The Only End

sunrise-165094_1280Tomorrow will come. For the majority of us, tomorrow will show up like it always does. Today will end, tomorrow will begin. Our brains signal to us that it’s time to open our eyes and we see the blue hue begin to lighten the room. The sun is coming again. We can count on it. Then, depending on what time of the year it is, some ten, twelve hours go by and she sinks down deep into the heart of the earth. Sometimes I don’t even notice. I should always notice when she dips down, and maybe even honor her with a head nod. “Goodbye for today, dear friend. See you tomorrow.”

I would also say that when tomorrow actually becomes today, much of what was today didn’t change just because tomorrow became today. I think there is a secret place in all of us that truly believes tomorrow will bring with it that relief, that answer,  that change we want. Eventually, there is always that tomorrow that actually does bring something we’ve waited for. Sometimes tomorrow brings an end to something. A beginning to something else.

Why is it so hard for us to just be in today?

I think there are reasons.

Today it’s hard. Maybe tomorrow will be easier.
Today it’s painful. Maybe tomorrow it will lessen.
Today I’m afraid. Maybe tomorrow I can be strong.
Today I’m angry. Maybe tomorrow I will calm down.
Today I’m alone. Maybe tomorrow someone will come.

Will this end? Will my today bring a better tomorrow? We hope for tomorrow.

Where is the end?

Where is The End?

Take a moment, right where you are, and progress in your mind way into the future. See the world spin and watch the days pass over the planet. Each continent passing in front of the sun and spinning back into the darkness. Over and over. Another day. Another day. Another day.

Where is the end?

We know it like we know the sun will come back up, that this is not what life was supposed to be. How many of us can nod in agreement at the statement, This isn’t how I thought my life would turn out?

There is something in us that assumes life will be good and easy. There is something in us that scoffs at the audacity that hard things comes. Now, I know, there are those of us who have dealt with enough junk that we want to say we aren’t surprised, and although we aren’t surprised, are there other emotions? Are you angry? Are you sad? Are you apathetic and assume it will always be this way? Those are responses to the same internal, instinctive belief that life should not be this way.

We look for tomorrow to fulfill what didn’t happen today. 

Fulfill. A word of longing. What will bring that peace we long for? What will give us fullness of Joy? What will bring to an end that raw gnawing that we were made for something different?

Only one thing, The End.

And I don’t mean the end of the age, I mean the Omega. I mean the presence of Jesus. He is The Only End to all that we look for, search for, seek out, strive for.

He is the culmination of all our “ends”.

We can run down road after road looking for ways to cope, for ways to stop things, for ways to bring peace and joy and abundance, for ways to stop the worry and the fear, for ways to keep peace and balance….but, we need to realize that it’s time to stop running down endless roads and just come to The End.

At the end of our anger, He is our calm, our Justice.
At the end of our fear, He is our joy.
At the end of our pain, He is our balm.
At the end of of sorrow, He is our comfort.
At the end of our striving, He is our abundance.
At the end of our insecurity, He is our safe place.
At the end of our sin, He is our redemption.

At any moment in our day, we can come to The End. We don’t have to exhaust ourselves in ourselves to realize we just need Jesus. We can come to The End before we run down those endless roads. We can enter into His presence before we wander in our fear, fantasy, anger, worry and pain.

He can be The End at the beginning of everything.

And, as we watch our world spin, one day after the other, at the end of the age, when everything finally stops, there will be no other End. He will be the Only End and we will see Him, love Him, rejoice with Him. There is no other end than the One who will end everything.

Keep your eyes on The End as the sun comes up tomorrow. He is the only way your tomorrow becomes a beautiful today.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” Rev. 22:13

Freedom in Vulnerability

 

Some Vulnerable Moments

  • IMG_4198When I cross the threshold of an airplane and see the five-inch-wide tube I’m climbing in, there is a moment of “heck no!” and I wonder if anyone else thinks about the fact that we are getting in a can to fly 35,000 feet up in the sky.
  • I used to live on a two lane highway in Missouri. Sometimes I would briefly close my eyes when the car coming toward me would pass. Not the smartest, I know, but the vision of a head on collision was just too much for me. I slipped into a short season of fear every time JT left for work. Two lane highway. People driving 65 miles an hour at each other.
  • I went into check on by baby because he was too fussy when I laid him down for his nap. I had stepped outside just to get a breather and let him cry it out. My momma heart was too heavy and I peeked in on him one more time. Oh my gosh! His eyes were swelling up! We called 911 and headed to the hospital. He had an allergic reaction to eggs.
  • 1985. My sister was sitting on my bed using the phone. I sat at her feet studying her face. She cried, “Okay, thank you.” She sat the phone down and ran down the hall. I followed right behind as she threw herself on the steps. “It was them, mom! It was them!” My grandparents had just been killed in an airplane crash.
  • 1984 6th grdHe called me a beaver.  I had bucked teeth in the 5th grade. He even made a beaver face at me, putting his front teeth over his bottom lip and making a sort of “phht” sound over and over.
  • When I was in Jr. High, I walked in the college music hall hugging my piano books against my chest. The competition was there. My nerves were in my throat and I watched the as the clock told me it was my turn. I sat down at the piano in the music room and played my memorized piece. My shoes clicked back down the hall and out into the Oklahoma heat. My stomach had settled back down.
  • My brother and I were driving slower than the actual speed limit looking for a place to turn around when some guy pulled out in front of us from the other side of the street. We hit him. Air bags and smoke. Amazing how powerful a hit is at 35 miles an hour. He was drunk and took off. The police found him down a dead end street.
  • I sat in a room full of people I loved and knew he didn’t love me anymore. He was over me. My heart was broken.
  • I leaned back and let my own body weight sit down in the strap. I looked up at the person above me telling me it was okay and to just start walking backward. Gravity pulled at me, trying to pull me down the 70 ft. drop. Straps held me in, and my own hand held a fall at bay. One foot after the other, down the rock face to the bottom. Two feet on the ground.
  • photo 1I panicked. I couldn’t go through with it and had to get out. My husband sat on the side of the hospital bed and told me we couldn’t make it stop and the baby was going to come. The panic subsided and a baby was born.
  • My girls were about the ages of four and five. My mom came over and wanted to take them home for the day. They drove off and then mom called me and said, “Oh, we’re going to run down to Carrie’s.” Carrie’s was 45 min away. Panic. What if they crash? What if I lose my babies? All bets are off if You take my babies.

