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Lazarus and the mysterious love of Jesus

August 28, 2018

It’s hard to pick a favorite story from the Bible. But years confirm the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead is my definite front runner. I come back to it often. And after the numerous times I’ve poured over this passage of Scripture, God continues to peal His heart back in new and life-giving ways.

The story remains mysterious. And even when the actions of Jesus are hard for me to reconcile, the story is laced with His comfort and love. It gets me every time.

John Chapter 11. Take some time to read it first if you can.

Verse 3 sticks out to me first. “So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” Talk about identity. Lazarus must have walked in a way that all those around him knew he was one of Jesus’ favorites, completely loved and adored by His creator! His sisters don’t even follow up with a name; they’re confident Jesus knows who they’re talking about.

Again in verse 5, Jesus wants to make sure we realize how much he loved these three siblings, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.”

Now here is where things get mysterious.

If you’re guessing what comes next after verse 5, you might think it reads something like this, “So Jesus rushed back to the town of Bethany to heal Lazarus.”

But…

It doesn’t.

Vs. 6, “So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was.”

Say what?

That’s not how I picture love. And do you notice the word “So”? That little, two-letter word literally means “as a result.” He stayed two days longer where he was “as a result” of His love for Mary, Martha and Lazarus.

Convicting. I am so Americanized in my view of love. Too often for me, love equals comfort. Love equals convenience. Love equals someone meeting my needs when I want them met. Jesus flips that concept upside down here.

We see a bit of Jesus’ purpose in vs. 14-15, “So Jesus then said to them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead, and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him.'”

Jesus finally arrives on the scene in vs. 17. In vs. 20 we see two different responses: “Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went to meet Him but Mary stayed at the house.” I’m going to go ahead and lump myself into the Mary category. I can imagine Mary might be giving Jesus a bit of the silent treatment which I am all too guilty of doing. She knows He is God but she’s still mad and doesn’t quite know what to do with those feelings. She can’t quite reconcile what she knows to be true with how she feels.

And can we put ourselves in Jesus’ shoes for a second? If I arrived on the scene, the FIRST thing I would say would probably be something like, “Hey guys, nobody worry! I’m here and I’m going to raise Lazarus from the dead. You’re about to see quite a miracle!”

Martha tells Mary that Jesus is asking for her. Mary finds herself at the feet of Jesus, weeping, and says, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” How many times have I said the same sort of thing? Lord IF You had done this, IF You would do that, IF You were here.

And here’s where an even greater mystery takes place.

Jesus knew He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. He tell us in vs. 4, in vs. 15 and in vs. 23.

But in that moment, He doesn’t tell Mary that. He lets her weep. He allows her to break.

And in all of His love, He joined her in her brokenness. Vs 35…”and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled and said ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to Him, ‘Lord come and see.’ Jesus wept.”

And here’s where the lines are drawn. Some bystanders see His love. Others question His goodness. Vs. 36, “So the Jews were saying, ‘See how He loved him!’ But some of them said, ‘Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man from dying?'”

Convicting. Again. Couldn’t He have stopped that storm? Couldn’t He make the pain stop? Couldn’t He heal him? Couldn’t He restore that relationship? Couldn’t He provide?

Do I focus on what I think Jesus could and should do or do I focus on how much He loves me?

But back to the story.

Jesus asks Martha and Mary and others to move the stone from the cave he was buried in. He asked them to move in their pain, within their weakness and trust Him completely. Oh the doubts that must have filled their minds! Martha voices one in vs. 39, “Lord, by this time, there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.” She doesn’t want to relive that suffering and she for sure doesn’t want to come face to face (or nose to nose) with the stench of death and pain.

Vs. 40, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

Vs. 41, “So they removed the stone.”

God, help me to move the stones you ask me to move.

Vs.42, “I knew that You always hear me; but because of the people standing around I said it so that they may believe that You sent me. When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth.’ The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.'”

Without the mourning, the suffering, the brokenness, Mary and Martha and the people on the outside watching the story unfold, would have missed the greater miracle of life that Jesus wanted to display.

The miracle didn’t come how they expected. And it certainly didn’t happen when they expected it. But they had to trust who was in control.

