Sunday, November 7, 2010
She doesn’t look any different today than she did yesterday. She’s not any taller, and her conversations still sound suspiciously like gibberish, and her steps are still very wobbly. But sometime between yesterday and today, she turned into a one-year-old. Okay, specifically at 4:58 this afternoon. But you know what I mean.
This first birthday is a big milestone. Kind of like graduations and wedding days and anniversaries. I’m so glad that life is not found in the big milestones.
If life was defined by these milestones, then I think I would be sad most of the time. Because life would be spent in increasing anticipation for a certain event and then a huge letdown once it was over.
Even though I loved my wedding day, I love my marriage even more. I’m thankful that I graduated from high school and college and seminary, but I’m more thankful for the experiences that filled my high school, college, and seminary days. I enjoyed celebrating my baby’s birthday, but more than that I enjoy my “every-days” with her.
It’s kind of like when Elijah was waiting for the Lord to pass by. A “great and powerful wind” blew in and literally shattered the mountains. An earthquake rumbled through. A great fire blazed.
God was not in them.
Then a gentle breeze started to blow. There He was. In the quiet. In the unimpressive moment.
Jesus defined eternal life as knowing God in John 17:3. I want to know Him. Not just on the mountaintops, but in the everyday moments. I want to teach my daughter about Him when we sit at home and when we walk along the road, when we lie down and when we get up. I want to teach her that life is not defined by the wind and the earthquakes and the fires. It is in the gentle breeze.
And so I am not afraid of all the milestones yet to come. I look forward to all the “firsts” and “lasts” in my daughter’s life, but I will not build my life around them only to be disillusioned and sad once they are accomplished. I plan on thoroughly enjoying my one-year-old this year, in every unimpressive moment that we have together…because those moments are where life takes place.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
And what is next? Because if there is one thing I’m learning, it’s that life is always in flux. In less than a year Spencer will be done with school and then I have no idea where we’ll go. It could be anywhere. And in less than three weeks our little girl will turn one year old. My baby will officially be a toddler. What???
Someone told me this picture should be titled, “Oh the Places You’ll Go.” That makes me want to cry.
But, change is inevitable. As much as I want to keep my baby a baby, she will still grow up. As much as I don’t want to leave the friends I have made here, leave we must when Spencer is done.
Faithfulness. At times like this it is my saving grace. God’s faithfulness “reaches to the sky” (Psalm 108:4); it “continues through all generations” (Psalm 100:5). His mercies are new every morning.
Tomorrow? I don’t know yet. But I do know that His mercies will be new, and they will be sweet, and His faithfulness will still be great. And on this cool autumn day, as I sip my hot green tea and gaze at the red and orange and yellow show in my backyard, I am very grateful for my very faithful God.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Oh, we just have to change a diaper now
It will only take a minute, don’t cry so loud
I sing to her in the car…
Hey, silly kiddo, what is she doing?
Hey, silly kiddo, what is she doing?
Is she being kind of silly? (Yeah, yeah)
Or is she being kind of funny? (Yeah, yeah)
Is she being kind of sweet? (Yeah, yeah)
Or is she just a little hungry? (Yeah, yeah)
I sing to her after her bath, when she’s all wrapped up in her towel…
I’ve got a bathtime burrito, a bathtime burrito
I’ve got a bathtime burrito
And she’s a silly billy – Whoo!
Incredibly deep, I know. So, that’s 90% of our day. But then there is that other 10% - the part where I’m not singing to her, but I’m singing over her. And there is a huge difference.
It’s time to go to sleep. I hold her and feed her and pray for her. And then, in the moments before I put her in her crib, I sing over her. It’s one of my favorite times. When I am singing over my daughter, I don’t sing fun, silly songs. I sing songs that have a message that I want to transfer from my heart to hers. I sing words that are life-giving, words of peace and of hope and of salvation.