            Vulnerable: susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm.

Welcome to the human experience. There is no human on the planet that at one time or another (or all the time) hasn’t felt vulnerable. The human experience is wrought with susceptibility. From health, to accidents; rejection to abandonment. We are vulnerable to loss, pain, terror, surprise, sickness and death. No human can escape. No human doesn’t experience the weight of this truth.

Vulnerability was exposed the moment Adam and Eve sinned and ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. There it was, the exposure of the chasm between man and God; good and evil; safety and vulnerability. Their instinct was to hide. They were scared. They had now and forever been exposed to two things: 1. Their own sin and 2. his great glory. Not the glory where we lift our hands and “give glory,” no, this is the weight of who God is. Their eyes were opened and the distinction between who they were and who God was was so stark, so terrifying, so drastic, so real, they ran and hid. His light had exposed the reality of what was between the Creator and the Created. The wonder had been blown out like a candle’s flame. Death was ushered in like an unwanted guest. They were no longer safe in the garden or safe in His presence. They had become vulnerable, susceptible, exposed.

Any encounter from then on with the Almighty was met first with “Do not be afraid!” Fear was the new instinct when humanity met its Maker. When the fullness of the glory of God was made known when the first couple ate, with it came the rebellion against that glory. Since his own Glory is God’s primary passion, he dealt with humanity as Great and Glorious first, and they then understood his love and compassion later. The weight of his Glory is his first and foremost expression of Who he is. Even when Jesus came, John says that after Jesus did his first miracle of turning water to wine that this was the first time “he revealed his glory.” It doesn’t say “he revealed his love.” Glory, the weight of Who God is, meets the human before anything characteristic or other expression.

It is this glory that makes us vulnerable. Scott Saul’s taught that when the angels appeared to the shepherds and declared, “Do not be afraid!” is because the Light of God exposes in us the darkness of what is expressed in humanity. His light exposes our frailty, our nothingness, our weakness, our insignificance, our dust, our fleeting nature. This great Light of God shines in our hearts and we are undone at the magnitude of the chasm between who God is and who we are. We know we are creatures, doomed to die and we feel it all the time. The gasp at a near miss. The relief when we get a good report. The sense that time goes too fast. We see it in the wrinkles in our faces and the pain in our joints. We smile and sigh at the clothes our kids outgrow in a few months. We shake our heads that is was twenty-five, fifty-five years ago we got married. We just can’t believe it when we bury our loved ones.

Death never feels right. Our vulnerable state comes to fruition when we breathe our last. Most of us have a sense that we will never really meet that time. I think we pass our days without giving breath a second thought. It goes in and out. Our chests heave up and down and we don’t even think about it. Then one day, it stops. And we are always surprised. Even if someone has been sick, when they stop breathing we just stare in disbelief. We instinctively know that death is not supposed to creep into the land of the living. It’s not supposed to show up and steal what we love. It’s not supposed to sweep through countries and come at the hands of one man to another. We know it. We know it.

So, we call it something else, “God’s will,” or “The circle of life.” Others might say that they will find life in the next life. Maybe they will come back as someone or something else. But, to think that we die and that’s it, is almost something the human mind cannot, or will not, accept.

Why? Why does the human in all its brilliance and intelligence suffer in the knowledge that death comes to us all? It is because it is not in the original design. We were never created to feel the susceptibility and vulnerability we now feel. Even now, thousands of years and sins removed from Adam and Eve, we cannot help but hate death. It’s been part of the human experience since the beginning, surely we would have reconciled with it by now! But, we haven’t. We still weep and wail. We still sit stunned and stare off. We still scream and cry and shake our fists at the heavens. We are not used to it. Even in our attempts to honor our loved ones and create dignified ways of saying good-bye, the ache in the human heart swells and we just know that it isn’t right.

And we are right.

Before the choice of sinning against God, there was no death, and it is still within the DNA of the human to know that we aren’t meant for it. In fact, the Word of God says, “He has also set eternity in their heart.” (Ecc. 3:11) It’s just as much truth in us as our DNA for our gender, eye color, hair color, race, and fingerprints. Their choice left all of us vulnerable and scared. It left us feeling like at any minute the worst could happen.

 

But…

In the same story of the angels before the shepherds after they declare, “Do not be afraid!” they go on to say, “We bring you good news that will cause great joy!” The same light of God that exposed mankind to the chasm between Creator and Created offers that which will redeem sin and death. The same Light that brought forth the Glory of God, the weight of who he was before that which he had created, now brought forth the Glory, the weight of redemption. The Light exposes us; the Light envelopes us.

Why is this freedom?

Because now we are left with something we don’t have to beat ourselves up over anymore. At the age of 42 I have now realized, with relief, that my instinct to panic, to suck in air of fear and flinch at bad news, and cry at death, and have a moment of anxiety when I need to do a breast exam, is nothing more that my fallen human experience that was brought forth when the Light of God’s holiness and glory was shown to Adam and Eve.

