Well, I’m back. After more than two years of silence on this blog, it’s time to write again. I’m not sure what silenced my blog for two years; was it my lack of discipline or a burned out heart or a busy schedule or just my constant state of being a tired mom? I’m not sure. Whatever the case, it’s good to be back. I’m hoping it sticks. The last blog I wrote over two years ago was my first blog to ever go viral, and then my words dried up. How weird is that?
The last two years have been full to the brim with the good, the bad, and the ugly. Just like your life, there have been wonderful highs and really depressing lows. Weeks and months have flown by. I’ve driven my kids to more activities than ever before in my life, immersed myself into their worlds by subbing in their schools, traveled to some beautiful places, read more books than ever and read the Bible from cover to cover. This blog started several years as a journey through grief after losing my Mom and segued into being a place where I shared struggles and joys of parenting littles. But my littles are growing into bigs now, and while they’ll appear in many a blog, my heart pounds to write about Jesus and His Word. That’s what you’ll find in this space from now on.
After over 2 years of silence, where does a girl start? With the kindness of God.
Have you recently just sat down or taken a walk and pondered how nice God is? I don’t really mean in a “count your blessings” kind of way, because then we usually end up thinking about tangible things…which is good, but not really what I’m going for here. The last two years have conjured up some pretty rough moments…Paul’s career has been immensely taxing, marriage is often the hardest thing ever, and parenting brings me to the end of myself on a daily basis. In a life in which every single day is different than the day before, one constant has remained the same: the kindness of God. Over and over I’ve wanted to write about it but couldn’t find the words. It’s so wonderful; I can’t do it justice. It stops me in my tracks and takes my breath away.
God is so nice to me. So gentle and loving and tender. He lets me get to the end of myself but doesn’t let me break. He invites me out of bed in the morning to sit in His presence, wooing me with the aroma of fresh coffee, knowing that without at least 30 minutes alone with Him I’ll barely make it through my day. He listens to me as I tell Him my same stressors every single day and gives me the wisdom and insight I desperately need. He is so kind.
It seems like being kind is the new thing to be. In the 60’s it was “all you need is love.” And then in the 80’s it seems like being a rebel was sort of the thing. Push back against the grain. And then for at least a decade in the 2000’s it was all about being tolerant. Accept everything, disagree with nothing. But now, it seems like everything is all about kindness (which is a huge step up from just being tolerant…what a sad thing it is to simply “tolerate” everyone). In every school I sub at there are posters that say, “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.” We have kindness weeks and wear shirts that remind us to be kind. We even eat KIND bars. In our quest to spread kindness, what we may not realize is that it all comes from the heart of an incredibly, shockingly, incessantly kind God.
With all the destruction and suffering in the world I think the kindness of God gets overlooked and swept under the rug. We recognize our material blessings because they are right there in front of us, but the tender, gentle, kind heart of God gets missed, or even ignored or denied. It’s so often suggested that God must be harsh or, at a minimum aloof, for there to be such evil in the world. How could a kind God ever allow x, y, or z? But let us consider the powerful words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 8:32: “He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” WHAT??? Did you see that? Since God gave up His SON for us, to redeem us from sin and set us free forever, will He not then also GRACIOUSLY give us everything? Graciously, not begrudgingly. We (meaning I) tend to be so near-sighted and narrow-minded that I think this means things I want – like new furniture and a growing savings account. But it doesn’t. It’s not even a promise for health or physical wellness. It’s not a promise for safety either (think about the Apostle Paul’s life…he was never physically safe and had a “thorn in his flesh” that he said tormented him). But God gives us everything we need to know Him…wisdom, faith, joy, hope, salvation, forgiveness, freedom, perseverance. And in the coming Kingdom, it will be that and everything else we’ve longed for on this earth. God’s kindness is shocking. It should take our breath away.
The Bible agrees with our distress that we absolutely live in a world that groans and aches under the immense weight of corruption and sin (Romans 8:22). But, oh for the tender, kind heart of our God! Without the kindness of God there would be no beauty or good in this sin-stressed world. Our struggle is not that God’s heart isn’t tender; our struggle is that we don’t seek His tender heart. Have you watched the sunset over the ocean? God is tender. Or stared at the wonder of sundogs around the sun on the most bitterly cold day? God is encouraging. Have you had a big floppy dog lay his head on your lap? God is playful. Have you been brought to laughter when you were trying your best stay mad? God is gracious. Have you taken a bite recently and been in awe of the amazing savory taste? God is so kind!
According to Ephesians 2:7, He longs to show us the “immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus”. He’ll show us completely in the new Kingdom after Jesus returns, but even now He eagerly gives us glimpse after glimpse after glimpse. And the only reason He is waiting to show us completely is because He wants all to come to believe in Him (2 Peter 3:9). He is so nice! Since His kindness is immeasurable, if we were to begin to make a list of all the ways He’s shown us kindness (which is a great exercise), our list would never end. And since He is eager to show us kindness, we don’t have to beg Him. It is His joy to shower us with kindness. Our problem isn’t His lack of kindness; our problem is that we don’t press in. He’s not going to force His kindness upon us. He paints the sky every morning and evening but doesn’t crank our necks up to see it. He whispers to our hearts often but doesn’t reach over our shoulders to turn off our devices. Because He is kind, He lets us choose. Let’s choose to press into His kindness.
