love at the end

Remember all those days I thought commuting was beautiful? All those days I fought the NYC face and left early in defiance of minute crunching? Remember when I arrived to work in time to write a blog before the day began?

Well, anyway, I guess six months will do it. No more leaving early and no more new routes, but I don’t need another reason to talk about commuting. Train lines pretty much start and end every conversation – trains to live by, trains to get places, trains under construction, trains delayed, and trains full of “showtime, showtime, showtime.”

But it is okay to savor minutes in my apartment in the morning. It is okay to be quiet and sit still before the day begins. It is okay to declare Sabbath daily before chaos and maybe I should do it more often. Because, gosh, it is busy here.

When I first moved to NYC, I had two things on my mind: love this man and find beauty. I did not move to make it in this city as an actress or a business lady or to struggle up abstract creative ladders. Somehow, knowing that was like saying, “I’m not like the rest of this concrete madness. I value minutes and sunshine and neighboring.” I was different.

Six months later, I still value minutes and sunshine and neighboring, but I am desperate for Sabbath rest. I am like every other commuter in the morning, fighting crowds and sounds and shoulders. I am like every other apartment dweller, fighting for quiet minutes and then fighting to fill them. And now I am desperate for Sabbath rest.

My pastor talked about Sabbath rest on Sunday, right after I wrote about it unfolding slowly. Gathered around the weekly spread of cheese, crackers, fruits, and sweets last night, we revisited the passage in Matthew 12 where Jesus heals the man with the shriveled hand on the Sabbath.

It’s funny, living here. Because there is nothing we don’t work for. The act of striving is kind of the moving gears of this city. Commuting is work, work is work, plans are work, friends are work, keeping up appearances is work. We work for everything; we strive hard to believe “everything” is important to work for.

But rest. 

We can not work for rest, regardless of the comp hours we accumulate or the vacation/sick/personal days we are allowed. We cannot gain rest for our souls by living better, though we believe with the Pharisees that somehow we can.

Christ accomplished our rest.

It’s a different kind of Sabbath because Christ fought for and won our rest on the cross. I do not know how to make this more of my rhythm, but I want to learn what it means to rest in the middle of moving gears. I want to learn how to rest while hosting, neighboring, friendshipping, loving, and being.

I need to learn better how to rest.

I don’t know what your Sabbath soundtrack would sound like, but mine has John Mark McMillan’s new song, “Love at the End.” If you have a minute to listen and read the lyrics, do it.

to obey is to believe

I felt like a cat chasing my own tail.

The rain pounded outside the cafe and the sky took flash photography of the earth below while the thunder rumbled the grey skies. There was a draft creeping in and swirling around our feet and we were talking about obedience.

The grit-your-teeth kind that you can only learn about from someone who is paralyzed. It’s true – you should try it. Read a paragraph or a book by Joni Eareckson Tada and then try to have the same grumbling attitude about obedience. Feels way different, way wrong.

So, we read about a middle-of-the-night fight where Tada woke up in a sweat battling familiar fears of anxiety and claustrophobia and panic. She could reach for pills or wake up her husband or just lay in agony. Or believe.

She spoke a simple verse she had hidden in her heart long ago, “whispering the Word of God into [her] anxious heart,”

Look on my affliction and deliver me,
for I do not forget your law. (Psalm 119:153, ESV)

And my friend and I sat there spinning in circles to chase the wonder. This quadriplegic woman submitted in obedience by claiming the promises of God. Her obedience was the physical act of believing God to be who He says He is in the midst of her middle-of-the-night fight. 

God gives grace to believe and it is only in believing that we can obey.

When we walk out the steps of right belief in God, our disastrous moments can be obedient moments of submission – our stranded in the middle of certain, paralyzing death stories can be memoirs of deliverance.

And in obeying (read also: in believing) God did look on her affliction and delivered her, right there in the midst of her paralyzed battle.

I’m not sure how many times I will have to learn before the wonder wears off, hopefully never. Our believing obedience brings about breathtaking reward. God has never broken a promise. As he commands our obedience to His Word, He promises to provide a way for the obedience. He promises to deliver us. He promises.

He promises.