It is not a lack of faith when I feel vulnerable.

It is the very expression of knowing Who God is and who I am; knowing what will be and what is right now; knowing my life is dying, but there is life to come. I am not not trusting God because I feel vulnerable and exposed to what could happen in life. I am not someone who doesn’t believe God for his word when I feel the weight of death and fear of illness, or debt, or suffering, or abandonment.

What is faith is feeling that vulnerability, that exposure, that insecurity and believing that the same Light of Glory, weight of God, love and compassion of God is greater than those things. His glory over me in blessing and life is greater than what is revealed in the natural human experience.

I think too often it has been taught that a life with fear is a life without faith.

While I believe we cannot live in fear, I do not believe we can live without feeling vulnerable. When vulnerability gives way to fear, we must remind ourselves that God’s glory over us is greater. God’s promise to us is greater. God’s love in us through Jesus is greater. God’s Holy Spirit who brings us life and light and knowledge is greater.

God’s glory is greater. The angels in Luke 2 continue with the joy that God’s glory is the highest and there will be peace for those on whom his favor (blessing) rests! This Glory rests upon us.

This GLORY rests on us. Think on this.

We should be relieved to know that the vulnerable ways we feel are because God has shown himself to us and we have seen the scales of balance between us. A greater knowledge of God should create in us a greater sense of vulnerability. From this, we rest in the greater greatness of God’s glory in and over us that comes in blessing and honor, strength and power, stability and peace, security and being known.

This is peace that passes understanding. In our vulnerable, chaotic state, we have a peace from God that passes it up. This tells us that our understanding is, yes, we are vulnerable and exposed and dying, and yet his peace is greater than that. We don’t have to stop feeling one to have the other. The Glory of God gives us this supernatural peace in the midst of our natural vulnerable reality. That is faith.

That is the freedom found in vulnerability.

 

When You’re Afraid Afraid

It’s not uncommon for me to go arms-a-flailing if I think I’m being attacked by a swarm of bees…or a fly. It’s rather grandiose and entertaining to those around me who stare motionless for a half a second, then proceed with a look that says, “What the heck was that?” Many just come on out and say it. When it comes to flying bugs, let’s just say… I’m punchy.

Instinctive fear, I suppose. If it’s flying, I’m flighting.

Fear. So many things to be afraid of. So many things we are exposed to that cause us to get punchy about the future. We might look cool on the outside, but inside our stomachs are full of flying insects and our invisible arms are flailing hoping that we can somehow swat the fear of whatever might be coming our way.

Fear. So many things to hide from. The past. The mistake. The secret sin. Those things swarm us and we whip around looking for where it’s coming from only to find that it really does allude us, and then we cower, waiting for it to come at us again. It’s exhausting.

Fear of what was. Fear of what is. Fear of what could be.

 

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Recently, I went on another hike at a nearby heaven-of-a-place in the heart of Nashville. For this Okie, these are mountains. They are covered with trees. Huge, gorgeous trees. Breathtaking trees. This particular day, I played a podcast that a friend had recommended. A local pastor, Scott Sauls, was on deck as I heaved up the hill one more time.

It was one of those messages. One that came right place, right time. Here’s the takeaway.

He was teaching on the glory of God that came to the shepherds at the time of Christ’s birth. And what do they say? “Do not fear!” Riiiiiight. Apparently the Greek says they were “afraid afraid.” Double afraid. Doozy afraid. Really, really afraid.

I’ve known afraid afraid. Not bugs, but the world of the “What if…..” I hate that world.

But the Glory that shown around them ushered in fear. That Light of God exposed the darkness of the world, thus exposing our vulnerability. The Light that walked in the Garden with The Couple exposed them when they sinned, and they hid in fear.

The Light revealed what Adam and Eve ushered in…. we are all going to die.

We are exposed.
Vulnerable to the instinctive knowledge of our tenure on earth.
And we are terrified.

Sauls said there was the disorienting light that shown and scared the wits out of them, and the comforting light that offered the redemption of the world in a baby.

This light and it’s disorienting/comforting manifestation is made reconciled in one word: Glory.

The Glory of God shown round and exposed all that was. The Glory of God shown round and comforted all, giving peace and favor on all who believe.

(enter revelation in the hike)

When Sauls kept saying “the Light of God” did this and that, and it is the Light of God that exposes the fact that we are indeed vulnerable, temporary, weak and powerless, I was….. RELIEVED!

I realized my instinctive fear and concern for my life isn’t from a place of lacking faith or weak trust, but from the fact that I’m a human who has seen the Light and what it has exposed. It is natural to realize that our lives are fleeting, small, open, exposed, vulnerable, because it is what God revealed to us through the sin of Adam. And, therefore, it is supernatural of us to realize that our lives are bolstered, cared for, favored, blessed, lavished upon, and redeemed because it is what God reveal to us through the grace of Jesus.

Same Light. Same truth.

Vulnerability. Death. Comfort. Life.

IMG_3925(The A-ha!)

If then, all those passing, jarring anxiety-juiced moments when
“was that a lump?”
“what if one of my kids gets sick?”
“does he love me?”
“am I beautiful?”
“am I worthy?”
“do I matter?”
“I’m not like her.”
“I am weak and afraid”

Those moments, when they pass through our minds because of our vulnerable and exposed state, we must say one thing:

God’s Glory is Greater

God’s Glory is Greater, loftier, weightier, heavier, stronger than any shame, any fear, any vulnerable place or thought. The Light that exposes our darkest fears and sin, is the same Light that infuses itself in our souls providing redemption, peace and marks us with favor and blessing.

We are as vulnerable as we will ever be because of the revelation given to us by the Light; and as safe as we will ever be in that same Light.

