Friday, December 20, 2013

darkness waiting for light

growing up southern baptist, liturgy wasn't something i knew much about. but "traditions" were something i learned a lot about...sitting in the same pew every week, following an "order of worship" that was virtually the same from week to week (just with different hymns or special music inserted in), participating in church conferences where people argued over wall colors, and so on. in college (and since), i've run further and further away from such "traditions," which to me seem stifling, often arbitrary, and frankly unnecessary if what really matters is fostering an intimate, personal relationship with Jesus. and so, for the most part, i flee from "traditional" church. i feel suppressed and inhibited by rote prayers and liturgy. and while i LOVE the advent wreath that inhabits the center of our dining room table (and the practice of lighting the candles each sunday leading up to christmas), i recently made the comment that this is about all the liturgy i can handle.  

and so i find myself being critical when i hear of people who refuse to sing christmas songs during advent, or who will only speak of waiting for the birth of Jesus prior to december 25 and will not celebrate the reality that He is already here. but over the past few days i have also been reminded of several things. first, it isn't a bad thing to really think about and ponder what it must have been like to wait, and wait, and wait for the Messiah...for centuries...often with no word or no prophecy or no murmur of when Jesus might finally come. second, as much as i STRONGLY believe that we are to celebrate the incarnation and what that means for humanity on a DAILY basis, it isn't right to act as if the current state of the world is redeemed. we are in the process of redemption, but that process isn't finished. and so we still wait...for Jesus to come (again), and for the full consummation of redemption to be fulfilled. 

and while i don't think it necessary to go so far as to refuse to sing "joy to the world" before december 25, the heart of that idea is meaningful. we do already have joy...but we don't have perfect joy. we do already have peace...but we don't have perfect peace. and we do have hope...which seems to entail that there is something we hope for. hope is something that we look toward...something in the future...something that we anticipate. and so, while i don't plan to put off celebrating the incarnation throughout the christmas season (and throughout the year), i do see value in recognizing and sitting in that tension of "already but not yet." we already have Jesus, but we have not yet seen the fulfillment of all that He has promised. we are no longer in darkness, but we have not seen the FULL light of His face. 

i was reading luke 1:78-79, where zechariah is prophesying regarding john preparing the way for Jesus, and he states: "because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace." i love the part about the sunrise visiting us from on high. this speaks to the anticipation that the night will give way to the day, and the sunrise will pierce through the darkness. mankind experienced this in part with the birth of Jesus. but we still await that future sunrise...the ultimate one...when Jesus will return and will eliminate even the tiniest hint of darkness in the farthest away corners. 

to those of you who are like me and who flee from tradition and liturgy, perhaps the biggest thing we need to guard against is becoming satisfied with the amount of Jesus we already have. while not rejoicing in our present salvation is wrong, rejoicing too much in how things are and consequently not longing for the hope of future redemption and full reconciliation is wrong as well. finding the balance between the two - that's the hard part. and that's where Jesus gives us freedom to figure out what works for us (so if you love liturgy and connect to Jesus through it, go for it!). for me, that means not worrying too much about religious traditions and liturgy, but yet participating in things (like lighting the advent wreath) that help me to focus on the "already but not yet" aspect of redemption. and for others, the practical applications are numerous. the important things is that, whatever it looks like for us as individuals, we live in the tension of a Savior who has already come, but also a Savior whose return we eagerly anticipate. 

thank you Jesus that you already came! and thank you Jesus that you've yet to come. for this, we wait in hopeful anticipation.      