Be still, my soul, the Lord is on your side…
Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow…
For I know whate’er befall me, Jesus doeth all things well…
Zephaniah 3:17 pictures God quieting us with His love and singing over us with joy. I just can’t help but think that He treasures those moments when we can be still and quiet enough to let His song soak into our hearts and give us hope.
I sang over Claire tonight, and now she is sleeping peacefully. Soon I will lay my head down as well. Be still, my soul…and listen…
“By day the Lord directs His love; at night His song is with me...” Psalm 42:8
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Yeah, I don’t have one of those.
But if my daughter is upset – you know, the kind of upset where baby doesn’t know why she’s crying but mommy knows it’s the kind of cry that comes from being too tired – then she is the furthest thing from a cuddle-bug. Instead of leaning into me, Claire arches her back, pushes away from me, throws her head back and cries even harder. It’s so frustrating.
“Love, if you’ll just rest against me. I know why you are upset. I know what you need. You need rest; you need to lay your head down and relax in my arms and just let me hold you. You need to cease striving. You need to be still.”
But she refuses to be comforted. Sometimes I just have to put her in her crib and let her cry for a good five or ten minutes before she will allow herself to be consoled. I just walked out of her bedroom, where I found her covered with tears, yes, and snot, and finally ready to be comforted. If only she had laid her head down the first time I offered my love.
“Be still and know that I am God.”
I know there are a lot of ways in which we need to “be still.” We need to turn off the noise, slow down the schedule, be in the moment. But right now, I’m thinking about my daughter. I am thinking about how instead of being still when she is overcome with fatigue and emotions, she responds to my presence with confusion and resistance and striving. She doesn’t want me to put her down, but she refuses to accept the rest that I offer.
And I’m thinking about how many times my Father has wanted to comfort me and I have refused to be still. I wonder how many times He has had to leave me alone to have my pity-party or my temper-tantrum and to cry out enough tears to finally be exhausted enough to receive His love. How many times do I respond to my out-of-control emotions, or my overwhelming circumstances, or my flat-out fatigue, by throwing my head back, arching my back and crying, when my Father is closer than I acknowledge, desiring to hold me and comfort me and remind me of His power and love and authority in my life?
“Child, if you’ll just rest against Me. I know why you are upset. I know what you need. You need rest; you need to lay your head down and relax in My arms and just let Me hold you. You need to cease striving. You need to be still.”
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
It’s not that I haven’t thought about the fact that I need to teach her these things, but I think I have always taken for granted the background knowledge that we all have on which to build. When I taught second grade, I showed kids how to add and subtract. But I didn’t have to teach them what numbers were. They already knew that.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
And as I sit and wait anxiously for news of my very first niece (I warned my mom that I will be calling every five minutes), I can’t help but remember.
Nine months ago I was having contractions. I don’t miss that part.
I remember the anticipation leading up to that day…the fear mixed with wonder and excitement. I remember wishing with all my heart that I could skip the whole labor and delivery part. I mean, the nine months of pregnancy were great. And I couldn’t wait to hold my little girl in my arms. I just wanted to skip the in-between part. Is that too much to ask?
Sunday, August 1, 2010
“How do you stop being afraid?”
And without skipping a beat, my dad answered, “Perfect love.”
So simple. So profound. Of course, I knew the verse to which he was referring…”There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…” (1 John 4:18). I’ve read that verse, memorized it, meditated on it. But honestly, the truth is that I just have never understood it. Perfect love casts out fear. Great. But what does that mean? How do I get this perfect love? How does it drive out fear, practically? But my dad’s confidence in that answer made me start thinking about it again, and asking God for the wisdom to comprehend it.
I started my quest by taking in the context of this elusive truth, and the verse immediately following this one struck me. Verse 19 – “We love because He first loved us.” Not only does this define perfect love – the love of the Father, the love that was demonstrated on the cross, the love that God initiated for us – but it also sets the context. Perfect love is found within a relationship – specifically, a relationship with a loving Abba.