The weight and majesty of His glory both reveals our tragic weakness and yet lovingly holds us in his Almighty greatness. We cannot escape our vulnerability, and as those of The Way, cannot escape the love of this great grace. We are worse off than we realize and safer than we could dream. This is the great paradox of the revelation of God’s Glory.

Rest deeply in your vulnerable state my friends.

Spiritually Open Borders. Is the Church Ready for the Work of Welcoming?

We sit in their living room on mismatched chairs and smile at one another trying to determine what we are all trying to say to one another. Their bright teeth shine beautiful out from their dark, warm African skin. They speak Swahili. We speak English. We laugh at what we cannot understand and hope that each of us will one day know one another.

IMG_2331They fled Democratic Republic of Congo sometime this last year and came to America only a month ago, thankfully with other families. Fear of fighting is what I understand. I ask the father in English and make guns with my fingers. “Did you leave because of war?” He doesn’t understand. “Did you leave because of fighting?” Guns pointing. He nods yes.

These refugees have run from what all refugees run from: fear of persecution, fear for their lives and their children’s lives, fear that all will be taken from them. They come here for shelter and safety.

However, in this case, they are Catholic. We share the same God. We speak the same spiritual language. We know the same Savior.

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If we didn’t share the same God, would that mean I didn’t want to know them? No, but in light of the knowledge that we are facing the ever-increasing fact that Muslims, by the thousands, are coming either as immigrants or refugees, we have some thinking to do.

This post isn’t about whether or not we should welcome the refugee, the lost, the wanderer. I dare not challenge my Lord’s directive. This post is more about these questions:

  • Is the church ready? 
    Is she ready for the months and months it takes to help a refugee family implant in our culture? Ready to help them shop, learn the language, go to school, ride the bus, find a job? Is she already partnering with the agencies that do this? Does she understand the undertaking? Is everyone ready for the long haul? Because it is a long haul.

It’s more than welcome banners and hugs at the airport.

  • Has she already done the work of engaging immigrants, refugees, the lost, the wanderer, the displaced, the lonely?
  • Is her compassion for the Syrians an extension of the compassion she has already shown to those here? In many cases, I’m sure it is.

But more than this, are we ready for the spiritual implications of spiritually open borders?

woman-812070_640Islam is not a religion that is the same as Christianity. Neither is Buddhism, or Hinduism, or Animism. They do not serve the same God, and in fact, serve a false god. This kind of false religion will bring with it strongholds and demonic powers that can, and will, influence us if we are not both intellectually and spiritually ready and equipped, in the Spirit and in the Word, to open our arms, homes, churches, and country to more and more false religions.

This is not to say we do not do such things as make friends with Muslims, or engage in our neighborhoods with Muslims. What we must understand is that while we find it heartwarming to be able to engage as a community, even move beyond acquaintances to friendships, there is an entire iceberg of cultural differences, an entire worldview, underneath our warm hellos and friendly dinners together.

Above the waterline of our deeply entrenched worldview we find the easiest cultural differences to overcome. They, and any other refugee or immigrant, will come see how we interact, what we eat, how we sound, what we smell like, what is considered rude, what is considered to be gratitude. On and on there are things that are considered to be “above the waterline.”

Below the waterline is a giant iceberg of differences. Values and beliefs that will not, and cannot, be compromised are buried deep in all of us. There are ingrained cultural habits that will not be moved nor changed. There are spiritual DNA strands unchangeable unless touched by the Holy Spirit. The worldview of the American Christian and the worldview of the Hindu, the Buddhist, the animist, the atheist, or the Muslims will clash and rip at one another under the waterline. What I value as deeply embedded beliefs about God, humanity, the heart and soul of a man, salvation, the afterlife, war, ancestors, and the future lies under the waterline.

As does theirs.

Are we even remotely ready, spiritually and prayerfully ready, for our icebergs to glide together in close proximity? Do we have the spiritual fortitude to pray against the evil attached to the false religions? Do we understand the gravity of the war we wage in the heavenlies when we so passionately want to welcome those who are fleeing to our country?

And welcome them we should.

Shrewdly, and in love. 

Jesus, when he sent out the disciples told them to be “shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10.)

As I read the posts and the blogs about whether or not we welcome the refugee, I actually want to sit with everyone, look at the ones who are saying, “Mercy! Love! Welcome!” and say “YES!” And I want to sit with the ones saying, “Pause! Wait! Think! Prepare!” and say “YES!”.

It is yes to all.

Yes to love.
Yes to open arms.
Yes to helping, serving, housing and sheltering.
Yes to prepare, be patient, understand, study, pray…deeply pray.

It will take all the the Body of Christ to show Christ to the nations. It is His heart’s passion that all men come to the only name that will save them. It is is intention that the manifold wisdom of God be made known by and through His church. In our love for one another, they will see we are Christians. It is not our love for them that prove that we are Christians, it is our love for one another.

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We must stop the fighting, and come together and unite. Not because “they” are coming, but they are already here! There is no good purpose in fighting. Humility is the way. We must unite in love, hope, mercy, prayer, intelligence, resources, strength, and spiritual preparedness for what we are so quickly wanting to happen and so ready to open our hearts and lives to. We must work together, prepare together, and most importantly, pray together.

This is no game. For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but “against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6)

As we welcome, we must also be prepared to fight in the heavenlies in prayer. Protect your home in prayer, not by locking your doors (unless you’re threatened). Be the hands and feet of Jesus. Be the mouthpiece of the Gospel. Be the light of the World. Be the enemy’s greatest nightmare. We are ready to be welcomers. It’s in us because Christ is in us. Let us prepare ourselves for the work.

“Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all the believers everywhere.” Eph. 6

One Way Ten Years of Homeschooling Has Paid Off

I’ve cried more times than I want to admit about this whole homeschooling thing. We’ve been doing it for ten years and each year has different tears, different fears, different joys.

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It’s not easy. It’s not always fun. It challenges me and bothers me.

There have been years I’ve gotten so close to chunking the whole idea and sending them to school so mama can get a break.

I’ve never done it.

The guilt bag would be too heavy.

But, I can pack a guilt bag for anything. Not teaching them enough. They aren’t getting all they need. They won’t have the great memories I do. I’m a slacker. My schedule doesn’t look like hers. They aren’t going to be smart! They’ll never read!!

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Ten years of wondering if I’m doing the right thing, while knowing I am. For our family, this is the right choice.

Ten years of looking at them in pajamas working on English and Math.

Ten years of taking long winter breaks and stopping school on a crisp, spring day to go play outside.

Funny thing is, I have twelve more years of this. And it will be my joy.

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Then, last night, at Perspectives, a young mother of two comes up and with anticipation and some fear in her eyes, she starts asking me about homeschooling. I want to stop her right there and say, “Oh honey. Your babies are two and 7 months. Come back to me in three years.” But the look on her face said “Help!”

She shared with me her own education and how long she was in school to get a doctorate for a job she now hates. I could sense she didn’t want that for her kids. Also, there is a growing chance that she and her husband might pack up their little family and move to a foreign country to take the Gospel of Jesus out to the nations. That country won’t have class parties and PTA boards. They will have to do it.

This is where her wide eyes spoke to me saying, “I don’t think I can do it! How will they learn? I’m not able to teach them!”

I assured her an email was coming full of encouragement, links, and resources to start helping her bring her heart rate down and sigh some deeps sighs of relief. She hugged me and already seems to be relaxing.

Then it struck me…

All these years, all these years of tears and joy, anger and bliss, frustration and victory, I never once thought that my choice to teach my kids at home might be a catalyst of peace for families who are considering leaving the States. 

If you grew up in the public school system, it gives you the sense, because we know no other way, that if you don’t put your kids in the system, they will miss out on something or they will lack in something.

This simply isn’t true.

If you choose to not use the public system of education, then you have a wide open field of choices as to how you will educate your child. The resources available to you are so plentiful, it can actually be overwhelming. The support around the nation, and I’m sure, in your own community, is important and prevalent.

If you choose to uproot your family and leave the States, the choice to come out of the public school system is now no longer a choice. You’re leaving. Maybe where you’re going has it’s own system, but what about the language? What about the actual system? What about the environment? What if they don’t have a school system? What if you’re going remote?

Home education can trigger a whole new level of panic.

Home education outside of the States for missionaries can trigger not only a panic, but a burden that seems overwhelming.

This should not be.

I realized that my ten years of doing what I though was just for my family might be of some comfort to those leaving. That sweet mom at my class last night was reaching out to someone a decade ahead of her for confidence and assurance.

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And I was able to give it to her. I was able to look at her and say, “You two can do it. You’re more than able and there is so much support out there.”

I was able to look at someone and give her assurance that her children will be just fine and she is more than capable of educating them. More than that, she and her husband are more than able to look beyond an American definition of education and give their children lives full of a Spiritual education that only they, as their parents, can give them.

I never dreamed that my years at home would one day be the confidence a young mom would need to take one more step to becoming a missionary.

Never think that what you do isn’t for His glory or someone else’s benefit.

What an honor to serve His servants this way. 

Why You Matter

From since before the earth and universe were created, there has been one theme, one triumphant sound coming from one constant orchestration of what has been and what will be.

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From the first Spoken Word “Let there be Light” the Light spanned galaxies and time and space, turning the eyes and hearts of men toward one end point. The Light raced through history and screams past us on the Timeline of what is happening. We turn our heads and follow it, sometimes unknowingly, sometimes willingly, but all will eventually find where the Light comes to an end. At some point we will all stare at the End of the Light’s reach.

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What will we be looking at?

What will hold us captive?

Where will the Light take us?

Once the Light reaches its final end of its journey, after it’s illuminated all it was called to illuminate; once it’s finished the work required of it over the earth and universe, the Light is absorbed by its Creator. It returns to the One who spoke it into existence, and is needed no more because its Creator is the Light.

The Light will return to the Beginning where the Theme of the Universe first started. What is this Theme? What is the orchestration? What is the purpose of the Light?

The Creator’s Glory

The only reason The Creator spoke the light into existence, and the rest of the creation, was to bring back to Himself worship and glory.

Then He sent a Second Light. The Second Light was the exact representation of His Creator. Sharing character, power, authority. He came to bring the Light into the hearts of Man. For centuries, men watched the Light move around them, come down among them, guide them, reveal itself to them. But now, the Light came to live in their hearts.

Nothing like that had ever been seen or comprehended. 

The Second Light, pure, holy, righteous, paid ransom for all the First Light revealed, exposed. The created light had in it a wickedness that came and tainted, faded the light of men in sin and darkness. Only the sacrifice of The Light of Men could redeem all that was lost. His sacrifice cracked open the darkness and the Light expanded to all men in all nations on earth.

Then, after He set free all from darkness, He offered the Light to be manifested internally, eternally.

The Light in us still has the same purpose as the First light…

To bring glory to our Creator by taking the light to all men. All nations. All people groups. Not just geographical boundaries on a map, but that the Gospel of this Light would penetrate each language group and family of men and women around the world.

We are Carriers of the Light, charged with the same task as both created light and The Light of the World, Jesus Christ. It is for His fame and glory, and our full satisfaction in the Light that we would labor for this Light to be made manifest in all the world.

