A God Who Weeps

I heard a recent discussion asking the question of how we can come across as less judgemental and more accepting of people. How do we communicate to people that we accept them as they are and their past sins and mistakes do nothing to make us love or like them less? This is a really important question for the church as we have developed a reputation for judgement and disapproval. 

This morning in church we sang “Son of Suffering” by Bethel Music. There’s a line of the song that says, “There’s a God who weeps”. As I was singing the song this morning all I could see was the retreat I had attended the week before. It was a story retreat where a group of women gathered to share key stories from their past that shaped their beliefs and who they became. And hopefully, as the story was discussed in a safe setting, found freedom from lies, and healing from old wounds. (Think really intense group therapy.)

If I had to point at the most meaningful moment of the retreat it was when I cried and all the women in my group cried with me. And I think of that line again. “There’s a God who weeps”. 

I spent a weekend with a group of women that were almost all total strangers to me. And we shared things that revealed our true hearts and who we really were. And I didn’t feel judged. I didn’t feel unsafe. I didn’t feel the need to hide my wounds and mistakes. The reason I didn’t feel that way was there were rules laid out from the very beginning to keep it a safe space. The stories we discussed stayed in the group time and didn’t leave that space. I didn’t have to worry about someone coming up to me and starting a conversation I didn’t want. No fixing or unsolicited advice allowed. And, I knew that each of these women were coming out of a genuine need and desire to be there and we all had the same mission, do this story work in a safe space. We were all dedicated to this. And as we did the work, God moved in and mighty things happened, in the form of tears and nonjudgemental love being poured out. And when I left, I knew I had been on Holy Ground and I had no fear of these women betraying my trust. 

And I think about the church and all that it has the potential to be. All that Christ wants it to be. Why is it not a safe space? Why do we have to worry about gossip? Why do we have to worry about someone looking down on us if they truly knew everything we had done or what we were really like? Are we not all sinners? Don’t we all have hidden things we would rather not come to light? 

I can think of a couple things that are missing that give our churches a judgemental, unsafe status. Gossip is the first thing that comes to mind. If your favorite activity is to talk about other people and everything that is happening in their lives then you need to realize that you are not a safe person. There are so many things to talk about. Your own life. The news. The weather. The latest book/movie/tictoc/reel/show that you have seen or read. If you can’t think of anything to talk about except other people, then perhaps it’s time to start some new hobbies and expand your interests. If I know that what I tell you is going to be passed on to someone else, then I’m going to be very guarded about what I tell you. 

Another thing that comes to mind is Judging Talk. That’s where you sit around and talk about all the big sins that are out in the world and how you would never participate in such horrible things. Let’s think anything LGBTQ, abortion, being a democrat (if you live in the south), anything controversal like vaccinations, to wear a mask or not to wear a mask, the presidency. Basically any topic where you are setting up a GOOD GUYS vs BAD GUYS scenario. You have no idea what the other person’s history is or their personal thoughts on all these subjects. And when you decide to lay down the line on these subjects you are instantly putting up a wall that will separate you from anyone who thinks differently than you. Is there a right and a wrong? Yes. I believe the Bible is pretty clear on a lot of subjects. And not so clear on a lot of subjects too. As a Christian our job is to introduce people to Jesus. It’s Jesus’ job to convict people of sin and lead them to repentance. Not mine. My job is to love people and follow God’s word as best as I am able and let my life be an example to people who are younger in the faith. 

I feel like we have forgotten that the Church belongs to Jesus. It’s his. He wants to do his work in our gatherings. His agenda. We need to get rid of a lot of cultural baggage, stick to the word and let the Holy Spirit move as He wants to move. We get in the way of the mission of the church when we gossip, when we judge, when we put our political agendas first. 

I serve a God who weeps. A God who enters into my pain and who cares about the burdens I am carrying around. He is a God who brings me to a safe place, surrounds me with love, and pours healing on my wounds. I know that the experience I had on my retreat is not really replicable in a larger church setting.  I also know that church could be a lot more like that if we all had the same mindset and determination to make our churches a safe place where broken people can come and be loved without fear of judgement. 

Failing? Still Loved.

