April 13, 2013

isn't life still life?

The story is starting to come out of the woodwork.  The nauseating story of the abortionist "doctor" in West Philadelphia who performed hundreds of late-term abortions, resulting in the death of countless babies and at least two of their mothers.

It's completely sickening.  Gut-wrenching to read of what this heartless man did to ensure those breathing babies were "ensured fetal demise".  In talking about it to my husband, he said he had to turn off the radio when they started talking about it.  It's heard to wrap your mind around such evil.

Trust me, the stories are graphic.  Unless you are prepared to handle it, don't go reading about this story.

But I'm seeing it all over facebook.  How horrible this is.  How heartless.  And it's true.  When you hear of breathing babies whose lives are taken in a horrendous act, there is no other word for it.  Murder.

I can't keep quiet.  I still have this nagging feeling.

Why is this different than any of the other thousands of abortions that are performed every day?

Truly.  What is the difference of a few weeks?  6 weeks.  8 weeks.  10 weeks.  Why is this so horrendous to cause so much attention, when babies only a mere couple of weeks or months younger don't receive the same aghast reaction?

Please, let's think about it.

The least of these has been on my heart.  The Lord is near to them.  He identifies with the least.  And in all honesty, I can't imagine anyone more disadvantaged than a child who never has a chance to breathe.  Never given the opportunity.  I just can't be silent.

I don't know what to do.  I'm going to seek it out, all the while knowing that we serve a sovereign God with a Spirit that desires to guide and protect us.  Let's pray for heart change.  For the young girl who wasn't expecting to be a mother so soon.  Let's pray that she would choose to give the gift of a child to another family if she isn't fit.  Let's pray that the doctors who are performing these acts would begin to see the life that they are killing.  Let's pray that those who have a fire in their hearts for life would not fear being bold.

Our country seems to be all about rights.  As if we all have a right to something (which is a whole different issue altogether).  I'm sorry, but I can't understand the band wagon of a woman's right to an abortion.  Life is full of unexpecteds.  Sometimes horrible, life-altering unexpected things.  There is always a choice how to handle it.  In every other unexpected event, you can't go back and erase it as if it had never happened.  You must cope, work through it.  Somehow, we've come to the conclusion that life inside the womb is erasable.  It is simply not true.  Most people who have had an abortion will tell you that it wasn't something they were able to walk away from completely unscathed.  But that is the message we put out there.  That there don't have to be consequences.

Even under the darkest of circumstances, women have the ability to chose life for a child.  It may not be easy, but neither is life.  We live in a world of chaos, but God is the author of life and choosing life for a child over death can allow God's miracle in an otherwise dark time.

Please hear this friends.  I think it is out there that people who have opposing opinions must also hate the opposer.  I can promise that if you have a differing opinion from me, I still love you.  There is much that I hate.  I do hate abortion.  I hate evil.  I hate that there are 50 million lives unaccounted for at the hand of unknowing women and doctors.  I hate that this world has such a twisted view of sexuality.  But, I love you.  You who advocate for women's rights.  You who had an abortion.  You who just can't see from my perspective.  That's fine.  I still love you.  But I'm continuing to pray for hearts changed and lives saved.  There is hope and redemption.  I have not many, but a handful of friends who have such a history and their testimony is powerful as they have experienced God's grace.  I just love their bravery.

Now, let's get on our knees for all the lives lost.  Those that breathed a breath or two, and those that never did.

April 12, 2013

if he says stay :: 5 minute Friday

This week I've been working through faith and works.  Really trying to figure out, what are these "works" that are the fruit of our faith?  Starting to feel the beginnings of a heart broken for what grieves God.  And feeling helpless.

We've prayed, Lord, do what you will with us.  And we pray it again and again.  Giving it up and saying it is all fair game.  And we wait.

I've learned that God tends to move slowly, not hurried, like the world that I live in or my human tendencies.  But he guides us through the process, waiting on him.  Giving us time to grow in trust.  

But in the waiting I'm overwhelmed by what I see.  Orphans and human trafficking and abortion and injustice of all kinds.  With broken heart I'm wanting to do something.  Although I do do something.  I give my money and my prayers, but I start feeling like what if that's not good enough.

And I'm convicted.  Like the rich young ruler who wants to get into heaven by his works, I'm tempted with the same.  I'm tempted by the mentality that my works change my standing with Jesus.  I'm tempted by the mentality that how publicly I seek justice and do works changes my worth to Him.  This is simply not true.  