I’m not going to assume I know exactly why Jesus decided to wait and raise Lazarus after death, but Scripture does give us at least one reason:
Vs. 45, “Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him.” 

Sometimes He trusts us with pain for the greater benefit of those around us.

And sometimes our pain brings us into a deeper level of love and trust in Him.

The real gift is sometimes found in the process of suffering. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God…. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” – Luke 6:20-21. “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” – John 10:10. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to eternal.” – John 12:24-25

The process He was doing in Mary’s heart was far greater than temporary pain and suffering.

And immediately following this story in John 11 we see the beautiful result of brokenness and healing that happened in Mary’s heart in John 12. She finds herself completely free in her worship. Hair down, alabastar jar broken, weeping at the feet of Jesus, pouring out her love to Him.

 

 

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No more shame

August 27, 2018

I messed up again.

My desperate attempts to maintain control and push down my hot emotions were futile. The anger rising up in me erupted. The hot, boiling contents spilling onto my four year old.

My immediate sense of failure angered me more. Why can’t I get this right?!?! Where is my own self-control I constantly teach Kate about? Where was my gentleness and patience we sing about in those sweet songs?

I got down on her level and looked into her innocent eyes, my own eyes welling with tears. “I’m so sorry honey. Mommy messed up. I shouldn’t have gotten so angry with you.”

Without missing a beat, she looked at me and said, “You’re the best mom in the world. I forgive you. Our family forgives you. And God forgives you.”

Priceless words to hear from a four year old.

As I was making lunch, my mind meddled in my failure. Inside my head was the familiar beating that guilt and shame took on my Spirit. But as the lies loudened, a soft but familiar voice entered my space. “I didn’t die on the cross for you to hold on to your guilt. I took that too. Your sin and your shame.”

When we hold onto shame, it holds onto us. Christ died for the failure and He also died for us to walk in freedom. Whenever I hold onto shame, I’m telling Jesus that what He did on the cross wasn’t enough and that I need to punish myself a little bit more.

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” – Romans 8:1-2

 

Ramblings on Time

October 25, 2017

Chronos: our wristwatch and alarm-clock time. Kairos: God’s time, real time. One of my favorite authors, Madeline L’Engle, in Walking on Water writes:

“Time is to be treasured, worked with, never ignored. Kairos. Real time, God’s time. That time which breaks through chronos with a shock of joy, that time we do not recognize while we are experiencing it, but only afterwards, because kairos has nothing to do with chronological time. In kairos we are completely unself-conscious and yet paradoxically far more real than we can ever be when we are constantly checking our watches for chronological time. The saint in contemplation, lost to self in the mind of God is in kairos. The artist at work in in kairos. The child at play, totally thrown outside himself in the game, be it building a sandcastle or making a daisy chain, is in kairos. In kairos we become what we are called to be as human beings, cocreators with God, touching on the wonder of creation.”

We invented time as we know it. God, of course, created day and night; He gave us the moon and sun to govern our days and give us rest. But this minute by minute, second by second grind we’ve given ourselves over to was manufactured by human invention. It wasn’t until the 16th century that clocks, divided into 60 minutes increments, were even invented.

“To get lost in time.” When we hear that phrase, it connotes a certain freedom, a release from the prison of punctuality, of productivity.  As we’re “lost” in time, we find ourselves unhindered, free, allowing for exploration and creativity. When I think of moments of kairos in my life, I’m brought back to childhood. There’s a reason Jesus said we need to become like little children to enter the Kingdom. Children, I believe, are in the Kingdom on the regular. They freely create, freely play, freely dance, freely sing. Their hearts and minds are not yet controlled by the minutes of the clock. I’ve never seen a three year old worried about being late and my two year olds certainly aren’t worried about having enough time to finish a task. I’m the one who makes them rush; reminds them to hurry.

The God who “was and is and is to come” is certainly not confined to our concept of time. He’s always on His time; never on chronos. There is no beginning and end for Him. He is the beginning and end. He sees events from thousands of years ago simultaneously with what I am currently experiencing. When I need to hear Him call my name, I can turn to the Jesus who, right now, calls Zacchaeus by name out of the sycamore tree. When I need healing, I can call out to the same Jesus who is currently healing ten lepers. When I call on Jesus in my suffering, I can call to the Jesus who is suffering with me in the garden. He exists always as these manifestations.