Last night I had one of my music major nightmares, leftover from many years past. In the dream here was a big concert hall, full of people. A large stage, all lit up. A grand piano sitting empty, waiting. And my music teacher from college was standing in the wings, ushering me forward to go and perform my piece. Except I couldn’t remember what piece I was supposed to play and even when I looked at the program and saw the name, I had no memory of ever learning this piece. I was going to be made to perform and I was going to fail. 

This seems to be a theme that haunts me all the time. 

I have really been struggling with depression. All motivation seems to be gone. I do the necessary things that have to be done, but nothing extra. This weekend was really hard. I hit Saturday and just getting myself to eat some breakfast and get dressed felt like a major ordeal. I texted my husband to tell him that my ability to accomplish any tasks seemed to have left me. He suggested I take the day off and just not do anything. Which sounded great. Except it was Easter weekend and I had to get everything ready. Does everyone have an outfit to wear? Easter goodies. Easter dinner. Get the house cleaned up, family are coming. Try to get everyone’s schedules lined up. 

Just a lot to do. 

I ended up going to the store with three children in tow and I managed to get everything on the list, but the trip was really stressful. One kid wandered off and I spent ten minutes looking for him. Another kid was being impossible to please. I went through the self checkout  and then in the middle of all that had my blood sugar bottom out on me, which hasn’t happened in a long time. So I was quickly trying to finish checking out and pay so I could rip open some of the food packages that I had bought and eat something and get my blood sugar back under control. By the time I got home I felt like a failure. Bad attitude. Disorganized. The whole trip felt like a disaster. And my brain was just repeating that word over and over again. Failure. Failure. 

I’m not usually that mean to myself and so I made an effort to fight back. You know what, I went to the store. I didn’t want to go. I just wanted to sit in my chair and do nothing. But I went. And it was really hard, but I accomplished what I set out to accomplish. 

Not a failure. 

And telling myself that I’m not a failure feels like a victory in itself. Yay self-esteem! Yay positive thinking!  But I had an interesting thing happen last week that felt like it took this lesson a little deeper. 

I mentioned in my last blog that Child Services showed up to my house last week. I had done nothing wrong. The Social worker said I did nothing wrong. Case closed. She left. I was shaking, I was so upset. Self-righteous anger running through me. Praying out loud. Jesus, you know I’ve done nothing wrong. And it was true. In this scenario I was innocent. But suddenly I had a flashback of other times I’ve really blown it as a parent. My oldest kids saw me make a lot of mistakes. Not so innocent. And I felt like I heard Jesus whispering, even if you were guilty of anything and everything, I still love you the same. My love doesn’t change based on what you do. 

And that’s the lesson I am trying to grasp. Failure. Not a failure. It doesn’t matter. I am still loved. 

Happy Easter

Happy Easter everyone. I hope that you have had a wonderful day celebrating Jesus’ Resurrection. 

I woke up early this morning so I could lay out our traditional Easter Breakfast before the kids came downstairs. We don’t do Easter baskets, but I usually buy a little treat and some Easter candy and put it by everyone’s plates to find when they come down for breakfast. 

We had the normal whirlwind of making sure each child was dressed, had their shoes on, had brushed their hair. And then serving a special breakfast and getting everyone to the table at the same time. Finally everyone was sitting and I handed my husband the Bible so he could read the accounting of Jesus rising up from the dead. I make him read because I get all choked up every time and can’t finish. 

He is Risen. Just like he said. Death is conquered. We have been rescued. 

I looked around the table at my children while my husband read. Some of them were listening. The youngest were barely listening. If they were listening at all. Some were focused on what was being said and others looked like they were tuned out a bit. I wasn’t too worried about that. They are young. I am discovering that each year Easter means more to me than the year before. You stack that up over a lifetime and of course my kids aren’t going to react to this story the same way their 40s mom is going to react. But I find that encouraging. It makes me wonder how Easter will affect me even farther down the road. It is a wonderful thing to be in a relationship with Jesus that simply grows deeper and deeper every year. 

