Friday, April 15, 2016

A Wavering Faith

Have you ever seen yourself, your life, in the Bible? I am not talking about the Bible reflecting a glimmer of who you are through a verse or a passage of scripture. I am talking about seeing your entire life spread out and laid over the pages of scripture from Genesis to Revelation. Without making the Bible say something other than what it actually says, there is a correlation between the entire cannon of scripture and our lives. The Bible is about One Person, but it speaks to every person...every messed up one of us who are all in need of encouragement.

Honestly, aren't we all looking for some comfort these days? Can't we all get lost in a few moments of assurance and embrace? In a political and religious landscape littered with lying and deceit and misrepresentation, we could all probably use a glimpse of truth and a little bit of hope. I know I could use that about now. My life is still messy. Still searching. Still without answers. 

This is a story. Not just my story, but your story too. How do I know your story? I don't, except that I know we are all more alike than different. 

My story and yours started... the beginning.


What was only without form and void became molded into life. Out of darkness, out of nothing, you came to be (Gen. 1:2). Naked and unashamed you came, trusting and free (Gen. 2:25). In the beauty of infancy, you learned to walk in the cool of the day (Gen. 3:8)The world confronted you and promised you that your desires would make you wise (Gen. 3:6)Despite Love, you took and ate (Gen. 3:6). Where are you (Gen. 3:9)? You hid (Gen. 3:8). And then went to work (Gen. 3:33).

But you were angry and confused. Your face fell (Gen. 4:5). You turned aside (Pss. 53:3). Now all you hear is silence. You beg, do not keep silent (Pss. 83:1). Your heart yearns for peace, peace (Jer. 6:14).

Your Consolation comes. (Luk. 2:25). Life changes. You who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on you has light shone (Mat. 4:16). But it's not perfect. You're harassed and often feel helpless against the onslaught of this life (Mat. 9:36). It still hurts, you still weep for what is no more. (Mat. 2:18). It is still messy. You do not do what you want, but you do the very thing you hate (Rom. 7:15).

Peace in the midst is your theme. You are blessed...your lawless deeds are forgiven (Rom. 4:7). And yet, pain breaks the bow of your blind faith. You grow weary and tired, and stumble badly  (Isa. 40:30). Where is Peace? You cry inside, why have You forsaken me (Mt. 27:46)? Through tears and letters and lament you cry out, I believe, help my unbelief (Mrk. 9:24).

You wait for the Lord. It's all you can do (Pss. 27:15). And you live, trying not to be anxious about tomorrow (Mt. 6:34). You wait, and you believe that you shall look upon the goodness of the Lord (Pss. 27:13).

But the questions remain. Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden (Job 3:23). Silence. Awaiting, your hope is from him (Pss. 62:5). Your faith though it waver, is not up to you. There is an Author and  Perfecter of your faith (Heb. 12:2).

{google images}

You will see his face and night will be no more (Rev. 22:4-5).

Behold, He is coming (Rev. 1:7).

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Silence of the In-Between

solitude by serhatdemiroglu
Having just celebrated another Easter I am reminded of the mysteries of faith. I admit that I have more questions than answers these days. I haven't written here in a while due to a full work and school schedule. But I confess that it is also because I have run out of words (hard to believe for those that know me). This blog has always been a place of certainty, at least when it came to the gospel. However, if you've been around this little space you know the struggles I've shared and the questions I've wrestled with lately. When one speaks of the dark night of the soul it seems to be temporary by definition. Night always turns to day. 

And yet, it's still dark.

The same was true over two thousand years ago. It was the silence of Saturday.

It was the silence of the in-between...

...the day after your hope is dashed, but the day before it rises from the ashes. 

There is nothing you can do but wait. Even when the calendar has spoken. Even when Sunday comes, it still feels like Saturday. The celebrations have ended and the bonnets go back in their boxes. Sunday fades and Monday dawns but it still feels like Saturday. I think that for many who have experienced this silence it seems like a double wound when as believers we fail to acknowledge that reality. 

