Arise

Dear Friend,

It’s so sunny here today.  Bright green tendrils of the pea plants we seeded are trying to climb the cord for the blinds, and I remembered to tie a scarf around the doorbell chimes so the bliss of naptime won't be interrupted by a box of diapers being delivered.  I feel so much lighter this month.  So much calmer and better able to roll with the punches.  March was rough here.  Maybe it is for everyone, with the gloomy, grey-brown of winter that seems to drag on and on.  But this year my car was totaled in a rear ending, and our baby got RSV and pneumonia, which made for scary trips to the ER, purchasing a nebulizer, and generally a lot of stress.  It was a long ten days til he turned the corner, and recovering from the mental/physical toll of that time took another couple weeks.  These are times I feel God reminding me to trust Him.  Watching my listless baby in the car as the streetlights fly past, his burning little hands and bluish lips— I realize am NOT in control.  And I know me, I need those reality checks.  As much as I wish them away. 

I don’t know if my better mood is more because of the weather or the smily guy who is now talking to himself on the baby monitor, or because of the extra time I’ve had with God during lent.  Between lenten devotions, digging out all my dog-eared lenten piano music, lent church services and reading some new lent/Easter books we intentionally bought for Isabel this year, I’ve had more Jesus in my mind and in my heart.  On my lips and in my eyes as the world comes awake in spring.  Easter on the flowering ground and in the greening trees.  

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Yet it’s the same risen Lord whether I’m up or down, depleted or renewed.  Because He lives, I live.  On the hard days and the best days, I see Jesus.  Because He lives our joy is real, and even those dark days have meaning.  They draw me to a Savior who gives us perspective.  And isn’t that perspective huge?  For me it helps remembering these children are His, a trust from Him to shepherd for just a little while.  He holds our times in His hands and because He rose, we rise each day of grace to do our best for Him.  Some days my best looks better than others.  Some days it’s showered, some days not.  :) Some days I snap at my husband, make excuses and idols, and forget to pray.  The days I am the worst, when I’m most disappointed in myself, I’m most grateful for my Savior.  He did what we cannot and gave his perfect life in exchange for mine.  He rose to restore a broken relationship with God, He conquered sin and death.  

For if we have been united with him in a death like his we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like His.  For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— for one who has died has been set free from sin.  [….] The death he died, he died to sin once and for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

 Romans 6:5-7, 10

In Christ we died to sin too, and now are called to live for God, not for ourselves.  Our sinful nature need not control my behavior any more, a transformation has taken place!  Baptism symbolizes that transformation, and though many of us cried through just a liiiiittle water just sprinkled on our infant heads, historically the mode of baptism in the early church was immersion.  What a picture!  You are ‘buried’ in the water, completely submerged, the ‘old you’ disappearing beneath the surface, and a new risen self breaks the surface, transformed!   A soul washed clean in Jesus.  Woohoo!  How are baptisms such quiet celebrations in Lutheran churches?  They’re just so great!  Am I the only one who thinks there should be some cheering, some dancing?  Clapping?  Confetti?  :) 

Someday we will rise to life eternal, through faith, but for now God wills we keep on keepin’ on.  Rising each morning to glorify Him here.  As nature itself gets decked out for Easter, I’m catching up on sleep (yes, its glorious!) and renewing a commitment to live the new life I was raised with Christ to enjoy. 

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Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin.  Instead give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead but now you have new life. […] For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law but under grace.  Romans 6:13a, 14 

I came across this prayer while researching some spring preschool activities to do at home.  Maybe it was included because preschoolers have a way of eliciting extra prayers from their parents...  Whatever the reason it was too good not to share.  Attributed to St. Patrick in 433, perhaps you’ve seen it before.  I’ve seen snippets of it in greeting cards or on a canvas at a friend's house, a morning prayer for God to guide you, and that Christ may be in all things we do.  Not a bad way to start off, hmm?  I printed a copy of this excerpt and taped it by the coffee pot.  You know that’s where things usually start at my house.  :)  Happy Easter!  He is Risen!

