The Golden Hour

Once again, I sit on the dock and soak in the evening sun. Photographers call this “the golden hour”—that hour before sunset when all the world is bathed in gilded light. And this weathered platform at the end of an overgrown boardwalk is my quiet place, my hideaway.

It’s beautiful here.

IMG_20170721_195601_004.jpgDragonflies and damselflies flit among the reeds and marsh flowers. Two dark shapes glide noiselessly through water clear as glass. They’re big, these fish. Healthy. From across the lake, I hear the boys’ camp singing. It’s someone’s birthday and the voices echo in the stillness. There are sounds of laughter and playing too.

Sounds of happiness.

These last few weeks here have taught me much, and it’s hard to put it all into words.

But mostly, this…

I’ve been watching the Body of Christ function in a whole new way. I’ve been learning that no gift is too small, no person too insignificant. I’ve been learning the importance of “the least of these”—that we all can play a role—and I’ve watched people do just that. I’ve seen people in the background treated with just as much honour as those on the front lines.

I’ve been learning what true unity looks like.

I’ve seen people from different denominations and generations and walks of life come together with singularity of purpose. We’ve prayed together, worshipped together, taken communion together—His Body broken, the Church whole.

I’ve watched as people with vastly different talents put their gifts to use for the glory of One.

I’ve heard stories and seen firsthand how lives are changed when we set differences aside and focus on Jesus.

I’ve seen my own life change too. It’s hard to find the right words, and perhaps I’ll never find them, but it’s enough for now to simply say that my soul has been marked by this summer.

IMG_20170725_185658IMG_20170722_164640_778IMG_20170727_134323I lean all the way back on the dock, wood rough against my back, face to the sky, and think about all this. The evening sun filters through closed lids, and I sigh content. I know now what I tried hard to know before.

The little I have to offer?

When given to Jesus, it’s enough.

My broken loaves given to Him, and His Body given for me. The Church, not only hands and feet, but everything else that makes a body complete—the Body complete.

IMG_20170727_054800_080The golden light slips away.

But I’ll carry this summer in my heart always

IMG_20170721_211645_514.jpg

To the moms whose kids are grown…

0untitled-design

“Older women … are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” (Titus 2:3-5, NIV)

I feel it acutely. There’s my mom, of course. She is an amazing, godly woman who is filled with the kind of wisdom that can only come from the years behind her. I’m lucky to have her. But other than that? There isn’t too much interaction between generations, much of the time.

Sometimes, I wonder if the lack of older mentors is the reason my generation—the generation of young parents—seems so lost. There are parenting books, of course. Online home management courses. Sermons and podcasts.

But few pour into us on a personal level.

We discuss it amongst each other—how to love our husbands, raise our children and manage our homes.

How to be self-controlled.

Pure.

Kind.

But there is something to be said for the wisdom that comes from long-life experience. Yes, we glean from those alongside us in the trenches, but we also desperately need those who have already fought our same battles and won.

(Or even lost. Because every scar tells a story.)

Last night, I drove 30 minutes down dark country roads to a complete stranger’s house. A friend had invited me. I parked on the street and stumbled up the driveway in the inky blackness, towards windows spilling warm light.

The woman who owned the house welcomed me graciously. Although her children are grown, she opens her home on a regular basis to younger homeschooling moms. Her heart—her beautiful heart—is to pour into the next generation.

Women from all over came—some drove longer distances than I did. She put out carafes of coffee, tea and dainty, floral cups. We packed into her living room to pray and learn together.

And she explained to each new, shy face how the Lord has called her to provide support, encouragement, and to live out Titus 2:3-5.

The Church needs people like this.

Older women, we need you.

We don’t always know how to say it, but we need you to open your lives to us. To open your homes to us. To offer advice. To come alongside us and tell us that we’ll make it through the hard days. To smile with us on the joy-filled days. To teach us what it means to be good wives and mothers.

You see, there’s a lot at stake.

Our families, yes. But according to Titus 2:5, how we manage our families and homes also affects people’s perception of the Word of God.

According to Titus 2:5, the gospel is at stake.

You, who are on the other side, have so much to offer.

And we, who are in the trenches, want to learn.

 

When Love Needs Truth

Untitled design (1)

Everyone’s talking about the big change. A man becoming a woman, his new identity splashed across the pages of Vanity Fair.

(Yes, I’m going to go there.)

Our society is hailing him as a hero.

Why?

I think it’s because he embodies the tenuous hope that, somewhere out there, happiness is possible. But, as Matt Walsh pointed out, brokenness in a surgically and hormonally-altered casing is still brokenness—and no matter how much you change the outside, your inner self is still your inner self.

Seeing people wrestle with themselves like that? It wrecks me.

Know what else wrecks me?

The church.

I love my pastor because he does not compromise truth. But there are many churches in which the definitions of gender, orientation and identity are not being shaped by the Word of God. We live in a society in which the global church is increasingly adopting “progressive Christianity”. Here’s the thing. Progressive thinking becomes regressive thinking when we become so focused on promoting love that we forget truth.

I’m all for grace and mercy. Believe me. I breathe it every day. But it was John Lennon who said that “all you need is love”, not Jesus.

