Sunday, March 31, 2013

He Keeps His Promises

He is risen!

Sometimes it's easy to forget the reality of Easter, right? To say these words out of habit. Do we really believe them sometimes?

As someone who grew up in a Christian family, Easter was an assumed reality in my life. But I remember that when my mom told me that Easter was more important than Christmas, I was shocked. Without presents and traditions and holiday hullabaloo, that was hard for me to wrap my little brain around.

Even in a historical sense, it's somehow easier for me to picture a little miracle baby being born into the cold, hard world than it is for me to picture a man, dead and tortured and buried beneath pounds of linen and cut off from the land of the living in a heavy stone tomb, walking free three days later.

Than again.

If that happened? If the physical world is only a shadow of what's to come? If these earthly bodies are just temporary homes for our eternal soul? Is it so hard to see how an almighty, all powerful God could breathe life back into a body?

It's not so much of a logical stretch to realize that if the resurrection did indeed happen, well, that changes everything.

In Christ alone, my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My comforter, my all-in-all
Here in the love of Christ I stand

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost it's grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life's first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny

No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand
Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand

Friday, March 29, 2013

To Make a Wretch His Treasure

How Deep the Father's Love for Us

How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Into the Dark

These musings seem fitting on this cold, blustery, umpteenth cloudy day of March. Last Friday was unexpectedly warm and sunny – but on the inside, things were falling apart. It's like the light shone in an even deeper contrast to the darkness of my own heart.

Sometimes God chases us into dark places so we can feel the pain and agony of separation from Him. So we can see redemption. So that He can use our mess to bring glory to Himself by fixing something that conventional wisdom tells us is broken beyond repair.

Other times, when I don't like what the light is exposing, I flee to the darkness myself. I foolishly think I can find comfort in solitude and lick my wounds in the shadows until there's enough distance between me and my mistakes for me to try again.

The first kind of separation is necessary and life-giving. The second type of separation will kill me if I try to dig myself out of yet another hole by myself.

Here I am again. At the bottom, looking up. And it's hard to look up, because I dug the hole myself this time. It's humbling to ask for help when I got myself into this situation in the first place.

But that's where the Good News has a chance to slap me in the face. My small group leader keeps reminding me: God is good. God is kind. God is faithful. He invented fun, humor, love, and connection. 

And I'm saying, I feel hopeless. I'm tired and worn. What if healing never comes? I'm so afraid of that. What if life is always like this?

So then I start having this conversation with myself between my fear and what I know to be true:

What if things never change? What if God is punishing me?

Even if the healing never comes, He is enough.

But I'm so scared. He's a God of wrath, and I deserve wrath. 

But he's also a God of restoration. Our refuge and strength. Our very present help in trouble. Do not fear, though the earth gives way (Psalm 46:2)!

When I feel worthy of only God's wrath, it's hard to accept his love. But Jesus took the wrath I deserve. When God looks upon me, his daughter, he sees me through the lens of Jesus. And he loves me with a steadfast, unconditional love that I can't fathom. I can never deserve that. I can never earn that. And I never have to. Isn't that reason enough to praise God?

Paul Tripp says that hopelessness is the gateway to hope, meaning that the only way I will ever find true hope is to give up on all those places where I’ve put my hope before. Or, you know, cling to them so tightly that they crumble beneath my expectations and disappoint me. My default is to find hope horizontally: if only my situation/location/relationship was better, then I'd be happy.

But no person or relationship on earth can give me the peace and security I'm looking for. My job will never make life worth living. Having people like me will never make me happy. I'm never going to be flawlessly beautiful in the eyes of the world and not haircut or article of clothing will change that. No worldly experience or travel or popularity will fulfill me. I see that. I've lost hope. Because my hope was in the wrong things to begin with.

Tripp says,
Just as horizontal hope will fail us, a horizontal diagnosis will miss what is truly broken. I like to think that my biggest problem in life exists outside me, not inside me. I want to say my problems are situational, locational, or relational. But they’re not. My biggest problem is vertical and personal.

There is something that lurks inside me that is dark and dangerous – sin. It kidnaps my thoughts, diverts my desires, and distorts my words. Only Christ can fix this problem. No horizontal hope can ever fix a vertical problem. So God promises to send His son as the vertical and ultimate solution. “The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins" (Isaiah 59:20).
And what do you know? God has showed up in a tangible way this week. I have... what looks like... what could be... the beginnings of a community of believers who love me? A home away from home? People who barely know me, willing to step into the mess and say, this is not okay. But in the same breath, they say, what can I do to help? I'm praying for you. I need this reflection of God's love. I need people in my life who can shake me by the shoulders and say, you are not a burden. You don't bother me. I love you and God loves you regardless. And He's here, even now.