This past week was really rough. Children’s Services showed up on my doorstep because someone had called in a complaint about me. The social worker was apologetic. The claim was frivolous and did not merit any attention, but they had to do their job and investigate. They spoke to the child in question and found a happy child who had no complaints. They said I had done nothing wrong, apologized for having to bother me. This was all tied up with our foster child and was over and done with very quickly. Small hiccup. Except that the whole encounter left me shaking for several hours and emotionally numb for several days. Some emails and texts were exchanged with the person who initiated all this and we ended the week on peaceful terms once again. Though I’m still feeling bruised and battered by the whole thing. 

Life is hard. This feels like a cliche and I tell it to my kids all the time. And they shrug and ignore it. But it really is hard. Really Really Hard. And I don’t want to convey to them just how true that saying is because I don’t want to scare them or overwhelm them. I want them to feel hopeful and excited about the future. But it’s hard. 

And what I really need them to know is this life is downright impossible or maybe just pointless without Jesus. I cannot fathom trying to handle everything that has come my way without Jesus by my side giving me strength, peace, wisdom, safety, hope, joy. Without a future with him to look forward to, I would be bogged down with despair. He is a daily, constant presence in my life. My confidante. My best friend who understands everything I go through and knows how to correct and encourage as needed. 

Easter is the best day of the year. The day we celebrate not only Jesus coming back to life, but opening the door to bring us back to life as well. 

But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our trespasses. It is by grace you have been saved! Ephesians 2:4-5

Jesus took the punishment for all our sins and made a way for us to be with him forever. And today we celebrate that. 

My prayer is that each year this day will mean a little bit more to my children as they go farther and farther on this journey called life with Jesus by their side. And they learn for themselves about his faithfulness and great love for them. 

Happy Easter everybody! 

Book Reviews, Existentialism, and the Meaning of Life

I got a book at the library this week and it’s kind of gotten under my skin. I finished it yesterday and it’s one of the few times where I felt like writing to the author, not to praise him, but to say, Hey, Mister, You forgot to write the ending to your book, would you mind finishing this??? 

The book is The Tourist by Robert Dickinson. I just randomly grabbed it off the library shelf and read the little blurb about the storyline. It was very tame. Tourist group goes out, they come back and one of the tourists is missing. I’m thinking, some kind of mystery. But at the very bottom of the blurb, in smaller print, it says, “…orignal conspiracy thriller…” and that sounded intriguing. So I took the book home, started reading and immediately got annoyed because the book is written in First Person, Present Tense. And was thinking, there is no way this entire novel can be written in this style. It’s going to drive me crazy. But then as I read more I realized this is a time travel book, and if you’re writing time travel, you really have to write Present Tense. And the First Person thing just seemed to be this author’s Pet Quirk. 

By the last chapter I was flying through the pages, could not wait to see how he was going to solve the mystery and tie all these loose ends together. I was pretty excited. The story was interesting, complicated, and I had all kinds of ideas in my mind of how he might end it. And then, the book just kind of dribbled to a stop. Mystery was left unsolved. I was left, still not sure how all these pieces fit together, and very upset. I think at the very end he was trying to be artistic or something and I guess I was supposed to be moved. But I wasn’t. I was annoyed. 

I have read a lot of bad books. I have stopped in the middle of a lot of bad books and just walked away. I have plowed through mediocre books. And then I have been gripped and awed by masterpieces. I think what is so aggravating was that this book had potential to be Good. Not a masterpiece, but definitely a page turner where you walked away satisfied and ready to recommend it to everyone you know. And it felt like he got lost in his story, didn’t know what to do, so he just hastily wrote a couple more paragraphs and then pasted on THE END. (Ok, I’m being harsh, maybe with more thought and analysis, I might understand how his ending is good, just not seeing it right now.)

I’m going to dive a bit into the story though, because it’s got me thinking. On the front of the cover it says “The Future is Already Written”. And that’s really a key point to the story. All these people live in a dystopian society where time travel is a regular part of life. And they have records of their own lives from the future so there are no surprises. They know when they’re going to die. They know all the major events that will happen. If something goes wrong, people already know about it and have made provisions to fix the mistakes or at least deal with the outcomes. And then at the very end (SPOILER ALERT) everything goes off script. Near death experiences, failed rescues. And it’s at this point that one of the main characters feels alive for the first time. When he’s no longer walking out his predestined life and suddenly everything is up in the air and anything could happen. 

