Jesus-song

SAMSUNG DIGIMAX A503

I’ve mentioned before that you should make your kids memorize Bible verses.

Seriously, do it.

All of my adult life, the verses I memorized when I was a little girl have come back to me when I need them.  These past few weeks, they have been flying at me fast and furiously.

I’ve known this one forever.  And, honestly, it’s never really resonated with me that much.

But then I fell in love with a tiny human.  And lived goodbye.

And in response to all of the whys, I only know a few things.

This was not a mistake.  I did it because it was right.

When I pleaded with Jesus to be excused from this assignment, or at least to get some more details, the very clear words of instruction were “one thing.”

Mary chose the one thing that was necessary.  Sitting at Jesus’ feet.

For me, sitting at Jesus’ feet meant living hello and maybe and I love you and goodbye.

The darkness is big in goodbye.

Time slows down.  Sleep is elusive.  No words fit.

The redemption ache throbs loudly, so very loudly.

And then silence.

Waiting.

But, at last, a word.  A picture.  An assurance that hope was not misplaced, that all may still be well.  Permission to exhale.

I am driving home and I hear it.  Not with my ears, but with my heart.  My own personal Jesus-song.  It tells me that faithfulness is not wasted.  Obedience is not ignored.

He sees.  He delights.  He sings.

Friends, this is true when we hear it and when we don’t.

If you have chosen the one thing that is necessary, if you are sitting at his feet, he sees.

Your faithfulness is not wasted.  Your obedience is not ignored.

He delights in you.

He is singing over you.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

On Making Room

Carried to the table.

Seated here, with family.

Just moments ago, a stranger.

Broken.  Crippled.  Rejected.

But now sought after.  Chosen.

Not just invited, but compelled.

Because of kindness.  Because of mercy.

Always, he says.  Always you will eat here.

With family.  At the table.

***

We sit around the table too.

Eating the bread.  Drinking the cup.

Sometimes we see ourselves in his eyes.

Broken.  Crippled.  Rejected.

Carried here.  Welcome here.

But often, too often, we think we’ve gotten it together.

We guard our seat at the table, feeling entitled.

Forgetting the kindness.  Shrugging off the mercy.

We look around and see him in our neighbor’s eyes.

Broken.  Crippled.  Rejected.

Our eyes narrow in judgment.

A stranger, we mutter.  Not family.

Who invited him?

And then our gaze shifts to the head of the table.

Eyes blazing with kindness.  Arms full of mercy.

The King reminds that we were all carried here.

Invited.  Compelled.  Welcome.

Let’s make room.

***

Read more about the story of Mephibosheth in this guest post by my beautiful sister.

Leave a comment

Filed under sermon notes

Empty Spaces

This week, I am channeling my mama and rearranging my house to signal a new beginning. A fresh start.

So, I sold some old stuff. I bought some new stuff. I hauled a nasty loveseat (affectionately nicknamed “the hateseat”) out to the dumpster corral. And I spent a lot of time pushing various pieces of furniture around to different spots.

I was almost happy. And then I saw this.

SAMSUNG DIGIMAX A503

 

An empty space where my daughter’s pink and white dollhouse bookshelf used to sit. An empty space would never do.

So I pushed my furniture around a little more. But nothing seemed quite right.

I decided to run out to the store and buy the perfect thing to fill the empty space. But it was pouring. And I was tired from all of that furniture-pushing.

A black bookshelf caught my eye online. But I am cheap. Really, really cheap.

And so that spot stayed empty for a while, the carpet underneath it still matted a little from the weight that it used to bear.

And I realized today that I kind of like it.

It gives my eyes a place to rest. And it reminds me that, for now, what I have is enough.

So many of us are prone to excess, I think.

We don’t like the empty spaces.

So we fill our lives with more. More stuff. More work. More food. More adult beverages. More frenzy. More, more, more.

Once upon a time, I would have told you that we do this because we haven’t let our empty spaces be filled by Jesus.

But, friends, I have let myself be filled by Jesus.

Really and truly. Again and again.

And still there is that empty space in my life where a baby once laughed. There is that empty space where I went about for four years without knowing my own daughter—without being able to hold her or hear her first words. There is that empty space where dreams collide with reality and for a moment (or many) life is just really, really hard.

But, friends, these empty spaces don’t taunt me by telling me that I need more Jesus.

They remind me that I’m human.

They remind me that as frantically as I push furniture around, I only see a tiny piece of the ultimate design.

They remind me that now I see through a glass darkly, but one day I will see face to face—and I am made for that.

They remind me that though I do not know how the story ends, I do know the Author—and I am made for him.

They remind me that less is ok too. That it’s ok to rest.

And they remind me that, for now, what I have is enough.

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

On Winning

How do we measure success at church?  What constitutes a win?

Is it parking spaces occupied?  Seats warmed?

Public professions of faith?  Baptisms?

Well, yes.

And no.

Jesus says that we, his disciples, will be known by our love.

I think a lot of that love, a lot of winning, happens without much fanfare at all.

It happens week after year after decade as God’s people choose to love well.

