Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Swiper, No Swiping

(Now, I know we look like we're 12 here, but work with me!) This picture symbolizes something very precious to me.

Not the dress. Not the flowers (although my mom did an awesome job on them all). Not the tux. Not the candles. Not even the rings.

My marriage itself.

While we're surrounded by failing marriages, I wanted to sit and ask, "Why are we still hanging in there?" This is not to boast at all. I believe a marriage can't and simply won't work (right) unless Christ is the one who's daily piecing you back together with each other. I dare say that every marriage I've watched fail has been the ultimate product of one person or the other practicing one thing:


I have been tempted to practice it as well. But each time, I am prompted and convicted by the Holy Spirit to lay myself down and serve my husband. And he does the same with me. This can come in the form of small, seemingly insignificant acts such as making his lunch for him at midnight or letting me take a drive alone in the evening while he bathes the kids because he knows I've worked hard with them all day.

We live in a culture that emphasizes the first day. The wedding day. The birth day. The baptism day. But what about all the days that follow? Weddings only last an hour, maybe two with the reception following. You can only wear that dress once. And as soon as you get off that plane from your trip to Hawaii, one of you is going to look at the other and ask, "What's for dinner?"

I found our ceremony vows recently that were written by Ryan McCullah, who also officiated our wedding. When I look at the words now, I am so glad he wrote what he did, and I wish other couples were blessed enough to have Ryan and his wife Christie to counsel them and encourage them, emulating a marriage that reflects Christ.

I, Cara, take you Matt to be my beloved, wedded husband, and I do promise and covenant with God and these witnesses to be your loving and faithful wife, in all truth and tenderness, when we have too much and when we don't have enough, when we experience joy and sorrow, when we are sick and healthy, as long as we both shall live.

Ryan's Ring Remarks:
This ring was tempered and purified in the hottest of fires in order to be formed in purity. That craftsmanship cost something. It was expensive. So too is this relationship expensive and will continue to be tempered through the passion, love, pressure, and pain of life. This ring is a beautiful symbol of the foxes that will need to be caught. The never-ending circle symbolizes the eternal foundation of love that will support this union.

Before our ceremony, I had never even heard of "foxes in the vineyard." These are mentioned in Song of Solomon. They're simply the small things that can eventually destroy a marriage: Lies. Greed. Pride. Discontent. Laziness. SELFISHNESS.

Lately, I hear "We just aren't happy anymore." "We're better off as friends." "It's too far gone." "He doesn't love me anymore." "Now there's this other man..."


Even Dora the Explorer knows this. "Swiper, no swiping!" she says to the FOX who is constantly stealing something of value. Surely if Nickelodeon can get this concept, God's people can, too, right?

Like Ryan said, these marriages are expensive. Don't believe me? Ask the woman who has two kids whose daddy left them for another woman, and now she works two jobs just to afford adequate food for their diets. Or the man who became passive and stopped pursuing his bride, and now she's found someone else who will pay attention to her.

I pray that we will never stop learning how to serve each other and tell Satan, "Swiper, no swiping!"

Peace of Christ to you,

Monday, July 27, 2009

This One Girl at the Bookstore

God makes me smile when He puts people together for a meeting that's anything but "chance."

I like it.

I knew right when I saw her--as I sat down to watch my son play with the train alongside her son--that this would be memorable...this would be purposeful.

And it was. And it is.

She is single. But she's a good mom. A really good mom. One who actually disciplines her son (gasp). I know, because I watched her.

After we had made small talk about BIG tasks--like raising kids, I had this stirring in my heart that I was supposed to ask how we could stay in touch...but I was worried. I was a little nervous, to be honest. I had just met her and learned her name a whopping 15 minutes before, and now I was supposed to be nosy and ask for an email address? She and her curly-haired little boy were nearly out the door when I finally let the Holy Spirit push me to catch them. I began with, "I hope this isn't weird to you, but..."

Turns out, it wasn't weird at all to her.
Turns out, she was relieved.
Turns out, we talk on an almost daily basis now.

Turns out, she was in need:

See, her brother had been killed by a drunk driver just one month ago. She didn't even mention this at the bookstore. But as "chance" would have it, she had come there looking for a book, a person, anything to help her through this grief.

I know, I don't believe in "chance" either.

Just the other day, do you know what she said to me? She said she believes God brought us both there at that bookstore to meet so that she could find a Christian friend with whom she could walk out this grief.

She did...and I certainly will. I knew there was something there. I just knew it.
And what a sweet friend I needed.

Nope, no "chances" here. Just a girl in a bookstore and a God who loves her.

