Holidays are Hard

I bawled in church today like a little girl who just got her pigtails pulled.  Jesus is risen.  Happy Easter.  Holidays are hard.  It’s hard to set out Easter eggs, watch the kid’s excitement in the morning, and not feel overwhelmed that Matt isn’t here to experience it with us.  It doesn’t help that I’m wading through my own messy depression, but reflecting on the mourning of Christ’s death just seems so much more understandable after grieving my own loved one.

Since posting last night, four things have happened that have made me decide to change directions in my writing.  These occurrences have given me a glimpse of the clarity I have been praying for.  The first thing that happened was I listened to a Rob Bell sermon from the 2011 Lent season.  I had started on the sermon series about a week ago.  When I came to this particular sermon I decided to wait before listening; somehow knowing it was going to have an impact on me.  The sermon contents, which did impact me greatly, brought me to the next thing.  I realized I wasn’t putting my trust in God as I have before, and I wasn’t doing this because I was being discouraged by lies from something ugly.  As far as I know, these are new lies, with a new message, that are being whispered to me … which I suppose is why I had so much trouble identifying them as such.  They twisted the truth so that it appeared … well, true.  The third thing?  Illumination Church this morning.  The worship, the resurrection, the sermon, my church family … the whole experience gave me the opportunity to open the flood gates I had been holding back for far too long.  And finally, a conversation with my ever gentle and loving Brad that helped me to more clearly state the feelings I was having, and some ideas on where to go from here.

I think where I am headed is to define who I am in Christ.  I want descriptive, colorful, and hopeful words on which to look to when the lies are whispered.  I’m going to the Bible, and I’m going to find and dig deep into these words.  There is solid ground on which to defeat these lies, and by the grace of God, I’m off to find it.  I want to lean on my risen Savior this Easter and remember His reply to Satan, when he quoted Deuteronomy out in the desert.  Jesus said to him “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  I am trying to live on bread alone.  I love God, I worship God, I look to God for answers, and pray to Him everyday.  But when the sunsets on another day I – far too often – think the results will need to come from me.  Nothing comes forth from me that isn’t of Christ, and I am making myself available to the Holy Spirit to write this truth on my heart.

I wish you all grace and peace on this beautiful Easter!

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Earth … It’s Still Good!

This entire series of blog posts is indebted to Rob Bell, although I didn’t realize to  what extent until today.  I was thinking about a post on our calling to create (which will be coming in the next week) and remembered a quote, from a sermon a few years back, that has been etched in my heart ever since.  After searching, for quite some time, I thought I had found it.  I listened to the sermon series, a teaching about the Earth’s renewal, and found out my quote was nowhere to be found.  It wasn’t wasted time though.  I found something else.  I found the enthusiastic and hopeful look at the coming Earth 2.0 that I have been writing about.  I found my inspiration for this series.

Rob’s views, on what the new Earth may have in store and what our roles will be there, are breathtaking.  But believe me, you can’t pin this excitement down to just one sermon, because his vision is scattered throughout them all.  I wanted to attribute my desire to write about this topic to Rob, since after listening today I realized just how deeply embedded his hope in the new creation is set in my heart.  So, it was a different quote, one I heard today, that stirred me to write this post.  The quote was this …

“The new Earth is God’s way of saying, it’s still good!”

This place we live in was good when God created it in Genesis, it is still good today, and it will be good when God comes to renew it.  What God has created for us here is priceless, timeless, and everywhere we turn.  I think we lose site of this fact, because taking it for granted is just too easy.  I imagine that God’s creation will be an eternal place of enjoyment for us in the renewed Earth, and so as the theme of the series goes … that means it is worthy of our attention now.

What does God say about His ability to create?  What reaction does it arouse in Him?  There is no better place to look for this answer than in Job 38 …  “And the LORD speaks … “

It is in this chapter we get to glimpse, in amazement, into God’s description of His own creation.  Well, His description, along with a reminder of our finite ability to grasp it.  There is no way to summarize this chapter without losing it’s surprising and sometimes sarcastic tone … but some of my favorite parts are those reminders, posed as questions, of just how endless creation is and just how unaware of it we are.

The dumb ostrich who can run like the best of them, the mountain goats giving birth, the moving of the constellations, the depths of the ocean, the ends of the universe, the placement of the lightening and the winds, the power of the horse, and the protection over the lions.  It goes on for pages.

When I read these words I think I can take away from them three ideas: 1) God’s creation was good then and it is now, 2) If the Creator takes pleasure in creation, so should we and 3) Creation deserves our respect, our attention, and our care.

God uses colorful words to describe His creation, to remind us of details we so often miss, and to instill confidence that He takes joy in this creation … that it is still good!  The renewed Earth will be brighter, will be more colorful, and will be erased of the death that taints it now – but it will still be God’s good creation.  If we want to start living today, in order to prepare for renewal, we must take time to appreciate His creation.  We must take care of the Earth, because He has entrusted it to us.  We will not go live somewhere else … we will be here, forever.  It is our job to treat the world, the people in it, and all of creation as though we are seeing it through God’s eyes … as if it is still good!

I am just getting started

As I struggle to finish what I started with Pete Rollin’s latest book, for a couple of reasons that have surfaced upon re-reading it, I’m going to jump for a moment to Rob Bell’s farewell letter to Mars Hill. Rob read this letter to the congregation this past Sunday; it was his last sermon at Mars Hill.

I have no critique of what he said, at least none that will be placed on this page. Just some thoughts, some encouragements. I was surprised at how emotional it was for me listening to Rob’s final sermon at Mars Hill. Far more emotional than it has been for me saying goodbye to pastors elsewhere in my life. Far more emotional than I expected. It reminded me of what an impact Rob has had on my life and my learning of Christ. That sense of loss made me sad for what may to come without my standard Rob Bell teaching; which is usually awaiting me by midday Tuesdays.

Rob said something though, at the end of the letter. He said that he felt like he was just getting started. I can’t imagine Rob would have any idea what those words could possibly mean to a young widow who has, since her husband’s death, felt a call towards ministry – started school – began making radical life changes. Or maybe he can.

He gave me courage, not only in this sermon, but in so many sermons I have heard him speak, that God has given us the innate desire to create. I have always felt this desire. He has assured me that to follow this need to create risks must sometimes be taken. I am just starting to take those risks. Those risks can be scary – for me, as well as for him, and others. It is far often easier to tell ourselves that this is the end of what God has planned for us. To think that we are too old to put ourselves out there, or too secure to take such risks. Those are the fears we must put aside.

I, like Rob, feel like I’m just getting started. My life has changed drastically. I will move drastically. I will hear the call of God, and listen it to it. I will try to be courageous. I will lean on Christ when I feel weak, and remember what God has promised to us if we follow this call . . . Grace and Peace.

I pray grace and peace to Rob as well. And I am ever so grateful for his contribution to my spirit journey.