Then, the end will come. 

He said it Himself.

We have work to do, dear Light Bearers.

How will you help extend the Light to the Nations?

You matter because you are a Light Bearer.

You have the power within you to extend the grace of our loving God into all the world.

It is not a burden, though those lost in darkness is a great burden, indeed. It is not a burden as though we have a task list of things we must accomplish in our own efforts and die with our lives broken and wasted. No, we are the Light in us, powered and upheld by the Holy Spirit of God. We have Him in us, to bring power and satisfaction to us, so that He is magnified in us, and the world will see.

We extend the Light in many ways:

Prayer. Prayer for the nations that they would see the Glory and Magnificence of God! This would make worshippers of Him, fulfilling the search for those who would worship him.

Help. Give your money. Reach out to the needy in our land. Give to the work in the Dark places so that they will be well-equipped and won’t worry about finances. Know the agencies and people you could support. How can you use your money for the advancement of the Light in your city, your nation and around the world?

Get Informed. Know what is left. If you don’t know, you won’t know how to help. Study. Read. Take Perspectives. Be informed. To be ignorant of what is left to do for the Grace, for the Light to be taken to Nations who have not even the chance to know Him, is irresponsible.

Know that many nations have access to the Gospel. But there are many, many who don’t. How can you help change that?

This is our call. This is His Directive. His Name taken to the nations is His plan, not ours.

You matter because He has equipped you with Light in you.

How will you let it shine?

And when the end of the age comes, and we are all standing under the Tree, gazing at the wonder of the Light of God, He will illuminate the room and the sea of colorful faces, the sounds of a thousand languages, the wave of indescribable worship, will rest upon us and we will be completely fulfilled and satisfied as He is completely glorified.

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The Hebrew God I Choose

I’m an American.

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I am white.

I am a woman.

I am a Christian.

 

 

I am a product of Greek philosophy, but have chosen Hebrew theology.

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I no longer follow the way of my own desires. I have given up my American dreams.

This Hebrew God I have chosen to follow has a Way about Him that bumps and bullies my Greek philosophical ancestry in my way of doing life. My instinct is to run after things that make me happy, or make sense, or show I am successful and that I have made my way in the world. It crushes my need for individualism with a call that is inclusive and calls itself The Church.

Individual privileges are no longer the priority. There are others.

We call each other brothers and sisters.

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My ancient Greek influences make me want to know the why of everything and wants to know the next step, the next goal, what the next season will hold. My Hebrew God smiles and reminds me that I won’t know every reason, but I will know His Name. He tells me that the next step is just illuminated by His Word and that in faith I take a step. He teaches me that there is a season for everything, and it’s not what I get out of it exactly, but how much glory He receives in my worship, honor and faith in Him.

Makes Him sound selfish, doesn’t it?

Rubs against our “God loves me for me” mantra.

There is no higher god or person above this Ancient One who gets any glory or honor, there is only He. From the Beginning to the End, His greatest passion is His own Glory. His own Name.

His fame.

His Happiness, if you will.

sunI, in my Greek, individualistic, self-absorbed knowledge of how humans should feel find this unnerving, but… I have chosen to follow this God.

I don’t get to say who gets the glory.

I chose to say, “I follow this God and His Word and His Son and His Holy Spirit.”

I don’t then get to say my dreams and happiness come first.

I am a Greek philosopher who has chosen to adhere to a Hebrew theology.

Which one will bow to which?

jerusalem-475110_640Is logic all bad? Of course not. My Hebrew God says in His son are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge and that I can have depth of insight in Him. But He also says that He is a mystery, a consuming fire, one that has higher ways than me. Logic cannot touch.

Can’t I be myself? Indeed. Beautiful personality made in the image of my Creator…placed in the family, the faces, the sea of other humans who have turned their face and their posture to this Hebrew God.

We are One.

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And we have purpose.

My Greek instinct is to find my own purpose. My Hebrew God says, “I AM and there is no other.” I must know His purpose.

It is His glory. 

There is no other purpose.

How? How do I fulfill that purpose?

That glory freed the Hebrew slaves of Egypt with plague and promise.

That glory fell in the wilderness on the tabernacle with Moses and the Israelites. It consumed the sacrifices and they fell to their faces.

That same glory fell on the temple of Solomon. Consuming sacrifice and they were undone, falling to the pavement with their faces to the floor, worshipping.

How do I bring glory to Glory?

I don’t.

I can’t.

He brings it to Himself…through me, in me, because of me, in spite of me.

That same Glory falls on me. In me. Consuming me.

He is Holy Spirit.

This Hebrew God needs not me to serve Him, though I want to. He needs nothing from me, other than my faith, my devotion, my worship. My yielding to His Indwelling.

Then He calls us. He calls us to take this Glory to the Nations. There is no other thing. There is no other purpose. This Glory brings salvation and full redemption. It brings with it hope and wholeness. Worship and honor of this great and mighty Hebrew God brings satisfaction and rest.

matchstick-20237_640So, I do what I can to see that happen. I pray for people I love. I pray for darkness to be pushed out of the lives and nations of the enemy. I pray that others go and then are protected, and unified, and rested, and more.

It is not just them to take the Glory to the nations. It is those of Us who work in the marketplace. Those of Us who sit at desks and look across our offices to those we know do not know the Glory.

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It is Us who hold babies and raise small humans. It is also Us who work late nights and early mornings. It is Us who work in the schools and hospitals. We hold the hands of the aged. We bring new humans into the world. We cry with the world. We gasp at the horror. We can be extremely lovely. We drink our coffee and sigh as we ponder our lives. We smile at strangers. We hold the unlovable. We give water. We give food. We visit the sick. We talk to those in prison. We drive our cars and pass you on the street.