What was happening in the lives of Christ's followers after the resurrection? So often we paint the picture with a rainbow overarching it and a pot of gold on the other side. We just need to skip along the yellows and oranges and everything will be o.k. Only it's not o.k. It wasn't o.k. then. You can read about what happened to the disciples here. My point is this. I long for the day when churches can be honest about what it really means to live life as a Christ follower. It is not happy clappy. It is not always clear, in fact most times it's not. It must be how the disciples felt. Yes they had just witnessed the resurrection of Jesus. And yes that changed everything. But life was still hard. I wonder, did any of the disciples feel silence? Did any of them ever experience a dark night of the soul? I can only say that when I read about the disciples I find that I am more like them than not. They doubted, questioned, and denied Jesus. They were all kinds of inappropriate. I see that I've struggled in the same ways they did so I have to conclude that at some point they must have struggled in the same way I do. I wonder if they recalled what Jesus told them and what he tells us today, "I am with you always, to the end of the age."

Even when it still feels like Saturday.

Friday, January 1, 2016

New Year Hopefullies

Yep, I just made up a word.


It's the whole long list of things you hope for in the coming New Year...

hopefully, this year will be better than the last...

hopefully, my marriage will get better...

hopefully, I'll find a new job....

hopefully, the biopsies come back negative...

hopefully, I can find my way out of this addiction...

hopefully my depression will ebb more than flow...

hopefully I'll shake myself out of this funk I've been in for the last eight months...

and, hopefully, I'll be able to pay my bills on time.


You have them, so do I. Your hopefullies may be on that list...

and then maybe not.

Maybe you have hopfullies you would never share with anyone...

hopefully, I can stop looking at porn.
hopefully, I'll stop purging.
hopefully, no one will catch me in my web of lies and deceit and cover-up.

That must be why we cling to New Year celebrations and shiny new resolutions.

We are almost giddy at the thought of our hopefullies. Why?

Because, the thought of one more stinkin day of our struggle wears us out. It rips us apart and in the darkness after the smiles fade we're left with a quivering upper lip. Please, can anyone tell us it will all be better?

That's why the thought of a brand new day without our struggle brings a glimmer of hope...

a tiny shiny ray of light peaks through the darkness.

It is the reason we celebrate, right?

It is the very reason we await the day.

...the one day.

...the 1 day.

...the first day.

...january 1st.

It even sounds fresh.
It sparkles with promise.

It is the one day of the year when we believe change is possible.

When we long for a difference and we believe it can happen...

this time.
this year.
this day.

Because, if there is one thing we all want more than anything else, it's change.

Will that child give up the one thing that's holding them down?

Can we just go back to the way we were? Can our relationship just be a little more romantic, a little more considerate, a little more honest?

Will my job be a little more exciting, a bit more appreciated, pay a few dollars more?

Can my health improve? Just a little? Will this be the year I'll have more energy and less weight? Will this be the year the biopsies come back clean? Will I finally eat right, lose weight, lower my blood pressure?

I really hope that things will be different this year. How about you?

What are you hoping for?
What's in your bag of hopefullies?

I am convinced that this longing, this gut-wrenching desire for newness and change simply reveals our heartache for a fresh start.

We want a slate wiped clean, no looking back.

With clenched fists and grinding teeth we push forward and plead and beg and pray, Lord, let it be different.

Only this year, it is different. It is already different. Maybe it's the years piling up. Maybe it's the unmet longings and the reality of life crashing in. I'm not sure. But, it is different. Clenched fists are gone. Grinding teeth have stopped. Things are different. Oh, don't get me wrong. I've lived my life nestled among the words of this post. The struggles are real.

Yet, I have come to know that reality and humanity have just as much to do with the spiritual and the divine. They were never meant to be separated. We know this because we just witnessed it. The incarnation. God in human form.

But we forget it. We go out and live our lives as if we have to be God. We leave behind the reality of human"ness" and act as if we can actually "live like Jesus." I now know that's not true.

When I look at my list of hopefullies, I'm not looking through a rose colored lens anymore. I see clearly - no filter. I see rough edges not feathery filtered images. I see streaks and shatters and missing corners and over exposed portions.

My hopefully is not masked with a faith that lies to me. Faith does not lie. The gospel is truth. And the truth is, we are not God. We are humans. We do our best, but at the end of the day we are left with ourselves. I don't know about you, but I have lots of regrets and stacks of apologies I have yet to make.

Interestingly though, this is not a depressing message. You might think, how in the world is there any hope in all of this?

The hope is this. There is Hope. Hope has come, and it's not the fake, happy clappy hope we over dramatize and then feed others when we don't know what else to say. I'm done with pat answers and lame assurances.

Hope has come, we don't need lame answers.

Hope has come.