I'm starting to see it again.

Grateful for Your Love 
by Ellie Holcomb (Download this song. It's amazing.)

Love is an Ocean
Hope is a Promise
Light is overtaking
Grace is overwhelming.

You chased us into the dark and Lord we're grateful, oh we're grateful
You captured our hearts with your love, Oh Lord you're Faithful, You are Faithful.
Nothing we've ever done was too much for you to handle on the cross
We're grateful for your love. 
Weight is lifted
Mercy tore the curtain
Sin is no master
Freedom calls our name.
Life is granted
Chains have been broken.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

If it wasn't for Texas

I always thought it would be glamorous to travel for a living. However, after spending 3 of the last 4 weeks either at work or out of town on the weekend, I'm exhausted and I miss the 4 walls of my apartment!

Last weekend, Ross had a conference at UTA and I was more than happy to tag along and spend a weekend in the DFW metroplex. It had been FAR too long. Plus, Kansas City weather has been less than stellar. I always miss Texas this time of year.

Leaving work Friday
 It ended up being a very reflective weekend.

Somewhere in Oklahoma, feeling better already
Wide open spaces
I had forgotten how big Texas was. It's a wide expanse of sunshine and suburban sprawl and it captures my heart because it's Texas: unashamed and unassuming. Plus, the country radio stations are just better.

The sunshine and trip down memory lane were both so comforting to my weary heart right now. The trip was a good reminder of who I used to be and where I came from and how I came to be where I am today, both in a good way and a challenging way. I'm learning, as Dr. Seuss says, not to cry because it's over, but smile because it happened.

Saturday morning, I got a massage, went to my old gym, had lunch with my friend Emily, and then stepped foot on the TCU campus for the first time since graduation in 2007. Time flies! My last year and a half of college were fairly miserable, but walking down Cantey street past my freshman dorm put me in the mindset of freshman, sophomore, and junior year when I lived on campus, walked everywhere, and lived in the tiny little world that is college and home and friends all wrapped into one.

Shirley girlies unite
 Man, those were good times with great people.

Frog fountain: a familiar landmark amidst new architecture
TCU tulips- one of the happiest scenes I can think of
I took a long walk in the sunshine and meandered through the familiar parts of campus. It felt like not a day had passed. It's so odd to think that my baby brother is now a sophomore in college. He's 8 years younger than me, but I feel like I'm still there myself!

My brick
I got a brick at graduation, but I had yet to see it in person until this visit. There it was, outside the library, surrounded by so many familiar names and warm memories. In hindsight, I should've put something more creative and less prideful than "BSN, RN" after my name, but man was I proud of all the tears and struggles that went into earning those titles.

Saturday evening, Ross and I got to go to dinner with Brittnye, her husband Evan, and their yummy new baby. Their older kiddo got some quality grandparent time, but we missed her! When I met Brittnye the spring after college graduation, she was an answer to prayer, truly. I begged God for a friend and she walked into my life with her bald little baby and a husband who loved architecture as much as Ross did. We talked about everything and went on long walks in the spring sunshine and shared so many good memories, and then I moved to Kansas City. I miss her like crazy but it was so great and surreal to be eating my favorite sushi in my favorite state with some of my favorite people. Again, it felt like no time had passed!

Friends for-evah
Sunday morning, I went to church and then Ross and I met up with another one of my favorite families of all time. Be still, my heart. These handsome, rambunctious boys are no longer babies!

Eating lunch at Rodeo Goat off of 7th Street
All in all, it was such a good trip. It provided a lot of closure and a lot of peace for a lot of reasons. I can't go back and relive those times. As much as I think I want to, it wouldn't be the same. After all, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man” {Heraclitus}.

However, I can cherish these memories and be thankful for them as I move forward and learn to live in the present and in the peace God offers to me. This trip was a good reminder to smile in the here and now, because you never know if your tomorrows will be better or worse than your todays. I needed this reminder to stop living in the "what ifs" and "if onlys."

As George Strait says...

There wouldn't be no Alamo
No Cowboys in the Super Bowl
No "Lonesome Dove," no "Yellow Rose"
If it wasn't for Texas.

Fort Worth would never cross my mind
There'd be no Austin City Limit sign
No Lone Star of any kind
If it wasn't for Texas.

It made me the (wo)man I am,
Thank God for my old stomping ground.
I wouldn't be standing right here right now
If it wasn't for Texas.