Sunday, October 27, 2013

sorrow and hope

ecclesiastes 3:1-4
“for everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance”

i was sitting in church on october 13, and the pastor was preaching from ecclesiastes 3. he spoke about how, although we all want to think we are in control of our lives, this is merely an illusion. there is a season for everything – including weeping and mourning – and we don’t get to pick when we go through these seasons. they are an inevitability. one phone call or conversation can change everything. i remember sitting in my chair that night thinking “i hope this sermon isn’t meant specifically for me.”

the next morning, on october 14, i experienced that “one conversation that changes everything.”
benjamin and i watched a sonogram screen as the sonographer zoomed in on our precious baby. the image will forever be burned into my mind. She said “there’s your baby,” and then there was silence. after a pause, she spoke the words that i had so greatly feared – and yet hoped i would never hear – “i’m looking really hard, but i can’t find a heartbeat.” those words hit us both like a ton of bricks. it was as if in that moment, all of our hopes were shredded to pieces. the image of our baby lingered on the screen – a baby that we will never have the privilege of knowing. 

although i was ten weeks pregnant that day, somehow the doctor was able to tell that our baby had died around eleven days earlier. so somewhere around october 3, our precious little one met Jesus face to face.

there were moments over the next few days that the grief felt so incredibly heavy. listening to benjamin sob on the phone as he tried to tell his mother was one of those moments. waking up from surgery the following day knowing that my baby’s body was no longer inside of mine was another such moment. at moments i still feel the overwhelming grief flood over me.

but even deeper than the grief, i cling to the goodness and the grace of a Heavenly Father who grieves with us and mourns with us, and who sees the big picture of eternity even when the tiny corner of the picture i’m seeing is blurred from tears.

right after we found out we were pregnant, benjamin wanted to get a journal so that we could write letters to our son or daughter. we wanted to document our hopes and dreams and prayers for our child, and we hoped that one day he or she would be able to read our words and know how deeply we had loved and cherished him or her.

in one of our conversations shortly after learning of the miscarriage, benjamin pointed out that the one main prayer that we had both prayed for our child – that he or she would come to know Jesus – had already come true. it is still hard for me to write this without tears in my eyes, because as much as i mourn the loss of this precious child, i am so incredibly grateful to know that he or she does know Jesus. i believe that Jesus knit our precious child together in my womb, and then spared him or her from the pain and brokenness of this world. in detailing my hopes for our child, i had written that i hoped he or she would be kind and self-sacrificing and compassionate toward others, but that this would also be extremely hard because it would require dying to his or her innate sin nature (which is only possible through Jesus). but the truth is that our child will never struggle to be these things. Jesus has already made things right for our baby.

when things like this happen, often times people ask “why me, God?” but i think this is the wrong question to ask. i think the more appropriate question to ask is “why not me, God?” the reason i believe this is the more appropriate question is because Scripture is clear that we are all broken, fallen, sinful, and depraved. we don’t deserve anything that is good, and we deserve everything that is bad. everything in my life that is good is completely undeserved – and there are SO many things in my life that are good. when trials come, i can know that trials are normal in this life of sin and brokenness. the fall has made it where the default button in life is sorrow. if God truly gave me what i deserve, i would get only bad things all of the time. but He is SO gracious. He gives good gifts to His children.  so it just doesn’t seem right to ask “why me?” when bad things happen, as if i actually deserve something better. when good things happen, i never ask “why me?” i seem to assume that i deserve such good things. but i don’t. God owes me nothing. and yet He gives me grace and hope and love and community. and when the sorrows of this world come rushing in, His grace sustains me, His arms hold me, and His peace consumes me. 

i believe with my whole heart that my life is not about me. my life is about Jesus. for some reason, He has allowed this particular sorrow to be a part of my story. i not only hope, but i fully believe, that in some way the loss of this child will bring glory and fame to Jesus. i don’t know how yet. but that’s just how Jesus works. this life is broken and messed up. but Jesus inserts Himself in it. He left Heaven to inhabit this world. and He made a way for broken people to join His family. He is working to restore what has been broken. but the restoration isn’t yet complete. and so we live in the anticipation that one day, everything will be made right.

while my arms ache to hold my precious baby, i know that he or she is in much bigger, better, stronger arms tonight. while i mourn for myself, and for benjamin (who will one day make such an amazing dad), and for the many others who already loved this child along with us, i am under no illusion that we could have given this child a better home than he or she now already has. i can’t compete with the arms of Jesus.

so to my precious child, i love you and i miss you, but i will see you soon. as king david said regarding his child who died, you can’t come to me, but one day i’ll come to you (2 samuel 12:23). so enjoy Jesus. soak up His love for you. rest in His peace. and know that you are blessed beyond measure.

as for me, as i continue to trust in the goodness of God, i will echo the words of job: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (job 1:21b)   

Jesus, You are worthy of praise. Jesus, You deserve my worship. Jesus, You are good. Jesus, You are more than enough for me.