Next the Holy Spirit took me to Romans 8. “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!"
Why does it take so long for simple truths to “click”?
All of a sudden, it hit me. How could I have missed this? Perfect love is the love of the Father, the spirit of adoption, the relationship between Abba and his child.
I wrestle, not with the concept that God is powerful and sovereign, nor that He is loving, nor that He is wise; I accept and believe all of these things. But in my flesh I cannot reconcile the awful things that He allows to happen. And this uncertainty over all the possibilities of all the bad things in the world that could happen is where my fear is planted, watered, and cultivated.
But suddenly I see how perfect love can cast out this fear.
God has blessed me beyond measure with a daddy who showed me my first picture of God as Father, and demonstrated it as accurately as a fallen human can. He is my hero. I am perfectly at rest in my dad’s love. I have no doubt that he loves me unconditionally and that he would only seek my best interest. When I was little, I was terrified of dogs. I mean, if I even thought I heard the echo of a dog’s bark, I would climb my daddy like a tree. But there’s the thing. My dad’s love did not mean that fear never assaulted me; but when it did rear its ugly head, I knew where to turn. It was instinct – Run to daddy. He loves me. He’ll take care of me. He’ll never do anything unless he believes it is best for me.
Now I understand. Fear has never been a part of my relationship with my dad – only love, as perfect as love can be on a human level. How much more, then, can the perfect love of my heavenly Father provide for me a place of peace, a refuge from fear. It's not that bad things will never happen, because they will. But if I feed my soul on the knowledge of the character of my Father, I don’t have to be afraid; and when I am afraid, I know where to turn.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
“Claire, with anything in the living room you may play…but with the electrical cords you may not play, for the day you play with them you will surely get in trouble.”
I’m really not trying to deprive my child of anything good. I have set out baby proof toys, kitchen utensils, books – anything I could think of that she might enjoy getting into. I have things in boxes and bags and on shelves all over the living room so she can enjoy her sense of discovery as she pulls things out and throws them on the floor. I love watching her play.
But the one thing that she is not allowed to play with is the electrical cords.
I cannot remove the cords because they are necessary for the functioning of our everyday lives. They are the one thing in the living room that incur a resounding and consistent “No!” from Spencer and myself when Claire reaches for them. The cords are forbidden for Claire’s own good. It is dangerous for her to play with them, and besides, there are so many other good things that she could play with all around her.
So why is it that they are Claire’s favorite object of interest? Why is it that every time I turn around, she is crawling toward the one thing that is forbidden, the one thing that could cause her harm?
“Child, of any tree in this garden you may eat, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you may not eat – for in the day you eat of it, you will surely die.”
Why is it that Adam and Eve were captivated by the one fruit they were not allowed to have – the one fruit that would usher death into this world? Why is it that every day we choose the one thing that God has forbidden? Why is sin so appealing? If only we truly knew and appreciated the Father’s character, understanding that anything He has forbidden is not a withholding of something good, but an avoidance of danger and harm and tragedy.
Claire doesn’t understand my intentions yet. Honestly, she doesn’t even understand the word “no”, but we’re working on that.
Maybe my proclivity toward sin demonstrates that I don’t truly understand my Father’s intentions. The more I seek Him, the more intimately I know Him, the better I will understand that when He says “no”, it is for my good.
“Do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent His rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, as a father the son he delights in.” Proverbs 3:11-12
Monday, April 26, 2010
Now that’s an inspiring prayer if I’ve ever heard one. It reminds me of an “imaginary” conversation…that might sound a little familiar to some of you.
Husband: What’s wrong?
Husband: Really nothing, or nothing as in something?
Wife: It’s nothing. Just…it’s nothing.
Husband (groans): Okay, what is it really? What did I do?
Wife: Nothing. I mean, if you really don’t know, then it’s just nothing.
