Monthly Archives: October 2013

What Does it Mean to Speak Life?

Silent Images is a non-profit organization with a mission to educate and inspire Christ-followers to get involved and make a difference in the areas of human trafficking, high school dropouts, homeless children, abortion, prisoner re-entry, refugees, and the elderly. Silent Images produced the GOOD (Get Off Our Donkey) series to encourage the Body of Christ to follow the good Samaritan’s example when he got off his donkey to tend to the wounds of a hurting soul. Jesus told His followers to “go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37).

It’s the testimonies from the GOOD series that mess with me. Lord, have mercy.

Brave, very brave, women share their experiences with human trafficking and abortion. Their stories are graphic and heart-breaking. And yet redemptive. These women can speak now because someone reached past the comfort zone and allowed everyday life to be interrupted so that time & effort could be taken to shine light into their darkness, extend mercy into their shame, defend them from injustice, and speak life into their pain.

I picked up on a common thread woven in the onset of several of these stories:

“I didn’t feel like I was worth anything …”
“I didn’t feel that I was fearfully or wonderfully made …”
“I didn’t feel that I had any worth or value …”
“I thought I was unworthy, unlovable, not beautiful …”

After the GOOD premiere, I experienced a renewed compassion and conviction to get off my donkey and be Christ’s love in action.

And something else –

I could. not. wait.
to get home and love on my daughter. And tell her that she is beautiful inside and out. And desperately loved by her mommy and daddy and her God.

Our children need us to speak life into them. Now. Our community needs us to speak life. Today.

“What does it mean to “speak life?” Here’s what I’ve been thinking …

A “pro-life” position is usually, and unfortunately, staked in political and divisive stances these days. For many years, I aligned myself with an anti-abortion stance. And one day I realized that it wasn’t enough. I had just finished an internship at the local crisis pregnancy center. The next internship brought me to a nursing home – which was not at all my preference. But I grew to LOVE those people.

And it struck me that God had tenderized my spirit and revealed to me the preciousness of life at both ends of the spectrum; in the pre-born child and in the aged I saw the imago Dei – the image of God. I finally got what it really means for me to be “pro-life.”

Whether the skin is bathed in amniotic fluid or covered with wrinkles of many years, the person is one whom God loves. Fearfully and wonderfully made. Unhidden from his or her Creator.

The Scripture says –
“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.”
(2 Corinthians 5:14 – 16)

Christ died for my life. Your life. Your neighbor’s life. The sex slave’s life. The refugee’s life. The unborn baby’s life. As a Christian, that truth has to radically transform how I see and treat life – whether young or old; rich or poor; able-bodied or impaired; slave or free; weak or strong.

According to Proverbs 18:21, the tongue has the power of life and death. We “speak life” when our words are life-giving – when they reflect and honor the inherent value in every single person who has been created out of God’s plan for His purposes. More than ever, people need to hear that they are fearfully and wonderfully made by a God who loves them. More than ever, there are young, old, and in-between people who need someone to speak up for the free and hope-filled life that God meant for them to live.

What would happen if we were more intentional about speaking life? If we stopped playing with our gadgets and looked one another in the eye? If we stopped asking “how are you?” while pretending to care? If we told our daughters that they are beautiful? If we told our sons that they are honorable?

If we took off our masks? If we decided to store up treasures in heaven rather than stuff on earth? If we got serious about advocating for the orphan and the widow? If we became an undeniable voice for the 27 million men, women, and children trapped in slavery today? If we took the blinders off of our eyes about the injustice in the world? If we took time to wrap another’s wound?

fb_profile2

There are times and ways, even when you’re sitting in your own darkness, to carry the light to someone else. Image-Bearer, even if your circumstances are dark, the light within is not extinguished. Lift the flicker up to God and give it a chance to shine even brighter against the backdrop of your life, however dim at the time it may be. The Holy Spirit, the breath of Heaven, will kindle hope within you. You will be ignited with a compassion that is compelled to shine into a hurting soul.