Jesus, in the midst of sorrow, You are my hope.

Friday, January 11, 2013


today is human trafficking awareness day, so i'm returning to the blogging world in an effort to participate in some small way in the fight to end slavery. my introduction to modern slavery began in early 2008 when my eyes were opened to this global problem during a social work conference. since that time, i have maintained a feeble attempt to remain informed regarding trafficking issues, and to take small steps to do something about the forced slavery of human beings. my connection to the ministry in india which i visited this summer with benjamin and a team from my church is a miniscule way i've been able to do something, albeit on a tiny scale, to be involved in this problem. but i know i haven't done enough - not by any stretch of the imagination.

i listened from home this january to each of the eight sessions from passion 2013 in atlanta. my heart broke under the weight of the knowledge that 27 million people are in forced slavery around the world, and yet i was immensely encouraged by the fact that students around the world are committed to shining a light on this massive problem. (check out

i've been thinking a lot about my role in this fight to end slavery. one of the organizations highlighted at the conference was on their website, you can take a short quiz to find out roughly how many slaves indirectly work for you. i would encourage you to take the quiz. it will probably mess you up. i took the quiz. it messed me up. the results told me that 47 slaves work for me. seriously? 47? when i read that, i just cried. i care about slavery. i want it abolished. i hate slavery. i want the slaves to be free. how on earth can i be supporting 47 slaves? 

on wednesday i had a really good conversation with margaret. i shared with her my frustration over not knowing what to do. the most frustrating thing is that i don't know HOW i'm perpetuating the slavery of 47 people. perhaps there is some tiny component in my computer that was manufactured by a slave. perhaps a piece of my car was assembled by a slave. perhaps there is one ingredient in something i ate today that was harvested by a slave. i feel so helpless, because i don't know precisely how to live my life differently so as to support fewer and fewer slaves working on my behalf. 

at passion it seemed that the main way people were being encouraged to do something about this problem is to raise awareness. they said that raising awareness IS doing something. which is a good thing - because at this precise moment i really don't know what to tangibly do aside from raising awareness. i would love to know how all of the components of every item i buy were acquired, made, assembled, etc. but for now that information is not available. perhaps through raising awareness, this information WILL be available in the future. i hope so. because there is one thing i know for sure...i DON'T want to contribute to 47 people being held in the bondage of slavery. i want all 27 million slaves to be free.

another thing margaret said, which is so incredibly true, is that this in not an issue i (or we) have to tackle alone. of course we have a community of people who love Jesus who are in this fight with us. but even better than that, we have Jesus himself who is in the fight with us. He hates slavery infinitely more than we do. He is all about freeing people WAY more than we are. and He is SO much more powerful than we will ever be. 

so for now i guess i'll wait to hear from The One who is in control. i will pray that when He wants me to act, i'll know how to act and what to do. i'll pray that when He has a job for me to do, i'll do it diligently. i will tell people about slavery - and when i'm supposed to do more than that, He'll tell me. 

for those of you who are in this fight as well, let's chat. we CAN do something, and there is most definitely strength in believers uniting with Christ and one another, syncing up our heartbeats with His.        

i'm in it to end it. free the slaves. 

This blog is a testimony to the work that God is perpetually acting in my life. I am learning that when I think I've given enough of myself, I've barely begun. My prayer is that as God continues to grab hold of my life, not only will He become greater and I become less, but He will become ultimately supreme and I will vanish. This Holy Disappearance will be a lifelong journey in which, by the grace of God, I will become so wrapped up in Him that all of me will disappear and all of Him will SHINE