The Cross

He Beckons

Photo Credit: artemisphoto

We are selfish. Christ was selfless.

We are sinful. He is sinless.

We hate. He loves.

We try. He succeeded.

We die; He died.

He’s resurrected!

We’re redeemed!

He ascended. We await.

He calls. I come.

He knocks. I kneel.

He beckons. I believe.

He forgives. I flourish.

He is Lord Jesus Christ. We are loved, justified, chosen.

Thank You, Lord, for the cross—for dying and taking the sentence of death for my selfishness, mistakes, and foolishness. I’m so sorry for my sin. I’m so grateful for Your sacrifice! Thank You for calling me to live. Restore me that I might reveal Your love to others and glorify You always. Amen.

Photo Credit: Photography by BJWOK

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Public Homeschooling Goes Viral during Quarantine

And what day of the week is it?

It’s day four of “remote learning.” (Must mean that it’s Thursdayish.) At first I think my kids thought this would be a breeze since they already know how all the remotes work in our house.

Imagine their shock when teachers showed up on their Chromebooks Monday and started talking to them about math, language arts, history and science! It was as disorienting and discouraging as dying without keep inventory on in Minecraft. Or so I’m told.

I seriously feel for my kids. After three years of homeschooling, they went back into a school this year. They had to adjust to longer days, stricter bathroom times, and being dressed before class started.

Professor Bear

Now they’re doing public school at home, and it’s confusing. Does one need to shower and dress for Zoom classes or is a shirt off the floor good enough? If you understand the lesson, can you skip the lecture (one of my kids says yes)? Is class participation now graded on how many times you hit the raise hand icon, type in the chat, or unmute yourself?

Whatever the answers, public homeschooling is an adventure. Sort of like being inside the animal habitats at the zoo instead of a safe distance from the wild creatures. But even as we navigate unfamiliar territory in our own homes, God is the same. His constancy is my comfort. And I’m sure we’ll figure out this remote learning thing just in time for summer break.

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“Why Did God Create Storm?”

9 Spiritual Quotes & Questions from My Kids

An Unapologetic Repost from 06/15/2014

Click the links for related Scriptures. Enjoy!

“Why did God create storm?”

“What’s the fastest way to see Jesus? Climbing a tree or swimming?”

“Me with always is God.”

About a coloring page featuring Joshua, son of Nun and his fighting men: “I want to name the others. This is Kung-fuey. This is Tom. This is Bob. This is Caleb, and this is Joe.”

“How old is Jesus?”

Photo Credit: taoty

God made me impossible!”

“I know what sin is.”

[singing] “Put on the full armor of God, so you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. … The helmet of salvation, the bracelet of righteousness, the belt of truth and the shoes of peace …”

Photo Credit: David Castillo Dominici

“You can’t take Jesus’ love from your heart.”

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Magic, I Tell You

A Simple Song

When my youngest daughter was in preschool, I applied for the job of middle school choir director at her school. I really wanted the part-time job. I mean, most people would, right? Boys with changing voices plus girls with unpredictable moods. Add some 12-14 year old angst and high-brow choral music, and voila. Magic, I tell you.

Before the interview V and I were playing. I told her I was nervous about my up-coming meeting. Right away she looked up, said, “I have a song for that,” and started to sing.

God is with me. God is with me. God is with me wherever I go.

With the humility, simplicity and confidence of a 4 year old, God sliced through my anxiety. What was I worried about? He’s here! He is in control of everything!

I did get the job. It was blessedly a short-term substitute position. I only had to endure, uh, I mean, enjoy it for a few months before their director returned.

If you’re feeling anxious, remember: God is with you! And maybe thank Him if you aren’t in a small room trying to inspire young teens to sing three hundred year old music. Or snazzy arrangements of pop songs from the 70’s, which to the students is exactly the same thing.

The Bible Tells Me So

God is with me: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” —Jesus Christ

God is with me: “God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.’ And He said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel: I AM has sent me to you.’ ” —God

God is with me: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).” —Matthew and Isaiah

God is with me, wherever I go: “You know when I sit down and when I rise up … You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.” —King David

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Isolation? I Wish!

