grave clothes

John 11: 1-43

As I sat down this morning to read, I was raptured by this story of Lazarus. But not just with Lazarus; specifically with Mary.  

Mary, whom we would later know as the woman who busted in to a party with Jesus and his friends, only to break the most expensive of perfume (probably her life savings) at Jesus' feet and then proceed to wipe his feet with her hair.  An extravagant act to match a deep Love that she had for her Savior.  

An obedience and passion that would also lead to her being known as the woman who sat at Jesus' feet, listening to all He had to say.  All while her sister Martha, would be busy preparing for the party complaining of Mary not helping.  What I find interesting about this, is Jesus' response : "Martha, martha," The Lord answered, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:41-42)  Martha did not seem urgent for Jesus, which will counter her response to John's account of her brother, Lazarus.  We'll get back to that in a moment.

In John 11, we find out that Mary and Martha's brother is on his death bed.

 "So the sisters sent word to Jesus, "Lord, the one you love is sick."  

And His response? "This sickness will not end in death. No it is for God's glory so that God's son may be glorified through it."  John, the writer, goes on to clarify how much Jesus loves mary and martha as well.

So here we are. We know Jesus loves Lazarus. We even know He loves Martha and Mary. 

His response must then be to cure their brother. Right?  At least that is our belief in our most honest and vulnerable state. We associate God's love for us, with what good is happening in our lives at the moment.  Things are going so bad- God must not be there.  Things are good- God must love me.  

We know Jesus loves Lazarus. We know He loves Martha and Mary.  

Yet, Jesus let Lazarus die.

He died. I wonder what Mary thought the moment her brother gasped for his last breathe.  Or as she wrapped him in grave clothes. Or when 4 days had passed and people were starting to move on.  Where is Jesus?  How could He let this happen? I wonder if she started to question every claim he had given.  I wonder if  her trust for her Savior faltered when He was not there to save her brother.

I wonder if this is where bitter roots start to form?  When bad things happen and we allow the seeds of distrust to enter in.  After all, distrust causes us to retreat.  Which is the opposite of barging in on Jesus and his friends to pour your life's savings at His feet. 

But as it goes on, it confirms all things I know to be true. We are not God and we are not in control. Jesus' response was to go four days AFTER he died. "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but i am going there to wake him up."  His response was the opposite of human logic.

These words have to be some of my favorite. Here Jesus absolutely flips it on his disciples and soon to be Mary and Martha.  It's hard to relate to Lazarus being rose from the actual dead.  It's hard to imagine the possibility of life after 4 days dead, in a tomb, covered from head to toe in grave clothes.  

But what is not necessarily hard to imagine, but hard to believe, is feeling so far gone spiritually, that there is just no redemption.   No redemption for our friend who could not be further from believing the truth of Jesus.  No redemption for our lost family member who would believe in Big Foot before believing in a Savior who died to save you from your sins. No redemption for our own sinful lives; dead to feeling and hope.

But Jesus. (don't you love that sentence?)

Jesus goes to WAKE HIM UP. I don't know about you, but I know this feeling of being woken up.  And listen,  I was ASLEEP (so to speak). The lost cause. The adulteress woman.  I was Hosea who sought after lovers. And My Jesus said "NO. MY FRIEND ANGIE HAS FALLEN ASLEEP, BUT I AM GOING TO WAKE HER UP." I get emotional every time I see this verse. You are never too far gone. He will never stop his fight to WAKE YOU UP.

But it's here that I notice how good our God is at multitasking.  He is on his way to raise Lazarus, literally, from the dead. But on his way, He wakes up Mary and Martha as well. 

"On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.  Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. " John 11:17-19

When He arrived in Bethany at the home of Mary and Martha, Martha came out to greet him immediately. The same woman who was too concerned with "doing" rather than "being" with Jesus. The same woman who seemed to have lost her need for Jesus, was running out to greet Him with anxious expectation.  

But the line I noticed the most was this:  "When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed home." John 11: 20

Mary stayed home. She retreated.  It's like you can see her hardening up to the Jesus she once loved as her world comes crashing down. As I read these words this morning, an overwhelming feeling of "me too" came over me. I understood it, after all. I understood the retreat. I understood the "stand still" as maybe she debated whether or not Jesus could be trusted.  How often do I let my fear or distrust sit me back down- cutting me off from my run to my Savior. 

"Lord , Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask." 

Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again."

 Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day. "Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this? " 

"Yes, Lord," she told him, "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world." 

And after she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside.  "The teacher is here," she said, "and is asking for you."  When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him.

 

And she didn't just go to him. She ran to Him and fell at his feet. You see, when Jesus calls you; you run. There is so much comfort in that. My own sin, my own junk. My own trust issues. There is nothing that will stop Jesus from calling your name and calling you back. 

Even in our disbelief and distrust, Jesus still pursues and calls us by name. 

He can take it. After all, this all proceeded what would be the most ultimate act of love in the face of our ugliest of sin. But in the midst of all this, he goes directly to the tomb of Lazarus and calls him out. 

"So they took away the stone.  Then jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me.  I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me. 

When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!"  The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. 

Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go."

I think sometimes our distrust in the Lord can send our hearts straight to the grave of numbing bitterness. Maybe things in your life have led you to believe that God is not good or that he cannot be trusted. After all, your story may not have ended up exactly like Lazarus and Mary's. However what is true and what I will shout at the top of my lungs, is that Jesus is after us. All of us.  All of Mary. All of Lazarus. All of us.  

He wants to unstrip the layers for us to raise our hands again.

To raise our hands to our God that loves us and is holding us tightly in our hands. The God who held my friend Jenna as she went to be with him this past October. The God who healed my best friend's son in nothing short of a miracle.  He is good.  And He can be trusted. And he's big enough to take your fears, doubts, anxiety and everything in between.  I once heard Louie Giglio say, "Jesus is not offended by your stink."  He calls you out to wake you up.  Whether your stench smells like mary's distrust, or the threat of spiritual death and decay. 

He will never stop calling you by name. Reminding you of His unfailing Love and his promise to never leave us or forsake us.  Through the Good, the bad and the decay. .

waves of peace

It was a wednesday morning on vacation. I got up to run on the beach to clear my head and my heart. The night before, we had lost our son in a sea of people for 8 minutes.  For 8 minutes, my world quickly began to cave in all around me as my anxiety flooded my lungs, leaving me gasping for air.  As my husband began his way to the stage of this outdoor pavilion to hijack the band microphone, the crowds parted and I saw my sweet boy crying while being led out by a God sent stranger. All at once I felt a surge of gratefulness, sorrow and the intense feeling of needing to vomit.  "How could I have let this happen?"  and " I am the worst mom" were the string of sentences that were blasting my head and heart with every step we took back to the car. I was consoling my son, while assaulting myself. 

Running has been therapy for my anxious heart. However I only started running 6 years ago when some friends and I committed to running a half marathon to raise money for our friend Libby, who had just been diagnosed with cancer. (I had never even run a mile) The Lord knew that race would essentially change my entire life.   After all, that was the year that I finally began to deal with my past and sift through some trauma.  I needed something that would steer my concentration and let out some steam. After all, when you are running, you really only have the option to concentrate on your breathing and whatever song, sermon, silence you are listening to. And YOU get to choose what you put in your ears, which inevitably will ALWAYS reach down to your heart. 

Unfortunately, anxiety is something I battle with on a daily basis. My natural hard wiring coupled with my life's chain of events has bent me towards a daily acknowledgement of what cripples me the most.  The Lord and I have done a lot of work in this area. And yet, somehow It can still cripple me in 8 minutes. It seems like this will be something I will forever cling to with my Jesus.  Now, it would be weird if a mom were not anxious about her missing child, I know that. But anxiety will take that moment and slam you to your knees in the comforts of your own living room with all of your children playing a board game by your side.  Anxiety sets off every trigger in your mind and begins to feed a steady stream of lies to your thoughts all while tightening straps around your heart.   It can hit you anywhere, anytime- using any memory, any fear that it chooses.  You can try to control it. But then you realize, you have absolutely no control over anything and then crap hits the fan; all hell breaks loose. 

So I run. I run and let it out and I talk to the Lord. I listen to truth so that I can combat the lies.  As I began my run on wednesday morning, I decided to run the beach. I HIGHLY recommend this. I turned on the "Of Dirt And Grace" Album by Hillsong United and went off. With every step I felt the Lord stripping off layer after layer, chain after chain until I was bare.  Exposed by my heavenly father gently telling me that HE is in control. Not me. Not ever. And that is equally terrifying and calming. 