The book has a depressing ending. But it seems to me that it’s because the story plays out perfectly the worldview that we are simply organic beings crawling around on the surface of the planet and then one day we die. The end. That is a depressing world view. I’ve read a couple other novels lately and they all seem to hold that same perspective. Our lives have no real meaning. Get as much pleasure as you can while you still exist and then die and cease to exist. (Except of couse, for the euphemism that says, you live on your loved ones’ hearts. Which I guess means, when no one remembers you anymore, then you are truly dead.) 

Interestingly enough, yesterday, my second grader was telling me this inspirational chant they do every morning to start off the day at school. One of the lines was “I have a reason for being here!” My mind instantly went existential. The meaning of life. I asked her what she thought that meant. What’s your meaning for being here? She’s very literal and said it meant that she was at school to learn things. Ah yes. Ok. And then I told her (just in case she didn’t know) that our reason for being alive (here!) was because God created us and he loves us. 

Unlike the poor characters in The Tourist, our lives do have purpose and meaning. Love God. And obey his command to Love your Neighbor.

“What is the chief end of man? To glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” Westminster Catechism

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

And unlike the characters in the book who just faded away to nothing, we are eternal beings. 

 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

Our death here on earth is simply the next birth that ushers us into an eternity with Jesus. 

While I didn’t expect the book to have a Christian theme, I was hoping that the character’s story arc would lead them to discover at least one or two of the important themes. Like the value of human life. The richness of serving other people. The goodness of the earth. The absolute complexity and awesomeness of the universe that we live in. But instead the book was a window to how meaningless life is when you remove God from everything. 

In the end I have a sense of relief. Thank you Lord that my life has meaning. And sadness. Lord, what about all those people who truly believe their life is meaningless and death is the end? And I feel an urgency to tell people, there’s more. Dig deeper. Search for the truth. Life lived the way it’s meant to be, following Jesus, is exciting, purposeful, full of love and joy. 

Hurry, you’re running out of time!

I’ve been reading through the Bible in a year, backwards. It’s been a pretty good experience so far. I have probably only read through the prophets in the Old Testament once or twice before when I was very young and I have no memory of them. I have heard sermons on various sections over the years, have read different chapters occasionally, but I don’t have a good understanding of them. So it’s been good to read through them again. 

 I just finished reading the book of Jeremiah. I have to admit it was pretty heavy going in many chapters. I kind of felt like I had to wade through the doom and gloom before I could move on and read my Psalm and Proverb and chapter from the New Testament. But as I reached the end of the book I noticed a theme that got me thinking. And pondering. And praising. 

Throughout the whole book God is having his prophet tell his people that judgement is coming. And he lists all the reasons that they deserve judgement. They have turned from their God. They have embraced idols and all the sin that goes along with the worship of idols, including sacrificing their children in the fires. They have continually refused to listen to God’s prophets. The wealthy and ruling peoples treat the poor unfairly and harshly. They have been given multiple opportunities to repent and return to God, and they won’t. So finally, judgement is coming. 

God tells them what the judgement is going to be, but even as he berates them and tells them why they’re about to be judged, he keeps calling for them to repent. If you will just turn from these wicked ways, come back to me, I will forgive you. And they don’t. And the judgement gets closer and closer and God keeps telling them, you’re running out of time, judgement is coming. Repent. And they don’t. 

And then the judgement arrives in the form of a conquering nation and even then God says, look, turn yourselves over to your enemies and then at least you will live and one day I will restore you. And some people listen, but many don’t. And the conquering nation is there and they are trying to fight back and God keeps giving them one more chance. Just turn yourselves over and you’ll escape with your life. And they still don’t listen. 

When I first started reading it felt like a book about judgement. Punishment. Harshness. Anger. But as I finished it I walked away feeling like I had just read about everlasting mercy. Enduring love. God saying, ok, the consequences for your actions are finally coming on you. But look, there’s still hope. I can still fix this. Come back to me and I can help you make it right. 