Tips for A Little Time Alone

And so we begin week 59 of quarantine. What? This is only week THREE?

Last week as I was writing about solitude, I kept getting interrupted by my teenager, my dog, my husband, and my tween. Perhaps like me, you are quarantined but far from alone.

If this sounds familiar, I’m here to help. Here are 3 easy tips to get some time to yourself:

  1. Do the dishes. Nothing makes my family scatter faster than the magic words “You’re excused from the table.” A meal ends and *poof* my kids put their dishes in the kitchen and disappear.
    For a couple of days this bothered me. No one was helping me! Then I realized, hey no one … and stopped there.
    I smiled, listened to the quiet, and filled the dishwasher my way. Good times!
  2. Invite your family to watch Pride and Prejudice with you. I suggest the six part BBC mini-series with Colin Firth—a version surpassed only by the book itself.
    Last year when we homeschooled, I had the girls watch clips of it. They were not impressed. So we sent them to public school.
    Now that they’re back home, I just hint at turning on P&P, and they think of 41 other things they need to do right now.
    I figure this will be good for at least six hours of solitude! Yes, I know they may still interrupt, it’s just an illusion of solitude after all. Still, pop the corn. When they show up, I’ll pat the seat on the couch next to me and look pathetic. Elizabeth, Mr. Darcy, and I will be alone again in a flash.
  3. Suggest playing games you always win. At my house, before I can finish saying Boggle, everyone scurries back into their hidey-holes. If I catch someone trying to talk to me soon after that, I just wave a deck of cards and innocently inquire, “Hearts?”
    FYI, we do play family games, but we don’t have one we all love. This can be frustrating as a mom, but for the next few weeks, I’m going to see their dislike of “my” games as a win.

If these strategies don’t work for you, I hope they’ve at least sparked some ideas. Pay attention to when you’re alone and capitalize on instead of complaining about it.

Lastly, here’s a brief list of things to avoid like the Coronavirus if you’re desperate for alone time:

  1. Sitting down.
  2. Doing something you enjoy.
  3. Having an idea you want to remember.
  4. Reading.
  5. Talking or texting with a friend.
  6. Listening to a podcast.
  7. Going to the bathroom.

On the other hand, if you get lonely, these are surefire methods to get attention immediately.

Parents, it’s rough in here. But God’s got us. We’re gonna make it through week three!

The Bible Tells Me So

Isaiah 40:11 (NIV)

He tends His flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in His arms
and carries them close to His heart;
He gently leads those that have young.

“He …” God the Father, and Jesus the Good Shepherd (see John 10:14-18).

“ … tends His flock …” He’s not vaguely aware of us; He’s actively caring for our needs.

“ … like a shepherd …” One of the lowliest jobs, the one given to youngest sons like David in 1 Kings, yet God humbles Himself to take this title.

“He gathers the lambs …” Those who can’t walk or keep up aren’t left behind; God Himself lifts up His physical and spiritual young.

“ … in His arms …” Arms are Biblical symbols of strength. God holds us and our troubles in His more-than-capable, well-toned arms.

“ … and carries them close to His heart …” We aren’t slung over a shoulder or held at arms length. God snuggles us close to His heart. Warm. Safe. Loved.

“He gently leads those …” God guides without harshness, shame, or throwing His weight around. Gentleness is strength under control.

“ … that have young.” God’s willing and able to shepherd us parents. May we be humble enough to listen and rely on Him completely.

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CO Governor Appoints Grim Reaper to Enforce COVID-19 Compliance

Leader Unaware of Even Greater Authority

In his press conference on Sunday, March 22 (which is like 7 months ago in Coronavirus time), Governor Jared Polis said:

“There is no enforcement authority here. There is a far greater enforcement authority in these matters, and his name [pause for emphasis] is The Grim Reaper.”

The Grim Reaper is a photograph by
Ethiriel Photography which was
uploaded on February 20th, 2019.