The Lord of all creation is making you promises. And His promises always end in deliverance for His children. Always. But to enjoy the deliverance, we must believe.

The disciples had their own in-the-middle-of-the-night fright during a crazy storm that rocked their boat and their belief.

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” (Matthew 8:23-27, ESV)

Jesus calls attention to their fear and reveals their lack of faith – they needed to examine their belief about who Jesus was and what He was capable of accomplishing. If He really was God, then believing meant trusting and trusting meant calm in the middle of calamity. The lesson here is not that God will stop the wind and waves every time we feel like we’re going under. The lesson is that our belief and trust in the Lord will place one obedient foot in front of the other as the storm swells around us.

Because God is a promise keeper and He will deliver us.

The believing does not always feel like a lazy Sunday afternoon because sometimes it feels like a wrestling match. Sometimes it feels like your throat is closing in and no option looks good, especially when you are fighting for air. But in those times, God is the same.

He promises deliverance and our obedience is the walking out of our belief that He will come through.

Because He will come through. And do you see now why we chase our tails? I don’t know where the goodness starts and ends. There is delight in it all, even the wrestling. Because He will overcome and bless those suffering as they are shaped more into the image of His Son.

grace > believing > obedience > reward > believing > grace

We hold on tight to the Love He swore. And as we hold on, we obey.

My friend and I are reading through voices of the true woman movement: A Call to the Counter-Revolution and Joni Eareckson Tada wrote chapter 7, which is what inspired this post (and the beautiful storm all day long). But seriously, pick up anything from this woman and you will be inspired.

Death in His Grave

Whoa-oa. Whoa-o-o-oa.

Just a string of sad days here in the middle of Iowa and “whoa-o-oa” is about all I want to sing. It’s just not getting better – the circumstances, I mean.

The bad news just keeps coming and it feels like death. It feels like thick, heavy, black death.

Whoa.

So, how is it that my soul can again feel light and breathe freedom? Honestly, today I wondered. I was clinging to God’s promises through tears… but still clinging.

There was once a death that killed death. The death that my sin deserved was nailed to the only One undeserving of wrath so that the debt could be paid and I could be free. God sent Jesus to feel the full weight of His wrath and to embrace the full victory of His glory. 

Christ stepped into the place of wrath where we should have stood so that we can step into the place of light where He now stands.

Whoa.

God sent Jesus, who buried death in His grave.

Whoa.

I’ll sing when it feels like death because Jesus buried death in His grave and then He rose again.

making plans to waste my life

I’m making plans, friends. And why shouldn’t I get swept up in the wave of everyone making plans for the future (some full of hope and others full of dread)? I’m making plans, but they sometimes come out of an undignified and broken down place.

Have you ever been there?

It’s a place of exposure and pain, but it’s a place where desperation reaches for solid ground… and the reaching is revelry because the solid ground is so firm that it can be built upon.

The blueprints are looking like this and it’s feeling like beautiful.

Breaking Down by John Mark McMillan

I’m making plans to waste my life on You
I’m making plans to waste my life on You
Cause New York City and Hollywood combined
They ain’t got enough lights
To make me want change my mind about You

Cause I’m breaking down
I don’t even care if there’s anyone else around
Cause I’m breaking down
I always fall to pieces whenever You’re around

I’m Mary Magdalene and tonight is a bottle of perfume
I’m Mary Magdalene and tonight is a bottle of perfume
There’s not enough dignity to hold me now
When I know You’re going to meet me here
There’s not enough gravity
To keep me away from You

Cause I’m breaking down
I don’t even care if there’s anyone else around
Cause I’m breaking down
I always fall to pieces whenever You’re around

So, meet me here
Where we shine like gold
Like the light beneath the embers
Of the burning coals
And I will spill my bottle
Like in days of old
On the song that bleeds from the breaking down

Love You Swore

Happy Sunday, folks!

I just wanted to post something that might hit you right in the Sabbath sweet spot. John Mark McMillan just put out a new album on November 1 and this song is on it. I think it speaks to that fearful place in us – when we can see our depravity (our hearts’ shallow grave) and our immense need for the Love of our Savior. We can be almost fearful of our great need – and what that means about God’s mighty power to overcome it. What a mighty, mighty Love God possesses to have conquered death in the cross of Jesus Christ. What a mighty, mighty Love that allows us to love Him back.