I never have to make an appointment with Him. He never has to “make time” for me.

And He wants to take me with Him into this Kingdom outside of time. To see people in kairos. To not judge them according to a snapshot of their current state or even a compilation of their past mistakes or successes. But to see them in their entirety, who they are becoming, their finished work in Christ. And to see myself like this. He loves all of me. Past, present and future. He’s known it from the beginning and chooses me again and again.

And He desires freedom for me. Freedom from chronos. Freedom from the to-do lists that “need” completing, free of busy, free of never having enough time. And lose myself in His presence. Only in this “losing” will I be found. Whether I’m writing, playing outside with my children, soaking in a song, being in nature, kissing my husband, may the clock not prevent me from missing who I’m sincerely meant to be and what I’m truly meant to experience.

 

 

Me too.

July 24, 2017

I realize the people’s presence I enjoy most are the people who I feel most me around. I don’t care how much you know or how impressive your talents are. I just want to know that you like me for me. That you see the beauty in who God made me to be. Instead of fixing me, you just say, “me too.”

That’s who I want to be. I don’t need people to know how much I know. I don’t need them to think I’m impressive. I don’t need to show off my talents. I just need to show them how much I like them. That I see the beauty in exactly who God made them to be. And that I can look at them with all sincerity and just say, “me too.”

Demo Day

June 30, 2017

They brought the big stuff. Bob cats and chain saws. Dump trucks and cranes. A crew of guys.

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That’s what our yard requires.

I love this place…our new home where we have an acre and a half for the kids to roam and explore, run and play.

But to make this yard all we dreamed of, it required an absolute haul-out. Dead trees, clusters of over-grown ferns and tangled messes of weeds and bushes covered the space. For years this beautiful piece of land lay neglected. No one tended to the weeds, the tree trimming, the continual upkeep to keep the yard the oasis it was originally intended to be.

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And before our new plans could start, the disorder needed removed. Before new sod, new grass, new flowers and bushes could be planted we had to get rid of all the junk.

When we currently look out our back patio over the pool, we can’t see our backyard. There is too much obstructing the view. There’s way more behind the mess; more than what meets the eye.

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With glee, I’m watching these guys rip up decking and saw down trees. I can see so much more of our yard now. And as I watch, the Lord gently reminds me of the season He has me in.

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It’s been demo day in my heart. He’s taking out the dead stuff, the tangled mess that obstructs the view of what could be. He’s got dreams for this heart of mine. But He’s got to do some demolition.

He is revealing the roots. Some are deep and it’s a struggle to pull them out completely. Others are shallow but long and entangled with other weeds. But before the new ground is laid, they all have to be eliminated.

It’s taken time. I’ve had to be patient, following each gentle push as He leads. I’m doing the hard work with Him as He shows me the places that need the most care, the spaces of my heart that have been neglected for years.

He’s been tender with this process.

Chaos into beauty.

Disarray into order.

In Isaiah 60:21 He says we are, “the branch of His planting and the work of His hands.” And in 1 Corinthians 3:9, “We are God’s fellow workers, you are God’s field (literal translation: cultivated land, God’s building.”

That was always His plan. He cultivates. He grows. He nurtures. He is the Creator and He longs to do that with His creation. He has plans for the soil of our heart. Let Him do His work; His demo is worth it. The work, the pain, the time: it’s worth the fruition of His plans. 

And just like me, our yard is still a work in process. There’s still some mess, we’re waiting on pavers and we’ve got some weeding and clean up to do. But doesn’t it feel lighter already? Look at all the new space to run. It’s gonna be fun playing in this new yard of ours for years to come.

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Childlike surrender.

June 3, 2016

There have been countless times I sink into the couch after the kids are tucked in and the reflections of the day make me cringe. It feels like the day was consumed with correcting and fine-tuning the things in my kids like they’re some kind of broken down car in need of repair. I’m adjusting this behavior, improving those manners or modifying this conduct. And if I’m truthful with myself, oftentimes pride is my motivation; wanting my kids to look and act the part so I look good. But God’s not like that. God is gracious in His mercy. He doesn’t constantly criticize and point out all the ugly, broken stuff inside of me. He is gentle and kind in leading me toward Truth. And His glory does not depend on the actions of his children. Thank the Lord for that because I am constantly making a mess of His name.