A verse that has gripped my heart recently is “May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and the steadfastness of Christ” (2 Thess. 3:5) I just love it. I’ve been praying it over my husband and kids and made them all memorize it. We live in a harsh world and our hearts can grow distant from the love of God. But oh! Would God direct our hearts into His love! It’s like God is reaching out His hand, grabbing the metaphorical hand of my kid’s hearts, and guiding their hearts to His own. Oh yes please Jesus! How kind of God to direct our hearts, knowing full well that without His guidance my heart gets way off course And then, we not only find shelter in His love but also we are able stand firm in the steadfastness of Christ. Do you need some steadfastness in your life? I sure do.
There’s so much more to say about the kindness of God. But for now, would you just ponder it please? I know your world is stressful. The whole world is. But how has God been tender toward you? How has He given you mercy when you deserved a scolding? How has he encouraged your heart when you’ve been down in the dumps? When has He guided your heart straight to His love and steadfastness?
My prayer is that you would encounter the kindness of God today and that it would melt your heart. Drop your jaw. Stop you in your tracks.
Press into it. Let’s be stunned, my friend.
The turkey was perfect…cooked to a scrumptious golden juiciness. The mashed potatoes were cooked with skins still on, just like she always did it. The pumpkin cheesecake was a new twist that she would have absolutely loved. The gravy, however…well, that came from a packet mixed with water. I’d been kicking myself for weeks for not paying closer attention the Thanksgiving prior. I had stood in the kitchen next to her chatting and laughing and munching on nuts while she made the gravy…“Oh, I’ll pay attention next year” I told her…unaware that it was my last opportunity to learn her gravy secret.
My table looked beautiful and our guests were seated, waiting for the presentation of the turkey. I stood at the oven, with my back toward my family as tears ran down my face. Here it was – Thanksgiving Dinner, the most savored meal of the year, my first year as hostess, my first turkey…and the one person that I most wanted to be there, the one who had taught me to cook in the first place, wasn’t. A girl needs her mom’s nod of approval for her first Thanksgiving turkey, you know? I was heartbroken…and I felt guilty for feeling heartbroken on a day that’s supposed to be full of celebration.
That first holiday season without my Mom was brutal, beginning with that teary moment with my turkey and lasting through mid-January when I finally (finally!) packed away all the Christmas dishes I’d inherited way too early. That December I couldn’t listen to any of her favorite Christmas musicians. Kenny Rogers? No way. Amy Grant? Not a chance. Neil Diamond? Floods of tears. Now five years later, here the season is again. Oh, I love this season, very, very much; but it still hurts. Next Thursday when I place dinner on our table, my heart will be full of joy and gratitude for God's goodness and for the family that's seated around the table, but I'll be thinking about my Mom the whole time I'm stirring my gravy packet with water and mashing my potatoes, skin on. Come December I may now be brave enough to play some Neil Diamond Christmas tunes, but certainly not with dry eyes.
Yet, for the month or so that I’m drinking coffee out of her Christmas mugs, I’ll feel closer to her again. I’ll feel like she’s in some way at the table with me when I set the table with all of her Christmas dishes and I’ll see her in the living room when I bring out her Christmas quilts. And when I pack them away again in January, I’ll cry. Because the holidays are never easy. Because even though we are entering what is absolutely the most wonderful time of the year, it’s also, for many, the most difficult.
Really, broken hearts are integral to this season. The fact that we are a hurting people in need of hope is the entire point of the season we’re entering. Jesus came into the world as our Emmanuel not because we are a holly jolly people who are fine on our own, but because we are a broken, hurting people in desperate need of God to be with us and save us. Jesus came to be our joy and peace not because our lives are going so well, but because without Him we are lost and destitute and can know no peace. Jesus came to conquer sin and death, not so that we would never grieve, but so that our grief would not be without the great hope of new life.
So maybe you’re struggling to muster up your Thanksgiving spirit because you’re dealing with loneliness or defeat or divorce or infertility or death or bankruptcy or infidelity or debt or unemployment or illness or loss of friendships or chronic pain or depression or a stressful work environment or childlessness or…fill in the blank. This season is all about broken people being made whole again, and because of that, it’s okay to admit you’re hurting. When our forefathers declared a day of Thanksgiving, it wasn’t because life was easy and happy-go-lucky, and I imagine they certainly didn’t pretend to be “fine” even on that day of feasting. Rather, life was hard and full of strife and staggering loss, yet they knew it was necessary for the soul to take time to reflect on the goodness of God in the midst of tumult. I bet on that first Thanksgiving, celebration was met with many shed tears as they remembered those who weren't sitting around their tables. But celebration in the midst of tears doesn't take away from our praise...rather, it makes our praise all the richer when we can give thanks through the tears. Scripture tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) not because all circumstances are good, but because in all circumstances, God is good. Psalm 136 repeats over and over “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever” because in the ever-changing hardships of God’s people, His enduring love was the one constant in their lives. It’s the same for you and me.