So now I’m on a “pro-life” mission. I’m re-reading some books on Sacred Marriage and Sacred Parenting. I’m re-energized to intentionally love on my 95-year-old friend. I will express to my daughter that she is valued, not for what she does but for who she is. I’m exploring ways to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. I’ll speak up for those who have been pushed to the margins of our society. I’m thinking about ways to affirm the true beauty and purpose of people in my community – preborn to old to in-between.

Join me in choosing and speaking life!

Isaiah 58: 9 – 11 ~

Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.

“How I treat a brother or sister from day to day, how I react to the sin-scarred wino on the street, how I respond to interruptions from people I dislike, how I deal with normal people in their normal confusion on a normal day may be a better indication of my reverence for life than the antiabortion sticker on the bumper of my car.” Brennan Manning ~ The Ragamuffin Gospel

Shine a light on slavery – http://enditmovement.com/

Find out more about Silent Images at http://silentimages.org/

Sacred Parenting and Sacred Marriage books are written by Gary Thomas.

Songs – “Speak Life” by Toby Mac and “Words” by Hawk Nelson

God Leaves the Light On

My daughter has one of these cool new nightlights – the kind that projects a beam of light onto the ceiling. A flashlight stays within reach of her bed too. She’s not alone in her fear of the dark – a lot of kids and even adults say that they’re uneasy when the lights go out. In a survey of 2000 adults, 40% reported being frightened when walking around their own houses in the dark.

When asked: “Why are people scared of darkness?” a panel of Yahoo users gave these answers:

  • “That’s the stuff horror movies are made of.”
  • “People are not afraid of darkness. People are afraid of the unknown.”
  •  “When I was afraid of the dark, I used to say: It’s not the dark I’m afraid of… it’s what’s IN the dark I’m afraid of.”
  • “Because they can’t afford night vision goggles” (wise guy).
  • “Read Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness.”

The last response reminds me that as a teenager I was riveted by the depiction of spiritual warfare in This Present Darkness. Frank Peretti’s book disturbed me into the awareness that this dark domain is more active than I had imagined –

(“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this present darkness and against the spiritual forces of evil…” Ephesians 6:12).

But these days I’ve been aware of another kind of darkness. It’s not of this dark dominion. It’s not eternal darkness. I’m convinced that the Light of the world makes this darkness flee –

“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in Me should stay in darkness.” – the words of Jesus ( John 12:46).

“For (God) has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves.” (Colossians 1:13)

While this is an assuring guarantee for Christ-followers, we still have to live in a world where the shadow of sin and death is far-reaching. At times darkness falls across our paths through illness, grief, loneliness, rejection, sadness, fear, weakness, loss, and uncertainty. The way ahead is unknown. Sometimes a veil clouds our awareness of God. We can’t see Him. We wonder – does He see us?

The honest laments of the psalmists, as in Psalm 88, assure us that godly people aren’t exempt from these struggles and doubts –
“I am overwhelmed with troubles …. My eyes are dim with grief … Why do You hide Your face from me? Darkness is my closest friend” (verses 3, 9, 14, 18).

And Micah the prophet lamented, “What misery is mine! … I sit in darkness” (see Micah 7).

In his book When I Don’t Desire God (an honest title that intrigued me) Pastor John Piper reassures his readers that seasons of darkness are normal in the Christian life. Remember that most people’s discomfort with darkness is primarily a fear of what they cannot see or anticipate. While we rely heavily on our sight to navigate the physical world, this Christian journey is one of believing and not of seeing (2 Corinthians 5:7). When clouds of fear or doubt obscure our view of God, we must anchor our faith in His character, not our feelings or senses. As Piper says, “…the darkest experience for the child of God is when his faith sinks out of his own sight. Not out of God’s sight, but his.”

My faith rises and falls. God’s faithfulness does not rise and fall. I may not always see Him in my circumstances but I will trust His character:

“When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
my anchor holds within the veil.” *

What helps me in dark times is to remember that God is not absent when I can’t see Him. In fact, throughout Scripture, He shows Himself working out a glorious plan in the midst of darkness.

Exodus 14 –
“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the (Red) sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.” (verses 21 – 22).

Mark 6 –
Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and Jesus was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn He went out to them, walking on the lake …. when they saw Him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed …” (verses 47 – 51)

Acts 12 –
The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists (verses 6 – 7).

