Monday, June 24, 2013

Be Still My Soul

I never dated in high school.  Not really.  I had some crushes and a few "boyfriends" but none of them would have been considered "relationships".  I prayed a lot about that aspect of my life.  I reasoned that if God wasn't providing someone for me right then, He must have had a reason.  In fact, I always said to my friends, "If the person God wants you to be with is on the other side of the world, you would still not have a reason to worry.  Because if He wants you together, He's going to make it happen no matter what kind of effort you are or aren't putting into it."

Then I went to college and I met someone who I thought was pretty great.  His family had a lot of the same church background - his dad had even been a preacher at one point.  He loved music and singing.  He bought me Starbursts and Taco Bell (awesome, right?!).  He had an interesting sense of humor that I got, and he seemed to have a great personality.  I could tell that the time was approaching when we were probably going to start dating.  And yet, I was anxious.

I wondered for about a month whether this was really what God wanted for me. After all, hadn't I just met this person?  What if he just seemed great?  What if God wanted to me do something different with my life than be in a relationship with this person?

I had a conversation with a friend (another Christian, about two years older than I was) about this, and mentioned that I was feeling worried.  She listened and said some encouraging things.  That afternoon, I found a card tied to the door handle of my dorm room.  It was from this friend, and she had written this verse:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

Isn't peace the opposite of anxiety?  Stop worrying, and pray.  Present your requests (no matter how "little" you think they may be) to God.  Be thankful to Him.  And then He promises something: The peace of God WILL guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Without Jesus, you have no choice but to have anxiety about every little thing.  But with Jesus, the God of the universe takes care of all of those little things for you, so you can relax and enjoy His blessings.

I have now been married to Jon for almost 5 1/2 years.  The story you read about happened almost 10 years ago.  I do not regret the decision we made to start dating, and to get married several years later.  That being said, however, marriage is not easy.  In fact, it is extremely difficult, and we have had our valleys to struggle through together.  Ultimately, I don't think we would have made it without the Lord.  With Him, we can conquer anything. Or should I say - He will conquer it all for us.  All we have to do is ask, and be thankful.  Sometimes the end result of our prayers are not what we would have originally expected - but every time, He works it out better than we could have expected.

When the passage says "peace, which transcends all understanding" - that's really what it means.  Sometimes in this crazy world, wherever you are in your life, there are moments when you have no idea how things will possibly be "okay".  Maybe that's a daily experience for you.  There is no reason for you to feel at peace about things.  You have every reason to be worried, angry or anxious, to hit the panic button.  But God promises peace that transcends our comprehension.  And when you've gone through something and realized that you have been given that peace, it is a miraculous feeling.

The words of a hymn (would I ever write anything without quoting a song?  I mean really) speak true to God's role in our lives as believers:

"Be still my soul; the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still my soul, thy best, thy heavenly Friend,
through thorny ways leads to a joyful end."

I wrote this verse as a Facebook status several years ago, during one of our valleys, and commented underneath - "I hope this is true."  I can now say with confidence that it is true, and so is Philippians 4:6-7.  The Bible is not full of lies.  It is full of truth.

If you are in one of those places of anxiety and doubt, tell God about it.  Doesn't matter that He already knows.  Talking to Him is your surrender, and you will be blessed with the peace of God.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


There is a new-ish song that I love.  I have heard these lyrics for years, since it originated as a hymn, and this hymn is very well known.  I think that was initially why I connected to this new-ish song.  Now that I’m a “grown up” and have different types of life experiences behind me, these lyrics mean something completely different now than they did before.

The line that introduces the song, and sums it all up at the same time, is this:  My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.  The word the newer artist uses throughout the refrain, and the title of the song is “Cornerstone”.  Our hope is built on Jesus, our cornerstone.

My hope is not built on the cup of coffee that I claim I need each morning in order to “make it through the day.”
My hope is not built on my ability to focus at work.
It is not built on how my students behave in the classroom.
It is not built on how much sleep I have gotten the night before.
It is not built on whether or not my kindergarteners will have outside recess on any given day.
My hope is not built on religious traditions.
My hope is not built on family traditions.
My hope is not built on my relationship with my parents, my siblings, my husband, or my friends (no matter how close).
My hope is not built on a ministry I’m involved in, or a gift I’ve been given.
It is not built on any kind of career advancement.
My hope is not built on my ability to save up enough money to go on a vacation.
It is not built on my ability to balance the budget every month.
My hope is not built on anything on earth, because there is no guarantee that any of those things will be here tomorrow.

