Good Friday Was Bad

The older I get, the more I become aware of life’s fragility, of our precarious position in this world. We are not promised tomorrow, nor even tonight. What’s more, neither are our loved ones. Living is risky and loving is even riskier. Motherhood has made me all too aware of this. From ISIS and the zika virus and just basic human error the endless list of what if‘s could bring a mother to the brink of insanity. I think with each pregnancy, I will confront fear again and again. I can be haunted by the words of Job, “What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me…”

The question then, is what is the answer to the problem of our fears? Is it a blind, unfounded belief that bad things won’t happen to us? Do we just tell ourselves God wouldn’t do that? I don’t think so because we can plainly see that bad things do happen to people. As scripture tells us, God not only lets them happen, but He ordains all that will come to pass. How then can we know that this God, this sovereign God is really good? How may we look our fears in the face, knowing that they might all come true and yet believe that God is trustworthy?

Whenever I wrestle with the sovereignty of God and the existence of evil and suffering, a profound mystery, God always leads me to the surer, solid ground before the cross. We celebrate today, the day Jesus died, and we call it good, but the truth is, it wasn’t really good. Good Friday was bad. Nothing could have been more disastrous, more terrible for followers of Jesus than the death of the one on whom they had pinned all their hopes.

But it wasn’t even just that it seemed bad at the time. It was really wrong. It was really evil and unjust that Jesus, who had committed no wrong, was crucified at the hands of those who had. Jesus himself, when they came to arrest him, said, “But this is your hour when darkness reigns” (Luke 22:53). What a startling statement for the light of the world to make. God purposed that darkness, evil, should reign–but only for a time. For we know that the real injustice wrought by man was, at the same time, mysteriously coinciding with God’s perfect justice against sin and amazing grace to sinners. You see, the cross tells us that God always re-purposes or rather, “supra-purposes” evil and suffering. What man intends for evil, God intends to work for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Genesis 50:20, Romans 828).

So my answer to my fears and worries is not some wishful belief that they will not happen, that they could not happen. As they happened to Job, they could happen to me. All that I fear might come to pass and it might be truly bad, truly wrong. Yet if I follow the logic of Romans 8, the logic of the cross, I find the freedom to walk in faith instead of fear. Good Friday was bad, but now it is so very, completely good. Through His resurrection, Christ redeemed His own death and if He can redeem such a great wrong, He can and will redeem all the pains and sorrows of those He suffered so greatly to purchase. If He can redeem the cross, He can redeem anything and if He can redeem anything, we have nothing to fear. That is not trite, vain hope, but plain, solid truth to which our souls can firmly hold.

 

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For the Mother Whose Life Feels Small

It has been a while since I’ve written. I’ve wanted to write, but honestly, I just haven’t had much to say and don’t want to write something just to write something. With the New Year, I’ve been reflecting back on where my writing took me in 2015. I don’t regret a single thing I wrote, but it has caused me to sort of re-examine why I write and what I want my writing to achieve. I think the ultimate answer to that question is that I’d like my writing to enlighten or encourage and, in the best of cases, both.

I remember driving back to school the summer before my junior year of college and calling my dad to tell him I didn’t want to study Microbiology anymore. “I want to write,” I told him. It was a little crazy, but I changed my major to Philosophy halfway through school and as I got into my studies, I knew I had made the right decision. I felt so assured of God’s purpose for me. My strengths, my passions, and God’s plan all seemed to be in perfect alignment. And they were, although in a different way than I thought at the time. I saw myself doing what I loved, thinking and writing, and doing it for the glory of God. If I was honest though, I envisioned more than a little glory for myself too.

It’s funny how as we get a little older, we realize that our lives are not going to be quite the movie or biographical material we thought they would be. It can come as a bit of a shock to our individualistic American sensibilities that we are after all, quite common. Growing up, I was a star. I say this not to applaud myself, but more to laugh at myself retrospectively. I was a star athlete, a star student. Man, I had potential. With my perfect GPA and variety of extra-curricular activities, I felt as if I was on an upward path to something really special.