Over and over again God sent Jeremiah to warn his people. Stop! Don’t you see death is on the horizon! Come back to me while you still can! And Jeremiah became very unpopular. People got tired of hearing the same gloomy message. They had other prophets, false prophets, who were telling them all kinds of happy things, like God loves you and he’s going to make your nation prosper! Forget about the fact that you are no longer following any of God’s laws and mandates. Forget about the fact that you have adopted all kinds of other gods. God still loves you! He wants you to be happy! Those were much nicer prophecies than what Jeremiah was giving them. 

But God loves his people, and he gave them a way back to him all the way up to the very end. His mercy is everlasting. 

It gives me hope. I read the book of Revelation and it feels scary. Judgement. Chaos. Punishment. But God never changes. I believe he will be offering his love and his salvation all the way to the bitter end. Because he doesn’t want us to die. He wants us to come to him. Judgement is a result of our sin, a consequence. It is inevitable. But he sent Jesus to take that punishment for us. And if we turn to him, we will be saved. But we have to turn. We have to stop listening to the false prophets who tell us God would never punish anyone. Hell isn’t real. God just wants everyone to be happy. And instead listen to his very urgent message. You have sinned. Your sin will be punished. Soon. Quick. Repent of your sin, turn to me, and I will save you. 

Hurry. You’re running out of time. 

You Amaze Me!

Today is my daughter’s birthday.  We’ve had a good celebration of her, cause it’s her day and I hope that it has been a great day for her. But I have my own private tradition on my kids’ birthdays. Each birthday I take a little time to remember their birth. The whole thing. I replay it in my mind. Keep the memory alive. Because, yes, it’s her birthday, but it’s also the anniversary of when I gave birth to a child. And survived. And, amazingly, just kept on with life as if not much had happened. 

It’s a bit odd, but in our culture (at least here in the South), talking about giving birth in mixed company is kind of taboo. Even talking about it with other women, we usually make sure that everyone in the circle has already given birth or is just about to. Maybe it’s too personal? Too gory? Too special? 

I’m not sure what the reasoning is. All I know is that one of the greatest accomplishments me and my body have ever undertaken is something that is never talked about. My body grew another human being and then pushed that human being out. We just use these gentle little phrases, I gave birth or We had a baby. It sounds so passive. Sweet. Words that keep everyone comfortable. 

How about, I labored to bring a baby out of my body. I agonized, crossed all reasonable thresholds of pain, but didn’t die, and somehow managed to get a baby from point A to point B without ripping my body in half. 

How about, I entered the zone of pain where the world disappeared, logical thought disappeared, and the only thing my brain was aware of was how to get this baby out so the pain would stop. 

How about, I disciplined my breathing and counting in my head to such an amazing level that I was able to withstand contractions that were literally stretching my body open from zero to ten centimeters. And I only yelled a little. 

Why, in our culture, do we not see a mom with a new baby and immediately start clapping. WOW!! YOU DID IT!! I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU MADE IT! 

So, I know there are a lot of moms out there who didn’t give birth to their babies. They adopted, fostered, took over care from a family member. This is not a put down on you. The fact of the matter is you need your own cheering squad and standing ovation. I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU JUST MADE A DECISION TO LOVE THIS CHILD AND THEN YOU DID! Just like that! And now you’ve given your entire life to taking care of this child, just like that! YOU ARE AMAZING!! 

Ok, not everyone is a mom. But everyone does amazing things. This one is for my husband and all the other hard working breadwinners out there. I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU GET UP EVERY SINGLE MORNING AND GO TO WORK!! EVEN WHEN YOU DON’T FEEL LIKE IT! AND YOU KEEP FIXING THE CARS AND MAKING THEM RUN! AND YOU KEEP READING BEDTIME STORIES AND TUCKING KIDS INTO BED! AND YOU KEEP PLANNING YOUR TIME AROUND YOUR FAMILY AND PUTTING THEM FIRST!! You are amazing. 

We don’t spend enough time recognizing the struggles and triumphs of our fellow man and woman. I think if we spent more time being amazed by each other, it would help in the respect and kindness department. 

Just a thought. 

