Category Archives: Devotional

Pain

My Mom read me an article recently, that an adoptee wrote about things adopted children often struggle with.  To be honest, it was a pretty hard read.  I knew I believed in the power of listening to others and hurting alongside them when you could do nothing else–but somehow I felt something in me shutting down to the heartbreak.

I’ve experienced pain in many forms, but this was pain I could avoid, walk away from.  Someone else’s cross, I could choose to carry–or not.  You might think I had already made this decision, but adoption isn’t a moment in time, it’s a journey.  It isn’t my consent on a legal document, it’s my promise to always, always, always accept you.  Sure, these kids were my siblings–that didn’t guarantee a natural, Christ-like love on the spot.

(Who am I kidding, is love ever natural?  Yes and no–because we’re all sinful, but we’re also all made in God’s image.)

We were family, whether I liked it or not at that point, but that didn’t mean I had to bear their pain.  I was faced, as I so often am, with the unexpected choice.  There was no question in my mind as to what was right–Jesus bore our pain, our sin, our shame, in ways I can never identify with.  He wants us to do the same.  He wants us to care, He wants us to show up.  He can do the rest.

I think there is something God is trying to teach me about pain, because shortly after this our pastor started a sermon series about the cross.

What if there’s gain in feeling someone else’s pain, just because we can?

Jesus said to take up our crosses daily and follow Him.  I think he also wants us to take up others’ crosses, and help them bear them.

This Good Friday, are we willing to look at the cross, as it truly was–painful, ugly, shameful, and unjust?  Are we willing to look at pain?

Digging Potatoes ~ a true story

November 27, 2016

She was always in danger on carpeted steps, being particularly good at slipping on them, but she had forgotten how steep these were.  She braced her arms on the walls.  The unfamiliarity made her start.  Had she expected the basement to remain untouched, unchanged while the little girl who had played there grew into a young woman?  She stared into the room she remembered best.  She could not find the light-switch, but she did not really need it.  The white shelves showed dimly, and the pale carpet, and she knew it was full of flowers.  That had not changed–she could see their shadows in the dark.

She felt the carpet through her socks, and touched the shelf she had once found a dead snake under while she was playing hide-’n-seek.  She looked under it again instinctively, as if she expected the withered skin to still be there.

Had the flowers been real, they would be only wilted straw by now, but she knew they remained as bright and dewy as they had been all those years ago.  Yet still, the room felt dead.  Not thick with death and decay, but with a quiet peace; like a slumber so deep nothing could arouse from it.  She almost sensed the cobwebs in the dark corners, and she could feel the dust motes swirling peacefully in the air without any beam of light to illuminate them.

The house was haunted by a thousand phantoms to her.  Not ghosts to make your flesh crawl, but happy children playing and bright Christmas trees.  A rowdy group chased each other around the garden and the small house; a little boy good-naturedly scolded a little girl for stepping on an onion; the little girl groped through the unlighted basement and squeezed under a shelf full of silk blossoms.  She showed her siblings a dark blue snake skin.

There were things she would remember from the drive home, after she tore herself away from the sleeping room full of flowers.  Golden cornfields, rust-colored leaves, a gray pine tree, a red barn, a black horse, a hundred rows of leafless trees, the grief in her heart.  She had expected the pain to feel different.  Less–a dull ache; or greater–a deep, throbbing pain and a rush of tears.

Not this chill, peaceful worry that made her heart feel empty.  Something whispered in her mind, like an echo wandering in the emptiness.  The hole should feel dark, but it was full of color.  Crinkling red wrapping paper; navy blue sweaters; green gardens; dun, earthy potatoes; powdery, black soil.  A painting of an ocean wave, all indigo water, and dark rocks, and white foam.  Shiny-orange Cheeto-dust clinging to her sticky fingers; chocolate-minty candies; a hot, greasy cheeseburger.  A light warmth filled her empty heart; the sorrow cut deeply, but the past was filled with happiness.  Her aching heart held a single memory in that moment, and she would carry it with her forever.  She almost smiled–a quiet smile that is filled with tears in itself–through the pain.

The highway whipped past under her tires and the flowers slept in the dark, their veiled colors seared in her aching mind forever.