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.  He is the only thing that will never change and can never be taken away.  The Bible promises that if we build our hope and our lives on Him, we will have everything we need.

Monday, December 24, 2012


Each year Christmas means more than it did the year before.  This year I keep thinking about the phrase "God with Us."  Look back through our entire faith story - start in the book of Genesis.  If the stories contained in this book are not proof enough that God desperately wants to be with us, keep reading.  When the Israelites are freed from slavery and leave Egypt, God instructs them to build a tabernacle- a large tent that would go with them wherever they traveled.  God's dwelling place.  His people weren't holy enough for Him to just be present.  God is too holy and pure for us to come too close.  In the tabernacle, only a certain few people were allowed to carry out certain tasks, and the word "unclean" comes into play over and over.  God, however, provides a way each time for His people to return to His presence and become clean again.  He wants to be near us.

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel

I drew a picture on the whiteboard one day in class for my Kindergarteners.  We were talking about Jesus coming to earth, and discussing why it was such a big deal.  At the bottom of the picture I drew some people - they represent all of us, God's creation.  At the top of the picture I wrote the word "God."  There was a significant space in between the two and I asked the kids, "How are we ever going to get to where God is?  How can we ever be near to Him?"  I then drew the cross in between as a bridge and wrote "Jesus" inside, to illustrate that Jesus is the only way to the Father.

The Christmas story is so life-changing because it means that we now have a way to the presence of God, and He has a way to be near us.  Forever.  God came to earth as Jesus to live among us, to feel what we feel and teach us to love.  He then became the final and complete sacrifice for sin, canceling our impurities and uncleanness so that we could always dwell in the presence of God.  He died because He loves us, and because He wants to be near us.  Another awesome part of this is that He is with us regardless of our faults and our sinful nature.  Jesus did not come to condemn us, but to free us and cover us, a sinful people, with a grace that surpasses all things.

I have seen their ways, but I will heal them; I will guide them and restore comfort to Israel’s mourners, creating praise on their lips. Peace, peace, to those far and near,” says the Lord. “And I will heal them.”
(Isaiah 57:18, 19 NIV)
The God of all things WANTS us to be close to Him.  The birth of this child meant that never again would any of us be without our Father.  Emmanuel - God with us.

I pray for the day when you truly feel Emmanuel in your heart, and the peace that accompanies it.  We have hope because our God is with us.  He will never leave us.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

In Christ Alone

I love the book of Genesis.  It seems that a lot of times we look at this book as the story of creation - the beginning of the earth, the universe, and everything in it.  Genesis is so much more about the beginning of a relationship - the marriage between God and His people.

God created a perfect place for us to commune with Him and to experience His full presence.  In the garden, there is no tabernacle.  There is no list of specific offerings required to redeem a list of specific sins and imperfections.  He created us to be pure so that we could experience His holiness.  And then . . .

What Genesis describes to us, from chapters 3 - 50, is God's commitment to the relationship He had started.  We messed up, God brought consequences, people showed faith, God made promises, we messed up again, God kept his promises.  He loves us despite our impurities.  If you want proof that God deeply desires to bring us close to Him again after all of our mistakes, and to teach us how much we really need Him, read Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.  How desperately He wanted us to be pure again.  He knew then that Jesus would be our Way back to that relationship.

If you have ever wrestled with God, questioned His intentions, walked through fire or valleys (the list goes on and on and on), read Genesis again.  In fact, don't stop there.

I am currently reading a chronological Bible plan provided by the You Version app, and I am falling in love with God all over again.  This is not a story about people who lived a really long time ago, in a completely different culture, with completely different norms and religious values.  This is our story.  Anyone who believes in Jesus as their savior partakes in this story from beginning to end.  In fact, everyone who has ever existed as a human being partakes in this story.

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:9 - 11

It has significant meaning and relevance at this exact moment, within all of us.  What I love about it is that it will never get old or boring.  In fact, the more times you come in contact with this story, the more it teaches you and becomes a part of you.

God created us to have a relationship with Him.  We messed it up, and so He came to earth to be the final sin sacrifice for us, so that we could come into contact with Him again.

And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its 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
Could ever pluck me from His hand
'Til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I stand
(Keith Getty and Stuart Townend)

Jesus became a bridge so that we can now, finally, partake in the love story we were originally created for.  Praise God for being the author of our salvation.