Husband: Good grief. I’m sorry. I don’t even know what I did, but I’m sorry, okay?!
What a heartfelt confession. I’m sure that the whole “I’m sorry for whatever I did, if in fact I did anything in the first place” bit really served to rectify that situation. Now the wife has her own set of issues in this “fake” conversation, but think about the husband’s response. No one wants to hear a half-hearted confession. But really, isn’t that often how we approach the throne of God?
“I’m sorry for all my sins…even though I don’t want to put the effort into thinking of even one specific sin that I’ve committed, and I really don’t want to acknowledge what that sin reveals about my character, and I don’t really have the time to see how that sin really offended Your holiness…so whatever I’ve done, I’m sorry and please forgive me.”
Confession is a lost discipline. We are largely ignorant of what true confession entails, why it is so important, how to even begin to do it. Confession is a crucial element of the victorious Christian life, but too often we (emphasis on the first-person pronoun here – I am foremost in this reproof) skim the issue of our present sin with the “catch-all” confession, which really is no confession at all.
In the next few posts, I want to look at some elements of confession. We will dive into 1 John 1:9 and break down each phrase used in that magnificent promise regarding confession. We will look at what true confession reveals about our hearts and see how confession and victory are inseparable. And we will see that repentance is the other side of confession. I hope the Lord blesses us with knowledge and wisdom regarding this topic, all for the goal of knowing Him more intimately!
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
But I hate the part when you sweep the little pile into the dustpan.
I sweep it in, but when I move the dustpan there is always a little line of dust that didn't make it. So I reposition the dustpan and sweep again...but there is another little line of residue that can't make it over the ledge. I chase that little pile all over the kitchen floor but I just can never really get it all. If I try to skip the dustpan and just sweep it out the back door, the little ledge at the bottom of the door frame stops me.
Sweeping the floor may be one of the most anticlimactic experiences in my life.
At this point I am not going to try to draw a spiritual truth from that story. Maybe someday. But for now, I just wanted to get it off my chest.
Friday, March 12, 2010
My little girl loves to fly around like superman.
The other day my husband was flying her around the house, when suddenly he pulled her close and said with abrupt realization, “You’re not always going to be this little!” Of course, I have that same thought every day. When I look at her little four-month old face, I see how much she has grown already. I remember how she weighed next to nothing and how she used to cuddle up like a little roly-poly and fall asleep on top of me in a heartbeat. Now she fidgets so much that she hardly ever falls asleep in my lap anymore, and even though 14 pounds is relatively small, it certainly starts to wear out my bicep a lot faster than 7 pounds!!!
I have always had a hard time with memories. For most people, that probably means that it’s hard to deal with the bad things that have happened in the past. But I’m not most people. I really struggle with the good memories. I want them back. It’s bittersweet to remember good times, because they are gone. So with my daughter, I could very easily become sad over the moments that are so fleeting because once they are gone, I just can’t get them back.
I learned recently that Haggai was probably in his eighties when he prophesied to God’s people. His message was to encourage them to continue the work of rebuilding the temple after they returned from exile. One of the problems he addressed was that of discouragement over good memories. The people were watching the new temple form, and the ones who were old enough to remember were saddened because the new temple was not nearly as beautiful or glorious as the old one. “Oh, the good old days.” Haggai was old enough to remember the glory of the old temple as well. But he offered a different perspective.
“Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? Does it not seem to you like nothing in comparison? But now, take courage…I will fill this house with glory…The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts, and in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.”
The memory of the old temple was glorified in the people’s minds. But they were so busy missing what used to be that they were literally missing the most wonderful promise in the world. The latter glory of this house was that this temple – not the old one – would be the place where God Himself would be brought as a baby to be dedicated; where He would teach the heart of the law; where He would rip the curtain that separated us from Him. This would be the temple where Messiah would walk.