I admit in my naïveté in that for a fraction of a second, I thought our Colorado Governor might refer to God. Obviously his response was much more creative.

However he also showed some naïveté. A 3 minute study of humanity reveals people don’t exactly take death seriously. Not on a day-to-day basis. We kinda think it’s something that will happen to the people in Pueblo or maybe even to our neighbor, but not to us.

And while death is real and serious business, personifying it as a means of motivation is just silly, not sobering.

COVID-19 is a deadly virus—I’ll resist quoting statistics that will be obsolete in 10 minutes—but I have Good News.

“Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.” —Jesus Christ

Jesus has a grip on the Grim Reaper. We can rely on a higher Higher Authority—the One Who died and now lives. Because of Him, I can obey the government out of love and respect, not fear.

The Bible Tells Me So

A Look at Hebrews 2

There is not just hope in Christ, be we can be free from the fear of death—you know, that funny guy with the scythe. In the event you have a few extra minutes, I invite you to do a quick study with me in Hebrews.

Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. —Hebrews 2:14, 15, 17 (NASB)

“ … since the children …” that is, humanity, the people God created.

“ … share in flesh and blood …” have physical bodies

“ … He Himself also partook of the same, …” Jesus was conceived by a virgin, born in a manger, lived in Nazareth, was raised by a carpenter along with brothers and sisters, and died on a cross.

Photo credit: Myron Schaffer

“ … that through death He might render powerless …” destroy, make useless, nullify

“ … him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.” Satan has been neutralized, overcome, and superseded.

“ … and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.” He released people from their life-long fear of death, a terror that held them captive.

“Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren …” human, not poetically personified, but actual flesh and blood.

“ … to make propitiation …” to gain and regain the favor of God, to atone for humanity’s sin, to be the scapegoat (merriam-webster.com).

“ … for the sins of the people.” He took the guilty verdict and capital punishment for our wrong-doing.

Wow! I can just see the Grim Reaper menacingly waving his dulled scythe. Jesus is resurrected! Satan is defeated. And even in a pandemic, we can live without fear of dying—the Bible tells me so.

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It’s Just An Illusion of Solitude

God Isn’t Social Distancing

Years ago I went through an extremely lonely season. My first husband died in a ski accident at Keystone, and I suddenly became a 26 year old widow consumed with grief. I was a social misfit, especially at church.

In those dark days, I felt isolated. One night in particular, nothing brought relief from my excruciating loneliness. Looking back, I understand those were moments of actual faith.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. —Hebrews 11:1

During this season of distancing and quarantine, we actually are isolated. What an opportunity to exercise our faith. And if I’m using the phrase “opportunity to exercise,” these are extreme circumstances!

As we mourn the lost opportunities we’re facing, we remember God is here. In the moments when He doesn’t feel close, we practice what Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones called “raw faith.” We hope and believe tenaciously. We tell ourselves the truth.

The author of Hebrews wrote to Christians in difficult circumstances. He encouraged them with the names and deeds of many men and women of faith in chapter 11. He then said in chapter 12: remember them, throw off sin, focus on Jesus, and get going!

During one of the lonely nights I mentioned above, I wrote a song about not really being alone. I want to share it with you today.

If you have time, and right now you might have more than usual, I encourage you to read through Hebrews 11 and 12. Let’s walk through these days together and in truth. Even in isolation, we are not alone.

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Birds Are Fed Despite Grocery Shortages

A Quick Look at Matthew 6:26

Sunday, this was my local grocery store’s dairy section:

The next morning, I stepped outside and heard birds singing. Immediately Matthew 6ish came to mind.

A few minutes later, I looked it up:

 ”Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?” —Matthew 6:26

“Look” … Go to the window or step outside. See for yourself. The birds are still alive out there.

“… at the birds of the air …” Unlike most of us, they are essentially homeless, roosting at night in trees or bushes, building temporary nests for their eggs. They don’t have pantries or freezers or even holes to stash worms and bugs.

Birds

In fact, Jesus makes it very clear “that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns.” Their food supply is utterly out of their control. Maybe the reality is, ours is too?

