Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Spaghetti Sermon

This morning Tim and I were talking about the "men are waffles/women are spaghetti" analogy.  Have you heard of it? If not, google it now :) It's a good fit, at least for me, because I haven't met a more spaghetti-minded person than myself.  If you trace my wandering thoughts through these posts, you've probably picked up on that.  But I do always circle back around to the truth through all the saucy mess.... most of the time anyway.

Normally, at least on this blog, I try to sort out my spaghetti and make it coherent for readers.  But today was such a strange journey that I want to publish it, sauce and all.  If you're interested, read on.  If not, go back and google  "spaghetti and waffles" and have fun with that.

Today was designed to be a to do list day.  My life has been so out of balance for the past few months that it felt good to have a day to just tick things off the list and regain a shred of sanity.  So I started out well... breakfast? Check. Bible study lesson? Check. Take the dog for a run? Check.

But it was during the run that my spaghetti which I was trying to keep all nicely knitted and organized started to unravel just like the hat I made Tim for Christmas.  Looks perfect until you put it on and then all the ends come loose.  Listening to Keith Urban on the mp3 player had me singing along with "You're my Better Half" then literally crying just because he told me to in "Cry".  Ridiculous!  Sometimes the logical half of me just steps out of myself and shakes her head in disgust.  Emily, pull yourself together! Why are you such a girl?

The rest of the morning continued in the same painful rollercoaster... soaring moments of happiness and satisfaction followed by plunging moments of disappointment and despair.  Am I ever going to be the person I need to be?  Am I ever going to get it together?  Will I always make mistakes and let down the people I love?  I felt weary, like I had wandered deserts and mountains, only to end up where I started... and I never even left my house.

Finally I decided to stop trying to figure myself out, stop trying to answer all the questions and stop listening to the sermons I was preaching in my head from the Book of Emily (which is not inspired Scripture and should be thrown out!) and listen to someone who knows what he's talking about.  So I filled my mop bucket, soaked my rag and began scrubbing the floors to the insight of John Piper and this sermon:

It's called "What is the Recession For?" and really has more to do with financial issues than emotional issues like mine.  But I am spaghetti, and so I make connections and applications to everything.  Here are three of the  main points of the sermon, and how they connect and apply to this messy journey of understanding I've traveling on for the past few months.

In God's plan the recession is a golden opportunity for us that we must not waste, with these main purposes.

1. To Expose Sin and Give Repentance
Piper used the illustration of a beaker full of clear water with sediment on the bottom.  One bump and the sediment stirs, clouding what looked so pure and holy before it was unsettled.  In the same way, hard times "bump" us and reveal to us what is really lurking in the dark corners of our hearts.  And praise the Lord that they do!

This is the biggest lesson God has been teaching me lately.  It is mind blowing and possibly worthy of a blog post all its own. I am more likely following God when my sin is evident and ugly to me.  When I feel like I have everything together, I am deceiving myself (1 John 1:8) and God cannot work with me.  But He is near to my broken, contrite heart that is acutely aware of its own depravity and immensely grateful for His atoning grace.  When my life looks dirty and cloudy it is because God is hard at work cleaning me up.  He will not abandon His work!

2. To Awaken Us to World Poverty
My troubles (really just trifles) are NOTHING in comparison to what Christians joyfully face every day around the world.  I whine when someone disappoints me, while another sits alone in prison, rejected by the world but rejoicing in God.  I stress about taking out a loan to pay for my school while another rejoices as she savors the one bowl of rice she will eat today.  Piper said he is more inclined to pray for sick people when he is sick, and my failures and "afflictions" should remind me to pray all the more fervently for others in the same boat.

3.  To Relocate the Roots of Our Joy in His Grace Rather Than in Our Goods
This is what it boils down to.  My biggest struggle these days is not discontentment with my circumstances as much as it is discontentment with my foolish, failing, falling flesh. But this is because I want to look to myself and feel satisfied, and to have others look to me and feel satisfied.  What a false desire!  The only path to joy is the path to Jesus, and if I were perfect I would rob myself and others of the joy of depending on Jesus.  May I rejoice in my failures because through them God's grace is magnified.  May I rejoice in my inability to please people because through my inability, God's tremendous ability shines through.  May I rejoice in my poverty because to the poor in spirit belongs the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3).  

I came away at the end of the sermon with a clean floor and a refreshed spirit, reminded that sometimes it's important to stop trying to sort out all your spaghetti, figure yourself out, and interpret life from your own lens.
 Sometimes it's important to slow down and listen to someone else's voice for a while.  Especially when that voice is speaking the Word of God.

Friday, November 25, 2011

the facts of life

September is one of my favorite months.  The crisp air seems to deepen the intensity of the sapphire sky and every leaf on every tree stands out in sharper definition than in the blurry, hazy summer.  But even in this beautiful season, no matter which window I look out or which forest path I walk, I cannot close my eyes to the evidence of the curse all around me.  The trees I love are afflicted by destructive beetles, fungus, or parasites.  The hawk I admire as it surveys its kingdom is searching for a defenseless rodent to kill.  Even the soil I tread is layers and layers of death.

I go outside to enjoy creation and I am bombarded on every side by reminders of God's curse on the earth (Genesis 3:14-19).  I spend time with God's people and find myself disheartened by their earthly priorities and selfishness. I try to retreat inside myself to escape the sorrows and sins I see around me... and it is there within my heart that I see the Curse manifested most fully.  I can't even scratch the surface of my own wickedness (Jeremiah 17:9), yet when I catch a glimpse of even the edges of my ways I am overtaken by horror and unspeakable shame.