We don't need to fill our lists with all the hopefullies that are wrapped up with translucent ribbon. Our hearts see through them anyway.

We can be honest. We can face our fears, our struggles, our realities. We don't need to pretend.

Hope came.

Hope is here.

The Hope that came down as a baby is still here.

Hope is here, scarred and bruised...just like you and just like me.

Hope is here, begging God...just like you and just like me.

Hope is here, knowing suffering and knowing pain.

Hope is here, knowing the realities of harsh lives and empty hands.

Hope is here, knowing cold hearts and doubting minds.

Hope is here, in the midst of it all, never going away, always loving, forever holding on, to you and to me.

All of our hopefullies have already been met in Hope. The gospel is everything you have ever longed for. No empty promises...just one Promise to cover an eternity of unfulfilled hopefullies.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

In A World Spinning Out Of Control

As we come into this Christmas season with all of its sparkle and glitz, it’s hard not to be distracted by everything that’s going on. There are parties to attend, out of town family members to prepare for, and shopping to finish. Our stress and anxiety levels increase with each passing day on the December calendar. And yet, in the midst of it all, we are reminded that God came down two thousand years ago. He descended into our anxiousness and weariness to make everything sad untrue.

When Jesus was laid in that manger long, long ago, it was not in the midst of a world set right. It was in the midst of a world spinning out of control. The Old Testament closes with prophet after prophet begging people to turn back to the Lord. They had forgotten their first Love. The New Testament opens with the birth of our Savior, but in the midst, King Herod is looking to destroy him. It was chaos and mayhem. Although we don’t have the same circumstances, we feel the same chaos at this time of year. We are preoccupied, busy, and distracted.

Thankfully, in the midst of our mayhem, God descends in the person and work of Jesus Christ. The Prince of Peace comes to settle our cold and wayward hearts. He comes to serve our weary souls. “Christ became a servant” that we “might glorify God for his mercy.”

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope."

Friday, December 4, 2015

The Good News of Hanukkah

Hanukkah begins this weekend. 

As a Midwesterner [insert: white, Kansas born, middle-class, Oscar Meyer-eating, hometown parade-going girl], I knew little about the Jewish culture and faith until I moved to south Florida over twenty years ago. I needed to know though. I'm glad I know. I am grateful for my Jewish brothers and sisters and for their voices, history, and culture. I'm thankful for my Jewish friends who navigate an oftentimes difficult road between their familial roots of Judaism and the faith that has grabbed and secured their hearts in Christ. Some would argue the two can't coincide. And yet, In Christ they do. Jesus makes a way for Christians to be Christians regardless of their race, gender, ethnicity, politics, history, or family. It is in this unity of the gospel that we find depth of meaning written across the pages of history.

What follows is a personal story - I would call it a story of triumph. Interesting way to describe it you might say. However, I believe it is a fitting way to describe my friend's journey - one that brings her back to the gospel and reassures her that she can simultaneously claim her humanity (her Jewish"ness") and proclaim her faith. To deny either would be to deny the gospel. 

Read along as she visits the good news through the eyes of her people, but more importantly, through the lens of the Gospel.

I am Jewish and I am a Christian.

I was raised in a Jewish home, with Jewish parents and grandparents. I went to a Jewish school and lived in a Jewish community. I heard the full Gospel for the very first time when I was 29, over twenty years ago. A year and a half after that, I professed Jesus as my Lord and Savior.

Integrating my Jewish background into my Christian faith is an ongoing process. The New Testament states that...

God is the same yesterday, today and forever... 

which got me thinking about God in the context of Jewish history.

I received a card that said, “May the Miracle of Hanukkah fill the season with wonder and joy." This challenged me to consider the miracle of Hanukkah and what God did as it relates to His character and the Gospel.

The account of Hanukkah takes place in the years between the Old and New Testament, in a time when Israel is taken over by the Assyrian-Greek Empire. There was extreme strife and rampant idolatry. Antiochus lV outlawed the Jewish religion and the worship of the one true God. The Assyrian Army desecrated and ravaged the Temple, the focal point of Jewish life and worship. They traveled through the country slaughtering all those who refused to worship their gods. A priest, Mattathias rallied a small band of men, the Maccabees, to eventually defeat the Assyrians.