As the music played, "Prince of Peace" came on.  I listened to the words and felt hot tears stream down my face.  

Your love surrounds me when my thoughts wage war
When night screams terror, there Your voice will roar
Come death or shadow, God I know Your light will meet me there

When fear comes knocking, there You'll be my guard
When day breeds trouble, there You'll hold my heart
Come storm or battle, God I know Your peace will meet me there

Again and again
Oh, be still my heart
I know that You are God

Oh, fear no evil
For I know You are here

It seems i'm constantly praying for peace. I'd say these are my loudest and most repetitive words to my Jesus. Peace to not cripple me. Peace to focus.  As I began to see this image of Jesus roaring over my fear, surrounding my feeble body, I saw this hunk of a log on the edge of the ocean floor.  

On my last lap, I stopped to stare. I watched the waves crash over it as it laid there heavy. And I thought, "Even if I am a log on the sand and can't even manage to climb into the ocean, the waves of God's grace will STILL crash over me."  All at once I was overwhelmed at the thought that I do not have to have it all together. Even when anxiety threatens to leave me paralyzed like that log, The Lord will still reach me. He will still hover over me, washing me over with his Love and grace.  He meets me where I am at. And friends, I have SEEN it. I have seen it in my dear friend,  in her last week on this earth. I have seen it in my deepest wound. I have seen it in my friend who lost a child.  I have seen his All encompassing power and His unconditional, unfailing love.  I have seen His PEACE that transcends all understanding. 

I want the waves to be the first thing you see in me.  I want to be honest about the hard stuff. But If there was ever a picture of what I want to be known for and the truth I want to drench my bones with- It would be this image of the waves crashing over the log.   Whatever my log looks like for that day- let the waves of God's mercy and control be the thing that others see. Let it be the image I see. Let it be the image I remember when my thoughts wage war.  My Jesus who meets me where I'm at.  Takes the anxiety and floods me with His peace.

 

Praise the LORD.
How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him!  The LORD builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the exiles of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.  Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.  The LORD sustains the humble. but casts the wicked to the ground.  Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; make music to our God on the harp.  
He covers the sky with clouds; he supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills.  He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call.
His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man; the LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.  Extol the LORD, O Jerusalem, praise your God, O Zion, for he strengthens the bars of your gates and blesses your people within you.  He grants peace to your borders and satisfies you with the finest of wheat. 
Psalm 147: 1- 14
                                                               @thirstyheartsdesign

                                                               @thirstyheartsdesign

For the hurting & broken

I wrote this post three years ago to the day.  As I read through it, I just kept thinking about how much has happened in these three short years. So much more pain; so much more joy.  And maybe I didn't fully understand God's goodness then, in my heart. But I knew truth. And you know what? That truth carried me through even more dark times when I didn't feel it in my heart.  I had no idea what was to come three years ago. And I have no idea what more will come in the next three years. But what I do know, is that God has never left me.  This truth carried me until I could see the real, gracious and GOOD Father that He is, TODAY.  And it will continue to carry me tomorrow. 

__________________________________________

3.25.2014

It's been a year, friends.  Here is what life is looking like these days:

 

 

We are doing well.  Our daughter is one and our son is 4.  My heart hurts when I write those ages because it feels as though time is flying by entirely too quick.  But I am overwhelmed with gratitude and am filled with humble awe at the gift of having two healthy, loving babes.  

I do not take this for granted.

To be honest, I sat down to write with a heavy heart. So many things on my mind and so many feelings this morning.  The Lord gave me some quiet time and it feels like I couldn't open my computer and dust off this old blog fast enough.  

On the night of my daughter's first birthday, the kids were tucked into bed and I found myself turning on the TV to zone out the melancholy feelings. Thoughts of the party being over and venturing off to elle's 16th birthday, when she gets married, my babies leaving the nest.  She's one and I am dramatic.  There's really no other excuse.  However the movie, "John Q" was on.  I love that movie.  Somehow watching that movie after being a mom has rocked me to the core.  If you haven't seen it, it's about a father, John, who is trying to get his son on the heart donor's list at the hospital.  His son was dying and no one was helping.  So he took matters into his own hands and took the hospital and doctors hostage until someone would put his son on the donor's list for a new heart.  *spoiler alert-  It eventually escalades into this scene where the father insists on killing himself so that the doctors would take his heart and put it in his son's body.