Acts 16 –
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”

The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. (verses 25 – 33)

A dawn of deliverance and deepened faith awaited Moses and the children of Israel, the disciples, Peter, Paul, Silas, and the jailer. Whether chased by an angry army, bound by prison chains, or rocked by natural forces, these people experienced God making a way. And when morning came, they were changed. Their stories still speak of a God who moves in the darkness.

Scripture promises us that what seems dark & hidden to us is plain to Him (Psalm 139: 11 & 12). Even as He keeps dawn on the horizon, He choreographs a timetable and a plan for the midst of the night. Perhaps like Peter He will give us rest. Or like Paul and Silas He is calling us to worship and drawing those around us to the Gospel. It could be that like the disciples we will experience Him in a jaw-dropping way. Perhaps like the children of Israel, He is preparing a miraculous story that will be shared for generations to come.

And although we experience the shifting of shadows here on this earth, the Day is coming. There will be a new dawn of deliverance as the inexhaustible Light cuts through the darkness. It will be so pure that nothing will obscure it. No more shadows of sin and death. We see dimly now, but on that Day we will know and see fully.

When it comes to the dark, I don’t know what’s there but I know Who’s there. So I won’t be afraid. And as surely as the sun (Son) rises, morning is on the way!

Isaiah 60:19 – 20 – The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end.

Revelation 22: 3 – 5 – No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.”

Psalm 139: 11 – 12 – If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

Isaiah 61:1 – “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners” – a prophecy fulfilled in Jesus (see Luke 4: 16 – 31).

Isaiah 42:16 – “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.”

Isaiah 50:10 – Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of His servant? Let the one who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on God.

Psalm 30:5 – …weeping may stay for the night, but joy comes in the morning.

2 Corinthians 5:7 – We walk by faith and not by sight.

Sources –
“Why Many Adults are Still Afraid of the Dark” http://www.bps.org.uk/news/many-adults-are-afraid-dark

“Why Are People Afraid of Darkness?” http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20060616005052AAZjM7U

This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti – http://frankperetti.com/

* My Hope is Built on Nothing Less (The Solid Rock) hymn lyrics by Edward Mote

When I Don’t Desire God by John Piper – http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/books/when-i-dont-desire-god

Why (and how) our family does Halloween, Part 2

Dear C,
I really like your Halloween costume this year! And I won’t give your idea away, but I think you and Toby are going to look super-cute in your outfits. That’s a fun part of Halloween, isn’t it? It always brings out your creativity. You carefully plan and create your costume (sometimes with Grandma’s help). And with each year you take on a little more responsibility for designing and carving our jack-o-lantern. Last year was the first time you were willing to help us scoop out the goopy insides. Feel free to do that job all by yourself this year :)

022
fall4

025

Today I wondered about pumpkin-carving – who first did it and why? It’s really interesting to discover why our traditions became traditions in the first place. So here’s a little history lesson for today …. (hang with me – you won’t think it’s boring!)

Hundreds of years ago, a people group called the Celts lived in Europe and on the British Isles. They believed that the souls of dead people visited earth on October 31. Fearful that evil spirits would destroy their crops, they built bonfires and wore scary costumes to frighten them away. The Celts also carved frightful faces into turnips or gourds, put burning coal inside to turn them into lanterns, and set them outside their homes. And by leaving food (treats) on the outskirts of their towns, they hoped that evil spirits would not enter their villages (and perform tricks). Get it?

In the 8th century, the Catholic Church declared November 1 as a day to remember honorable Catholics who had passed away. It was commonly called “All Hallows’ Day,” and the night before (October 31) became known as Allhallowe’en. Somewhere along the way, as a mix of European settlers came to America, their customs blended into what we now know as Halloween.

So, why did I explain all of that? I think it’s important for you to realize that the traditions of Halloween have always been rooted in fear and superstition. (“Superstition” is a way of behaving that is based on the fear of the unknown and belief in magic or luck). But the day itself, October 31, is NOT an evil day. Like every other day, it is a day that the Lord has made. (It’s also “Reformation Day” – a very important day in our Christian history that highlights our freedom in Christ. We’ll talk about that another time).