Jewish tradition tells that when they began to restore the Temple, and light the Lampstand for the Holy Place, there was not enough oil to keep the lamp burning continually, as prescribed in the Torah. The miracle, according to the Rabbis is that a small amount of oil lasted eight days until new oil was produced. Thus, Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days, lighting candles each day.

The story of Hanukkah is inspiring on many levels. It is about the victory of light over darkness, the small and weak over the strong and mighty. It celebrates the tradition that supernaturally a little was sufficient when much was required. Hanukkah is rich with history - history that puts God and His divine power on full display.

What exactly did God do?

He kept His promises. He honored His everlasting covenant with his chosen people. He brought glory to His name in keeping that Covenant. He displayed His sovereignty and power for all to see. He used a small band of men to bring about His grand plan.

God did what He always does.
He came down.

He condescended into our brokenness and corruption, because our resources are always inadequate.

In the darkness that became the Festival of Lights, He came down to rescue His children.

He came into the muck and mess of political, social, and cultural upheaval to save the fickle, faithless and confused.

He came in a time and space when His chosen people were breaking His Law.

He freed His children whether they were trying to follow His ways or not.

In His unconditional, relentless love and grace He delivered His own.

He is the same, yesterday, today and forever.

In love, the very substance of the Triune God clothed in human flesh through the power of the Holy Spirit condescended and entered our broken world to become one of us, and one with us.
This is the Gospel.

It's Good News.

I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
-Luke 2:10

(This article was written by my friend Debby Viveros - she lives with her family in south Florida where she teaches and tutors. Debby is learning that the gospel speaks to every part of our humanity.)

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Saint Augustine - We Are The Half-Dead, Wounded But Consoled

The Good Samaritan (1849)
Eugène Delacroix
There are people, ungrateful towards grace, who attribute much to our poor and wounded nature. It is true that man when he was created was given great strength of will, but by sinning he lost it. He fell into death. The robbers left him on the road half-dead. 

A passing Samaritan lifted him onto his beast of burden. He is still undergoing treatment. 

You will remember, beloved, the man half-dead who was wounded by robbers on the road, how he is consoled, receiving oil and wine for his wounds. His sins, it is true, were already forgiven; and yet his sickness is cured in the inn. The inn, if you can recognize it, is the Church. 

While in the inn, let us submit to treatment; let us not boast of health while we are still weak. 

Say to your soul, say this: you are still in this life, the flesh is still weak; even after complete forgiveness [in baptism] you were prescribed prayer as a remedy; you still have to say, until your sickness is cured, 'Forgive us our tresspasses.' 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Pray for Long Island, Bahamas

There is nothing quite like the threat of a natural disaster to bring people together. I have vivid memories of Hurricane Wilma and the destruction left in it's wake. We walked away with a roof over our heads, damaged, but still there. It's hard for me to fathom the devastation my family and friends are dealing with in Long Island. 175 mph winds. What?!? 

I remember going outside after Wilma passed - fearful of what I would see. Among the debris, I saw neighbors. Neighbors helping neighbors. Neighbors sharing food. Neighbors talking and laughing and lifting. I pray that for the people of Long Island. In times of disaster, people come together. I am sure that's what's happening right now in Long Island. 

As I sit here helpless today, not knowing what to do, I thought - I can do something. It's not much, but it is something. 

Friends, some of you might be able to help, some can pray, others can share. We can't all do everything, but we can do something.

I know more pictures and more news will pour in today and tomorrow and in the days and weeks to come. I'm hoping for the best, but I've seen the preliminary pictures and video, and it's not good.

I'm grateful for the gentle breeze and low humidity that Joaquin brought to Ft. Lauderdale, FL, but that's about it. In Long Island, family and friends are in the midst of trying to put their lives back together. 

For that, they need the gospel. For that, they need the overflowing love of the Rescuer, Jesus. For that they need the help, hearts, and hands of his people.

Here are some specific ways to help if you can:

$20      Water – 5 gallons
$25      1 pair of shoes
$50      Clothing (dress, or pants and shirt)
$75      One school uniform with shoes
$100    Basic kitchen supplies
$110    Gasoline/diesel – 20 gallons
$125    Food – One week’s worth for two people
$150    One roof tarp
$200    Chainsaw
$250    Small generator
$500    School room supplies (to get one classroom up and running)
$750    Basic medical supplies for small clinic
$1000  Roof repair
$2000  Roof replacement

Hop over to GoFundMe to give a gift. Anything helps. Prayers are appreciated.