I remember Jesus' words... when the rich young ruler was overwhelmed at the task before him, and feeling defeated, walked away.  Jesus says, With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.”  Jesus knew that what he would tell the rich young ruler would be the last straw of an overwhelming load to bear.  A load far too heavy for a human back.  He knew that we would need Jesus to bring true and final justice.

So I lean into Jesus.  Choosing to believe that he sees just as much beauty in laying down my life for my kids on a daily basis as those in huts in Africa.  He sees beauty in the discipleship of small hearts.  In serving lunches and giving baths and wiping tears.  In reading stories that show of God's goodness throughout the ages.  Stories that tell that we are all in the same boat and far from what is required to live with God.  But the story of a God who loved us too much to let it stay that way.  

I learn in the story of the talents that God cares not about how many talents I am given, but the fact that I am faithful with what is before me.  

I am here.  Now.  Tempted to look to the future and take a peek into God's plan.  But that is only my sinful need to control and have knowledge that is not mine to have.  

But I am here.  A mom on her knees, seeking to please God with what is before me.  Two sweet boys that exhaust me and show me how self-centered I truly am on a minutely basis.  A wife to a husband who has the same dreams and the same open hands, offering up all that we have and are.  Knowing that if we are called to go, and do something wildly different than we imagined, we will go.  But also knowing that if this simple life in Grand Rapids, working, sharing life, raising babies, serving our neighbors, and taking every opportunity to glorify God in the mundane, we will also stay.  And we will glorify God all the same.


Five Minute Friday

April 10, 2013

who is the least?

I have been so caught up in Matthew 25:31-46.  Needing to wrap my mind around what Jesus was saying here. And I was unable to understand in a way that fit in with the rest of what I knew to be true. Now finally... a bit of enlightenment.  I can breathe.

In this passage, Jesus identifies himself with the least.  Those that needed clothing and drink and food.  Jesus says that whoever gives clothing and food and drink to the least of these does so unto Him.  Okay, but what does this really mean?  What does he expect of me?  Does this mean that I have to spend every possible moment serving the poor?  Those "worse off" than me?  Because, let's face it, simply being a middle-class American puts me in the top 1% most wealthy in the world.  Regardless of how I feel, I am in a position to give a life-changing $5 to someone in need.

I started to feel weighed down, as if I weren't living well if I weren't pouring myself out for the disadvantaged.  And this thought exhausted me.  We have ministry that we are involved in both through our church and personally that keep us busy.  We also give money to a couple of different people or organizations that work with the third world countries, but our active involvement stops there.  There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus values this work, but I kept feeling like I was missing a HUGE piece here.

I was so focused on those who were seen as less than me.  Having less than me.  In doing so, I was making myself greater.  I'm putting myself on this pedestal as if I am something great.  When in reality, I don't feel that I have anything to offer.  I feel so inadequate to be an example to anyone, because I know that Jesus is the only true reason I have value.

So here I am, elevating myself and seeing how I can be "good" and serve the least.  Because it is commanded, right?

And again I read, he who is first shall be last, and the last shall be first.  And it hits me.  I am the least.

I am reading Jen Hatmaker's bible study, Interrupted.  And I must admit, I've been reading much of it through a critical eye.  Her writing style is difficult for me to follow (at least in this bible study format) and there are times I haven't agreed with what she has said, but this is mainly because I know it is about her journey and my place in my journey is simply different.  All that to say, it has sparked questions in me that I haven't addressed for quite some time.  It's challenged me to really understand what God is saying here and not assume that it is what I've been taught my whole life.  It's made me want to fully understand this text, even if it is just so I can figure out if I agree with Jen's opinion or not.  (I'm planning to do a review of her study when I'm finished.)

But through examining Matthew 25 and reading this Bible study and spending the past two weeks in mental turmoil and prayer over this passage, I fianlly realize that Jesus is identifying with me.  Compared to Him, I am the lowest of lows.  The chief of sinners, to quote Paul.  And suddenly I feel valued, knowing that when he cares deeply about the least, he is talking about me.  And his identification with me is what allows me to spend all eternity with Him.

