The Light of Resurrection

Waiting for spring, hanging off the northeast end of the U.S. mainland, it’s a challenge to get into an Easter frame of mind. The dark is still holding sway over the light, and resurrection-thinking requires a muscular faith. Although the calendar tells me that spring will come, this hope in a future date can seem like a flimsy thing.    

Pressing into a Truth that challenges me to fathom the unfathomable, I leave my heart ajar to the record of resurrection in John’s Gospel. After all, Mary Magdalene had nothing but Sunday morning silhouettes to go on when she visited the tomb.

But this one thing she knew:  stones don’t move themselves. 

The absence of death, the presence of angels, and the sound of her own name carried by the voice of Jesus opened Mary’s eyes to Life, and, reading it again today, my heart is blown wide open to the reality that there is a God at work Who is beyond my understanding.

The power that raised Christ from the dead spreads a layer of clear abundance across the sky, and it rebukes all my tattered scripts of scarcity and inadequacy.  Under the light of resurrection, the myth of “not enough” that presents itself as gospel is revealed for what it is – blasphemy, after all.

When I stand before a class or sit around a table with my weekly women and feel like handing off my notes to someone else and saying:
“Here, you do this. It’s too much. I’m not enough,”
I slam my heart shut like a tomb full of death.

When I reject wisdom that whispers:
“Wait; lean into relationship with Me and stop your ceaseless striving;
When, instead, I soldier on by the seat of my pants–I choose darkness over light; death instead of resurrection.

My faithless frame of mind locks me into a small room … and then sucks out all the oxygen.

This was not unlike the post-resurrection dwelling place that the disciple Thomas had created for himself. He’d been given a whole week in which to savor the bitter brew of hopelessness and disappointment, to hear about Jesus’ appearances to others—always when Thomas was conveniently absent. He had cobbled together his own response, apparently deciding that He was not going to be taken in by all the hype. He would not be deceived by any false messiahs who go and get themselves killed in the most humiliating manner possible.

Locked door and double-bolted heart notwithstanding, Jesus showed up with a fresh supply of oxygen and irrefutable evidence—the marks of crucifixion and his own unique wound, a spear-thrust through the ribs.

Thomas’s skepticism melted into adoration and an astounding confession of faith: “My Lord and my God!”

Mary’s eyes had been opened by the sound of her Savior’s voice.
For Thomas, it was the sight of His wounds that spoke resurrection.

Millions of us now, following in hundreds of generations behind Mary and Thomas, have never been invited to put our hands on the risen Christ or been treated to the sound of His voice speaking our name aloud, and yet the reality of resurrection and the power of Life over death is so much a part of our creed that we hold it as a mark of orthodoxy. God does not require an empty “faith in faith,” but offers reality, transparent vindication in the form of eye-witness accounts upon which I base my own belief.

“Jesus of the Scars” is Edward Shillito’s poetic invitation for me to join Thomas in bearing witness:

“The other gods were strong, but thou wast weak;
They rode, but thou didst stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds, only God’s wounds speak,
And not a god has wounds but Thou alone.”

When, through Thomas’s eyes, I see a wounded God, I am brave to come, wounded, to Him, for if it were not for those visible wounds all would be winter.
The stone would still seal in the stench of death;
the door to the upper room would stay forever locked;
there would be no framing of the heart to resurrection truth.

Like Mary, though, I am seen and known.
I hear the sound of His voice through His Word:
a whispered hope,
a release from shame,
a path away from the downward draw of brokenness,
a promise of eternal spring.

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Today, my family and I are beginning spring vacation (Hooray!) For a few days, things will be quiet here on the blog while we re-connect, relax, and make memories together.  May you also find joy in your celebration of resurrection life and the Savior who lives. 

This post first appeared at SheLoves Magazine.

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Embracing Brave

It certainly doesn’t happen often enough, but when it does, it’s a glorious thing — the meeting over tea that has all the marks of the C.S. Lewis definition of friendship:

““Friendship … is born at the moment when one [wo]man says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .”

Open the cover of Brave Faith by Mary Geisen and begin to ponder with an understanding friend what it means to move toward the courage that leaves “fear, uncertainty, and other stumbling blocks behind.”  Read Mary’s personal narrative, and find yourself also yearning to be on the way to a soul-enriching journey down the road and away from your comfort zone.