Now sometimes, I feel more like a rocket that failed to launch. My days are quiet, as quiet as days with a one year old can be. Each day is a repetitive cycle of diapers, dishes, and laundry. My greatest recent achievement is teaching my son where his nose is, which he points to and inevitably starts picking. I love being home with him. I treasure the moments of tickle-induced giggles and sleepy bedtime snuggles. I wouldn’t trade any of it. I know I am so incredibly blessed.

But sometimes, my life just feels small, so very insignificant. I look at people who I went to school with, out conquering the world and doing big, important things and think, What am I doing? Putting on real pants if I’m having an especially motivated day, that’s what. “I know what I’m doing is important,” I told my husband the other day, “but it just doesn’t feel very important.”

What I’m learning, really re-learning and then re-re-learning, is that importance cannot be measured in audience members or applause or even in difficulty. The greatest of tasks can be cloaked in the humble and ordinary. Purpose is not always tangible and it’s often delayed in fulfillment. The one who sows the seed waters bare ground for days before he sees any reason to. And then it is many years until that seedling becomes a great tree. So it is, I think, with being a parent of little ones.

My husband and I met with our pastor today to get some advice about starting to discipline. On the way home, I was thinking about the end goal, the vision of the godly man I hope my son will grow to be. I was struck by what a great task the Lord has given us and how very important it is, but that that importance is only felt in light of this far-off vision. What this world needs most apart from Jesus Himself is men and women who are like Him. And so it needs fathers and mothers who do the mundane task of watering and nurturing our children like the tiny plants they are. That is my task, my great, great task which for the moment, feels so very, very small.

So for now, I’ll teach my son where his ears and feet are. I’ll make sure he has a clean diaper and keeps his fingers out of outlets. I will do these menial tasks to meet his basic needs, to love him. But someday…someday, I will teach him greater things. I will teach him to love what is good and to hate what is evil, to cling to what is honorable and right and true. I will point him to Jesus, to life. And someday, I pray, he will be like a tree, planted by the stream which is Christ (Jeremiah 17:7), bearing much fruit and offering shade to the weary. I hope that day comes and that then he will know what I am learning: the most important things in life are often what make us the least self-important and the greatest life is the life which is given away.

 

My Body My Choice? Thoughts of a Woman on Women’s Rights.

Let me start out by clarifying what this post is not. It is not an attempt to be combative or even to really argue for the morality or immorality of abortion. It is, I hope, more of an examination of the philosophy behind the mantra of abortion and a reflection on the wisdom or lack of wisdom of said philosophy, for I wish, in all things, to live wisely and I should hope that you do too. Though I think we must be cautioned that wisdom, unlike its counterpart folly, rarely leads us where we are most comfortable and usually asks us to pay some kind of price.

“My body, my choice” is the prevailing chant of those who argue that abortion is permissible. This mantra exalts the philosophy of bodily autonomy, the idea that our bodies are our own and we get to choose what we do with them. I think there are some pretty gaping holes in this argument and that the good principle of bodily autonomy has been abused to mean something it was not intended to, something more akin to bodily tyranny, as if our choices are impervious to any dictates of moral law.

Certainly though, there is an appeal. The right to choose seems an obvious and inherent good and so it is to an extent, but I think we must ask ourselves some bigger questions. In whose world do our bodies exist and are our bodies really our own? In essence, do our choices dictate to moral law or is it the other way around? If we want to know the answer, we must find out if we exist in someone else’s world, for if we do, we are answerable to that someone for the choices we make. If we do, we should care about what He thinks about what we do with our bodies. More than that, I think we should think rightly about our bodies and about how we may best use them.