I arise today through

God’s strength to pilot me,

God’s might to sustain me,

God’s wisdom to guide me,

God’s eye to look before me,

God’s ear to hear me,

God’s word to speak for me,

God’s hand to protect me,

God’s way to lie before me,

God’s hosts to guard me

From snares of devils,

From the temptings of evil desires,

From the evil inclination of my will,

From everyone who plots against me,

far and near.

Christ shield me today.

Christ with me,

Christ before me, Christ after me,

Christ within me,

Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ on my right, Christ on my left,

Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit,

Christ where I arise.

Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,

Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,

Christ in every eye that sees me,

Christ in every ear that hears me.

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(sacrificial) love

It’s been an interesting week, where I always had only one of two bananas I needed for a birthday cake, and the lives of three separate friends kept me up late thinking instead of sleeping when I really needed it.  In all three situations the same emotions kept coming up.  Emotions I have often felt myself: fear, exhaustion, selfishness, confusion, guilt, defeat.  

Our focus this month is Agape (selfless) love, so that’s been on my mind too, and in each case I saw sin pulling hearts away from that goal.  Pulling our love to earthly things, clouding our focus with self-pity, using a full calendar to mark away another day where servant love gets buried by impatience.  “Hmmm, THAT’s not going to work for a post… that’s not Agape love.”  I didn’t realize I was actually gaining a better understanding of God’s love from the ways human love is imperfect.  

“My grace is sufficient, my power is made perfect in weakness.”  2 Corinthians 2:9

When you say goodbye to a baby too soon and feel your body failed, that you could have done something different, and wonder why God even gave you this pregnancy just to take it away— He loves you and your body, made in His image.  And He loves your baby.  He doesn’t make mistakes, and His love goes beyond this life.  When you doubt, He gives assurance.  When you feel you have failed, He is faithful.  He knows what we need and wills all things for our good, even our good meant His taking up the cross.  He willed His death!  That’s (sacrificial) love.  Will we suffer this for Him? 

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23

When you have to make choices for your child’s education and jump down the rabbit hole of how many things taught in secular schools are at odds with God’s word, there are so many choices and no helpful signs saying, “THIS CHOICE IS THE BEST!”  It’s stressful and probably not the last time you just want OUT of being the responsible party.  Even when the sinful world presses in on all sides, threatening to overwhelm, God loves you.  He gave his Son for us.  His own child not just ‘on his own in a public school’, but on a cross.  For us.  Don’t sweat the small stuff even when Satan makes it seems big!  In Christ all the big things are taken care of.  No strings attached, no ulterior motives, just (sacrificial) love.  

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:8

When it’s the middle the night and you cringe at the sound of a baby fussing.  The same baby you just nursed/rocked/bounced/shushed/paced/burped/swaddled for the fifth time.  Even cringing takes more energy than you have, and with all your might you will that baby to magically quiet himself and sleep.  Even though you know your will has no real power, surely this level of desperate wishing must produce some result.  But it doesn’t.  You pull off your blankets, pick him up again, feeling tears well up as you sink into the rocker, stare at the streetlight and wearily teeter on the brink of despair.  You love this baby but this, this is a new kind of challenge,  Motherhood has a way of testing extremes.  You are human.  You have your limits.  

God doesn’t!  He loves you, yes you in the same nursing bra you’ve worn for two weeks.  When you are weak, He is strong.  He has redeemed you, called you to this role and equipped you for it.  How amazing to feel spent in body and soul, then realize God uses this fragile, taxing time to pull you closer to Him.  Closer to an understanding of the depth of His selfless love, “Ah, my child, you have sacrificed this much, much more you can’t imagine— I love you so much better than that.”  

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, […] to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge— that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  Ephesians 3:17-19

We have what we need to get through new motherhood (old motherhood too!), in Him.  In prayer, and in friends in whom Christ’s love/compassion overflows.  Soak that servant love up!  Any bone tired mama would love their babe a little more if they slept through the night, but God doesn’t love us “IF….  or BECAUSE…” Good news, He never keeps score, or a little notebook of feedings and naps or lack thereof.  