Monday, July 2, 2012

And Lord, haste the day . . .

It's like seeing the world and experiencing God through a new set of eyes.

A few nights ago Jon and I finished watching the extended versions of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  *If you haven't done this recently, I highly recommend it.*  As the story progressed I caught myself thinking, "Geez, poor Frodo and Sam are getting SO CLOSE but the enemy is throwing everything he possibly can at them.  Will they ever be truly rid of this thing and FINALLY find peace and rest?"

At that moment, the true meaning of this hit me and felt so real I almost couldn't breathe.  I've watched these movies before.  I've even tried reading the books.... and failed a few times.  I think originally I went to see these films because my sister was a LOTR fan, and because I remembered watching the cartoon versions as a child.  When we decided a few weeks ago to watch them again, I thought, "... just to pass time."  I never expected to be impacted spiritually.

I realize that these stories are fictional, but this time a lot of the content felt very real.  Sin is hopelessness.  Sin is greed.  Sin is darkness, betrayal.  It festers and grows if you haven't set your heart against it.  And even sometimes then, it makes appearances in our character that startle us and cause us to doubt the existence of Good in the world, and its existence in ourselves.

*Spoiler Alert* - If you have NOT watched these movies, do NOT keep reading.  Go watch them and then come back :)

I honestly couldn't remember what happened at the end.  As we were watching The Return of the King, I was continuously wondering if this task really would claim Frodo's life.  I think that's what made the end so powerful to me this time.

The ring destroyed itself, and afterwards the two friends had completely resigned themselves to the idea that this was their end.  They had fought their good fight, they had finished their race.

The ending scenes were unremarkable to me the first time through this series.  Tolkien was finished telling his story and now needed to end it somehow, so here was his conclusion; his version of "happily ever after."  I found that, actually, everything that happened in conclusion of this story had a profound purpose and message to those who have also journied to Mordor in one way or another.

Maybe that's why it hadn't meant a lot to me before now.  During the past year and a half, I have travelled some "difficult" roads, although difficult doesn't seem like a strong enough word to describe my journey.  I've experienced carrying the burden of depression and hopelessness, even greed.  I've often said of my despair, "No, it's mine, my own," and refused to let it go when I had the chance.

God began speaking to me again about a year ago, summer of 2011.  I should say, that's when I began to listen again.  I had questioned Him about suffering, death, loss, hardship, poverty, sickness, etc., etc., etc.  We'd had "conversations" in which I had been the one speaking, or yelling, and He had remained silent.  I do not regret my questions.  I don't regret becoming angry with Him or yelling at Him.  Without those moments, I would not feel as close to the Way, the Truth and the Life as I do now.  One day I sat and wrote out a list of things I DO know about God.

His mercies are new every morning. - Lamentations 3:22-23

He will answer our anxieties and prayers with peace that transends all understanding. - Phillippians 4:7

He is making all things new. - Revelation 21:5

. . . to name a few.  I encourage you to take this mindset with you as you encounter God through your worship, mediation and studying of His word.  When you seek Him with all your heart, you will find Him (Jeremiah 29:12-13).  Sometimes, you will find Him where you least expect, too.  Like in a fantasy movie trilogy.

In a journal last summer (not dated), I wrote:  "When we all get to Heaven, are we finally going to understand?  Will we be able to ask God all our questions and finally, fully understand Him?  Or - will any of it matter anymore?  Will we just be singing praises and experiencing joy complete for the first time, being in the presence of all those we have loved, without a worry or care about "whys" we struggled with during our lives on earth?  Will any of those questions even matter anymore?"

In one of the ending scenes of The Return of the King, Frodo says goodbye to his friends (again, a weak word here) and steps aboard a ship that will take him to a faraway land where he can finally rest and be among all of those who have also finished their journeys.  The burden he had carried for so long changed him.  In his words, they had saved the Shire, ". . . but not for me."  As he steps aboard this enchanting-looking boat and turns back towards his friends, his eyes are not filled with tears, but are instead filled with a look of true peace and complete joy.  He smiles as if to say, "Don't worry about me.  I am going home."

I like to think that if we could ever, somehow, catch a glimpse of loved ones who have gone before us, they would have the same message in their faces.

And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing your praise unending
Ten thousand years, and then forevermore.
(Matt Redman)