As you know, there are signs of this fearful, superstitious side of Halloween all around us. In our culture, Halloween brings out a fascination with images of death, darkness, and the supernatural. It’s true that there is a kingdom of darkness ruled by Satan. He wants to keep people separated from God, in a grip of evil and fear. But honey, you don’t need to be afraid. As a follower of Christ, you are a part of the Kingdom of Light (Colossians 1: 12 – 14). 1 John 4 says that GREATER is HE who is in you (Christ) than he who is in the world (Satan) and that perfect love (the love of Christ) drives out fear (verses 4 & 18). Jesus is victorious every single day of the year!

So what do we do about Halloween? Christian families respond in different ways.

Some families avoid Halloween all together. I understand that. Perhaps they try to find alternatives to Halloween, and Daddy and I once considered that. You might say that this choice is like “isolation from the culture.”

Some families see Halloween, even the creepy business, as harmless fun. I get that too. We are wired in a way that we get a little kick out of being spooked. You could describe this approach as “immersion in the culture.”

While Daddy and I believe that families are free to decide for themselves, neither of these two choices is entirely appealing to us. The Bible tells us that although we are not of this world, we are still in it (see Jesus’ words in John 17: 14 – 15). In fact, we’re called to be Light in our world. While there are appropriate ways and times to protect you, we don’t want you to live in a bubble. And yet, the Bible also tells us to think on things that are pure and honorable to God, and it’s our personal conviction that the creepy side of Halloween puts our thoughts elsewhere. So, regardless of Halloween’s origins, we believe that our family can give a new meaning to October 31. Instead of isolating from or immersing into culture, we want to interact with it – but with discernment (knowing how to make wise choices).

You’re 11 now, so you can understand that Halloween is an opportunity for you to learn how to discern when you must separate from culture and when you can be a redemptive participant in it.

What does being a “redemptive participant” mean? I’m so glad you asked! :)

Let’s think about this biblically –

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5: 14 – 16

Honey, it’s getting harder to engage in our world, meaning that our phones and our gadgets keep us from actually talking to each other (weird, but true). Face to face interaction is more valuable than ever. Your dad and I believe that God has deliberately placed us in this city, in this neighborhood, and on this street to care about our neighbors. How can we effectively do that if we don’t take opportunities to see them face to face? If we keep our lamp under a bowl?

While we struggled for a while about Halloween, our perspective changed when Mr. Sam and Mrs. Ellen started their annual tradition next door. When Mr. Sam brought his huge stockpots of jambalaya outside, the neighbors came. And the next year, we and the neighbors brought food too. By talking face to face, admiring the little ones’ costumes, and eating together, we connect. When we connect, we care more. And then you go down the street with the neighbors’ families and get free chocolate (oops, I mean candy, since you don’t like chocolate). And either Daddy or I stay at the house with the light on, and people come.

People are drawn to light – and to each other – and that’s what Halloween means to our family.

So, we’ll treat Halloween not as a holiday, but as an event. We’ll see this event as an opportunity to be for community. We’ll concentrate less on being against the darkness and focus more on being for the light. The light always wins! We (I mean, you) will scoop out our pumpkin and we’ll talk about how great it is that Jesus has cleaned us up on the inside and put His light there. And we’ll put that light on display.

Sweetheart, let it shine!

030

Love,
Mommy

In his book, Celebration of Discipline (1978), Richard Foster says, “Why allow Halloween to be a pagan holiday in commemoration of the powers of darkness? Fill the house or church with light; sing and celebrate the victory of Christ over darkness.”