Be encouraged, this morning to let the LOVE OF CHRIST fly like cRaZy – hold on to it in the eye of storm!

Chase me down like a lion
Like a bird of prey
Lift me up from the ashes
Of my hearts own shallow grave

Cause I know that I love you
But sometimes I’m afraid

Whoa oh…

Spare my body from the wolves, God
That crouch down at my door
Lift me up above the waters
And the sharks that guard your shore
Cause I know that I need you
But sometimes I know it more

Whoa oh…

Harbor me in the eye of the storm
I’m holding on to love you swore

truth has no genre

It’s such a ‘hip’ thing to say, “I like all kinds of music.” I just read a great post by Brett McCracken where he explains the Coldplay Effect. Hipsters and indies liked Coldplay when they were obscure, claiming they “just liked good music.” But when Coldplay got big, they dumped them for artists less well-known. It’s just a funny little cycle and McCracken turns it inside out in a way that makes so much sense. I’m really not trying to be hip when I say I like a lot of different styles, because I’ll add that there is definitely music I don’t like. I try to be indifferent about whether it is popular or not. It just seems like once music gets popular it all starts to sound the same. (Yikes, I hope I’m not a hipster in denial!)

Today, I decided to download music from iTunes.

This is worth sharing only because I never do. I am a pretty good internet sleuth for free (legal) music. Artists are sharing their music in return for our free publicity. This situation works out well for me, unless someone asks me to make a mix for a party… I don’t have what runs on the radios these days. So, I really can’t remember the last time I used my iTunes account.

That’s the first reason I mention I downloaded music from iTunes.

The second reason is the dissimilarity in the two albums.

The first is from a rap/hip hop artist who has gained crazy popularity with people like John Piper, CJ Mahaney, and Randy Alcorn. I love what Shai Linne said about the album in an interview when asked why rap is a good platform for his message,

“In many ways, I think hip-hop is actually an ideal genre for a project like this, because the format allows for so many more words to be used than in other genres. Because of this, the potential for transfer of ideas is much greater. Hip-hop lends itself to exposition. The challenge was finding suitable musical backdrops to properly convey the emotional depth of such a glorious topic.”

I like rap. I like to rap freestyle and roll out someone else’s rhythm. This kind of rap, though, the kind expositing Truth, has got me like a cup of hot coffee on the first day of snow (today).

The second comes from the guy who wrote, “How He Loves,” which you might know from several other artists who have recorded since. I like the way this guy thinks. “Genuine” is one of those terms people like to manipulate these days, but I believe John Mark McMillan. I’m a person who likes poetry and beauty and simplicity and purpose… and revealing a stronger, redemptive thread running through the tapestry of tragedy.

I’m so glad Truth has no genre.

My heart is happy that God created us in His image with a desire to create beautiful things. My heart is even more happy when people do this and it inspires me to return to my First Love.

It is TRUTH that allows us to

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

we could be…

We could be reveling
forever in the love You bring
and we could be wasted on
You and not count it loss 

Like fools in love
we’re bound to make a scene

Our hearts bleed for you, whoa

What beautiful way to usher in a Monday (fyi – John Mark McMillan comes out with a new album tomorrow).

Especially after such a blessed weekend, I love this.

Like fools in love, we’re bound to make scene. Isn’t that the truth.

Do your days feel like this? Like you can’t HELP but make a scene? If we are reveling in the love of Christ – wasting everything else and not counting a loss, then our lives will speak (maybe even shout) like crazy that there is something greater!

We might be the people that get pointed at or the people that get ignored, but the bottom line is that the scene bound to happen is for an audience of One.

The Lord welcomes His sons and daughters into worship, where our hearts bleed for the Creator of the Universe. I’m so thankful that God also knows, as we endeavor to worship with our very lives, that there are bound to be scenes.

Our love can look near foolish, but if anyone deserves a scene it is certainly our Lord and Savior!

How could you be reveling today in His love?

let LOVE fly like cRaZy!