Wednesday, September 28, 2011

sunset in the city...

awe inspiring alaskan sunsets over snow covered mountians... the orange sun sinking over a vast kansas wheatfield... but sunsets in chicago?  i dunno, sometimes they just don't quite compare... however, the other night we found a good one... here's a little peak...

"the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork." Psalm 19:1.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

in response...

often i find myself longing for home.  when life is long and hard... when things are happening that i just don't quite understand... when my relationship with God seems far and distant... fill in the blank... so many things cause us to long for eternity, but what do we do about it?  i have to admit that frequently this is the extent of my "longing"- i take a few minutes, ponder the thought, maybe even spend some time with the Lord, but then i move on, the day pretty much unaffected by the past moment.  and in response, as i honestly evaluate my actions, i say, "this is so wrong!"  if my "longing for home" does not motivate me to more than a moment, my longing is not so much a longing but a flighty feeling.

so then, what do i do about it?  what should i be motivated to do as a result of a legitimate longing?  for myself, God continually challenges me and presents me with opportunities to give grace.  and i do think... that yes, if i am a person focused on the eternal, a follower of Christ who longs to be with Him, i must give grace.  grace is one of those things God calls us to do that i think is just a little crazy and backwards at times.  hear me out, i fully believe in the power and necessity for us to be people of grace, but doesn't it at times seem a little counterproductive?  i mean the concept of grace is everything that we have been trained as leaders, parents, teachers, etc. NOT to do... people get what they work for... or what they don't work for.  you do something bad, you're punished.  you do something good, you're rewarded.  and then God calls us to be people of grace. i think we water down grace when we look at it from any other perspective.

this is grace... Jesus died for our sins on the cross.  He did this asking nothing from us.  our attitudes, our response, our love for Him do not and did not affect this action of grace.  even though His grace should motivate us to obedience and commitment, it is not dependent on or affected by such responses.  even when grace is given and the giver has an expectation of response by the receiver, this expectation in no way should or does affect the giving of the grace.  it is an action that stands alone.  and this is exactly what we are called to give...

and to this i say, "WHAT?!"  i mean really... ok, so grace, sure i'll forgive someone... i can do that, i can be the bigger person... but grace is definitely more than just simple forgiveness.  yes, forgiveness is an element, but just to forgive... there is so much more.  when i think about Christ's grace that He gave us in the action of His death for our sins, there was so much involved, so much more than we even know... i look at what He did and i see that He took on the repercussions for our sin!  in His grace He took on death.

when we are gracious with people and we forgive, we still have expectations... and these expectations, though they can be hoped for, should not affect our grace (no matter how big or small the action against us).  grace is about our response to someone else, not their response to us.  how could grace be grace if it had repercussions for the receiver of the grace... sure, i'll forgive you if you change... and i think often, all of us, and definitely me, view grace in this light.  however, i see such a beauty and truth in grace that is given with the understanding that there will be repercussions for themselves (the giver) because of the giving of grace. so many times grace is given to someone who does not change... someone who does not respond... someone who belittles the gift... and then the repercussions come... work and pain and results of the sin, that you as the grace giver must deal with as well, or sometimes even more so than the receiver.  to give grace and know this and accept this is huge.  this is grace like Jesus gave to us.

i have so many things i want to communicate and i feel like this post is a little here and there and everywhere... but these are my thoughts.  God's grace for us is unreal, huge and something that we cannot comprehend.  in His Word we are called to be people that give grace.  not a different kind of grace... not a watered down grace... a grace that sometimes seems a little crazy... a grace that many people, including ourselves, do not often give...

so as i long for home, as i see how this should characterize my life, i see that grace is essential in the "longer's" life.  i mean how could it not be?  if i long for home and not this one, i am not entitled to anything.  this includes people not responding to me how they should... (i'm not saying let people walk all over you... but really think about it...)  if i do long for eternity and know that as a follower of Jesus i must be a gracious follower, i am not entitled to people changing when i forgive them... people don't owe me their friendship or their deepest apologies or even the promise "to never do it again"... grace is huge.  i know that God knows that it is huge... He called His Son to this task... and He calls His children to it as well.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

a misspent life

"a perfectly kept house is the sign of a misspent life."
- mary randolph carter

these three books are definitely three of my all time favorites.  i've always loved home design... from the days of creating homes for my "little people" with blocks... til now and trying to put together an inviting, comfortable home.  however, as i do love home design, home decor, etc. etc. etc.... i never want this to become who i am or what i'm known for.  we were talking about our pursuits in church on sunday night and as i've thought about this in the past, it came to mind again.  it is obvious, at least at times, that i am deliberate about investing in my home, but is it obvious that i am deliberate about pursuing my Savior?

i don't know what much else to say, which is amazing since i can definitely be long-winded on here... but i think the concept is simple and obvious.  am i spending my life running after and following God or am i investing in something that will simply pass away with this world?  i do not want to live a misspent life.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

missing my first, longing for my last...

so i've decided the two homes i have experienced so far in my lifetime are quite different.  today as i was driving down lawrence i looked ahead and was sure i saw mountains... i mean not sure, i haven't completely lost it, i am aware i live in illinois.  but sometimes the clouds just look like mountains and i like to imagine they are... but of course they don't quite cut it and i always end up missing my first home.  AH! the land of the midnight sun!  i wish i could take a drive down the seward highway today, along the beautiful turnigan arm and soak up the mountains... but once again i find myself surrounded by concrete... so in lieu of mountains and oceans and liberating getaways in the car i will post a few pictures of my first home...