Last, my hubs has a birthday in January which we’ve always celebrated a month later, around Valentine’s Day.  Almost for as long as we’ve known each other.  Just to give it a little space, a little dessert of it’s own, apart from the Christmas season.  It’s fitting to celebrate my spouse every day, but especially on a secular holiday filled with ideas of love that aren’t really selfless at all.  The mail had been full of ads for jewelry and chocolates and flowers, car sales, and date night coupons to restaurants.  Is that what God wants love to look like??  

Our wedding text is humbling, and an awesome verse for every day living.  Humbling because God gave me a spouse who is better at selfless love than me any day.  We’re definitely two sinful people doing life together, but I’m frustrated, refined and blessed by the way the Holy Spirit uses Matt to 'be Christ’ to me.  Sometimes our fights run like that one S.O.S. chart from confirmation class (shows our sin, shows our Savior), and as much as that can be hard for my ego to take, isn’t it actually pretty great? 

We see our Savior whenever we come face to face with the limits of our love.  When "mom life’s" duty and exhaustion crowd love out, when clouds of doubt darken our way ahead, when you disappoint the people closest to you or are disappointed by the way they love you, when questions about life and death shake the picture of life we had planned, keep your chin up.  Lift your eyes to the cross and know a love that’s better, bigger, and stronger than ours IS OURS.  :) Take the time to fill up, and let His love buoy you along on the quest to love well.  

Thankfully for me, for us all, in Christ even our wimpy attempts at agape love will be blessed! 

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children.  And lead a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.  Ephesians 5:1-2

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faith and face-plants

A while back, I went to the zoo with a friend. Our kids spent most of the brisk morning running from habitat to habitat while we got some chatting time in. When we were leaving we ended up doing the inevitable mom departure situation. Tell the kids it’s time to leave…then stand around talking for an additional 15 minutes while the kids run around crazy. During that time, my littlest son who is two years old, in an act of what probably seemed to him a very brave and maybe even heroic moment, took a running start and tried to run/leap off the curb. I *think* he thought he was going to gracefully continue his super speed run after his running-man-in-the-air moment. Instead, he face-planted. It sounds a little sad, but really it was pretty cute. We really thought that he thought this was a great idea.

As I was checking for skinned knees and kissing his little scraped hands, I couldn’t help but draw the parallel between this little face-plant and my own life.

Have you ever tried to attempt life by yourself, only to fall flat on your face? I’m totally guilty.

I’m guessing you know the story of Jonah. God had great plans for Jonah to go to Nineveh to help spread God’s message to those people. What did Jonah do? The exact opposite of what God told him. His plan led him to be thrown into the sea during a raging storm only to be swallowed by a big fish. How’s that for a face-plant? (Or is it a fish-plant?)

You and I are certainly not the first and won’t be the last person to try to live life independent of our God. Our sinful nature thinks we have our life all figured out! Being organized, tidy, scheduled— these are measures of success on the earthly side. Our old Adam thinks if we only accomplish or obtain that *one more thing*, then we will finally find contentment and be happy. Feeling overtaken by life and feeling all alone or the opposite, feeling so overly confident in what we can accomplish are both the result of life lacking our Savior. In the end, the truth is that we need Him.

We need Jesus to hold our hand.

God is our all-knowing, all-powerful, ever present God. He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness. His staff and his rod, they comfort me. (Psalm 23) He does this. Not me.

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When I find myself floundering through life or even flat on my face by my own doing, it’s usually true that I’m not holding the truths I know as dear and as close as they should be. Fortunately for us, we have forgiveness through our Savior. We can run back to our Father’s arms and ask for guidance, strength, patience, peace, comfort, and contentment. The Holy Spirit builds our faiths through our prayers and through our Bible studies. We just need to stop leaping off the curb alone and let God support us.

Romans 10:17, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.”

Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Isaiah 55:8-11, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

1 Corinthians 1:31, “Therefore, as it is written: Let him who boasts boasts in the Lord.”

Isaiah 40:29-31, “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles'; they will run and not grow weary, that will walk and not be faint.”

It’s easy to get caught up in the me, myself and I and to forget that we don’t need to walk through this life alone. Thankfully for us, God gives us a hand to hang on to before we set off.

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