I think as I was working through this I started to get this perspective that God cared more about the physically impoverished and poor than he did me.  This was completely wrong, which I know, which is why I felt such unrest about it.  But I feel like I now see that we are all the least.  And our command is to love the Lord first, and to love each other well second.  Because we are all valuable in God's eyes.  We all bear his image.  Nothing changes that.  Not race or nationality or wealth or education.

So when I am commanded to serve the least, yes, justice on this earth is important.  It is part of loving and being imitators of Christ.  I do think there is a level of responsibility to make right the things that grieve God.  It comes out of the overflow of my understanding that I, too, fall short but have received grace.  Just as important is the fact that I love and serve my neighbor well, regardless of their financial or social standing.  Because we all bear the image of God.  

Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, and mind.  And love your neighbor as you love yourself.

Let's love well, friends.

April 9, 2013

faith and works and real life




For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.  James 2:26

How is that for an opener?  

This is a concept I have been chewing on over the past many weeks.  Faith and works.  There's no easy or clear way to get into all that my brain has been churning, but I know two truths here.

I am saved because of my faith, by grace.  Jesus on the cross.  God reads His resume instead of mine when the day comes.  And I am clean.  White as snow.  This is truth.  I know get to be a part of the new earth, spending all eternity with God.  Not because of any work or deed that I did.

But, God still cares about what I do here on earth.  Jesus words have made this clear.  The great commission commands that we share this good news of redemption through Jesus to all the earth!  It is clear throughout watching Jesus lifestyle that he identifies with the least.  The poor, the orphan, the widow, the single mom, the mentally ill, the elderly, the disadvantaged.  He desires justice for these people.  He desires that we love our neighbor as ourself and that the church clothe, feed, and give drink to the least.  

I believe both of these things.  With all my heart I believe it.  

But here is where I am struggling with that second part.  What does this mean for me in real life?

For one, I think it means being counter-cultural.  Knowing that the things that our world seeks in attempt to satisfy never really do.  It means that I can hardly make a decision without considering the kingdom impact.  It means that when we sell our house this summer (hopefully) we can't simply make a decision to move to the best house in the best neighborhood with the best school district, absent-mindedly.  

I've found my mind spinning in circles trying to figure out where we should live.  And I know that is part of my problem, that simply I am trying to figure it out, and while I am in prayer over it, I've been unwilling to be patient.  I want knowledge and control.  Isn't that what caused the fall of man in the first place?  But ultimately, I am finding that because of faith... because I know Jesus is real and heaven is near, the simplest decisions such as where I live and who my neighbors are have kingdom impact.  

It's easy for me to feel the urgent need to move to the inner city and live missionally there, because that gets attention and seems radical.  But at the same time I know that ministry happens in the affluent neighborhoods as well.  The wealthy can be just as lost as the poor.  And ultimately, I must be willing to accept whatever God has for me, even if it looks different than I might have guessed.  Even if it doesn't get quite the same attention or turn the heads (because that isn't the point either).  I have to be willing to be called to the great task, but also know that faithfulness in the small ones is just as valuable.  

Faith without works is dead.  Because if we know and believe Jesus is who he says he is, we will devour the Word of God and depend on the guidance of the Spirit in the steps that we take.  Works is the overflow of faith.  It is not salvation, but the fruit of it.  It is the love that our neighbor receives when we love the Lord our God with all of our heart.  

Works can look like living in the inner city and spending my days with the homeless and abandoned and abused.  Works can look like being bold in a conversation with a co-worker to find out if he knows Jesus.  Works can look like bringing a meal to that family that just adopted three children.  Works can look like adopting or fostering.  Works can look like spending the next 18+ years pouring into and discipling your children.  Works can look like foregoing that new 52" TV and sending a check to that agency fighting human trafficking instead.  Works can look like moving to Africa or Jamaica or Morocco or China or Los Angeles or East Grand Rapids and sharing life and speaking truth.  

Seeking Jesus radically means we're open to whatever he has.  Anything.  It's me opening my hands and my life and saying Your kingdom come and Your will be done.  And being obedient to that call.  It is being faithful with what is before us while seeking His will in the steps that we take.  

We are commanded two things above all else.  Love the Lord and love your neighbor.  We will know how to do this by getting to know Jesus.  I can't figure this out on my own, as much as I try.  I can't control my kingdom impact, only through the Spirit.  My responsibility is two-fold.  Know the written word of God.  Devour it and eat it up and memorize it and speak it and eat it again.  Know the character of God.  See the story of God's kingdom and how we are in need of a perfect Savior who can not fail.  Feel the weight of what Jesus and his sacrifice meant.  This is God's word.  And press into the Spirit for guidance for applying that to life in the western culture of 2013.  