Recently He wanted to reveal something in me. And He did it as the gentle Father that He is. At church this past Sunday we talked about surrender. And as I was listening, feeling guilty for all of the things left in me that need yielding to Him, God brought me to this verse in Isaiah 40:11, “Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs and carry them in His bosom. He will gently lead the nursing ewes.” At the time I felt like it was an odd verse to lay on my heart.

As we think of surrendering every area of our life to Him, we tend to think of God revealing every bit of our brokenness and sin at once; demanding that we lay it down and give up everything we have that moment. I can come away feeling like I’m not good enough. I’m not giving enough away. I’m not doing enough. I’m not trusting enough. And it becomes about me.

But in His gentle way He used one of my kids to point me to the real Truth of what He wanted my Spirit to hear.

As we were driving home from church, there were two men at two different stoplights with signs asking for money or food. We gave our cash to the first man but didn’t have anything left for the next one. Our six year old Kate is our observer. She is constantly taking in her surroundings. And I knew she was watching as we sat at the light next to that second man.

We get home and she immediately opens the drawer to the ziploc bags and takes one out. I then hear the coins in her piggy bank jingling together as she gets it down from her closet and dumps it out.

She’s been saving her money for quite some time now. She saved her birthday money and she’s done extra chores around the house to earn even more money and she’s accumulated quite the stash for a six year old. There have been some opportunities for her to spend it but she’s held on to it and been quite proud as her stockpile has grown.

She comes out with the ziploc bag full of money and written with a marker on it: “Love, Kate.” She proclaims she wants to give it to the man by the road that needs it.

As a mom, I was so proud and touched of course but I was also concerned about her giving away so much of that hard earned, saved money. And I said, “well honey ask God how much He wants you to give.” And Kate says, “I don’t need to do that, I want to give him all of this.” And Andrew, next to me, whispers, “She doesn’t need to do that. We can always replenish it for her.”

And that’s when the Lord pierced my own heart and spoke to me, “This is what surrender looks like. This is what it means to have faith like a child.” Matthew 18:3, “And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.'”

Kate’s not laboring over that fact that if she gives all of her money away she might starve or not have clothes or toys or a bed to sleep in. She knows we take care of that. Her daddy provides all she needs.

And for me: It’s not about what I do. My labor means nothing. I bring nothing to the table. It’s about living in the Truth and reality that my Father takes care of all that I need. Kate didn’t even need to remind herself of this fact. It’s simply a Truth that she lives and operates in.

Lord, make me like a child. May I operate in Your Kingdom. May complete dependence on You become my reality. This is what surrender means.  You can always replenish.

I love His gentle ways with me.

 

A lesson from a matchbox car

April 19, 2016

Jack, my three-year-old, has this bin of matchbox cars. When I hear that bin tip over, my heart sinks a bit. If you’re a mom of boys…you know the sound. The lego bin produces a similar sort of heart-dropping effect when you hear those little plastic weapons toys being dumped onto the floor.

There are a lot of cars in that bin. A. Lot. Matchbox cars are sure to top Jack’s list of most prized possessions. And the other day I got a glimpse of how precious these tiny little pieces of metal are to him. He ran out of his room, found me in the living room and begged me to help him find a missing car. He began describing this particular yellow car in great detail. I sat with him, rummaging through the pile and found multiple yellow cars. “here ya go buddy!” – “no, no that’s not it.”

By the fourth car, I’m thinking to myself, “Why is this yellow one so special? There can’t be much that’s unique about this one.”

But he was on a mission. He could not get this car out of his head. He had to find it.

It was one of those gentle reminders God gave me. “That’s how I feel about you.”

To me, the cars all looked the same. It was just another car; he had 60 more in the bin. And I reminded him of that a couple of times. But he didn’t want the 60 other cars. He wanted THAT one. Jack, being the keeper of the cars, knew when one was missing and he had to find it. And once we finally did find the car, he was as happy as could be and contently ran off to play.

“Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” – Luke 15: 3-7