Jesus, the embodiment of love, said, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

Love and truth are intertwined.

So when we say that black is white and white is black? Or when we ignore both black and white entirely?

We end up with people in the church who are just as lost and confused as they were before they joined the church because they still don’t know why they are broken. The church might throw out a lifeline of love but if that love is not anchored by truth then we are all just hopelessly drifting.

If that doesn’t break your heart, nothing will.

We will never fully understand the redeeming power of Jesus without understanding the destructive power of sin. Angry confrontational protests do not show love. But love that does not bring freedom is not really love either. Jesus died for our freedom but until we realize that we are bound, we will never be able to embrace the fullness of the cross. 

We need both love and truth.

Sometimes, I sit in my living room and weep. I weep for the world and I weep for the church. And I weep because I want so badly to be brave.

Why are we afraid to stand for truth? I don’t know if there has ever been a society so lost and confused.

I truly believe that God wants to bring freedom to our land. I truly believe that He wants to sweep across our nation and ignite hearts with His love and His truth. But the church needs men and women who will stand for what is right. Only then can lives be changed. People are not looking for conformity. They are not looking for compromise.

People are desperate for the freedom that only Jesus can bring.

In the confusion and brokenness of today’s world, God is calling the church to rise up strong. Full of love? Yes. Yet uncompromisingly strong. Even when it’s uncomfortable, even when it’s unpopular, and even when no one else gets it.

Whom shall I send? Who will go for Me?

The need is great; the call is great.

Here am I. Send me.

Confidently into Glory

The wooden pews in the sanctuary and the grey stacking chairs in the overflow room were full. The crowd spanned several generations and many denominations and yet, as we rose to our feet to sing, we stood together as one body.

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light my strength my song

As the music swirled through the air, I looked up to the front of the church, so different from my own. No flashy lights or oversize television screens. Just a plain wooden pulpit and a large, rough-hewn cross.

My grandfather, a simple farmer, had helped make that cross. A reminder to all of grace.

As He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

Beneath the cross was a casket. My uncle. It was a home-coming of sorts, a sinner turned saint who has gone to meet his Savior.

No guilt in life no fear in death
This is the pow’r of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny

As we sang and as I looked at the cross, I could feel the Holy Spirit whisper His peace into my heart. So many worries. So many troubles. So much uncertainty in this life.

But Jesus commands our destiny.

My cousin Teresa got up and spoke beautiful words about her father: “He worked hard, loved harder, and walked confidently into glory.” And those words, too, burrowed their way deep into my heart.

And then 2 Corinthians 12:9. My grace is sufficient for you. Nothing more, nothing less. Just clear, beautiful grace.

‘Til He returns or calls me home
Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand

Isn’t all of that what all of life should be about? To stand in the love of Christ with our eyes fixed on the cross and a song in our heart. To live covered by grace and for that to be enough. To work hard. To love harder.

And then, when all is said and done and we’ve accomplished all that God has for us to accomplish, to walk confidently into glory.

A Life Healed and Whole

Miracles. They’re all around us. Amazing, mind-boggling, impossible miracles. I saw some first-hand tonight. Earlier this evening, twenty-six people were baptized at my church.

I can’t get over the stories these people shared. Some had been sexually, physically or emotionally abused as children. Others had struggled for years with serious addictions. Still others had tried to end their lives – more than once.

The evening was filled with story after story of loss, hopelessness and desperation. But the focus was not on that. The focus was on healing, restoration and peace.

You see, every single one of those stories that I heard tonight has a happy, miraculous ending. Do you want to know why? It’s because each of these people gave their sin and brokenness to Jesus.

He redeemed them and made them whole.

We all want a happy ending, don’t we? There’s only one way to get it. 1 Peter 1:3-5 says,

What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole. (The Message)

A “life healed and whole”. That’s what tonight was all about. The greatest miracle of all is the miracle of a changed life and there’s only one person who can offer that.

It’s Jesus.

Everyday Life: The Heart of the Matter

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

How do you express yourself in worship? Do you dance? Draw? Sing?

For me, writing is a form of worship. I don’t write to impress you, the reader. I don’t write to bring attention to me, the author. Whether it’s through humour for the sake of humour or a serious life lesson, the words on the page must ultimately draw people to Jesus. Otherwise, every word penned is meaningless.

John 4:24 says, “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth”. The Greek word for “worship” means “to pay homage, to revere”. To put it simply, worship is giving glory to God.

Worship in a church setting is important. Worship during personal devotion time is important. Creative worship – like singing, dancing, painting or writing – are important. But worship is so much more than those things. It’s a heart attitude.

We’ve been created to live lives of worship. To revere God. To glorify Him. Everyday. Every minute. In everything.

It doesn’t matter whether you are chasing children, scrubbing toilets, organizing paper clips, or wowing vast audiences with your unparalleled musical abilities. The Bible says that God is enthroned in the praises of His people. If your heart’s desire is to exalt Jesus through the things you do, you are worshiping Him.

As always, there is a question that the Holy Spirit is asking me … and as always, I’ll throw it out there for you too. How are you going to worship God today?