Living in the “Before”

The other day it was a warm spring afternoon and I went out on our trampoline in the yard with my five year old. I was just laying there on the trampoline, eyes closed, absorbing the sunshine. My five year old was rolling around, stopping every couple minutes to come and cuddle up with me before he got restless again and rolled some more. And I had this thought, “Am I living in the Before?” “Before”, that time period that comes before the storm, before the flood, before the tragedy, before the war. That time that we look back on and say, everything was great, Before… 

I saw a meme yesterday that brought this all back to mind. A young girl saying, My life will begin when I grow up. A young woman saying, My life will begin once I get that promotion. An older woman saying, My life will begin after I retire. And then the final picture, the woman on her deathbed, wondering where her life went. 

All of these things point to the need to live in the present. Today. This is the day that the Lord has made, Let us rejoice and be glad in it. Today. 

I am very guilty of getting caught up in the future. Just have to make it through this season then it will be better. Just get this last kid potty trained, then life will be easier. Just need to get through this school year with the kids. Just need to get through this summer break. Just need to get this kid graduated. And I totally lose track of the fact that today is what life is about. Not tomorrow. Today I am a wife and a mother. Today I am a friend. Today I am a child of God. Today is something to be celebrated. We’re alive! We’ve got opportunities all day long to show love to other people. Right now I can talk to God, worship him. Right now I can serve the people around me. Right now I can notice the earth around me and be thankful for it. 

I don’t know what the future holds. I just read a news article from a mainstream media site talking about the fact that nuclear war is becoming a real possibility again. And stuff like that can send you over the edge into despair and worry and fear. I think about the everyday people in Ukraine who perhaps are thinking about the Before times in their lives. Longing to go back. People in my own country that just survived mass shootings. People who just surived tornados. All thinking of that Before time. 

As a Christian I look forward to Jesus coming back. Come Lord Jesus, Come! Come bring an end to all this suffering and pain. But when he comes back, if I am still alive, I want to greet him with confidence. Yes, I took every day that you gave me and lived it fully. I delighted in you daily and sought to do the work you gave me, daily. I did not bury the talents you gave me because I was afraid, but I used them to the fullest. 

I think using our talents to the fullest is not this big complicated thing we make it out to be. It’s simply living, present, engaged, listening to the Holy Spirit moment by moment as we savor the day that is around us. 

Whatever you do, work at it with your whole being, for the Lord and not for men, because you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as your reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:23-24

We serve Christ today. Not tomorrow. We serve by going through our ordinary day doing our ordinary things with joy and thankfulness. We reach out to the people that are around us. Share kindness and hope. Today. Not tomorrow. This is our Before. Before Jesus comes back. Let’s live this Before as fully and joyfully as possible. 

Sometimes Perseverance isn’t Best

Have you ever found yourself in a sticky situation where you can either just stop and start all over again, or keep pushing on and see if you can fix it? 

So today I set out to make bread. I’ve been making our bread for the past couple months. It’s cheaper, homemade bread tastes better, I’ve been in the mood to bake. Win win. 

When I bake I do a large double recipe that takes almost an entire five pound bag of flour, maybe a fourth of a cup left in the bag when I’m done. I don’t measure the flour. Just dump it in until the dough is at the right consistency. 

I was just about to start dumping flour in when I remembered that my daughter had made muffins the night before and used four cups of flour. I paused for a second. I didn’t have any other flour in the house that I knew of, but I was only four cups short. All my wet ingredients were already mixed together. I could just add some oatmeal. That should take care of it. 

I dumped in all the flour, let it mix for a while and saw that my dough wasn’t even close to forming a ball. I dumped in some quick oats, let it mix for a while. Still wasn’t forming a ball. Hmm. What should I do? I searched all the cupboards and found some potato flakes. Well, I’d seen a bread recipe that used potato flakes, why not? So I dumped them in. Walked away from my mixer a while then came back when I heard loud noises. What I came back to was dough that was way too thick and way too dry and way too heavy for my mixer to handle. Hmm. Ok. I’ll knead it by hand and add some oil and water. I dumped it on my table and made an attempt at adding a bit more water. It instantly got slimy and gross. Yuck. So then I decided to divide the dough in half and just put half back in the mixer. Do it in smaller batches!

The dough refused to get any softer or malleable. By now my mixer was starting to treat this substance with disdain.