I was rescued from the penalty of my sin at a very early age, during those years of my history that have no place in my memory.  I can't remember life without a hope of heaven and knowledge of Christ's love.  And yet, I read passages like Romans 1 about the unregenerate heart and its description eerily beats in time with the rhythms of my own.  Covetous, envious, striving, gossipping, proud, boasters? Disobedient to parents? Undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful? (Romans 1:29-31) This doesn't sound like the description of a lost soul as much as it sounds like a description of myself.

Sometimes I can ignore it, but at other times the Curse and Consequences of sin weigh on my soul like a heavy, stinking breath of death.  Every part of me is diseased with this curse in the same way that every ash tree outside my window is being ravaged by beetles.

But there is a difference between me and that tree. The tree is being killed as a byproduct of man's sin: the Curse of Death that blankets the world.  I was born killed by this Curse, but my Rescuer, Redeemer, and Resurrection has raised me to life. And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins.  (Ephesians 2:1)

I have been forgiven, made new, resurrected.  Yes, I am still trapped in a cursed body of death, but within this body is a new heart, hidden in Christ until Christ who is my life appears (Colossians 3:3-4).  And beyond the worldwide evidence of death is a higher, transcendent reality of LIFE that exists even now!  When time is stripped away the ash tree, the hawk, the rodent, and I will all understand who we were truly created to be apart from the curse's chains.  We all groan together with pain and impatience for our true reality that awaits us, but not without hope (Romans 8:22-23).  We must look beyond the present evidence and remember the facts of LIFE.
  These simple words from an artist I admire sum up the hope that I am trying to express.

Ashes, ashes, we fall down
It always feels too soon
But when we walk on golden ground
All will be made new
[ Lyrics from: ]
Life is but a dream at best
Morning's coming soon
Kingdom come will bring us rest
All will be made new

All sorrows and sighs
Will fade away into the night
And all will be made new

All will be made new

"Kingdom Come", JJ Heller

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Flapping or Soaring

I do not understand... the way of an eagle in the sky...  Proverbs 30:18-19a

After 6 months of blog neglect, I've decided to finally reappear.  Strange that the times I get the strongest urge to write are those that are the most chaotic.  But here we go...

If I had to choose one word to describe this summer, crazy would be a massive understatement.  If only I had time to share all the struggles, the lessons, the high times, the dry times... the growth... it's certainly been a summer like no other. 

But of course there is no time to share those stories, no time to reflect and trace the fingerprints of God's goodness throughout a course of events that I never planned on, I would have never chosen... and I would never change. All I have time to say is that evening or morning--darkness or dawn-- God said "It is very good."  And He was right!

My biggest time-eater right now is research and homework for graduate classes.  Trying to keep the rest of my busy lifestyle in balance while dedicating all of my "free time" (whenever that is) to homework has proved to be an overwhelming and discouraging task.  But through His Word and His servants, God keeps reminding me gently that it's time to quit flapping and start soaring.

Birds are famous for expending huge amounts of energy in the act of flying.  Flapping wings takes tremendous muscle strength and most birds can't fly very long without stopping for a bite to eat or a rest.  But there are exceptions.  Soaring birds, like the eagle in Isaiah 40, can fly great distances almost effortlessly.  Have you ever watch an eagle on his upward spiral, riding the thermal air currents like a surfer on a wave?  His secret is his soar.  The eagle spreads his wings to embrace the powerful currents of warm air as they rise above valleys and canyons.  He doesn't need great amounts of energy or strength, because the strength and energy is found on the wings of the wind itself.

Throughout the Bible the Holy Spirit is compared to the wind.  Is it any wonder that God exhorts us to walk in the Spirit... to rest on His power... just as the eagle moves through the air? The strength that I possess in my feeble little muscles is negligible compared to the awesome, wonder-working power of the Spirit.  Yet so often I forget to spread my wings and rest in His strength. 

I feel like I'm running a marathon, and I'm getting worn out in the first mile.  It is only when I commit my ways to the Lord that the run can become a time of rest.  I can't stop running... but I have to learn to wait on the Lord so that I will be renewed in strength even as I grow in endurance.

But they that wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.  Isaiah 40:31

Saturday, January 15, 2011


The sun shines today.
Illuminating endless space
Darkness abides within one place:
The shadows of my soul.
Break through and end this night!

The sun shines today.
As yellow hands of warmth and birth
Draw fragile sprouts out of the earth
Reach down and lead my soul
From dead darkness to living light.
The sun shines today.
As fierce, transcendent metal gleams
Send unfeeling yet revealing beams
With cold truth purge my soul
Rescue the wrong and turn it right.

The sun shines today.
As power and love and energy
Grow the broken shoot into a tree
Establish, fill my soul
That I may climb and reach Sun’s height!

Whether you feel like your life is in the isolation of Night, the newness of Spring, the bitterness of Winter or the adventure of Growth, the Sun is constantly shining.  Nothing can stop its rays or restrict its power.  No place on the planet is untouched by the Sun, except the cages we build for ourselves.  This poem is a metaphor for the constancy of God our Creator.  Whether you feel it or not, God's love, power, holiness, and life is a very present reality.  Embrace the rays He shines on you... whether they be rays of warmth or light, pain or comfort, birth or growth.