By setting up chairs.  Or folding bulletins.  Or making coffee.  Or vacuuming floors.  Or soothing crying babies.  Or listening to the one who looks different.  Or slipping out to the hospital in the middle of the night.  Or calling to pray with the one who is grieving.  Or working hard to give generously.

Maybe no one sees.

And, yet.

We need your love.

We need you.

Every single one of you.

All this to say, if you are tired tonight,

Tired of trying to recruit volunteers to the ministry of the hidden,

the ministry of the unglamourous.

Tired of wondering, deep down, if what you are doing matters that much.

Be encouraged.

You, friend, are loving well.

And that is a win.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

On Being Real

This post started out as a list of “things not to say to people whose foster children have just left their homes”(catchy, right?).  Because today I am sad.  And a little grumpy.

But the truth is, the support I have received over the past two weeks has been incredible.  My “village” has stepped up and most of the awkward things I’ve heard have come from folks with good hearts and good intentions who fumble because really, honestly no words are quite right.

There’s just this one thing that I can’t handle.

And it goes something like this: “Oh, don’t worry.  It was good practice for when you get your real baby.”

Friends, I love you.  I really do.

But PLEASE don’t say this to me (or to anyone, ok?).

Nothing about foster parenting is practice.  Nothing is fake.

It is all wonderfully, terrifyingly real.

This child is real.  Just as real as any other child that I may (or may not) eventually birth or adopt.  The middle of the night feedings are real.  The doctor’s appointments are real.  The visits with birthfamily are real (and, by the way—that birthfamily?  They are real too.).  The laundry is real.  The worry and uncertainty are real.  The attachment is real.  The family, my family, we are real.

And so, when a foster child leaves, the sadness is real too.

We are not good with sadness.  It makes us nervous and so we try to make things better, to cheer each other up, to rush through the sadness to the other side.

But, friends, the God I know isn’t in the business of rushing us through our sadness to some tidy fairy-tale ending.

The God I know isn’t scared to sit awhile and feel it all.  To live the sadness just as fully as the joy that has come before (and the joy that, I am confident, will come again).

Friends, it’s ok to sit awhile here.

I am not scared of this place, and you don’t need to be either.

It’s ok to say the wrong thing, or to say nothing at all.

It’s ok to be sad.

It’s ok to just be.

Because this foster parenting thing?  It’s as real as it gets.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Yes, but

A stolen moment away from the clamoring crowds.

A pointed question from the Master, “Who do you say I am?”

And Peter nails it.

You are the Christ of God.

Now don’t tell anyone that.

And, by the way, here’s what’s going to happen.  I’m going to suffer.  And die.  And be raised back to life.

And you?

You must deny yourself.  Take up your cross.  Follow me.

Putting myself in Peter’s shoes, I want to jump into this conversation, again and again, with a yes, but.

Yes, but Jesus, if we know who you are, why shouldn’t we tell our friends?

Yes, but isn’t there another way?  Is all that suffering really necessary?

Yes, but I’ve built a good life for myself here.  And when you say take up my cross you’re talking hypothetically, right?!?

Deny yourself.  Take up your cross.  Follow me.

Back in my own shoes, the yes, buts tumble out quickly too.

Yes, but I want a guarantee.  I want to know what I’m getting into.  I want to know how this will end.

Yes, but judgment and condemnation come easy.  Love is hard.

Yes, but I’ve done everything right.  That has to count for something.

Here’s the thing.

When I say yes, but, I really mean no.

And no is not denying.  No is not following.

This week, I am praying for the courage and faith to deny myself.  To follow Jesus.

To say yes.

And to leave it at that.

Leave a comment

Filed under sermon notes

The Same Miracle

If I’m honest, I’ve always kind of envied those of you with dramatic conversion stories.

You know… the ones with drama and suspense.  The ones where you hit rock bottom and find Jesus there.

As a little girl, I remember hearing these stories most.  They are the stories that always seemed to make the best videos, draw the biggest crowds, elicit the most enthusiastic celebration.

My story is not like this.  I was the little girl preaching to my stuffed animals at two years old.  Reading the Bible through in elementary school (and no “easy reader” version either—thank you very much).  Earning gold stars for Sunday School attendance.  Scripture verse memorization.  You name it.  I was the little girl voicing my concern about the lyrics of Amazing Grace because I wasn’t sure I was really a wretch.

So when I read Luke 15, I have no trouble identifying with the older son.  I am no stranger to his judgment and cynicism.

Today, though, it is not the older son that commands my attention.

It’s the Father.

He catches sight of his younger son—the one who will have the dramatic conversion story, and he takes the initiative.  He runs to greet him.  He invites him in.

Then the Father hears whispers that his other son—the one with gold stars for Sunday School attendance is outside, and again he takes the initiative.  He leaves the party and catches this son’s eyes, trying to reason with him.  He invites him in.

No matter where our life circumstances may take us, our Father takes the initiative.  He runs to greet us, catches our eyes.  He invites us in.

The stories are different.

The miracle is the same.

It takes just as much Jesus to rescue a church baby who doesn’t know she’s a wretch as it does to rescue a prodigal who has hit rock bottom.

Different story.

Same miracle.

1 Comment

Filed under sermon notes