Can you imagine the tragic irony of someone who was so caught up in lamenting what the temple used to be like, that he missed God in the flesh, standing right in front of him? I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to relive the glory days at the expense of missing God’s blessings and the lessons that He is teaching me today. I don’t want to be so sad over missing my newborn girl that I fail to see her four-month-old personality that is so precious – her wide grins, her alert gaze, her new discoveries of what she can do. I don’t want to live off of the rush of past spiritual victories and miss the new things that God is teaching me about faith and about Himself.
“His mercies are new every morning.” I want to give thanks for what has been, but live in the present so that I can see those mercies every day. “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!”
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
A cursory reading through Zephaniah 1 left me feeling pretty depressed. It is all about the devastation that will come upon Judah because of the sins of the people. As I read the words I could feel God’s disappointment and righteous frustration and anger. His people were rebellious and then apathetic toward their sin. They had to be punished.
But don’t forget whose job that is.
God is holy and must punish sin. But in chapter 2, He turns His wrath toward someone else. Nations to the east, west, north, and south of Judah had “taunted and become arrogant against the people of the Lord of hosts” (2:10). Oh no. Don’t go messing with God’s children. Because of their arrogance toward His people, they would suffer the wrath of God.
Here is the encouragement that I found in this: When God is angered by His people’s rebellion, He punishes them (remember Hebrews 12 – What loving father would not discipline his children?) But He does not turn away from them completely. Through the prophet God pronounced devastating consequences on Judah; but then He turned around like a protective Father and defended them against other nations who sought their ruin.
I’m so thankful to have a heavenly Father who will not tolerate my sin, but in the same moment will defend me against my accusers. And what a glory to be on this side of the cross, and to know that Jesus has absorbed the wrath of God for me. He still disciplines me, but I know that when my enemy comes against me, I have an Advocate who will plead my case based on the blood of the Lamb. What a blessing to abide in both the discipline and the protection of God Almighty!
Friday, February 12, 2010
This is the question that I always want answered. Why are these things happening? Or, why isn’t anything happening? Habakkuk asked that question too. Why aren’t You doing anything, God? Why doesn’t Your plan make any sense??
God never answered those questions.
It’s not that He never answers the question “Why?” But more often than not, I think maybe He’s not that concerned with our understanding the “why’s” of life. At least not until we understand the “Who.”
When Habakkuk asked, “Why?” God answered, not “Because…”, but “I am.” He reminded Habakkuk of His character and His holiness. Habakkuk’s response? “Lord, I have heard the report about You and I fear.” The same thing happened to Job. Instead of explaining to Job why things happened in his life the way they did, God answered by reminding him of His awesome power in creation. Job’s response? “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted…I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You.”
Did God ever answer the question “Why?” I don’t know. Maybe He eventually did. But Habakkuk didn’t have to wait for that answer before he could say, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vine, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will be joyful in God my Savior” (3:17-18) In order to have peace and joy, Habakkuk didn’t have to know why. He just had to know who. Who was in control. Who had a plan that could not be thwarted. Who was sovereign and wise and good. Because in the end, it’s not about reasons; it’s about a Person.
“The Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him.” (2:20)
Friday, February 5, 2010
Some people claim that it’s totally okay to question God, even to get angry at Him. I think I might call this arrogant doubt. Others would never dare to approach Him with the questions that are in their hearts. They simply try to cover up their questions in a sort of fearful doubt.
Many times God’s ways do not make sense to us. So how are we supposed to handle the questions and doubts that naturally arise out of our lack of understanding? I think I’ll ask Habakkuk.
Habakkuk, how do you deal with doubt?
*Habakkuk is honest before God.
Habakkuk deals with a lot of questions as he observes the wickedness around him. He asks, “Why aren’t You doing something?” When God answers and says, “I am doing something – something you would not even believe if I told you…I am raising up your enemies to overcome you…” Habakkuk’s next question is, “Why are You doing that?” God’s ways do not make sense to Habakkuk, and he is honest about his doubt. He freely admits to God his struggle to reconcile who he knows God to be with how God appears to be working (or not working) in his situation.