So as we enter the season Thanksgiving and then head into Christmas, maybe you’re heartbroken. Friend, its okay… even though all the loud speakers everywhere are blaring at you to be holly and jolly. And it’s even okay if your broken heart shows up at your Thanksgiving table. Don't try to pretend that you're fine...the babe in the manger is absolute proof that we are not fine. Jesus left the grandeur of Heaven, emptied Himself of His glory, and came to Bethlehem as a human baby because of our brokenness.
It’s okay to just be real about our griefs this holiday season and admit that we're hanging all of our hopes and joys on a living Savior, a living Emmanuel, a God who is literally with us and whose love does in fact endure forever.
And that causes our hearts of thanksgiving to overflow.
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)
Confession: I was a crabby mom this morning. And yesterday morning. And yesterday after school. In fact, I'm pretty sure I've written at least one blog before with a very similar title. This might indicate I have a problem.
Well, the truth is that I do have a problem...and not just my mild anxiety issues and monthly hormones ...I have another problem too.
It's called sin, and it likes to rear it's ugly head most often in my motherhood.
This morning started out well. I had coffee and cereal before the kids came out for breakfast, as well as time in my Bible. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I even specifically prayed this morning that God would help me to "keep in step with the Spirit" as Paul instructs us to do in Galatians 5. And for about five minutes of interacting with one child, I stepped with the Spirit with ease. Then I went to wake up another child, who was NOT in the mood to wake up for school, and rather than calmly stepping with the Spirit, I just threw that all out the window and reacted like a hot-headed, impatient, ugly mad mom. And then, you know how after you start being hot-headed and self-righteous in your parenting, you just keep doing it? Like, you nag your kid(s) for everything he or she does and then tell them snotty things like, "I was in a good mood until everyone started doing x, y, and z."?? Well, I did that. Right up until they climbed on their bikes.
Now, some of you read that above paragraph and resonate completely. Others read that and are thinking that my parenting was really crappy this morning. You're right. I have no excuses.
Shortly after the kids took off on their bikes (openly admitting they were glad to bike off to happier people), Paul came home from his shift at the fire station and the good Lord sent me out on a walk. (He does that when He needs to talk to me about my behavior.)
As we walked and talked, the Lord showed me a few things that might be helpful to another mom out there. (Or, maybe it'll just be helpful for me to re-read this the next time I screw up like this.)
The first thing the Lord set me straight on is that I tend to sugarcoat my hurtful mothering behaviors, making excuses like "I'm just rightfully scolding or correcting my kids," when in fact I often cross the line into "blaming" or even "shaming" them for simple mistakes that need simple correction or redirection. Here's a really pathetic recent example of what I mean. Last weekend at a Redhawks game my daughter spilled an entire box of popcorn that I had just bought her. Rather than assuring her it was no big deal, I sighed overtly loudly, making her feel ashamed for something as trite and silly as spilled popcorn. Paul called me on it right away, as iron sharpening iron is supposed to do, and after at least ten minutes of me sulking in pride, my heart finally softened, remorse set in, (the healthy kind), and I apologized and gave her my popcorn. It's astounding to me what huge hearts my kids have. My pride can be such a monster in parenting, yet they forgive me time and time again.
As the Lord was talking to me about shaming my kids, He brought to my heart Ephesians 4:29, which should really be scrawled across all my walls: "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouth, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." Ahh! Yes! I want to only use my mouth to build up, teach, instruct and encourage my kids, not to tear down. I want to be a Mom who gives grace to her kids.
Another thing Jesus showed me today is that my unpreparedness is to blame for our rough mornings...not my kids. If I had kids' outfits lying out, as well as plates, bowls, glasses, spoons, lunchboxes, etc., all sitting out ready for use, the morning would run so much more smoothly. Sure, my kids have responsibilities too, but Jesus gently reminded me that this is my job. My husband is awesome at uplifting motherhood as my career and my calling. Well, I need to act like it then. If a professional showed up to work crabby and blaming others when her workday started out badly each day, she'd get fired, or at least put on probation or something. Why should motherhood be different? It is my responsibility to start our days well instead of blaming others when my own unpreparedness makes us all a frenzy.
And then, last, the Lord reminded me of this great analogy I recently heard on the radio. A Christian author/speaker was talking about being a thermostat rather than a thermometer. A thermometer reacts to the temperature of the room, rising or falling as temperature changes. A thermostat sets the temperature of the room. I want to be the kind of woman who sets the thermostat each morning at my house, shaping the mood to be loving, kind, and encouraging. Misbehavior and crabby attitudes and lost shoes and tired kids and unfound library books and spilled milk are going to happen for sure, but I don't want to be the kind of unstable mom who is constantly shifting her mood based on her surroundings. When my mood shifts based on everyone else's behavior, my kids never know what to expect from me. You can see the question on their faces: "What kind of mood will Mom be in now???" I don't want that to be the case. I want to set the mood, and I want to set it well.
Or course I'm never going to do this whole thermostat thing perfectly. I'm still going to screw up and shame my kids wrongfully and have to go to them for the millionth time to ask for forgiveness. But in his book Sacred Parenting (which you should read), Gary Thomas lifts up imperfection as the key to the one perfect thing we can do in parenting: we can use our imperfections to point our kids to their perfect Savior. When we go to our children and admit our sin and ask for forgiveness, we are reminding them that we too are in desperate need of a Savior...and that is the single most important thing we can ever do as a parent. I often say to my kids, "I'm sorry. Mom really needs a Savior doesn't she?" And they readily reply, "Yep! You sure do!"