Dipping her brush into the Scriptural accounts of the lives of brave saints, Mary also consults with well-known authors who have offered their wisdom on the brave life including Holly Barrett, Preston Yancey, Annie Downs, Emily Freeman, Jennie Allen, and Ann Voskamp.

Living brave may mean correcting our misunderstandings of what qualifies as brave.  In her own journey, Mary found herself staying put when that was not her plan at all.  Caring for her father in the final days of his life, Mary put her dreams on hold and found a contentment that was every bit as inexplicable as the wild courage that enabled her to tackle a mid-life missions trip to Nicaragua.

The brave give thanks by faith, and Mary challenges her readers to stop in their tracks and to give thanks for the gift of their present circumstances — whatever they may be.

Brave living is seasoned liberally with an abundance of well-placed yeses — and circumspect noes — and a clear-eyed awareness that much of life is not ours to control.  Living life’s messy stories with grace and strength requires a God-given courage and a living faith that trusts when God says, “I know the thoughts that I think toward you . . .” (Jeremiah 29:11).

With daily Scripture reading and an offering of questions that invite the reader to ponder and to journal in reply, Brave Faith opens a soul-lifting conversation and then leaves space for the Holy Spirit to work as the reader steps out in courage — and in surprise, for the journey toward brave is a life-long process with a new vision and a fresh opportunity to experience the wonder around every corner.

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This book was provided by the author in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

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Awakening Courage in Community

Whether it’s feelings of inadequacy, parenting anxieties, or panic over the latest terrorist tactics in the news, the challenge to face down our fears and to move forward into new, healthful, and bold behaviors is a common thread for January writing and thinking.  The problem, however, with this seasonal booster is that the need for courage doesn’t expire on February 1.

Fear Fighting is a year-round calling and Kelly Balarie is a natural born cheerleader, committed to awakening courage in her readers.  She has earned some pretty impressive credentials as a fear fighter in her battles with an eating disorder, depression, financial stresses, and family tragedies.  She has learned, first hand, that transformation is an act of God that takes place in the present tense.  With a raised fist, she trumpets the invitation to be a modern-day Deborah, the fiery woman from the time of the Old Testament Judges who dared to ask questions, listened for God’s answers, ejected the enemy’s lies, timed her move, and then acted in confident belief without fear — because she knew where she was going.

Since no one is completely fearless, everyone can fear less, and learning to live as a fear fighter is best accomplished in community.  Kelly has flung the doors open wide, inviting readers into her story and into a network of like-minded warriors through her website and her blog. (Click to visit!)

Fear fighting is a process and growth happens one step at a time.  The question that comes to my mind is this:  What would you do to a friend who lied to you as often as your fears have?  This helpful filter (p. 64) is a tool for identifying the voice inside your head:

  1.  If it woos with the voice of love, it is God.
  2. If it calls you closer to God, it is God.
  3. If it speaks truth, it is God.
  4. If it wants to beat you, tie you, and throw you out back for always being despicable, it is not God.  

“Anything not founded in love does not equal God.”

It is no surprise to me that thousands of years ago, Isaiah the prophet also expressed the invitation to become a fear fighter:

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand,”  Isaiah 41:10.

In these early days of 2017, it’s a great time to admit to the reality of fears that whisper words of condemnation and failure and to accept the help of others, to learn from their stories, and, most crucially, to enter into the transforming Truth of God’s Word.

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This book was provided by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group,  in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

captureJoin me here on Thursday for week one of a book discussion group on C.S. Lewis’s novel, Till We Have Faces.

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If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

 

Saying Hard Truth

I had never heard of Huldah the summer that I stood in my growing-up kitchen and hollered into the phone, “You can’t let him come home because he’s crazy!”

I don’t recall whether I was heard on that occasion, whether our feet were spared another few days or weeks of walking on the hot rocks of mental illness. It didn’t matter to me at that moment if the doctor thought I was a “bad daughter,” or even if she thought that I was “crazy” like my dad, and so the ugly words of truth—supported by factual evidence—came spilling out.

Sometimes, during dark days that bristle with question marks, a voice of certainty emerges.

We don’t know why Huldah, the Old Testament prophetess, was given the fleeting spotlight in Israel’s history. Scripture’s spare style leaves much to the imagination, but here’s what we do know:

We know that Huldah lived in Jerusalem during a solemn time of division, when Israel’s monarchy swayed between righteousness and idolatry in a generational downward spiral. The temple, Israel’s center of worship, had been abused and desecrated by evil kings, but young King Josiah had begun to set things right. (For context, check out II Kings 22 or II Chronicles 34.)