“ … yet your Heavenly Father feeds them.” How about that? He feeds them because He cares for them. Not because they’ve earned it.

“Are you …” Just when we thought we could stay philosophical about these birds, Jesus makes it personal.

“ … not worth much more than they?” Yes, God values you more. Every morning and evening I fill the dog bowl with food. Each day, however, I spend time baking and cooking for my husband and children. I love my dog, but I value my family more!

And that’s how God feels about us. Even with empty store shelves and online back-orders, God IS caring for us.

Look … the birds believe. Will we?

Photo Credit: Salvatore Vuono

”Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ … for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. … So do not worry about tomorrow.” (See Matthew 6:31-34).

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Parents of Tweens Thrilled by Social Distancing Guidelines

(a little satire from) Broomfield, CO

Wayne and Melissa Lancaster are thrilled by the government guidelines to stay six feet away from other people.

Ben Schonewille

When twin daughters Lori and Lana turned 12, the drama in the house became untenable. “At first when they’d get upset about something really important like the lag-time on their devices, we tried to comfort and connect with them,” says mom Melissa. “We even balanced stressful times with fun family outings and activities. Since the President’s recommendation, however, we simply keep our distance. It’s made parenting much, much easier.”

The couple is not alone as just a few doors down the Martinez family reported their boys are fun to live with now that they are on their own floor of the house most of the day. Instead of family dinners, Annie Martinez simply puts plates of food on the landing leading down to the family basement. The 9 and 11 year old boys reportedly are building a rocket with legos that will deliver desperately needed COVID-19 therapies around the Denver Metro Area.

The Lancaster twins, who were last seen surrounded by bottles of nail polish and slime, aren’t trying anything quite so ambitious. When asked exactly what his daughters are doing during this crisis, Wayne simply said, “I dunno,” and mumbled something like “I don’t care” unintelligibly under his breath.

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A Desperately Needed Picture of Selfless Love

Men and women will naturally love themselves first. Husbands will have selfish ambitions, wives will manipulate. But in Christ, God calls us to live not in the curse, but the blessing.

Many books and sermons exist that describe the differences in men and women. At the same time, our culture insists gender is not binary or clearly defined in anyway. While this is an important subject to deal with Biblically, I will not address it here. This document isn’t about gender differences, gender identity, gender fluidity or gender definitions.

I’m concerned with the Bible’s instructions regarding marriage between a woman and man because that is what is the Bible discusses. (No reference is made to how a man should treat his husband, for example.) Because of this, I will stay focused on this “type” of marriage.

 

“… be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” —Ephesians 5:18-25

The imperative in this passage is at the place where I began my quote. “Be filled with the Spirit.” It is written in the original language in a way that could better be translated, “be being filled with the Spirit now and now and now …” It is on-going and dynamic.

For just a moment, let me clarify that once someone has professed faith in Christ Jesus, they are filled with the Holy Spirit. However, here Paul is telling us that we need to continuously let Him consume us. The whole of verse 18 is, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.” Don’t fill yourself and alter your own mental state. That self-indulgence is a “wasteful expenditure” as Merriam-Webster defines dissipation.

In contrast, we are passive as we are being filled continuously with the Holy Spirit; it is God’s work. The results of this on-going filling aren’t dulled senses, slurred speech or next-day hangovers. Instead we become more fully alive, encouraging one another, declaring praises to God and experiencing healthy relationships and vibrant marriages. (Reread the passage above.)

The instruction, or rather implication that comes from being consumed with God and not ourselves, is that we are willing to put others first:

Be subject to one another in the fear [reverence for] of Christ. —Ephesians 5:21 (brackets mine).

Single people, children, elderly widows/widowers, married people—everyone is instructed to submit to others. Yet Paul takes a look at wives and husbands here to show us an illustration of our relationship with the Lord. Directly after telling us to submit to one another, he tells women to be subject to their husbands.