December 5, 2016

She had know it would happen, but somehow it still surprised her.  Somehow she had not expected it so soon.  She had guessed it for so long, she had been so sure; but not now, not like this.  She had thought she had felt the full weight alone in the dark room, inhaling the musty, lightless air.  But pain could cut deeper still.

~*~

And in that moment, I realized it could.

My senses were dominated by the taste and smell of salt, but the tears never fell.

The moment I came face to face with death, and felt pain wrench my heart until I thought I could hardly breathe.  I thought I could imagine wounds, describe pain, without ever really feeling it.

But I never truly imagined this–this quiet, tear-washed peace.

And even while the pain twists my heart inside out and my eyes ache to cry, I’m holding on.  I’m believing.  I’m believing that there is hope.  And hope makes all the difference.

I believe he loved me.  I hope he knew how much I admired him.  I hope he knows.  I know how much he loved me, and I know where he is; and I believe.  And I hope.

I cannot say death is the end, or that reality is bitter, while I believe in what He did.

I believe Death need not be proud, for it is “only the beginning” (Counted Worthy, page 228); I believe in the cross, but I believe in the empty tomb and nail-scarred hands that are warm with life.  “It is a bitter adventure if it must end so” (The Hobbit, page 243), but I will not believe this is the end.  I will keep believing.  I will hold hope in both hands, and I will believe.  I will praise the Giver of life and the Author of salvation, when my throat is too choked for words.

God, You are good.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Romans 15:13

 

The Kingdom of Light

“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.  And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints of the kingdom of light.  For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

-Colossians 1:9-14

God Shed His Grace On Thee. . .

I have been brushing up “America the Beautiful” on the piano lately, and of course it has been on my mind today.

Not on my mind enough to convince me to practice piano today 😉 , but I’ve still thought about it.  I first decided i wanted to play it when I read through all the verses; they are so beautiful.

I love all of them, but the last two lines of verse 3 have become a prayer to me.  For my country.

America!  America!  May God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness and every gain divine.

Because you don’t have to look too far to see America is losing her roots in God.  Not all that we call “success” today is noble, and not all our gains are Christ-like.  I have been praying for our country for a long time.

But after I read Counted Worthy by Leah E. Good I started praying for more.

I started praying that no matter what happened in America, the church would rise to meet it.  That they would respond in a way that honored the Lord.  No matter what.

Our pastor was speaking recently about common core, and he said that the church often responds in fear or anger, and we must respond in love.

We are the bride of Christ.

We have victory.

We have the last word.

So let us stop responding in fear.  Let us stop venting our anger on those deceived by Satan.  Let us respond in love.

We are more than conquerors in Christ, my friends–if God is for us, who can be against us?

O beautiful for patriot dream that sees, beyond the years,
Thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears!
America!  America!  God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.

***             ★    ***

Have a happy Fourth of July, and go get yourself a copy of Counted Worthy, sweet readers.

 

** Excerpts from “America the Beautiful” by Katharine Lee Bates

Storms

I step outside, onto the wet grass, and look around the yard.  I’m shocked to see how much damage the storm did.

Nothing huge–thank you, Jesus!  The trampoline’s standing, and there’s no trees down.

But the plants are in tatters.

The ferns were so pretty this year; so tall, so green.

Now they hang in droopy shreds of frond.

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Still, I can’t help but feel that the air is clear and warm, and there’s a picturesque beauty about the yard still.  There’s a promise hanging in the storm-washed air.  It’s Spring–things might still grow back.

I plop down on the wooden bench and open my Bible, trying to stay focused on the small words, and not the nature around me, shiny with rain-drops.

I look down, and there on the ground, amidst the battered flowers, is a tiny egg-shell.  A bright blue robin egg.

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I find myself whispering, Oh God, don’t let it have blown out of a nest in the storm!

I catch myself–does it matter that much?

Suddenly, a Bible verse comes to mind, and a thousand songs with it.

A sparrow cannot fall without notice. . .

I begin to think.  What does that really mean?

He never promised that the sparrow wouldn’t fall.

He says when it does, he sees.  He cares.

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Jesus never promised us that He would keep the storms away.  He promised to weather them with us.

He doesn’t say He’ll keep us safe–He says that no matter what, He’ll be with us.

He came to earth, was born in human form, as a helpless baby.  He lived in our world, felt our hurt.  He experienced human hunger.  Human pain.  He experienced every thing we must experience–and things none of us need ever experience now, because of His sacrifice.