I like this thought too – “One night does not a neighbor make (and one night does not a pagan make), but Halloween is the one night of the year where the good neighborliness that flows from being in Christ is communicated and reinforced. We are citizens of another Kingdom where The Light is always on.” – from the blog post, “Halloween – Treat or Retreat?” by Tim Challies. http://www.challies.com/articles/halloween-trick-or-retreat

Other helpful sources –
Jennifer E. Jones – Banning Halloween http://www.cbn.com/spirituallife/biblestudyandtheology/perspectives/jej_BanningHalloween07.aspx

“Christians and Halloween” on the Grace to You website – http://www.gty.org/resources/articles/a123

The concept of “redemptive interaction” with culture is explained so well by Paul David Tripp in his book Age of Opportunity. http://paultripp.com/age-of-opportunity

Why this is not “the end”

There’s been a lot of buzz this week about TV series finales. I’ve never watched Breaking Bad but I’ve heard a good bit of talk about the way that this series ended – “cleanly” and “decisively” – according to entertainment fans and critics. The closure of Breaking Bad has prompted a lot of chatter about famous final episodes of shows like M.A.S.H, Dallas, Lost, Seinfeld, The Sopranos, etc…

I find it interesting to listen to these conversations about open-ended finales versus settled endings. I never watched The Sopranos either, but couldn’t help hearing all about its infamous end. The black screen sparked outrage from fans. What happened?!? We’ll never know. There’s no definitive answer to Tony Soprano’s fate.

Seems to me (for the most part) we want to know the end of the story.

Today, I’m preparing to teach a high school health class on the topic of eating disorders. It’s a subject I know all-too-well from personal experience. And yet, I take sharing my story as a tremendous privilege and opportunity. While it pains me to remember and reflect on that part of my life, it also gives me hope. It’s redemptive. Eighteen years later, I can look back at that season of suffering and give thanks that it wasn’t the end of my story.

I think about loved ones – dearest family and friends – and the suffering that so many of you are experiencing right now. Your hearts are heavy and your spirits are weary of illness, chronic pain, broken relationships, confusion, financial uncertainty, and grief. Life has been interrupted. With you, I cry out to God. We seemingly stare at a black screen and wonder – what happened? Is this the end…

of a dream?
of security?
of being able to do things we used to enjoy?
of family as we’ve known it?
of hope?

(Jeremiah 18: 1 – 4)  – “This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord:  “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.”

Ever felt like a lump of clay? Me too.

20131001_153322

(“But now, O Lord, You are our Father, we are the clay, and You are the potter, and we all are the work of Your hand” – Isaiah 64:8)

Ever felt broken, humbled, crushed, messy, and marred? Me too.

“Marred” is an unusual word, I think, that we don’t use very often.

 “… the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.”

To be “marred” means to be spoiled or disfigured, and there’s one other place in Scripture (that I can find) that uses the word “marred” –

See, my servant will act wisely;
he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.
Just as there were many who were appalled at him—
his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being
and his form marred beyond human likeness …” (Isaiah 52:13 – 14).

This is our Messiah.

About this Scripture in Isaiah, Matthew Henry said: “His visage was marred more than any man’s when he was buffeted, smitten on the cheek, and crowned with thorns, and hid not his face from shame and spitting. His face was foul with weeping, for he was a man of sorrows; he that really was fairer than the children of men had his face spoiled with the abuses that were done him.”

While His essence was unspoiled and holy, Jesus willingly became disfigured and broken. On the cross, He suffered for our sin and our suffering. Because we are marred, the Messiah became marred.

It means everything to remember that the cross was not the end of the story. Because of the empty tomb, we believe in the patience and the power and the purpose of a God of new beginnings.

On the potter’s wheel, the marred lump of clay isn’t discarded. The soggy mass doesn’t get tossed aside. The wise and gracious Potter takes the marred clay into His hands. He reworks and shapes it as seems best to Him. The mess is not the end of the story. God turns the mess into a message.

I don’t how our stories this side of heaven will end. But I do know that on the other side of heaven our stories will have just started. They’ll be no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’ve first begun.

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then He said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.” (Revelation 21: 3 – 6).

This illness, this brokenness, this uncertainty and fear, this grief and heartache. These sufferings are not the end. We know the End.

The One who says that He is the End is also the Beginning.
I am making everything new!”

Resources –
Matthew Henry’s Commentary, Isaiah 52: 13-15
Lysa TerKeurst – “When you give your mess to the Messiah, He can turn into a message.” from What Happens When Women Say Yes to God. See also “Turning North” – http://lysaterkeurst.com/2011/03/turning-north/