Peace of Christ to you,

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

These Stars

So, I've been digging in pretty deep theologically these days: "The Jesus Storybook Bible."

Deep, I know.

Actually, it is.

I've never seen stories about God, and those who were tangled up in some of the same problems we have today, told so simply, yet so beautifully.

This picture overlooking our city and its stars reminds me of Abraham, particularly the way Ms. Sally Lloyd-Jones unfolds it in this sweet children's bible: (click to see it better)

"And as they sat there on the mountaintop, watching the embers of the fire die in the cool night air, the stars above them sparkling in the velvet sky, God helped Abraham and Isaac understand something. God wanted his people to live, not die. God wanted to rescue his people, not punish them. But they must trust him."

It's neat to think about looking up at the very stars that Abraham gazed at so long ago. The same stars God told him to try and count...and when Abraham couldn't, God must have giggled a little and then told him that He would give him that many descendants, and more!

I love that even so many years ago on that mountaintop with Abraham, underneath these very stars, God knew all about us--what you would be doing this very moment, what I'd be thinking about, the deepest ache in your heart, and the strongest joy in mine.

Is it just me, or does that make you smile, too?

Peace of Christ to you,

P.S. Really, go get that storybook bible...even if you don't have any kids. It's amazing!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Isaiah 7:14

Surely God is with us. Today.

Peace of Christ to you,

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Heaven In Their Eyes

"Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 18:3 ESV).

I love to watch my children explore outside. They find the tiniest treasures in the most hidden places. The very grass which my eyes look past is the very thing that tickles their fascination and beckons their anxious fingers to touch and caress.

I wish I could reverse the skepticism and doubt and un-enthusiasm that this world and years herein daily pour into us. I'm thinking we'll explore heaven this way...

Peace of Christ to you,

Friday, July 17, 2009

We'll Never Belong Here

"Nobody tells you when you get born here
How much you'll come to love it,
And how you'll never belong here.
So I'll call here my country,
But I'll be lonely for my home."
Land Of My Sojourn--Rich Mullins

So true. There are wonderful things here, but still so much pain. And we never can fully be settled here. Thank You for this strange paradox, Lord, and the home for which we wait. You are so good. I believe it.

Peace of Christ to you,

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Apparently, Adam and Eve are hilarious.

Peace of Christ to you,

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Stench of The World and The Aroma of Jesus

"If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you" (John 15:18-19 ESV).

Sometimes I can go days, weeks without really wrapping myself around my bible--without its words resonating inside my heart. And then, one day out of the blue, I "get" it.

Today is one of these indescribable days.

I listened yesterday to Pastor Mark's sermon over doctrine from true teachers. He talked about Jesus' life and also about the gospels which record His life. He unpacked some historical evidences of how we can know that these accounts are legitimate.

I stopped after listening and tried to actually picture these men, to imagine what it was like for them to be here, to be alive. They spent every day with Jesus. They ate with Him, they listened to every word He spoke, they traveled with Him, they laughed with Him...they did life with Jesus Christ. Sometimes that thought just reaches out and grabs me, and today I'm letting it.

Reading Jesus' words to these men in John's gospel brought me to tears today. I'm thinking of the series our church is working on for August: "The Last Message." My husband just finished a promo video for it, and I watched it again, letting Pastor Shane's words sink in. Our pastors will be giving a message as if it were the very last thing they will ever get to say. Period.

And something hit me: That's what Jesus did with His disciples, His best friends. They weren't quite understanding that He would leave them soon, but Jesus knew. And I read and re-read the words He spoke to them, and I see that they are not "Go party like it's 1999" kind of words. In fact, if you don't know Him, His words might actually seem a little depressing: "The world will hate you"? That's not encouraging. But, there's something really important that Jesus added to that later in chapter 16, verse 33:

"...In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world" (ESV).

The very thing that hates us to the core...JESUS HAS OVERCOME! If that doesn't make us excited, I don't know what will! We literally have nothing to "worry" about.

I'm speaking straight to myself, because the only other person I know who worries more than me is my grandma!

I wish I could remember this all the time, every day before I even get out of bed. Jesus chose us out of the world; we don't belong to it, but to Him! I think I've been living here so long (I know, only 27 years) that I have begun to smell like the world. I become consumed with stuff and tangled in knots of disgusting sin.

Why would I want to smell like something that hates me?

Jesus, Savior, thank You for this love and grace that You have lavished upon me. I need Your forgiveness because I have not cherished Your words, and I have selfishly taken them for granted. I skip over them as if they are drudgery in a dictionary. Teach me to cherish Your words above all others'--especially my own. Restore in my heart a passion to honor You--not the world. Amen.

Peace of Christ to you,