We touched down on the sound at the top of the world 
In the land of the midnight sun
Where the frozen river melts away and breaks into a run
Into the sea, into the mighty waves that waited just to see it
From a long way off that river thawed and the tide ran out to meet it
"Welcome home, unfrozen river, welcome home"

See the quiet hearts of the children of the children of this land
They have stayed alive in the day-long night by the fires that warm their hands
There is a wilderness inside them it is dark and thick and deep
And beside the fire at the heart of that wood is a precious missing sheep
So go on in, hold your torch, let it shine

'Cause all shall be well, all shall be well break the chains of the gates of Hell
Still all manner of things will be well
All shall be well, all shall be well
The Word of God will never fail and all manner of things will be well

I saw the sun go down on a frozen ocean as the man in the moon was rising
And he rode the night all full and bright with his face at the far horizon
And the night can be so long, so long you think you'll never get up again
But listen now, it's a mighty cloud of witnesses around you— they say
"Hold on, just hold on hold on to the end and all shall be well" 

-Andrew Peterson

i love the words of this song... i love it because it talks about my first home and yet causes me to long for my final home.  all shall be well... in a world that can feel like a wilderness... redemption will come through our Savior Jesus Christ and all shall be well.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

a more pressing claim...

sunday night was our evening at church to share about our recent trip to kentucky.  i always love these nights, to remember how God worked and what He taught us... and then being able to share this with the people that sent us is so great.  each individual takes about a minute to share.  i decided (out of the many things i could have shared) to share about the sacrificial service that i saw throughout the week.  i saw this among our students, other individuals who served and then through the full time missionaries that work at the camp and mission.  whenever we have had the opportunity to visit missionaries that our church supports i am always blown away by their SACRIFICIAL service.  this is a constant challenged and something that i wanted to share with the church sunday night.  i shared that i was challenged to re-examine how i serve and to make sure that i am serving in a way that is truly sacrificial.

well, monday morning rolls around, i go into work (i.e. - walk across the parking lot :) and then later come home for lunch (back across the parking lot... so so great).  anyways, i'm home at lunch thinking about the coming year, how i will serve at church now that we won't be working with high school and i find myself being totally and way too protective of my life/time.  i was thinking over everything and wondering if i should just really back off... and then i caught myself... well, i'm sure it was more like the Holy Spirit catching me... how do i talk about being sacrificial in my service LAST NIGHT and now, less than 24 hours later, i'm being protective and selfish with my time.  do my words mean anything???

it definitely was a slap in the face and something that put me back on track.  it was one of those moments where God turned my thoughts around and back in the right direction.  today as i was thinking about this i decided to look up the word sacrifice in the dictionary.  i love words, the dictionary and really thinking about what things mean. :)  so anyways, one part of the definition reads like this:

the act of giving up, destroying, permitting injury to, or forgoing something valued for the sake of something having a MORE PRESSING CLAIM

so often i define sacrifice in regards to my service, just as whether or not i'm doing something.  this definition from good ol' webster's leads me to believe i have been defining the word a little incorrectly.  i can be so protective of my time (and i do think there is a place to be careful you are not doing too much, don't get me wrong, but i think it is more often that i tend to lean in the opposite direction) that i do not even come close to serving sacrificially.  we must "give up" our time to serve our God.  i love how it says too, to forgo something valued for something having a more pressing claim... yes, my time, my family, basically all God has given me is VERY VALUED but at the same time i must sacrifice all to follow and serve our Savior.  HE is most definitely a more pressing claim.  again, i say here we must not neglect our families and those that need to be loved by us... if we did so we would not be serving how God wants us to, but at the same time we must not protect too much that we are serving selfishly and only when we want to.  
i struggle with finding the right balance.  being married to a pastor DEFINITELY forces me to do this... God obviously knew my weaknesses and probably had a good chuckle putting me in this marriage with a pastor to challenge me to work on this specific weakness on a very regular basis... and often i fail.  often i have such a rotten attitude.  i wish my service and sacrifice were so much more than they are, that i would consider much more seriously that this is my offering to God... in the moment that i would respond with a sacrificial and selfless attitude.  i must rework my thinking, putting God above all that i pursue, making Him the pressing claim in my life... not to be replaced or overlooked by anything.  i want us to challenge each other with this.  not to be just "nice" friends and tell each other what we want to hear, but to really work on one another to serve as we have been called to serve, sacrificially and selflessly.  i know i need all the help and challenging i can get in this area... :)  i want these following verses to be evident in my life... i want to continue to understand more of what Jesus calls us to in His words...

"Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.  And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."
Matthew 10:37-39

"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship."  
Romans 12:1