I ended up kneading the two halves by hand and then dumped them in a bowl to rise. Now what?  Should I just throw it away or keep trying? 

Not one to give up, I stuck it in the oven, warmed it up a bit and left it to rise. 

I let it rise for four hours. It didn’t double or anything, but it did get a little puffier. I could not picture any of my family eating this. I knew, from past mistakes and experiments, that this bread was going to be very dense, very dry, and very unpopular. 

So then I got another brilliant idea. I won’t bake the bread, I’ll cook it like it’s an English muffin and fry it on a skillet. Everyone likes English muffins, right? 

Me and the five year old rolled out all the dough like I was making biscuits and used a biscuit cutter and cut out a million circles (two and half large trays worth). Then I put them back in the slightly warm oven to rise again.  I let them rise for another two hours then got out the skillet and started frying. 

And the whole time I’m thinking, why am I doing this? No one is going to eat these. 

I am now the proud owner of three large ziploc bags full of my hockey puck bread creations. As I told my husband, they’re not bad…They’re not amazing…But they’re not bad. Will any of my children eat these? I’m going to guess that one or two might try one, but that’s it. My husband will be loyal and eat one or two, assuring me that it tastes great. But he won’t go back for more. I will eat a couple out of stubbornness. (They remind me of the elven bread in Tolkien’s books). And the rest will sit there on the counter for probably a week or two until I finally give up and throw the silly things away. 

I’m sure this reveals something about my character. Not sure if I want to know what it is though.

Sometimes I’m an awesome cook. And sometimes, I’m not. And usually, when I’m not, it’s cause I was trying to fix something that went wrong.  

His Terms, Not Ours

Today I’ve been thinking about living life with Jesus on his terms, not mine. I’ve been thinking about the fact that there is no flexibility or compromise when it comes to the Christian walk.

There is a common myth that all roads lead to heaven. All gods are the same god, just called different names, or a good God will take me as I am, no religious affiliation necessary. But Jesus said very differently. 

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6

No compromise. His terms, not ours. 

In the Lord’s prayer we are taught, by Jesus, to pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” 

God’s will. Not ours. 

I think, as an adult, one of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with is watching God not handle things the way I think they should be handled. Even after I pray and lay out to God a perfect way for dealing with a situation and what I think would be a perfect outcome, he keeps not taking my advice and doing it his way instead. Where’s the compromise??? Surely it should be done my way sometimes? But instead I have the whisper of what Jesus prayed in the garden, “Not my will but yours be done…”

Scriptures says, 

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Romans 12:1

We offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to God, and this is what is pleasing to him. This does not evoke pictures of two businessmen sitting at a conference table hashing out a deal. In fact, it reminds me of when I was a kid and my parents made some pronouncement that my brother and I didn’t like and we said, but This is a Democracy! We have rights! And the answer was, actually, no, this is not a democracy, it is an autocracy. 

Many different places in the Bible God is described as a potter, we his creation. Isaiah 45:9 asks, “ ‘Does the clay say to the Potter, what are you making?’ ” 

As Americans we have little experience with authority and submission. Our society is based on equality. No one is better than the next person. We all make decisions as a group. We have leaders but their job is to do the will of the people, not their own will. It is a sign of weakness to not “be your own person” who is in complete control of your own life and who makes all important decisions for yourself. And then we become Christians and we get confronted with this verse, 

And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. Luke 9:23

It doesn’t sound like a very balanced power system. It sounds like sacrifice. Submission. Servanthood. Complete Faith. Trust. 

So un-American. So medieval. So repressed. 

But maybe, instead of making this amazing sacrifice of self-autonomy and status, what we are actually doing is leaving the pretend world. The world where God doesn’t exist and we self-created out of the atmosphere and we rule our own destiny. Maybe what we are doing is getting our eyes opened to true reality. The reality that God does exist and has always existed. The reality that God created us. The reality that without him we are nothing. The reality that our destiny and our eternal existence depends completely on him and his mercy and grace. And in this very real world, God is God and we are his creation. Potter-clay. Master-servant. Father-son. And we are called to live life out on his terms, not our own. And when we do, that is when we have peace, joy, love. A life that is truly worth living.