A heading is added here in most of my Bibles, creating a break between verse 21 and 22, but this passage is a continuation of the implications of verse 18. Paul hasn’t suddenly switched gears into a homily about marriage; he’s describing what happens in marriage when we are being filled with the Holy Spirit. One result is that women will be subject to their husbands or as some Bibles say, submit to them.

Let’s back up for a moment to verse 21 where we’re told to be subject to one another, again as an implication of our filling with the Spirit. If we subject ourselves, we will put others first and consider our needs secondary to theirs. Practically speaking, it can mean to put our energy, talents, time and even finances towards the needs of others before ourselves.

Getting drunk—or in a broader sense, living in self-indulgence—is the contrast to this. Instead of intoxicating ourselves, we can live truly indulgent lives: generous lives that lift up and meet the needs of those around us. In turn, we not only have the fullness of Christ’s Spirit dwelling continuously in us, we are receiving what we need from others. This is the picture—one of mutually lifting and encouraging within the body of Christ.

Focus the idea down to one woman and one man. The husband is to (out of his Spirit-filled life), put his wife first and himself second. He is to lift her up, loving her sacrificially. He is to devote more of his energy, talent, time and money to her than to himself. This passage even goes so far as to say he is to sacrifice his life for her.

In first century Ephesus, this was even more radical (if possible) than in 21st century America. A man had a wife to bear children and tend to his home. He often had a mistress for recreational pleasures. It was also not uncommon for a man to have a young boyfriend. These dalliances were part of the culture but not of God’s creation.

When men became believers in Christ and began living life full of Him, this Ephesian norm needed to be corrected. So God instructed husbands to love their wives. This wasn’t simply a wedding homily or a sermon on how to treat your bride. It implied stopping all the other relationships and loving her only. It meant truly putting her above all others, including oneself.

In contemporary terms, a husband may or may not have other side relationships, but he’s told work, hobbies—everything he thinks and does—is to come second to his wife.

The wife is to (out of her Spirit-filled life), do exactly the same! Of course she wouldn’t have been told to love only her husband as extra-marital affairs would not have been allowed. In that culture women didn’t vote, attend school, or have any political agency. They were socially and economically subject to their husbands and very dependent upon them.

But these circumstances did not guarantee she was, in the most crucial ways, putting her husband before herself. Since Eve, women have been tempted to be domineering. In fact, this is part of the curse that came upon women as a result of sin in the world.

“Yet your desire will be for your husband,
And he will rule over you.” —Genesis 3:16b.

The desire described in Genesis 3 wasn’t sexual attraction or an emotional feeling of fondness. Women would have a hunger to overcome and control their husbands—to lie in wait to pounce on them like an animal hunting for prey. This is the curse!

Yet in God’s original design, a wife is to put her husband first and herself second. She is to lift him up, loving him. In practicality, she’ll devote more energy, talent, time and money to him than to herself. She will subject herself to him wholeheartedly like she’s submitting herself completely to God.

When a husband and wife prioritize one another, they become a visual aid to the world of Christ and the church. Others can see that Jesus is our loving Savior and believers promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ instead of themselves. While a Christian marriage may not look like this, it could. Marriage will be this if both wives and husbands allow the filling of the Holy Spirit enable them to live as God intends.

This is not a new intention. From the beginning, God states that He created humanity, male and female to rule the earth. Only after the fall did God say husbands would rule their wives, and that is the curse! The pure, original design was male and female as the image of God. He gave them equal blessing and shared responsibility over the rest of creation.

“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’ Then God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food;’ and it was so.” — Genesis 1:26-30.

As in the beginning of time and in first century Ephesus, men and women will naturally love themselves first. Husbands will have selfish ambitions, wives will manipulate people and circumstances to meet their needs. But in Christ, through the perpetual pouring in of His Spirit, God calls us to live not in the curse, but the blessing.

God Himself enables us to humbly submit to Him and to each other. He gives us strength and willingness to lift one another up. He provides a way for us to live and love as He meant for us from the start. Will we allow ourselves to “be being filled” with His Spirit? I pray so, because if we do, the world will get a desperately needed picture of selfless love.

 

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