Yep. I sure do. And we have the perfect one in Jesus, whose perfect love covers over the multitude of our sins. Praise the Lord.
So...here's to doing better, setting the temperature of the room, and stepping with the Spirit.
And to the weekend:)
One day last year as we were driving to school, my then 7-year-old Lily piped up, “Hey Mom! I used our verse to help me at school yesterday! A kid at recess was being a bully to [her friend], just like he does every single recess. Finally yesterday I just had enough of it. Then I remembered our verse, that I am more than a conqueror through Jesus. So I just went up to [the bully] and said, ‘Hey! You cannot do this to my friend anymore.’ And Mom, guess what! He stopped and walked away!"
Of course my eyes were all blurry with tears by the time I pulled into the school drop-off lane. Our memory verse for that week had been Romans 8:37, “We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us,” and here was biblical application at work in a seven-year-old. Praise the Lord.
Last week I was planting zinnia and marigold seeds into my flowerbeds, gently covering each seed with a bit of dirt and hoping they would grow into beautiful flowers. Jesus’ words about the Word of God being sown into good soil flooded my heart and my mind, and I found myself praying that my kids’ hearts would be good soil as we work to plant God’s Word. I’m not necessarily in control of their soil of their hearts, but I’m definitely responsible to sow the seed. And, one of the most effective ways of sowing the seed of God's Word into my kids' hearts is to help them memorize it (actually, probably the most effective way).
Maybe you’ve wondered about if or how to go about teaching Scripture memorization to your own kids. I’m here today to encourage on why and how it’s one of the most important things we can do for our kids. And as summer vacation rapidly approaches, this might be the perfect time to try something new….we aren’t in as crazy of a rush to get out the door in the morning, and life feels fresh and new.
But before you read any further, I want to encourage you. This is easier than you think! Keep reading! (By the way, this applies to you personally too…not just teaching it to kids.)
So maybe you’re pondering the why of this. Why does it matter to teach our kids (and ourselves) to memorize Scripture? Isn’t memorizing a tad extreme??? Well, here are some thoughts on that.
So there’s the why…but again… as we go on to the how, be encouraged! This is easier than you think! I’m a pretty fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of gal, so at our house we do this informally, casually, and imperfectly. We stand on grace. So, from one crazy household to another, here’s how we go about this:
God is good, my friend, and His Word never returns void but always accomplishes the purpose for which it was sent (Isaiah 55). Trust that His Word will work in your child's heart. Our job is to sow the seeds. The Holy Spirit does all the rest.
PS - for those who might like a tool in this endeavor, I developed a PDF of 52 Scriptures to memorize...one per week for a year. They are loosely categorized into six categories, and it was SO HARD to narrow it down...so if you're like "Hey she missed SO MANY GOOD ONES!"...you're right! I did! But, this might be a helpful place to start! It's here below - feel free to print it, pass it around, whatever...but more importantly...let it help you hide God's Word in your heart!
I love breakfast. Every night I lay my head on my pillow with excited anticipation of waking up early to a quiet, dark house, smelling the coffee brewing and enjoying of a perfectly toasted English muffin with peanut butter and jam. When our family goes camping in the summers, breakfast is even better. Bacon fried on a camping stove, and then eggs scrambled in the bacon grease. Mmmmm. Hot chocolate heated over the fire. Occasionally s’mores as breakfast-dessert. The smell of campfire and coffee mixed with fresh morning air. It’s so good. I love breakfast.
And maybe that’s why my heart is so gripped every time I read about Jesus in John 21. This morning before anyone was awake in my house I sat down with my Bible and my coffee to read my favorite post-resurrection account of Jesus. We don’t get very many insights into Jesus’ time with his disciples between his resurrection and his ascension into Heaven forty days later, but we do get a few. And this one is my favorite. If you’re not familiar with John 21 (or even if you are) I encourage you to read it. Revel in it. Maybe have breakfast with it today or tomorrow.
The scene is the Sea of Galilee. Several of Jesus’ disciples have been fishing all night to no avail. As night turns to morning, ‘just as day was breaking,’ a man calls from the shore “Have you caught any fish?” The disciples, not knowing because of the darkness of dawn and the distance from shore whom it was who called, answer no. The man calls back to throw their net to the right side…there’re fish over there.
I just love this…Jesus is casually engaging in guy-talk, to the point that they still think the man on the shore is simply another fisherman who knows a hot spot. The disciples take the man’s advice. As their nets begin to heave and are nearly busting, they get it....that’s not just another guy on the beach. That's Jesus...the risen Jesus who just conquered the grave. Peter dives right in and swims to shore. The others take the boat and haul in the fish (and then count them, as every good fisherman does).
And there is Jesus. On the beach, this shore where they’ve shared so many moments. This place where he first called several of them. He’s already built a fire, gathered fresh bread, and has fish cooking on the fire. He’s been here preparing breakfast for them and they didn’t even know it. The aroma of campfire and lake and dawn and roasting fish fills the air and draws in the weary fishermen.