We know that Huldah was married to the keeper of the priests’ wardrobe, and that they lived in the “university district” of the city. Tradition holds that she directed a school for women and children.

We know that Huldah was recognized by palace officials, and that she was known as … a prophetess! This is no small thing in the days of multiple wives and women as property.

Under orders from King Josiah, carpenters, builders and masons had begun repairing the ruins of the temple when, one day, Hilkiah, the high priest, found the Book of the Law in the house of the LORD. Shaphan, a scribe, was given the task of delivering it to King Josiah and then reading it to him.

Which part of the Old Testament reached King Josiah’s ears that day? Given his response, it is reasonable to assume that they had discovered the list of terrible threats and curses against all those who violate God’s Law. In his grief, sorrow (and likely fear), Josiah tore his clothes and then ordered everyone within shouting distance to find out more about these words from God.

Enter Huldah. . .

Rarely did God speak to Israel through women, but the Megillah (a Jewish scholarly resource) suggests that Josiah’s officials thought a woman would be more easily stirred to pity than a man, and more likely to intercede with God on their behalf, prompting the temple officials to seek out Huldah and to bypass her contemporaries, Jeremiah, Nahum, and Zephaniah.

Most important of all, we know what she said because her words are recorded for us in Scripture. She interpreted the words of God, and she applied them. She did not mince words; she did not apologize. She had no fear of offending her audience even though her task was to communicate a message of judgment and wrath, calamity and doom against the nation of Israel. She was not intimidated by the power or the position of the titled quintet that had come scurrying to her for an interpretation.

Four times in her exposition, she used the phrase, “Thus says the Lord.” She knew her Torah; she knew its Author. She was not giving her opinion or taking a poll of anyone else’s. She knew that she was God’s mouthpiece for God’s message and she used her God-given gift for the benefit of the nation.

If there was an Old Testament equivalent to the hair twisting, high-pitched, breathy-voiced presentation women resort to today when we feel intimidated, I doubt that it was part of Huldah’s repertoire.

Her role took G.R.I.T. (Graciously Reporting Intense Truth) and her message to us today is two-fold:

Don’t be afraid to be right. Don’t be afraid to speak hard truth.

It’s been a long time since I was 14, but the training in lava-words that God gave to me that summer has continued. The year one of our sons decided that his parents were nothing but a pain in the neck, he needed a gritty message of truth—not my opinion about what he should do with his life; not my broken heart handed to him in a bucket of tears. He needed God’s Words about relationship and holiness; God’s thoughts on planning a life and making wise choices.

And the hard reality is that I need grit today—this very day—to speak truth to my elderly mother.
“You need more care than I can give to you in my home.”
“It’s time to find a safe place for you to live.”

I am praying for grit to listen to her arguments, tinged with dementia and laced with desperation, and then to respond with grace and truth—a hard truth, based on the evidence of her rapid decline; a truth that I don’t want to say, and that she does not want to hear.

Here’s part two of Huldah’s message to us today, and it does not sell well either:

Don’t be afraid to disappear.

Huldah was on and off the stage in a single scene. Her prophecy came true—the destruction of Jerusalem, the exile of the people. But then, she faded into obscurity. We don’t know if she went on to greater opportunities in Jerusalem because of this big moment or if she was shunned and criticized for breaking with tradition.

I fear this kind of invisibility: no one reading my blog; no one liking my Facebook posts; no one seeking my opinion or asking for my input. Disappearance.

In the sovereign plan of God, Huldah made herself available when the time was right.

If she had been searching for recognition or concerned about her “image,” if she had been thinking in terms of her “role,” she might not have been able to do the task that was given to her to do. Whether or not she was given credit for it, Huldah was instrumental in bringing revival to God’s people. Because of the warning they received from Scripture coupled with King Josiah’s reforms, the hearts of the people were turned, for a time, toward their God.

It takes grit to disappear, to forego the faith-hindering search for recognition in favor of obedience.

It takes grit to speak truth, to put hard words on the table that need to be said, but that no one wants to hear.

Oh, God, one person can make a difference in the lives of thousands. One person can blaze a trail with her words that leads to life, holiness, worship, and truth. May the fiery heart of Huldah beat in me. May your Spirit of Truth burn away everything that stands in the way of Your Words.

Image credit: martinak15

This post appeared first at SheLoves Magazine.


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