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As Christians, that is our job.  To come to the pain.

Establishing God’s Kingdom does not mean eliminating pain.  It means bringing Jesus to the pain.

Our job is not to hunker down and wait expectantly until Jesus returns.  To lock ourselves inside and close the shutters.

Our job is to run to the pain and suffering.  To step out, into the aftermath of the storm.

And bring Jesus there.

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In the second The Hobbit movie, The Desolation of Smaug, the Elvish king hears threats of war and devastation from a goblin he captures.  He tells his son, Legolas, to order the closing of the gates to his underground kingdom.  Hearing that his friend, Tauriel, went out to track the rest of the goblins, Legolas goes in search of her in the forest.

Finding her, he tries to convince her to come back before the gates are closed.  Tauriel refuses to leave the goblins to kill and destroy through the other lands.

“It’s not our fight,” Legolas tells her.

“It is our fight,” she answers.  “Are we not part of this world?”

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We are a part of God’s Kingdom.

We are not to close up the gates and hide until the storm blows over.

We are to engage the world He made–and loves enough to die for.

We are a part of this world.  It is our fight.  It is our problem.

We cannot close our eyes to the war and pain and storms.  We must open them, and feel the sting of the falling raindrops.

We are called into the storm, and that is where Jesus is.  Is it not better to walk through the storms with Jesus by our side, than to hide from them–in temporary safety, but all alone?  We are not to fear what can harm the body, but what can harm the soul.

Do not be afraid, little children, you are worth more than many sparrows.

Who is a God like You?

Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance?  You do not stay angry forever, but delight to show mercy.  You will again have compassion on us; you will tread out sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.  You will be true to Jacob, and show mercy to Abraham, as you pledged on oath to our fathers in days long ago.

-Micah 7:18-20

Great Books: The Apostles Creed

I read the Apostles Creed as my third piece of literature for Great Books, and writing about it has been one of the hardest assignments I have had yet. There was plenty of content to write about, but somehow I could never quite put my finger on what I wanted to say. I finally realized that I had subconsciously been stuck on the fact that everything I thought of to write led me back to the Bible. I could not write about what I believe without going back to Scripture for help, and leaving the Creed behind me.

Continue reading Great Books: The Apostles Creed

Happy Easter!!

Jesus Christ is risen!

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Our King is more powerful than death!  Is that not worth celebrating?

Happy Easter, everyone!

“Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here; he has risen!”

-Luke 24:5, 6

 

P.S. Sorry I didn’t get any more of The Sacrifice posted–we were pretty busy on Saturday!  Busy in the Spring-break, lying-around-on-the-couch-with-my-siblings, going-to-movies way. 🙂  Anyway, sorry I never got it up, I’ll catch up on Tuesday.  Or maybe you could twist my arm into posting tomorrow. . .

Good Friday

Today is quite the day, isn’t it?  Am I the only one who thinks it’s perfect that Good Friday landed on March 25th this year?  One real, one imaginary anniversary, that celebrate the triumph over evil.

The day love won.

But the reality of love is the cross.  Tears–pain–darkness–blood–sweat–grime–wood splinters in your skin.  God is love, and He loved us even when it meant abandoning His son to torture and death.  To love someone is not to be made happy by them.  It means choosing to hang on and never let go, and let them drag you through things you never wanted to experience and don’t know how to handle.  Loving people is painful. —My Valentine’s Day post

We say Valentine’s Day is the day we celebrate love.  But I think that it is today.  Today, that true love was revealed to mankind.

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command.  I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business.  Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”

-John 15:13-15

Waiting

I was given a gift card to Sears at Christmas, and I used it today to buy myself an Easter dress!  Okay, Mama and Dad might have paid for part of it. . .

It’s obviously been a long time since I got a new dress, because it’s not the fanciest thing I’ve ever owned, but I feel like Cinderella in her ball gown! 🙂  I think it’s the prettiest thing I’ve ever touched.

And Easter’s a whole week away.

It feels like forever.

But really, isn’t that a big part of what Easter is?  Waiting for Jesus.  Waiting for redemption.  Waiting for the resurrection.

Easter is about new life, and things long hoped-for being placed in our hands as a gift, for today, and for forever.