And then the invitation: “Come and have breakfast” (verse 12).
Come and have breakfast. Oh, how I love this invitation of Jesus:
You, who’ve been up all night, come and have breakfast.
You, who’ve been working hard, come and have breakfast.
You, who are worried about what today holds and confused about the things that happened yesterday, come and have breakfast.
You, who are weary and heavy burdened, come and have breakfast.
You, who maybe just wants to crawl back into bed, come and have breakfast.
You, who denied me with your words and actions but whom I have forgiven, come and have breakfast.
This is our Jesus. Savior of the World, Risen Lord, Creator of the Universe, King above all Kings….sitting on the beach, feet in the sand, building a fire and cooking fish to eat with his tired friends as day is breaking.
This is intimacy and friendship at its best. This is breath-taking. Yet I sometimes feel like this is a truth about Jesus we often miss. It seems that often we tend to fall into one of two trains of thought about Jesus: either that he is an impersonal, religious, loving but un-relatable teacher and Lord, or that he is my happy-go-lucky BFF who writes in my yearbook, ‘You are so perfect just the way you are!!! Never change!!!!’
However, as this scene shows us (as well as the whole Bible), he is so much grander.
As this breakfast scene goes on, Jesus shows us that not only is he the perfectly loving friend and Savior who cooks breakfast on the beach, but also that he is a perfectly holy Lord who takes our sin very seriously…seriously enough to die for it. Just a few days prior, in Jesus’ darkest hour, one of his best friends denied ever knowing him. Three times. Culturally we like to think that Jesus negates our sin, ignores it, or just brushes it under the rug. He doesn’t. So, after they eat the last of their roasted fish, Jesus gently pulls Peter aside and asks him three times (one for each denial) if Peter loves Him. Verse 17 tells us that by the third time, Peter was grieved at the question. It hurt. Confession hurts. Talking about our sin hurts. But restoration heals and sets us free…and that is always Jesus’ aim for us.
So here we have our Jesus. Building campfires on the beach, inviting his friends to sit in the sand with him and eat some freshly roasted fish, and tenderly yet authoritatively leading Peter through confession and restoration, right there on the beach. Peter didn’t have time to put on his ‘Sunday best’ or even take a shower. He was probably barefoot and he certainly hadn’t brushed his teeth. There was nothing ‘religious’ per se going on here. But there was relationship, companionship, intimacy, restoration and fellowship with Jesus that simply takes my breath away.
The Bible teaches us that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
So, friends, this God who makes breakfast? He’s still our God. He is still the God of the invitation. He’s still inviting, “Come and have breakfast.” And although I know tomorrow morning when I wake up there won’t be a fire pit in my backyard with freshly roasted fish on it, there will be Jesus.
Like most mornings, he’ll gently rouse me from my dreams and invite me to have a cup of coffee with him and my Bible. Whether not I roll over and go back to sleep or get up and grab my robe will be my choice, (and I firmly believe there’s grace either way), but oh, the joy is in saying yes to the invitation.
We have a God who still beckons us and desires that we would heed his beckoning. We don’t have a far off God that suffered, died and conquered our sins so that he could simply watch us from heaven and be aloof. No. We have a God that suffered, died, and conquered our sins so that we could have fellowship with him. Real, living, personal, relational, breakfast-eating, campfire-building, honest, lets-skip-the-small-talk type fellowship. Forever.
What a Jesus.
Let’s have breakfast.
The last few weeks and days as I’ve poured myself into the Scripture accounts of the history-changing events in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, I’ve been struck by one resounding theme: Jesus was in total control. Jesus held total, complete, utter control over every single facet of his betrayal, beating, mocking, death, and of course resurrection.
This week it’s been impressed upon my heart how nobody else in the scene really seemed to have a clue what was going on – even the chief priests, leaders, and soldiers who were doing it all to him. They seem primarily to be acting out of ‘mob mentality’ – having not individually really thought out and evaluated the consequences of their actions. But not Jesus. He is steady, immovable, unstoppable, forward moving, totally in control as he marches toward the cross.
By no means would I ever attempt to list all the ways Jesus was/is in control over the salvation of the world…that would be impossible and my brain can’t even comprehend the enormity of that. But as I’ve been stunned this week by Jesus’ control over his own death, I’ve just grown to love him more and more; and I’d like to wrestle through some of this with you too.
Control over the Timing
Jesus came to save the world, and the whole time he lived on earth, he knew the exact day and time it was going to happen. I was deeply struck the other day as I read John 11:53-54 to my kids:
“So from that day on they made plans to put him to death. Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and there he stayed with the disciples.”
Jesus was in full control over the timing. He had to die at Passover, so as the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem began plotting his death months earlier, Jesus lived out in the wilderness with his friends. Not because he was scared and hiding…but because it wasn’t time yet.
If he’d been scared and trying to hide, he wouldn’t have paraded into Jerusalem five days before his death. Even as he rode in with the crowds crying “Hosanna!” on Palm Sunday, he knew full well that he was riding in toward his death. He was in total control.