My husband was telling me that he is going to be talking to our youth group about abortion and he might want me to contribute a woman’s perspective. So it got me thinking. The issue of abortion is framed as an issue of women’s rights. The argument I have heard is that pregnancy is such a burden, such an invasion of bodily autonomy and privacy that no woman should have to endure it against her will. Having now experienced it myself, I can tell you that it is true. The thing I kept thinking while I was pregnant was, “Man, this is a commitment.” I threw up for three months. I was tired from waking up several times a night to go to the bathroom. I gained a lot of weight and felt unattractive. And then there were the contractions and the labor, the literal tearing of my body.

What I’ve come to realize though is that we continue to pay a bodily price for our babies even after they are out of the womb. You start with the painful recovery from labor and the sleepless nights with a newborn. You have stretch marks in places you didn’t know you could stretch. You basically become an on demand milk cow. You get circles under your eyes from long nights and pains in your back from bending over to pick up toys and scrape dried sweet potato off the floor. Your body will literally never be the same again. Children, at any age, take a toll on your body and your life. The bottom line is that people and commitment to people are inconvenient, demanding, and costly.

But you want to know the truth? Our bodies are wasting assets and how we use them matters. We have two choices. We can invest in them and our right to rule them. We can hope in our power over them, but we will be sorely disappointed for at the end of it all, each of our bodies will be claimed by death whether we choose it or not. The grave is no respecter of our independent wills. The other option is that we can choose to invest our bodies in something that lasts or rather, someone that lasts. We can take what is perishable and with it, purchase what is imperishable, the life and souls of our children.

Wisdom whispers to us not miss what is lasting because it is hard and reminds us that everything that is of great worth comes at a great cost. It beseeches us to think beyond the present and into eternity. It beckons us to be like Christ, who gave up all rights to His own body for our sake. So, I would also urge us all to set aside our wills, our comforts and to let our bodies be spent, to be used up for another and so, to not be wasted.

The Lesson of Our Mortality

In the past few days, I’ve had a lot of tragic reminders that life is short and that it is often filled with pain and sorrow. Our lives are more fragile than we care to admit. Our position in the world, which seems to us to be so fixed, is far more precarious than we are willing to believe. We suppress this truth. We deceive ourselves into believing that we have always been and we will always be, but this is folly. We imagine ourselves to be great and enduring when, in reality, we are small and fleeting.
“The ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough—that he should live on forever and not see decay. For all can see that wise men die; the foolish and the senseless alike perish and leave their wealth to others. Their tombs will remain their houses forever, their dwellings for endless generations, though they had named lands after themselves. But man, despite his riches does not endure; he is like the beasts that perish” (Psalm 49:7-13).

Thus, it is good, even vital, for us to ponder the transience of our own existence, to stare our mortality in the face and make sense of it. “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:2). I urge you then, take it to heart. Of course, it’s easier to ignore. Our mortality makes us uneasy. It makes us afraid. We could be snatched from this world at any moment. Our loved ones might be taken. How then, do we live? How may we walk in hope and not in an ever-present, all-consuming fear of our fixed fate?

We hope in Jesus, not in ourselves. We fix our eye on the resurrected One who put death to shame. We invest, not in this world, which is susceptible to decay, but in the heavenly “city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God (Hebrews 11:10). We bear up under the stings of a broken world and walk the path of death because we know that death will not win the day, but it will be swallowed up in victory (1 Corinthians 15:54). Death, our greatest enemy, “has failed to be found equal to the life of Him who saves.” Jesus is risen. He has conquered. He has atoned. He will make all things new.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ (Reveleation 21:1-5).

8 Things I Learned in My First Year of Motherhood

This is definitely a departure from my normal type of post. Since my son just turned one, I thought I’d take a break from more serious topics and do something a little more light and hopefully humorous. I’ve only got one year under my belt so I am by no means a motherhood expert, but thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned. Hopefully, current moms and those about to become moms can laugh, relate, and maybe be a little bit scared.

1.  An epidural is your friend .

First thing’s first. you have to actually have the child, right? As you may have heard, this involves some pain that we women have to endure because, well, Eve really wanted some fruit. I’m not sure where an epidural fits into the whole curse thing, but I like to think it’s an expression of God’s mercy and forgiveness to us.