I'm praying through this more in this season than I ever have before.  It's a reason I've been quiet here, because my mind has been so overwhelmed, I am unsure how to even begin discussing what is so heavy on my heart.  But I can't tell you how much more clear I feel after spitting that out in writing.

I once used this blog as a space for me to process my thoughts, and share a little bit of life.  Somewhere along the way, I started becoming afraid to do that.  I started getting more followers and feeling more pressure to have something good for you.  I started feeling the need to water down my passion a bit.  

I just can't do that anymore.  Take it or leave it, I'm going to use this space to work out my faith, my life, and how that fits together.  The good, the bad, the ugly, the utterly confusing.  This is a place where I'm inviting open dialogue and sharing life on this journey.  

So while we are at it, what are your thoughts on this?  Read Matthew 25 and share your thoughts on this as well.  I can't get this passage out of my mind, but after some researching and prayer, I think I have a bit of peace and perspective regarding this passage (especially 31-46).  

And can I just say, I'm so so so thankful for those of you who are on this journey with me.


April 3, 2013

lately...


Hello sweet friends.  I'm still here.  I've been a bit blog-shy lately, if you haven't noticed.  There are a number of reasons for that.  One, being simply busy busy busy.  My moments without a child attached to me are few and far between.  And my "to-do" list is longer than my spare time, so there you have it.  

Two, is simply me just taking a breather to recharge.  It is funny, even though I'm not physically with people in the online world, sometimes I still feel the same introvert needing-to-retreat feeling when I've been connected a bit too long.  I happened to realize that it has literally been a week since I opened my computer.  I suppose that just happened.  In any case, I feel refreshed and have some perspective.

Three, is the fact that my computer is slower. than. molasses.  I'm in desperate need for some new memory for this 5-year-old MacBook so that I can clink between links without waiting 5 minutes for it to load.  Enough was enough and this morning I ordered it.  It will be here Friday, thank you Amazon Prime.  

Anyway, I thought I'd take this Wednesday to update you on the happenings around here...

Lately...

... I am finding that the hardest part about having a second child is trying not to compare him to the first.  Different child, different priorities, different personality.  All still wonderful.  But different.  And I really should be thankful that my laid-back sweet Isaac is so content... and not crawling or doing much of the same stuff that my very-active Jude was at this age.  Nothing's wrong.  I know that.  So I need to soak up the right-now baby that he still is.  Because once he starts really moving, it is never quite the same (this i know).

... I watched Les Miserables (the musical) for the first time over the weekend.  And aside from being completely infatuated with the musical brilliance of the whole thing (and desperately missing my choir days), I found myself struck with the reality of the privilege that I live in.  A privileged time.  A privileged lifestyle.  No war.  No threat.  Blessed.  And dare I say, I never realized how entitled I might be?  (I feel more thoughts on this for another time...)

... I'm toying with the way I approach this blog.  Many blogs have themes or even so simply, links and categories that they write about.  I've tried to box myself in in this way (under the radar) - just because others do it perhaps?  But it never quite feels right.  Sometimes I want this to be a place where I can come daily and just pour out my thoughts.  Unrestrained.  Sometimes I don't feel the freedom to do so.  I'm not sure why that is.  

... I'm disappointed with the way I approached Easter this year.  Possibly simply because Jude's birthday was smack dab in the middle of it, but I didn't give it near as much thought as I have in years past.  But in the depths of my heart, the weight of what Jesus' death and resurrection means is far more real to me.  What this says about God is more powerful and complex and loving than I ever realized before.  I'm still chewing on many of these thoughts.  That, and also trying to figure out how to celebrate such holidays with my children.  I feel very much the same way about the Easter bunny as I do about Santa Claus.  Does anyone know the history behind a bunny than hides eggs anyway?  Please let me know if you do!

... I'm doing Jen Hatmaker's study, Interrupted, and find it challenging for certain.  Her thoughts and questions are good ones.  I don't have a solid opinion formed on the study yet, but it is certainly encouraging me to have my hands open for the Lord, asking what is your will for me HERE and NOW in this moment?  I think so often I forget that I am where I'm supposed to be instead of looking forward to what I will do for the Lord or my kids or whatever it may be.


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