It hit me just yesterday or the day before that not even Judas, his betrayer, knew the timing. Judas had already decided to betray Jesus, but Matthew 26:16 tells us that from the moment Judas got paid from the chief priests, “he sought an opportunity to betray him.” Judas was still seeking that opportunity when, during the Last Supper, Jesus said quietly to him, “What you are going to do, do it quickly.” (John 13:27) It seems to me that Judas probably didn’t know that tonight was the night. But Jesus knew and Jesus was in control. He had come to save the world and he was absolutely intent on his mission. So he told Judas it was time. Astounding.
Control in the Garden
The Garden of Gethsemane. Oh my. I dare not say much because no human can grasp the agony and pain that Jesus was suffering as he prayed over his impending death. Never would I want to presume that I knew was my Lord was going through in that garden; but I have been impacted by a number of things the last few weeks as I’ve read these texts.
First of all, the fact that Jesus would take the disciples to this particular garden is just so beautiful to me. John tells us that Jesus and his disciples went there often (John 18:2). Don’t you love a familiar place at a scary time? It’s a garden at night at spring time. Wonderful smells, dew upon the plants making them smell even better, a place where they’ve met and talked and probably laughed and rested a number of times. His disciples are scared and sorrowful and confused, and Jesus brings them to a familiar place. Don’t you just love him?
And then also the control he displays here. He knew Judas was coming with soliders, and Jesus did not make this hard on Judas. He didn’t hide – he went to a place that he knew Judas would find him. Total control.
Luke’s gospel account shows us Jesus prayed from a place of total agony while he was in the garden, such that his sweat fell like drops of blood (Luke 22:44). He prayed earnestly that the Father would remove this cup of suffering from Jesus: “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will" (Mark 14). Do you see the total control in that prayer? Jesus had total control over his human emotions (because he was in fact fully human as well as being fully God) and total ability to submit to the authority of his Father.
Luke tells us that an angel from heaven came down to the garden to be with and strengthen Jesus. I just love that. I love the Father’s love here. We can never know how the Father spoke to his Son at that moment, but I love the tenderness that I perceive went on. It’s as if the Father reassuring the Son, “You have to do this. It’s the only way” and tenderly sending down a messenger from heaven to give Jesus strength. And then Jesus, being in total control, announces to his disciples, “It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand” (Mark 14:41-42)
All four Gospel accounts show how the soldiers really didn’t know which man Jesus was, but that Jesus, being in absolute control, just tells them, “I am he.” There were hundreds of soldiers present, and John records that at this announcement from the Great I AM, they all fell down (John 18:6).
Jesus’ control and majesty must have been palpable.
Control over his trial
As they take Jesus to trial, it’s clear in each gospel account that the chief priests, soldiers, and crowds are just acting out of mob mentality. No one can actually find Jesus guilty of anything or accuse him of anything substantive, yet the leaders, and eventually the whole crowd of people, are screaming for him to be crucified. Jesus doesn’t fight or flee. There are other times during his earthly ministry when Jesus seemingly supernaturally escaped angry mobs, but here he doesn’t. But he wasn’t a pushover either. He was in total control over the outcome of this trial. When Pilate asked him, “Don’t you know I have authority to release you or crucify you?” Jesus calmly and authoritatively says tells him that Pilate doesn’t actually have power here; God does (John 19:11). Jesus is in full control, willingly undergoing the mocking, spitting, flogging, thorns, bleeding. He is immovable and unstoppable in his mission to save us.
Control on the Cross
I don’t want to say too much here because Scripture is just too beautiful in its perfection. But oh, the control of Jesus on the cross. Here we have an innocent man, God himself who has lived forever in the splendor of heaven, being tortured, stripped, and killed in one of the most inhumane ways in the history of the world. And yet we here not one complaint. He was absolutely willing and in control of this moment. It takes my breath away. He didn’t even take the numbing wine/myrrh mixture (Mark 15:23) He forgave the soldiers as they were crucifying him (Luke 23:34). He welcomed the thief into the Kingdom of Heaven (Luke 23:43) He made plans for His mother to be cared for (John 19:26-27). Total control.
Also, which I cannot even fathom enough to write about, Jesus was bearing all of the sins of the world inside his own body as he hung on the cross (1 Peter 2:24). He actually became sin (2 Corinthians 5:21) as he hung on the cross. And yet, being also fully God, we see no sinful nature in him. We see grace, forgiveness, unimaginable love. He is in total control over the sin that is being crucified with him.
Control over Death
And last, Jesus was in control over his death. Let these Scriptures take your breath away:
“And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.” Matthew 27:50
“And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last.” Mark 15:37
“Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!’ And having said this he breathed his last.” Luke 23:46
“When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” John 19:30
Do you see it? Jesus was in absolute control over his death. Months before the cross Jesus said, “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father” (John 10:18). The Cross isn’t something that was done to Jesus, The Cross is what Jesus willingly did for us. He willingly took on our punishment of sin and death so that we could become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).
And the final word – Jesus’ control over death means victory over death. As Peter preaches in Acts 2: “But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him” (Acts 2:24).
Death did not and does not have control.
Jesus has control.
Amen and Amen.
