me to answer). I'd much rather sulk in my pity, than receive the truths God was trying to say thank you very much!
Well she called on the girl next to me, and then the girl across from me, and then a few more until it was apparent that no one else had answered the question but me. So I was the only one who could answer it. Here I am...clearly the last one in the group to be called on (at which point God is practically screaming in my ear--say it already). I look at the leader and make eye contact (ugh...now I HAVE to answer) and begin to talk....or should I say cry...like a baby.
Here's what I read. The question was "What did you find interesting or helpful in the notes last week?" My answer:
In the notes it talks about how Jesus predicts Peter's denial and loved him anyways, looking past the sin he would commit to the restoration that he would bring. The notes said: "What a comfort to know that Jesus knows my weakness, my present love, my future transformation in his hands, and loves me all through each stage as though I had already reached the perfection God promised will one day be mine."
Are you getting it? It was all about how Jesus called Peter, loved Peter, taught Peter, all the while knowing Peter would screw up and deny him, and yet Peter still was chosen, loved, and forgiven. The same is true with us. There is no ugly moment I will expose in my weakness and sin that God has not already seen, considered, and accounted for. They have all been laid bare, atoned for and nailed to the cross. What great freedom to live with such a truth.
God then brought my thoughts to Jonah, a story which my little Ellie has recently become obsessed with, and how this is a story of grace, not just to the Ninevites, but to Jonah. See God told Jonah to go and do something really hard, but loving for the Ninevites, even though they didn't deserve it (read: me loving my husband and being gracious and kind to him even when he was "unworthy" in my eyes), Jonah gave God the cold shoulder totally ran the opposite way and chose instead to hope they have to pay for their sins (read: me repaying evil for evil to my hubby, refusing to grant him that grace), God then pursues Jonah to the depth of the sea, in the belly of a whale to show Jonah grace, forgiveness, and a second chance because God loved Jonah.
There I was in the whale belly of guilt, when God graciously reached down, revealed his love for me yet again, and restored me. See, God's in the business of restoration. Why does David talk in the Psalms over and over about his life ebbing away? (Read Psalm 107...soon!) About the storm raging, and the desert places being....deserted. And then talk about how God lifted him up, calmed the storm to a whisper, and made the deserts like a garden? Because God delights in us needing him! Because he wants to restore, make beautiful, calm and comfort! He's about that!
I love it! I pray that I will always be aware of my need for saving, that I'll always have some stupid thorn in my side that will show me my need for a savior, that God will graciously let me be lowered down to the pit on my own (even though it hurts like hell) just so he can bring me back up when I cry to him.
"The Lord will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing." Isaiah 51:3
Posted by Jenn at 3:02 PM
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Sometimes we hear the same verse, story, message again and again. I'm thankful for that, cause God knows it take a little more than one time for my ears to hear him. Recently in church we heard a sermon on the woman who anointed Jesus' feet with all that she had in her alabaster jar, then again we read in my Bible study (the same week) about when Mary poured her expensive perfume over his head to anoint him and Judas condemned her extravagant gift.
Praise to God, this week I had a profound opportunity to put this into practice. My very generous mother-in-law gave me a beautiful gold necklace. I, however, don't really wear gold jewelry and John told his mom this (I would have never said anything and just kept it, but my husband does not accommodate such social graces. So my mother-in-law told me to sell it. John also told me I should sell it. So I started rattling through in my head all the things I'd love to buy with it, and decided I would ultimately buy a pair of UGG boots, to keep my feet toasty in the Colorado snow.
That was a long story...but bear with me. So here I am, thinking often about the new boots I'll get, and how cute they'll look, and how I'll get some great attention with these adorable boots and will have something practical to wear (I'm just being honest here, I know it makes me look ugly, I'm okay with that). So fast forward a few days to our friends inviting us over for dinner. Now, she's a stay-at-home mom, and he's a musician, and they're on a tight budget. So she begins telling me this story after dinner about how she dropped her wedding ring in the disposal and ran it, and the ring is trashed, the stone is gone etc. They didn't really have the money to buy the ring from the jeweler (they had the same one still for sale) so she was going to have to scrounge up enough gold to sell to buy the ring.
So you know where this is going. I began thinking about the woman who gave everything, extravagantly. And God totally put it on my heart to give her the necklace so she could use it to put towards her wedding ring.
This caused such an overflow in my soul, blessed me so greatly, being able to let go of this covetous, worldly side of myelf that just wants more more more, and give. After this happened, God began showing me more and more where I can spend myself.
Listen to these verses:
"For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?" Mark 8:35-36
I began thinking about how tightly I hold on to things of this world, to wanting more, to struggling to give even a little, and I'm not just talking money, I'm talking how hard it is for me to give of myself, my time, my energy, my prayers, to my kids, my nation, my husband, my world. I often do nothing because I feel I can only give a little and believe that it won't amount to anything. I think of problems like the sex trafficking industry, Haiti, orphans, abortion, a world that hurts and groans out for a Savior and some hope. And I know that hope! I can share it! Yet I'm so greedy, so caught up in my pursuit of gain, in my selfishness that I turn a blind eye. Today I heard a speaker say this and it was as if God was speaking directly to my heart:
"nobody is greater mistaken than he who did nothing because he could only do a little."
Go forth, and give your life away.
Posted by Jenn at 2:06 PM
Saturday, January 16, 2010
The other day I went to pick Ellie up from the child care at Bible Study and when I got to the door and saw her in someone's arms she was completely content, not even looking my direction. As soon as I said "Ellie" she turned fast immediately knowing whose voice she heard and reaching for me.
There is something about mothering that creates in us a gaping hole for Christ continuously. That is why I want more kids, and at the same time don't know if I can handle more. I am shepherding my little ones, as I am being shepherded. When I saw Ellie's reaction to my voice, God recalled this verse to my mind:
"He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice." John 10:3-4
There are so many voices I'm tempted to listen to throughout my day. Second by second voices are telling me I should put my kids in daycare and get a job, because this is too hard for me. That I'm ruining them. That I'm not good enough. That I'm always tired, grumpy, snappy, and that's what they'll remember me as. That anyone else could do a better job than me, or that mothering is not one of the best ways I could spend my prime of life.
I pray that I will spend enough time listening to my own shepherd's voice before all the other voices begin in my day, that when they start with their lies, I will clearly hear and follow my true Shepherd, and react just like my little Ellie the moment she knew her mama was near. Crying, reaching, and striving to be near.
Posted by Jenn at 8:36 AM
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Mommying got hard again. Dang it.
I coast. Seriously, I'll be drifting along, running my errands to Target, doing whatever I want to do (emphasis "I"), when eventually I realize, I'm not even investing in these kids. So I start staying home more, being more there, being more engaged to train them, and then...it starts to suck.
Or at least suck the life out of me.
Recently I've been reading about God being our Shepherd and this morning found particular peace and encouragement in my Good Shepherd. Particularly the fact that he goes before me.
Here's what he said to me this morning:
"Jenn, I've been on this part of the trail already, I've seen it, and it gets a little rocky. It's probably going to be hard for a while, but I wouldn't lead you here if I didn't KNOW that you could do it. Just follow me, put your feet exactly where mine go, don't stray off and if you do, trust that I'll bring you back here. Follow. I have been before you. I know what it's like and I'm leading you somewhere amazing."
Read Psalm 23
Posted by Jenn at 7:07 AM