*Habakkuk’s questions are always backed by a statement of faith.
The prophet’s doubts are not out of control, because even though things do not make sense to him, he still grounds himself in God’s character. Yes, he asks, “Why are You doing this?”, but he also proclaims, “You are from everlasting…Your eyes are too pure to approve evil.” He reminds himself in chapter 3 of all the things that God has done for His people in the past to save them, and rests on the knowledge that this Savior King does not change.
*After Habakkuk asks his questions, he determines to wait and listen to hear what God will speak to him.
Habakkuk’s decision in the middle of his faith crisis is to “keep watch to see what He will speak to me.” Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Habakkuk understood this. The only way to overcome doubt is to combat it with the truth of the word of the Lord. Habakkuk has confidence that the Lord will speak to him and that the truth is strong enough to answer his doubts.
And what is the end result of Habakkuk’s process of dealing with his doubt? His faith was strengthened. His honest questions, his remembrance of who God is, and his perseverance in waiting to hear from the Lord pay off. In the end Habakkuk is filled with peace and joy even though the prophecy of destruction does not change.
I want that. I want to experience doubt and come out on the other side with a faith that is stronger. I have failed miserably in the past. I have allowed doubt to overwhelm me instead of allowing faith to overcome doubt. But next time, I pray that I will not be so arrogant as to question God without fear and reverence; I pray that I will not be so fearful to admit my weakness that I would bury my questions under a façade of false strength. But I pray that I would be a humble doubter, an honest questioner who does not forget who God is in the middle of the storm, but who humbly waits to hear what God wants to teach me.
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Even though I can’t even pronounce the book’s name with confidence (is it phonetically legal to leave the last “k” silent?), these three little chapters that are tucked away toward the end of the Old Testament have captured my heart. I attend a women’s community Bible study, and we are currently doing a survey of the minor prophets. I confess that Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah and the like are not my typical quiet time material. But the Lord has opened my heart to the amazing message He has through these little Old Testament books.
In my study guide I was asked to write phrases or words that describe both Habakkuk and God throughout the three chapters. I was stunned by the simple yet profound truth that jumped out at me as I completed this activity.
Chapter 1 – “How long?... You do not hear me…You do not save…Why are You silent?...Why do you look with favor on those who are evil?...Why?”
Chapter 2 – “I will stand…I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me…”
Chapter 3 – “I have heard the report about You and I fear…I will rejoice in the Lord…I will be joyful in God my Savior…The Lord God is my strength…”
Chapter 1 – “I am doing something...” “Are You not from everlasting, O Lord, my God, my Holy One?...Your eyes are too pure to approve evil…”
Chapter 2 – “The vision will certainly come…The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord…the Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth be silent before Him…”
Chapter 3 – “The Holy One comes…His splendor covers the heavens, and the earth is full of His praise…You went forth for the salvation of Your people…The Lord God is my strength…”
Habakkuk’s transformation is obvious. He moves from humble and honest questioning, to watchful waiting and listening, to reverent worship. It is a journey of faith, a familiar cycle. But as I went back through and wrote the phrases and words that describe God, I realized that though Habakkuk is different in each chapter, God is the same. He does not change. Yes, I realize how elementary this principle is. “Wow, Jana, you’re a genius – God doesn’t change! I can’t believe you came up with that!” But seeing this familiar truth in this context, I realized anew just how awesome that fact is.
God is so steadfast. Growing in faith is a process of my changing – it comes as my understanding of God in His holiness and sovereignty and goodness is expanded and solidified. What hope there is in serving an unchanging God who delights in revealing Himself to us so that we might be changed and our faith might grow! And the end result of Habakkuk’s journey – and what I hope in for myself as well – is, no matter the circumstances, to “rejoice in the Lord, to be joyful in God my Savior” – because He does not change. (3:18)