Friday, December 30, 2016

Mary's Choice (and Mine)

The angel replied to her: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy One to be born will be called the Son of God." . . . And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:35 & 38)
Oh, Mary. For generations, we have marveled at your (apparently) easy and gracious acceptance of the angel’s shocking proclamation: that you would have a baby out of wedlock – God’s very own child – and that the Spirit, not your betrothed husband Joseph, would be the Father.
What did you think when you saw that angel? What emotions stirred in you when you heard those words? Did you gasp, amazed that you would be chosen to be mother of the long-awaited Messiah? Did you imagine the gossip and inevitable derision from your family and neighbors, as you bore a child without benefit of marriage? Did you wonder if Joseph would spit on you and walk away?
Did your heart leap with joy and anticipation? With fear and doubt? All at the same time? Perhaps you, as any girl would have, felt an intense mix of emotions and thoughts.
After all, even your flawless son, the Son of God, wrestled with fear and doubt when push came to shove. A few short days before his death, he vacillated between wanting to move toward the cross for God and His people, and wanting that particular cup of suffering to be removed from Him, without having to taste its unspeakable horrors.
But in the end, He chose His Father’s way: “Not my will, but yours.” Just as you had chosen, decades earlier, God’s life-changing, earth-shattering call to bear His Son.
I’ve never heard a word from an angel, like you have. But God has spoken to me through His word, in prayer, through insights and images, preparing me, comforting me, warning me, guiding me. My desire is that my faith in Him would win out over my fears of the future - like it did with you. That, even though I don’t know the specifics of what's coming, I can say to Him, “I’m your servant, Lord. I will trust you even when I don’t understand. Whatever you’ve got down the road, I want it to be according to your word, not according to my wants and worries. Even without an angel. Even without an audible word.”
In this particular season, it is harder for me to embrace God’s plan with eager arms and an easy smile. But then I look at the Savior that He sent to walk in our shoes, whom He brought through you, a young girl with a willing heart. I think of how God used unexpected, shocking, painful circumstances to deliver His Son to earth, to deliver us. I know that He is working in us for our good and for His glory. I come to this conclusion: He may call my family and myself to hard things. My thoughts and emotions may be all over the map along the way. Still, He is utterly trustworthy. He always walks with us. His wise purposes and loving plans will be accomplished.
So along with you, Mary, I choose to say, “I am your servant, Lord. Let it be to me according to your word.”

Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Vulnerable Savior

The timeless story of Christmas never changes:

Jesus has come.

His life and light live in us today.

And one day, He will come again!

Yet each year, as my own storyline deepens and develops, as I traverse a new bend in my life’s path, I discover another nuance of the Story - of Jesus Himself - to ponder and to praise.

This year, I am distinctly aware of my vulnerability and helplessness in dealing with the curve balls that flew our way in 2016. Those sensations can overwhelm me, tempting me to feel I’m alone (I know full well I’m not!). And so this year, I am soaking in this truth:

Jesus came to us as a baby, so very vulnerable and weak and helpless.

Like me.

Jesus might have come as a grown man, a powerful king, a wise rabbi. He might have just skipped all the childhood years (about which we hear almost nothing in Scripture) and just gotten to the meat and potatoes of his earthly ministry. But no, he was born like the rest of us: crying, shivering, helpless.

How can God be needy? Of all the paradoxes we find in God’s Word, this may be one of the most mysterious! So much so that many have thought it to be blasphemy. Other major world religions cannot comprehend a faith that has at its center a vulnerable God. A God who would be human, even as He remains God. Who would be born of an earthly mother. Who would have to learn: to sit up, to walk, to speak. A God who would grow.

Let alone a God who would die a shameful death at the hands of his enemies.

“Jesus was vulnerable when delivered bare as an infant, and he was vulnerable when laid bare by his executioners.”

Why does this matter to me? Because Jesus has gone to such lengths to identify with us! To experience humanity in every way. Even as he sits upon His throne, He has human scars, holds human memories. He knows what it means to be lonely and sad. To laugh until you cry. To be hungry. To enjoy feasting and fellowship with others. To need and to long. To have that longing satisfied. Or not.

