Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Isaiah 30 version Jen 1.0

What God says to me today as I return to His loving arms and rest in His salvation...my personalizations in red...

15For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel to Jen
"In returning and rest you shall be saved;

in quietness and in trust shall be your strength."
But you were unwilling,
16and you said,"No! I will flee to my bed..."
therefore I hid away;
and believed the quiet whispers, "You are alone in your suffering.."
17 A thousand shall flee at the threat of one;
at the threat of five you shall flee,
till you are left
like a flagstaff on the top of a mountain,
like a signal on a hill.

18Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you,
and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.
For the LORD is a God of justice;
blessed are all those who wait for him.
19For a woman shall dwell in Lynnwood; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you.
20And though the Lord give you the adversity of physical pain and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher.
21 And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, "This is the way, walk in it," when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.
22Then you will defile your plush, cozy idols overlaid with Egyptian-cotton sheets, fluffy duvets and your self-pitying, self-absorbed images. You will scatter them as unclean things. You will say to them, "Be gone!"

Thank you Lord for continuing to pursue and love me.  The idols I run after always break my heart and multiply my sorrow...You never do.  I love you.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

How ReTrain Changed my Husband

On Thursday, I will celebrate with my husband a wonderful milestone that he has achieved by God's grace. He will graduate from ReTrain - the yearlong Missional Leader program at Mars Hill Church. In many ways, our whole family has sacrificed for this accomplishment - giving up family time, days off and large chunks of Phil's brain that have been preoccupied with reading, writing and studying. It is a minuscule price to pay in comparison to the richness of redemption I have experienced in my husband as a man, pastor and father.

Phil's passion for the gospel has exploded. Sitting under the teaching of amazing pastors like Piper, Storms and Ware, I have seen admiration for the Father, affection for Christ and acknowledgement of the Holy Spirit's power multiply exponentially. Many a night, Phil would share with me what he was gleaning from the most recent book. Spurgeon's biography remains my favorite as I have memories of Phil tearing up as he spoke of the deep, passionate prayer life that Spurgeon inspired him with.

Phil has always been a man whose adherence to truth stands firm. His life is marked by integrity. I saw that commitment to truth be coupled with a tenderness and compassion as he was charged by one teacher with this exhortation: Sometimes the sheep need to be corrected but sometimes they just need to be loved and inspired. God used those words to continue to work gentleness and compassion for the people into my husband's pastoral heart.

I have witnessed Phil's pastoral calling be sharpened and strengthened through this process. Receiving encouragement, perspective and challenge from his fellow cohort members has given him clarity and confidence to continue in obedience to God's call on his life. The life of a pastor is often marked with loneliness. I watched my husband enjoy the brotherhood of shared mission with other godly men.

My heart is filled with gratitude and joy as we celebrate the close of ReTrain. God has faithfully sustained our family through a difficult season while he honed my husband towards greater passion and influence for His glory. What more can a wife ask for?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Who God Is Determines Who I Am

“…by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:10).
As far back as I can remember, I struggled to answer the question, “Who am I?” I loved Jesus at an early age but I also experienced sexual abuse that left me feeling dirty and ashamed. Was I a purified, precious daughter of the King or was I a worthless piece of trash?

My college years were fraught with identity crisis after identity crisis. Rocked by emotional turmoil, consumed by thoughts of the opposite sex and floundering in attempts at independence, I ended up looking more juvenile than mature, foolish than sophisticated. I defined myself by the people I hung out with, the classes I excelled in or the clothing that got me noticed. My identity was all about me.

That wounded, self-absorbed young woman married a young man who had identity issues of his own. Proud of his squeaky clean, nice guy reputation, my husband was sure he could tame the wild woman in me. Neither one of us was living out of a heart that was defined by the finished work of Christ on the cross.

After much conviction of sin and a loving confrontation, we repented before God and each other by enduring hours of brutally honest and painful conversation about my past and our future. God was breaking strongholds of identity in both of us. I was emerging from the very dark (yet somehow comfortable) identity of shame that held me captive for years, and my husband was shedding the moralistic, self-righteous mask to become the strong, compassionate shepherd that he is today. We were seeing ourselves and each other in light of the cross.

God did some serious renovation of our hearts and identity. For as much as the world tells us our identity is all about us, the Bible turns that definition on its head and makes it all about God. Our identity flows out of our theology. The more clearly and rightly and intimately we know God, the better understanding we will have of our lives and purpose on earth.

Even as I write, this struggle continues. When I listen carefully to myself, I quickly realize that most of what I say is all about me.

I am a moody wife. Am I letting my feelings rule over me?
I am a homeschool mom. Am I ruining my kids?
I am an abuse survivor. Am I really loved?
I am worried about my health. Am I going to die?

Constantly bombarded with soul-numbing means of identifying myself outside of God, I grasp at any and everything that makes me feel mighty and important. I want to be god.

As I really begin to consider the implications of these (and many more) statements, God shows me the weakness of my faith and belief and leads me on a journey of identity redemption.

Through much godly grief and repentance, God has led me to proper worship of His glory and not my own. Understanding and defining myself in light of the cross has had a profound impact on the way I live my life.

I am a wife…but I am a slave to righteousness, not to my emotions.
I am a mom…but Christ is my kids’ Savior–not my mothering.
I am an abuse survivor…but God loved–and still loves–that precious little girl.
I am weak in body and spirit…but Christ is my Strength, my Shield.

The Bible jars us into reality as God’s chosen people. Our identity is based solely on His.

He is Creator. We are the utterly helpless creation.
He is Redeemer. We desperately need change.
He is Savior. We must be rescued.
He is Lord. We need His rule over our lives.

Who He is gives meaning and definition to every moment of our lives—every breath of our souls. By His grace alone, I am what I am. Lord, help me to live my life in submission to you, giving you glory in everything. Your Grace to me will not be in vain.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Pain Reveals My Heart

Psalm 119:23,24 Search me, O God, and know my heart!  Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!

I'm resurfacing here like a bloated, beached dying whale that needs to come up for air.  As I think back on my relatively short blogging career, I see a pattern emerge.  I have written about bladder bagssurgery, and   chest pain.  My complete medical record would need to be carted into a doctor's office in a wheelbarrow.  15 major surgeries rolls off my tongue as if that is an common occurence for a 40 year old woman.  I have suffered greatly in my physical body.  God is revealing to me my heart all the while.

Nothing like 5 months of constant, nagging pain to belie the depths of my wicked, unbelieving heart.  Pain wears me down.  I want to carry its weight with dignity and grace; most days it is with weariness and irritability.  At least in the past, there has been a surgery date, a recovery period - an end in sight. 

Lost in the midst of unrelenting pain, God allowed me to recognize Jesus yesterday for the first time in a week.  I didn't see Him because relief had come but because a reminder settled in my heart.  God is not absent when I hurt.  He has compassion for His daughter.  He is here. 

Pain creates an eery, isolating silence is my heart.  It strips my heart back to reveal what comforts it desires, what ease it demands.  My pain is so noisy that I hear nothing else - not even the voice of my Savior who knows the depths of suffering that I cannot fathom.  Amidst the turmoil, God speaks to me calmly and quietly.  He will not silence noise that I have chosen to drown Him out with.

I am here.  Do you love me enough to trust me? 
I am strong.  Are you willing to be weak so I can show you my heart for you?
I am searching your heart.  Will you let me show you your grievous ways?
I will lead you in the way everlasting...