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We are of The Way

Carriers of The Light

Revealers of The Glory.

We are frail. We are bold. We are united.

We are the nations going to the nations to reveal the great and holy Glory of this great and mighty Hebrew God. It is no small task. It cannot be all individualistic without a global unity. It cannot be a faceless mass of people either. We are called a Body for a reason. Individual parts working together to bring maximum health to ourselves and beauty to our Head, Jesus Christ.

To Him be the Glory through the ones who have said Yes.

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I Wanted Us to Suffer a Little, Then I Saw a Tree and Changed My Mind.

IMG_7399Just above me is a giant tree in our backyard. Growing up in Oklahoma the giant trees were few and far between, and were put on display at Christmas and people drove from miles around to take a look. Here, in Tennessee the trees are quite different. The rise so tall that you hurt your neck looking up for too long. They cover the landscape like a blanket and provide shelter and shade for everything below them.

Trunks so large it takes arms and arms to reach around.

treehugThey sway in the breeze and climb the hills together to display their gold and orange change every fall.

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They are wonderous.

There is a verse in Revelation that has been tucked in my heart for over a decade

On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

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I sit under that tree in my backyard many times a week. I look up at it and that verse runs through my mind as I stare at the thousands of leaves whispering over my head. “How are the leaves the healing of the nations?” I don’t know, but I do know scripture says it. I also know that is Psalm 1 a righteous man is compared to a tree by living water. And although Jesus said he is the root of the vine, why not be the root of the trees? Would that not be a stretch to think that the leaves are….us? 

Are we the leaves that are to be the healing of the nations?

He is healer, no doubt, but we are the messengers, the ambassadors, the one reliant on the root of the vine, where we are admonished to be “root and established in love.” Rooted. Roots that go down into someone who provides all we need for life. Roots so deep that when they are threatened, they cannot be uprooted, even when storms shake and whip the tops.

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What if when we are rooted and established in love, even though he slay us, we never stop trusting him? What if our roots were the only thing that kept us from dying in the worst of times? What if our roots in Christ, though we are pruned and changed, we grew stronger and more powerful as a whole collective?

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I wanted, for awhile, to be really upset with the Church, not a particular church (notice the capital “C”) but at the church of America. I was even thinking “Bring on persecution! It will only cause us to grow! We deserve a little tough times. We don’t know what persecution is! Let the storms come and cut us down a bit. Let the lightning strike and strip us of our pride!”

Angry

Bitter

Arrogant

Then I realized that the church of Acts, when persecuted was scattered. Scattered like ants when their little ant piles are messed with. Scattered like roaches when the lights come on. They, our first brothers and sisters, were forced out of homes and displaced by persecution. Much like what is happening even now to our brothers and sisters.

Then I looked at the tree and wondered, “So, what happened between the times of persecution?” What happened as they rebuilt their lives and started again? What did they do?”

 

They grew.

treepathShe discipled. She spread the gospel. She took care of her own. She fed the poor and took care of the sick. She supplied food and money to missionaries and housed them when they returned. She prayed for each other and encouraged them in Christ. She met for communion and eating, and I’m sure, laughter and tears.

She healed nations.

Now, we sit in a nation, one that is sick and dying, and I’ve wanted the Church of America to feel the pain our brothers and sisters around the world are experiencing, but have realized what an awful thing that is. I only meant it like how we talk to our kids “When I was your age!” as though our experiences might make them different. I wanted the experiences of others who were persecuted to guilt the American church into feeling bad about herself, and maybe even wanted us to “suffer” a little more and grow up.

There might be some truth in that. We have a tendency to be spoiled. Our freedom has made us comfortable and we can easily miss the suffering around the world, but that’s not true for all of us.

Obviously

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We have more than a great opportunity here. We have a great gift, obligation, responsibilty as the Church to be the turning tide of our Nation, and to be the ones who fund other other nations to take care of the displaced, the refugee, the poor, the homeless, the persecuted. We, as millions of believers in Jesus, have the time, resources, technology, and freedom to be those healing leaves, not only to the world, but to ourselves, to our neighbors, to our politicians, to our enemies.

No more do I say, “Bring on the persecution and watch us scatter!” No, I say,

Bring on the Holy Spirit and watch us explode!

I pray the prayer of the founding Church,

“Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant, Jesus.”

And I pray, that through our unity, the same thing will happen among us:

“After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.”

We still live in a free country. We still have the freedom to pray and gather and stand up in boldness. Not in anger, not out of guilt, but in a great unity of believers, full of love and hope and faith, so that we will be filled with the Spirit to expand the kingdom. While we are in this freedom, let us not squander it. I pray we take advantage of it.

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And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Rev. 22

 

“God doesn’t need you, He wants you”… I Beg to Differ

IMG_7399You’ve heard the line, “God doesn’t need us.” It’s usually followed up with “God doesn’t need you, He can do anything He wants, but He wants you.” Sure, I get it. God wants me and loves me, but there is something in us that cries to be needed.

Look at the meanings for these words in the English language:

 

 

Wanted: “have a desire to possess or do (something): wish for”
Needed: “require something because it is essential or very important”

All of us want to be wanted. We want to be desired and wished for. But, when we just stop there and teach our people, our church, that God doesn’t “need” us, we are saying (unintentionally) that we aren’t essential to the plan or very important to what God can do.

I beg to differ. Ephesians 3:10 teaches us something different. It teaches that it is through the Church (that’s you and me) that the manifold wisdom of God (Christ) would be made known to the world (that’s everyone else). Eph. 3:10

We are essential to His plan.

We are very important. 

Read that a few times.