Ahhh Holy Week. The week that held the greatest events in the whole history of the world. This morning our kids paraded into church with palm branches and praises, and the days ahead will hold every emotion known to mankind. This afternoon I sat down with my Bible to sketch out a family reading plan to help us keep the main thing the main thing this week.
To have experienced the events of this week first-hand, like Mary Magdalene or Peter or John, would have been unfathomable. But we have this precious treasure of God's Word, that has recorded the events of that week in stunning detail, through the span of four Gospel accounts. What a privilege to get to dive into that week through the pages of Scripture. Rather than rushing from the "Hosanna!" of today to the "He is Risen!" of next Sunday, let us pause and deeply consider the painful prayers of Thursday, the "Crucify Him!" of Friday, and the silence of Saturday.
I'd love to share this reading plan with you; but first, some disclaimers:
So, here's what our family will be reading this week:
Sunday: Luke 19:28-40 and 45-48 (The events of Palm Sunday; Jesus cleanses the temple)
Another Look: John 12:12-19 (Same account, interesting insight)
Monday: Matthew 26:1-16 (The plot to kill Jesus; Jesus gets anointed; Judas plans to betray Jesus)
Another Look: John 11:45-12:11 (Same accounts as in the above Matthew text, but with more detail)
Tuesday: Luke 22:1-23 and 31-34 (The last supper; Jesus tells Peter about his denial. These events actually happen Thursday evening)
Another Look: Mark 14:12-31 (Another look at the Last Supper)
Wednesday: John 13:1-17, John 14:1-6 (At the last supper when Jesus washes disciples feet; Jesus teaches about preparing a place for us. These events also actually happen Thursday evening, after they share the meal at the last supper)
Another Look: John 17 (Jesus prays for his disciples and for all believers)
Thursday: Luke 22:39-62 (Praying at the Mount of Olives in the Garden of Gethsemane; Jesus gets arrested; Peter denies Jesus three times)
Another Look: John 18:19-24 and 28-40, 19:1-19 (zooming in on the trials with the high priests and Pilate)
Friday: Mark 15:1-41 (The crucifixion account as told by Mark. If you normally do your reading at the kitchen table, I suggest moving to the living room for this one...it's longer and deserves the time it takes).
Another Look: Matthew 27, Luke 22:66-23:56, John 19:17-42 (the trial and crucifixion accounts in each gospel account)
Saturday: Matthew 27:62-66 (The chief priests’ concerns on Saturday); Colossians 1:13-20 (beautiful description of Jesus and the Cross)
Another Look: Isaiah 53:1-12 (one of the most detailed prophecies of our Savior being crucified);
Sunday: Pick any (or all!) resurrection text: Mathew 28:1-15, Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-12, John 20:1-18 (Personally I suggest reading the accounts in both Matthew and John. John zooms in on Jesus’ interaction with Mary, and the Matthew texts tells of the earthquake, the guards’ fear, and the response of the chief priests when they hear of the resurrection).
Another Look: Luke 24:13-35, (or all the way to verse 53) I suggest reading the above resurrection text first thing in the morning, as it happened at dawn. Then, at supper or bedtime, read this Luke 24 account of Jesus walking with two friends on the way to Emmaus.
Easter Monday: John 20:24-21:15 (Jesus appears to Thomas & then makes breakfast on the beach for his friends. Don’t you just love John 20:31!?)
Another Look: John 21:15-25…the restoration of Peter.
If your family hasn't developed a habit of family devos, this would be the perfect week to start.
And last, cling to John 20:31: "These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."
He is risen indeed. Amen and Amen.
It was a moment to seize.
The waterfall was stunning, the mist refreshing, the sun hot. The crashing water begged us to dive in.
As we had taken down our tent and camping gear that morning to head home, we had packed up our swimsuits too...by lack of my own foresight. How did I not see this moment coming?
Fully clothed, my kids pleaded:
"MOOOOMMMM....we have to get in!"
They didn't have to plead much...I'm all for jumping right in.
"Yep. You're right. We have to get in!"
We got in, and laughing, tried to stand against the cold current.
"Mom let's go put our heads under the falls!"
Grabbing hands to hold each other up against the current, we laughed, banged our knees on rocks, laughed some more, slipped on slippery stones, and swam to the waterfalls. We put our heads under and squealed with delight. It was exhilarating.
The powerful rush of water on our heads was pure joy. Just like God's grace.
It rushes upon us - never stopping. Never even slowing. Just pouring down, every day.
Grace upon grace.
Nothing has caused me to realize the grace of God pouring down on my life in the way that motherhood does. Everyday, as I do my best but still continually bang my knees on the rocks of mothering, I'm so grateful for the gushing grace of God.
When I think about what I want most for my kids, what immediately comes to mind is the Apostle Paul and his letter to the Philippians. Paul wrote about the things of perceived value in his life - his education, his knowledge, his former position of respect among the Pharisees and the tribe of Benjamin...things socially regarded has highly valuable and meaningful. Yet he said that in comparison to his desire to know Christ, everything else was rubbish. Everything else in his life paled in comparison to knowing Christ Jesus his Lord, and becoming like him. (Philippians 3)
Oh how I want that same passion. I want knowing Jesus to be my aim every single day.