Let me be clear that I have nothing against those women who choose to do without or even give birth at home. These women amaze me and I actually wonder sometimes if I could be one of them. Buuut I’m pretty sure I was born without that level of pain tolerance and I’ve got nothing to prove so as for me and my house, we shall be anasthetized.

2. Projectile poop is a thing.

Your newborn comes with fully loaded bladder and bowels which they have absolutely zero control over. And since their stomach is the size of a pea and all they eat is milk, it can pretty much shoot out of them in any form at any given moment. There is no conclusive scientific evidence that these miniature people plot to wait to relieve themselves until the diaper has been removed, but in my experience, there does seem to be an indication of premeditated peeing and pooping. Advice: keep carpet cleaner on hand.

3. Your body is capable of operating (okay, semi-operating) on way less sleep than you thought.

As aforementioned, when your baby is born, their stomach is the size of a pea and they are not much bigger so they are eating constantly in order to stay full and put on weight. This means you are now a milk cow. A full-time milk cow. Your baby does not know or care that you are so tired you can’t see straight. Daytime and nighttime mean nothing to them. You might wonder if you will ever sleep again. You will. Though you think you might actually just fall over and die from sleep-deprivation, you won’t (probably).

4. Your wardrobe choices will totally depend on your ability to breastfeed.

Gone are the days when you picked your clothes based on weather, fashion, and if they actually look good on you. Say goodbye to that cute dress with the high neck or tight straps. Remember, you are now a milk cow. If you won’t be able to halfway undress yourself at any given moment, then it isn’t going to fly.

5. You will breastfeed in the strangest places.

Basically, all of these points center around the fact that you are now a milk cow. If you actually want to have a life and go anywhere or do anything the first year of your baby’s life, you’re going to have to get over your self-consciousness of breastfeeding in public. Your baby will get hungry at the restaurant in the car and you will simply just have to make it work. Probably the funniest for me was pumping behind a blanket in a (private) karaoke room at my sister’s bachelorette. Mom’s know how to party. And if I’m really being honest, I may have breastfed my son in the car, in his carseat on on desperate occasion. That may have happened…

6. Poop will monopolize your thoughts more than you ever thought possible.

Maybe there was once a time when your thoughts were filled with deep, meaningful things, but not anymore. Now, what will you think about? What your baby eats, when your baby eats, and when your baby poops. You keep track of it.  You assess it. You ask your baby if they pooped as if they can answer you. You find yourself telling your husband about it when he gets home frome work. “He’s only pooped once” or “Oh my gosh, he had a doozy today.” Poop, it’s proper makeup and disposal, is your new field of expertise. Those are the moments when you will think “I’m so glad got that college degree…”

7. Motherhood kills brain cells.  

This is the real killer. Somewhere between using your body’s energy to create another human being, birthing that human being, and then the sleepless nights spent caring for that human being, your brain cells start to die or maybe they kill themselves off. Maybe they stage a mutiny and jump ship. Not only do you not have room for those deep, meaningful thoughts anymore, you can’t remember basic things. You can’t do math in your head anymore (although, maybe it was questionable if you ever could). You mess up your words and walk into rooms without knowing why and find your phone in the refrigerator and the ketchup in your diaper bag. Again, this is when you think, “I’m so glad I got that college degree…”

8. It’s all worth it.

To sum it all up? Motherhood can be tiring. It’s not glamorous. It’s humorously and sometimes, not so humorously, undignified. It’s thankless work and sometimes, it can feel like you’re basically a glorified maid/butler/chauffeur. But the truth? You get to be their favorite person in the world for a few, short years. You get to be there the first time your baby smiles, the first time they belly laugh, the first time they roll over or crawl or clap their hands;  You get a front row seat to their lives, to see them become who God made them to be, slowly, but surely, day by day. You get to see it all and it makes it all so worth it.