Not only are we wanted, wanted by God to be in His known-ness, to know His voice, to have His Spirit, to walk with His Word and live in His love, but we are needed. We are needed by God to pray for the nations, cry with one another, bless each other, spread the Gospel, tell of His greatness, to finish the task of taking Christ to all people, to feed the sick, spend ourselves on the needy, love the widows and orphans, and on and on.

We are needed by Him to be filled with Him to be the people through whom He can take His love to the rest of the world.

We are essential to His plan.

We are very important.

Never let yourself forget that. Never let the enemy tell you anything otherwise, and he does this to all of us. If we actually believed we were not just wanted by God, but needed, as a King needs His army, there would be no stopping us.

Let us, teachers and pastors, stop telling our people, our brothers and sisters that “God doesn’t need them, but wants them” and change that to a more empowering sentence that “God doesn’t just want you… He needs you!”

Empower your people to greatness! Give them the words that say “you are seen”, “you are loved”, “you are wanted”, and “you are needed”. 

Not just needed to volunteer to make Sundays run more smoothly, but needed to accomplish eternal works of God that He has made ready for them. And then help them discover what that is!

This is powerful stuff.

This makes the stay at home mom not feel like she is overlooked and forgotten. This gives the man who goes to the same job, day in and day out, a sense of Biblical and eternal awareness that he matters in the place he goes to every day. This gives the student the ability to see that her time in school is not in vain and not for earthly gain alone. This gives the woman who works those hard hours the kind of encouragement she needs to keep seeking her place in His Kingdom.

We are all wanted: God has a desire to possess us.

We are all needed: God sees us essential and very important.

We are essential to His plan.

We are very important.

Both of these truths will set us free from insecurity, fill us with strength, and give us purpose.

Do you feel essential and very important?
Why or why not?

Wanting a Pacifier God

paci“She’s lost her paci again.”

These words have been uttered who knows how many times in all the years we’ve been raising kids. The never-ending hunt for a paci plagues most parents with babies who love those darling, wonderful peace-saving pieces of rubber!

Whoever invented the paci should get a Nobel Peace Prize, or at least a firm slap on the back. We salute you, pacifier inventor.

A Paci is just that, a pacifier. These man-made wonders (probably mommy-made wonders) were designed to bring both comfort to the baby, and peace to the mommy, because mommy cannot be the pacifier, wee one. Momma need a shower! However, when time to say goodbye, these wonderful things become the most troublesome, we-are-the-worst-parents-ever, “yes, you can have it one more night”, complicated seasons of your young child’s three year old life!

What? What happened to easy bedtime filled with joy and singing and ease!? (None of that is true, but it felt true when we starting taking away said paci) The tears! The sadness! It was like the paci had a soul! It’s like we took away her best friend! What parent does that?

We did.

Twice.

No “paci fairy”. No sending it to other kids who needed it. No lying. (Parents, stop doing that.) We just told her, “It’s time to stop using the paci now, baby.” And slowly, we worked it out of her little life.

Paci’s are good for a season. When that season is over, paci’s are from the devil.

A pacifier and comfort are two different things. A paci fixes a moment. Comfort goes with you through the moment. The difference is stark, especially when it comes to faith. 

Let’s focus on us grown-ups for a minute. Anyone here ever get angry at God? What about wish you knew the details to the future plan of His universe and was slightly irritated that He wasn’t telling you? What about when you demanded a sign from Him so that you would believe? Ever hold hate or anger in your heart toward someone and wish He would just change them? Ever want to throw yourself of the floor and kick and scream like a toddler because you weren’t getting your way? (Maybe, you’ve actually done that! Shhhh, I won’t tell, but seriously, get up. You look like a fool!)

I remember one afternoon I was in the car and took the opportunity to talk to God about some stuff. I was struggling with an issue in my life and I just needed Him to take it away and make me different. I was irritated and crying that He wasn’t fixing my problem. Then, I heard in a very clear voice in my heart:

“Natalie, I will not pacify your sin.”

I was stopped in my spiritual tracks. I knew exactly what He meant. God was telling me that He would not make me feel okay about what I was doing and that He would not just make me feel better and take away something that I needed to stop doing. It was a clear teaching that He would not pacify my sin, but would be more than willing to comfort me in my repentance.

  • You see, God will not pacify your sin, but He will comfort you through your repentance.
  • He will not pacify your rebellion, but will comfort you through your return.
  • He will not pacify your stubbornness, but will comfort you through your humility.
  • He will not pacify your unbelief with signs and wonders to prove Himself to you, but will comfort you through your faith with signs and wonders of His goodness and faithfulness to you.
  • He will not pacify your anger and tantrums, but will comfort you through your calming down, listening, and remembering He is good and He is God.
  • He will not pacify your blame game, but will comfort you through your ownership or your forgiveness of others.
  • He will not pacify your hate, but will comfort you through loving your enemies.
  • He will not pacify your judgmental nature, but will comfort you through your grace.
  • He will not pacify your “rights” and living for yourself, but will comfort you through your “cross” and dying to yourself.

Our God is not a giant paci to our me-centered faith. Instead, He is a God of grace, mercy, forgiveness, intimacy, fire, strength and comfort when we are humbled to Him and His Spirit. We have to be a humble people to a mighty and awesome God. I’m not saying we can’t be honest with God. I am saying we can’t be like tiny kids, angry that we aren’t getting our way, and expect God to fix it, pacify it. We don’t do it to our kids, He won’t do it to us. He wants a humble heart, a contrite heart, one yielded to Him.

There you will find all you need for all you need.

 

In what ways do you expect God to be a paci? 
In what areas do you need to humble yourself and let Him be the Prince of Peace in your life, the God of all Comfort?