He knows! My heart swells with gratitude for this remarkable intimacy I share with my Saviour. What fellowship we have with a God who truly understands our humanity!

I love Jesus from beginning to end, and worship him as a resurrected Savior, Friend, Redeemer, Lord, Teacher. But this Christmas, in the stillness of waiting and the hope of anticipation, I am particularly comforted and strengthened to look upon the helplessness and the vulnerability of Jesus.

Joy has dawned upon the world, promised from creation:
God's salvation now unfurled, hope for every nation.
Not with fanfares from above, not with scenes of glory.
But a humble gift of love: Jesus born of Mary.
Hands that set each star in place, shaped the earth in darkness,
Cling now to a mother's breast, vulnerable and helpless.

(Stuart Townend, Joy Has Dawned)

Hear this beautiful song here.

Monday, August 1, 2016

A Priceless Inheritance

If you’ve made a will, you’re aware of how much (or – let’s be honest – how little) your children will inherit.

In terms of material possessions, ours would receive:

~ a hefty slice of overgrown land
~ a couple of (aging) cats
~ a home that’s paid for
~ four (five?) cars, three of which do not have air conditioning

And I haven’t even itemized the ton of household clutter (that’s just a rough estimate. I suspect it’s closer to two tons). That’s everything we own, entrusted to these two.

Our Inheritance:

God’s inheritance for His children? You can’t see it; you can’t sell it. It is nontransferable. It was bought and paid for, by Jesus Himself. It is fully insured, by the Holy Spirit Himself.

God's children inherit nothing less than His Kingdom, shared with His Son, Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:4 says this kingdom is priceless, pure, beyond corruption, unfading. It is "reserved in heaven" for those who belong to God.

And it’s God Himself who “has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light” (Colossians 1:12) through His gift of Jesus. Receiving Jesus means receiving a place in God’s family, as an heir. We already possess the first installment of this inheritance, by the way: the Holy Spirit’s life in us is a down payment, a guarantee of what’s to come. 

My Sons’ Inheritance: 

Clutter piles and cats aside, it is this rich heritage I most want to leave my sons: a knowledge of God, a love for Jesus, an understanding of the powerful Spirit who lives within them. I pray for their inheritance to be as priceless as my own: the kingdom of God, shared with our Savior and Brother, Jesus Christ.

God’s Inheritance:

The Bible also speaks of an inheritance for God.


What could God possibly inherit? I mean, doesn’t He own everything already? Is He lacking anything at all? The surprising answer is this: His inheritance is His children. That’s you, if you belong to Jesus. God says you are His inheritance.

God says you are His inheritance.

Selah. (“Stop a moment, and think about that.”)

In 1 Peter 2:9, God declares us to be:

~ His inheritance

~ His treasured possession

~ His jewels

~ His chosen people

~ a people who belong to Him

 ~ those He’s called from darkness to His marvelous light

So I inherit a holy kingdom with my Savior. And God inherits ME.

There is no comparison between these two things. Yet, to the Creator of mankind, who loves His children with an everlasting love, there is no possession more priceless, no treasure more valued and desired than: 


(Note: I wrote this 13 years ago. Still true today.)

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Welcome Party Crasher

Jesus doesn’t wait for invitations

World magazine editor Marvin Olasky began his editorial this way:

Party game: If you could have any dinner guest you wanted, who would you invite? George Washington? George W. Bush? Noah? Bob Marley?

Olasky suggested that Jesus would be the guest worth having, the only possible choice who could bring true life to the party-goers. He highlights his own journey from Marxism, atheism and Judaism into the heart of Christ. Really, the article was more about Christ Himself, who pursued Olasky with a tender tenacity. In his final paragraph, he returns to the party game scenario:

So, my initial questions about which party guest you’d want to invite is in one sense irrelevant. Jesus doesn’t wait for invitations. Whenever he chooses to come, He crashes the party.