How Should We Respond to Gay Marriage? Like Jesus.

A few days ago the Supreme Court of the United States of America ruled that gay marriage will now be legalized in all fifty states. I think this was surprising to no one. We all knew it was coming, but the announcement revealed just how polarized our nation has become. Some celebrate it as a great victory for civil rights while others lament it as a sign of our nation’s moral depravity. For bible-believing Christians, the question is, what do we do now? How do we respond and how do we do it like Jesus?

Why We Must Speak

Some argue that we shouldn’t care at all, that we shouldn’t speak. Some think this ruling will not affect us and so we should just be silent and go about our business, keeping our opinions to ourselves but this most certainly does affect us. It is not just that our nation does not hold to biblical Christian values. It is that it is becoming increasingly anti-Christian and hostile to those who hold biblical world views. Already, Christian bakeries have been forced to go out of business because they did not want to participate in a gay wedding. So, it is naive to think that gay marriage will exist in some kind of a vacuum and have no effect on religious rights.

But how it will affect us is not the main reason we must speak about gay marriage. None of this is ultimately about us. Sin is ultimately about God. Marriage is ultimately about God. If our choices only had horizontal results, how they affect others, then I suppose the general rule of thumb would be as long as it makes you happy and doesn’t hurt anyone else, it’s fine. Indeed, this seems to be the general moral philosophy of our day. However, I would say that the other and more important aspect of our choices is a vertical one. Our sin is against God. It dishonors the holiness of God and that is why Christians simply cannot be silent.

Jesus held to every word of scripture. Jesus zealously defended the holiness of God. Jesus never altered His views or message to make it more culturally palatable. Jesus did not fear the scorn and derision of man. He had one authority. He lived to please one Person and so should we (Galatians 1:10).

Why We Must Grieve

To see sin embraced and celebrated this way should break our hearts because we know what sin does and where it leads. Satan is a master deceiver. He promises joy, happiness, satisfaction, fulfillment, peace, but he ultimately comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). Many are blinded. Many are in bondage.

Jesus wept over Jerusalem because it was not willing to turn to Him and find peace. Just as he said to Jerusalem, Jesus says to America, “How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! (Luke 13:34). Our nation is in reckless rebellion against God. It grieves the heart of Christ and it should grieve our hearts too.

Why We Must Not Fear

I think a lot of Christians now feel a sense of panic and fear. We fear persecution. We fear for our children and the world they will grow up in, but let’s be reminded of the God we serve. He is not surprised. He is not worried. He didn’t wait for the Supreme Court decision and then think, “Darn, what do I do now?” Our God is sovereign over all. The Lord is in His heaven. Jesus is on His throne.

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. He brings the princes to nothing; He makes the judges of the earth useless (Isaiah 40:21-23).”

Let us lift our gaze to our mighty God. Let us “lift up our voice with strength, lift it up and be not afraid (Isaiah 40:9)” and say to the people, “Behold your God!” He is greater than any ruler. We should not fear man or circumstances, but look to the God who is more powerful and supreme than any supreme court here on earth.

Persecution may come, but if it does, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you” (1 Peter 4:12). We must remember that nothing happens to us outside of the will of the loving and sovereign God who works all things for His glory and our good(Romans 8:28). This should also cause us to remember that this world is not our home, but we are “looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10).

Why We Must Preach the Gospel

In many ways, nothing has really changed. The world is still the world. We are still the Church and our calling is still the same, to “go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15). I think we must resolve along with Paul, “to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). We must be careful not to proclaim our own self-righteousness, but Christ’s righteousness. We must fight having an “us and them” mentality, but remember the only thing that distinguishes us from them is the grace of God. We have to cling to the Gospel, the whole Gospel, and be sure that it is the message we send to the world. If we declare sin, let us also be sure to declare grace for “where sin abounded, grace abounded much more (Romans 5:20).” Sin is abounding in our nation, but there is more than enough grace through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We have been recipients of this amazing grace and now we are called to be “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:20). To preach this Gospel is our one task (Acts 20:24) and to be like Christ as we do it should be our greatest ambition. And how did He do it? Think of how He spoke to the woman at the well. He boldly told her her sins without fear of giving offense and also lovingly and freely offered her living water so that she would never thirst again (John 4:6-14). To the woman caught in adultery, He cast no stones, but He did commission her, not to go and keep on sinning, but to “go and sin no more (John 8:11).”