And, I want it for my kids. That my kids would know Jesus is the utmost desire and cry of my heart. As the Apostle John writes to his friend Gaius (and the church that likely met in Gaius' house), "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." (3 John 4). Yes and amen, this is my goal and aim in motherhood.
Sure, I want other things for my kids too. I want my kids to be strong, healthy, and protected physically. I want my kids to have friends and be kind and loving to other kids. I want my kids to excel academically and obey their teachers. I want my kids to be happy. I want my kids to read all the great books and hear all the great music. I want my kids to see the mountains and the ocean and the Grand Canyon and the Redwood Forest.But more than anything else, I want my kids to know Jesus. I don't just want my kids to know about Jesus. I want them to know Jesus.
So, Amidst all the things I do in motherhood, I want to intentionally and whole-heartedly mother my kids toward Him.
Whether we do it intentionally or not, we all mother our kids in specific directions - toward things we desire for them and away from things we don't want for them. For example, maybe we mother our kids more toward music than sports, or vice versa. Maybe we mother than more toward academics and less toward extra-curriculars, or vice versa. We mother our kids in lots of directions, but on the top of my list, higher than any other goal, I want to shepherd my kids toward the love of God: His truth, His grace, His forgiveness, His Word, His life. My prayer in motherhood is that all other possible focal points to pale in comparison to this one focus.
This endeavor is one with a strong current pushing against us. Not only do we face the strong current of a very 'me-centered' culture to, but also my own selfish sin nature pushes against me as I strive to model to my kids the sacrificial love of Jesus. Also, my kids' own sin natures will cause more than a few stumbles in our trek. (The only good and healthy thing about our own sin nature is that it provides constant opportunities to point our kids to our need of a Savior and His gift of forgiveness.)
I am absolutely going to slip and fall and bang my knees on rocks. A lot. (It's only 8am and I already hit at least a few rocks during the one hour I saw my kids this morning before they were off to school.) Thank the good Lord for a husband who's always got my back. I'm also going to need some girlfriends to jump in and hold hands with me, friends who are willing to hold me up when I bang my knees; friends who hold me strong and have my back when I'm ready to turn and just go with the current. This won't come easy. But oh, the joy in front of us on this journey...the joy of seeing our kids walking in the exhilarating truth of Jesus' love...it's so worth it.
May we swim together in this grace as we mother our kids toward Jesus, my friend.
Nothing matters more in motherhood than leading our kids to the heart of Jesus...
the Strong Tower who guards them, the Creator who calls them by name,
and the Good Shepherd who even knows the number of hairs on their heads.
Amidst all the other ways we strive to train and influence our kids, let's mother our kids toward Jesus.
And, in the middle of real life, as we bang our knees on rocks and slip and fall now and then,
let's swim in grace together.
he other day I was chatting with a friend who was telling me about one of her closest friend’s recent heartache. ..not in a gossipy way, but in a “I’m really concerned about my friend” kind of a way. The friend is in a really messy place…not an uncommon situation, but messy nonetheless. With a heavy, hurting heart, I simply commented, “That’s messy. And it’s also really scary.”
Life is messy, isn’t it? And often, our messes scare us; our situations may feel beyond our control or simply out of control. Often when the end is in not in sight, we worry about the effect the mess is going to have on our kids or loved ones, or even our very lives. We get scared. For the past few years our family has been walking through the messiness of grief, and at times the grief has been downright ugly. We’re coming through it now, and my goodness it feels good to be able to see clearly and breathe deeply again. For awhile anyway….there’s obviously another mess around a bend up ahead that we can’t see yet. It’ll come though. It’s guaranteed.
The messes of life come in an endless variety of sizes and force. Some we create ourselves and others happen upon us for reasons completely outside of our control. Grief is messy. Illness is messy. Conflict is messy. Relationships are messy. Parenting is messy. Marriage is messy. Financial strain is messy. And for many of us, the Christmas season, in addition to all its inherent joy and wonder, is also the time when our messes feel the messiest. Grief is more painful; financial strain more stressful; illness more bitter; loneliness deeper; strained relationships more apparent.
Confession: There was a good-sized meltdown in the house today.
Facts: It wasn’t the pre-schooler. It wasn’t the tween. It wasn’t the dramatic 8-year old or the feisty 6-year old.
Conclusion: It was the Mother.
Yes. I had a meltdown this morning. There was really no justifiable cause for the meltdown. I’d been feeling it building for the last few days, and today the tears came like a flood. This actually happens fairly routinely in a cyclical pattern that most women (and their husbands) will understand. Approximately every four weeks there’s a day or two during which my unreasonable desire for recognition and appreciation for everything I do for our family gets out of control and causes me to fall apart. (To those reading this who think this is foolish – you're right. NOBODY gets thanked for everything they do. I know.) Thanks be to God I have a husband who treats me like a queen, listens to me, hugs me, then thanks me for everything, and responds sympathetically when I explain the hormonal influences at work.
Also after my meltdowns, my wise, loving husband usually encourages me to go for a run, knowing full well that’s where God speaks to me, the endorphins kick in, and my mind clears. Today was no different. In the midst of fresh air, exercise, and the most stunning fall morning possible, God gave me the reassurance He always does: “Rebecca, I see your hard work; it is not unnoticed, and I am audience enough.”