The image of “Jesus as party crasher” makes me smile, because that’s exactly how Jesus entered my life nearly 30 years ago. My labels then were not Marxist or atheist; they were terms like party girl and radical feminist. My attitude was “do as you please, and don’t think about the rest.” My hard-as-nails philosophy hid a soft and sorrowing heart.

As I partied my life away, Jesus was working in the wings, hidden to my earthbound eyes. When I attended a weekend retreat with a boyfriend, Christ made His decisive move. He picked me up out of my pit and set me down on Solid Rock - facing a light I did not yet recognize, but could not pull my eyes away from.

I honestly didn’t know what had happened to me at first. I knew I couldn’t be with that boyfriend anymore, and that my conscience kept pricking me about things I’d done for years. I had a powerful sense of God’s presence, His voice in me, in a way that I did not yet have the words or knowledge to explain. I was driven to read – no devour – God’s Word, which had come intensely alive that weekend. I knew I was different: I wanted God more than I’d ever wanted anything or anyone. I was filled with unfamiliar hope and unexpected happiness.

I did not pray a sinner’s prayer that weekend. I did not recognize my sin for what it was. I did not ask Jesus into my heart. Instead, Jesus entered my heart of His own volition, and began to reveal Himself to me in such compelling ways that I fell head over heels for Him. As I pored over the Bible in the following weeks and months, just wanting to know more of Him, I discovered what God had done: He had saved me from my sin and welcomed me into His family. (See Ephesians 2:1-5, Romans 6:20-22.)

Never has a party crasher been more welcome!  All these years later, I still marvel that He came when I wasn’t looking, and that He gave me what I didn’t know I needed: Himself. 

(NOTE: I wrote this in 2002, but it is still true today! Unfortunately, Olasky’s article is no longer available on World magazine’s website.)

Saturday, May 14, 2016

For a Sister, Sitting in Darkness

I don’t claim to know how you arrived in this dark and desolate place. But I do know where you began:

In the Light that shines so steadily, relentlessly, brilliantly, that it casts in charcoal shadow everything else. In the midst of an evergreen copse, Light glows: Source. Life. Purpose. Joy. Hope. It shines on you, around you, in you.

I don’t know what injury was so painful that it averted your gaze, shifted your footstep, onto another path. What could make you wince at the Light, at your Light? As you walked along that ever-dimming path, checking and re-checking your wound, rehearsing the pain, you began to declare the Light to be the Source of it - declaring Light to be Darkness - instead of knowing Him as the only Source of your healing.

Every twisted rabbit trail only brought denser fog, deeper confusion, as you spiraled, stumbling, your wound festering in damp darkness, your vision clouded. Finally, you just settled into the muck, and called my name.

This is where I find you: stuck in the greasy mire of unbelief, your wound more visible than the rest of you, your eyes transfixed by it. I stand next to you, squinting and searching to see Light’s rays through death-black, mud-caked leaves. The Light remains. Always. “Look!” I cry to you. “Get up and walk; He’s that way!” I grip your arm.

“But I don’t see,” you say, refusing to rise. “I’m done. The Light hurts too much. I’m not moving.” Hope, or even just curiosity, does not move you to seek the Light. All you see is bleakness and shadow. All you recognize is your pain.

I know better than to think that I can drag you, kicking and flailing, toward that Light. Some might say that I should at least try to do so. I know better. Until you are willing, I can’t make you see the Light right in front of you, the only source of healing for your splintered mind, crushed spirit, weakened body.

Some might say that I should stop gesturing toward the Light, plop down in the muck next to you, hold you close, just be with you. That that would be love. But settling into that grim place with you would mean moving my eyes away from the Light. I won’t do that.

This I will continue to do: I will point toward His Light, your Home. When you refuse to look up, and when you cling to my arm, pulling me toward the filth, wanting to share it with me, I will say no. Even if that feels like love’s opposite to you. I will call upon the Light to blaze through all the blight of your imagination and emotion. I will trust that He will move your gaze toward Him, like a compass moving toward true north; that He can do nothing less than pursue you, for He is your One True Love.

I will love you no matter how deep you sink or how loud you scream. No matter what you say, no matter what you do, I will pray that you will choose to lift your eyes toward the Light who is your Light.