Jesus loved even when it was offensive. He loved when it was costly. He loved when it hurt. He loved perfectly and effectively. On our own, we fall so short of this perfect love, but He lives in us and He will love through us. What an opportunity we now have to be the hands and feet of Jesus, to be light in the darkness. What an opportunity we have to love as He loves and not as the world does. So, let’s do it. Let’s cling fiercely to the truth of His word and proclaim boldly the grace of His Gospel.

Lessons of Motherhood: Identity Crisis

As women, we feel a lot of pressure to do it all and have it all. Really though,I think this pressure might come more from within ourselves than from without. We feel like we need to be the perfect mom, wife, homemaker, career woman whatever. Our house needs to look like a Pinterest board. It needs to be clean all the time even though, hello! People live here. We need to come up with awesome, innovative ways to help our kids learn and grow so you know, they’ll be reading by the time they’re two. We need to make DIY furniture, laundry detergent, and anything else we could possibly “do ourselves.” Oh, and we need to look fabulous while doing it.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes, it’s all just a little overwhelming. Sometimes, okay a lot of times, I feel discouraged because that is just so not how my life looks. I was wallowing in this tonight. Here’s a brief sound byte of what was going through my head. Oh my gosh this place is a mess. I just picked up. How is it already this big of a disaster? How come everywhere I turn, I see something I need to clean? It’s like impossible to keep things clean. I have one kid. What am I going to do when I have a whole bunch? Other women seem to be able to do it…Gideon’s face is covered in snot…and now so is my shirt. I always told myself I wouldn’t let my kids walk around with snotty faces, but there you have it…He still hasn’t started waving or clapping. I’m probably not doing enough to teach him and aid his development. He’s probably going to be slow because I didn’t teach him to wave…I haven’t showered and my hair is a mess. I used to have good hair, but now it’s kind of blah. I haven’t put make up on in days and I live in t-shirts and athletic shorts. That’s it. I’ve let myself go. I’m frumpy mom…

So there I was, wallowing and feeling just generally kind of depressed when God, as He sometimes does, opened my eyes and let me see. He showed me that I was doing it again. I was finding my identity in my “job performance.” Being a mother, wife, homemaker is currently my primary job, but it shouldn’t be my primary identity.

The story of Mary and Martha came to mind. Most of us are familiar with the story. Jesus comes to visit Mary and Martha. Martha is busy serving and trying to be a good hostess and she gets upset that her sister, Mary, isn’t helping, but is sitting at Jesus’s feet. I’ve never felt like I related much to Martha. I’m a thinker. not a doer. Just the word “multitask” gives me anxiety, but I think maybe now I understand her more. I think maybe Martha was letting her performance as a hostess and as a woman define her in ways that it shouldn’t. Maybe Martha was so upset because her identity was too tied up in it all. I think Jesus saw that. “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things. but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her. {Luke 18:41).

It got me thinking about what I want my son and hopefully, other children to remember me by. What do I want them to learn from me? Do I want them to remember that I was always stressed about having it all together or that I always sat at the feet of Jesus? Do I want them to learn that our worth is in our performance and image or that our worth is in Christ?

I want to choose the good portion. I want to be like Mary, who felt free to not strive, but rest in the presence of her Lord. I want my children to know from my words and my life that one thing is necessary. One thing, one person, Jesus, is our peace, our hope, “the sure foundation for our souls.” I want them to know and so I need to know that Jesus is enough and we more than enough in Him.