 

JOHN Q VIDEO

 

I just sobbed as I watched it.  As a mom, it grips me in a way that I "get it" at the most honest and vulnerable level. When I think about my friends who are going through such horrific and devastating real life nightmares- miscarriages, to heart defects, to news of even the possibility of their child not surviving- they get it more. And it is heart-literally, breaking.  My chest hurts as I write it.  Why do these things exist?  Where is God?  Isn't that our real question?

But to be honest, I was sobbing at this part not just because the thought of silas and elle- but because of what my heavenly father has stepped in and done in my life.  As a college freshmen, my heart was in shambles.  A rape that stole my voice and gutted me from the inside out. A lifelong venture of filling my life with anything just to numb pains that led to a lifeless body.  My heavenly father stood and yelled "accept what? No I don't accept that, EVER. No I reject that.... maybe you don't understand what i'm talking about, my daughter is going to live, maybe you haven't figured that out by now, i'll do whatever I got to do in order for her to live." (John Q reference)

Or in his more literal words, "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." romans 5:6-8

" who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written: "for your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."  No in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."  romans 8:35-39

And here I sit sobbing. In thankfulness and awe over My father who loves me and fights for me in this way. And not only for me, but my sweet friends who are going through these heart-gutting trials.  For their sweet babes who are living and for their sweet babes who have gone home to Jesus. To my college girls who are learning how deep our Father loves us and that at the root of it all, nothing else matters.  As one wrecked person to another, whether we are crawling or running in life, our Good God has chosen us and and is carrying us through this life that is flawed and in need of a rescuer. Do we realize we need to be rescued?  Because I can't get this image of him grabbing us up in the midst of our crawl, in the midst of the hard and bad stuff... running as fast as he can, carrying us through the storm and covering our heads.

 

"You are a people holy to the Lord your God.  The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his TREASURED POSSESSION. The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other people. You were the fewest of all people.  But because he LOVED YOU and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors and brought you out with a MIGHTY hand and REDEEMED you from the land of slavery, from the power of pharoah, king of egypt.  Know therefore, that the Lord your God is GOD.  He is the FAITHFUL GOD.  Keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments." deuteronomy 7:6-9

We are chosen.  We are His treasured possession.  Just because he loves us, no other reason. He redeemed us from our lives of slavery.  He is faithful.  He will never divorce us.  Our great rescuer. Not only forever to be with him in heaven, but even in the midst of hardship here on this earth.  He is with us in our darkest places and in our darkest moments, holding us tightly in his grasp.

Oh i hope you needed to hear this today as much as I did.

 

"Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all you who remain of the house of Israel, you whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth.  Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am he who will sustain you.  I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you."  Isaiah 46:3-4

 

To my daughter on her first birthday:

elle, The same God who loved the israelites and brought them out of slavery, is the same God who loves you and has carried you since you were in my womb.  He is the one who fights for you and stands there saying "no, my daughter is going to live."  He is all that matters, my love.  Through all of the uncertainties and trials in life- He is the only constant.  And He is a good, strong, never failing, never giving up constant.

 

[a prayer in the waiting]

You flick your light in the dark and my heart beats fast. And before I realize it, the light is a blazing fire of assurance. Assurance that you are God. That You are Good. And you are HERE. You are here in my mess. In my darkness.

You know full well, who you have come for, and, oh God, you know every part of me. I am overwhelmed by you. Oh God, would you remind me that your love is unfailing and your light is never ending? Oh God, would you rescue me, would you release me from my own helplessness? Because boiling inside of me is this “knowing”. This resting. This confidence that no darkness can drown out your light.

I see it.

In the darkest room. In the face of death, in the face of heartache, in the pit of despair, we SEE it. We are not in the dark, but in a rescued room where you lead us out, hand in hand. Oh Father, hold my hand. Carry me, actually. Because for the rest of my life, I want to feel the heat from your glow. I want to feel the weight of your glory and the freedom from your goodness.

Thank you for never stopping your pursuit of me. Thank you for waking me from my sleep. Thank you for coming into the chaos of the night and being the constant of grace and truth. Oh God, how fitting that your life, your light, that came in the darkest of nights, was the very thing that woke me up from the greatest slumber of my life. 

It is here that I will dwell when the dark gets heavy. It is never too heavy for you.

Oh, what a night we are celebrating. The night you shattered darkness and shattered my chains. The night that saved my life. The night my king came, and justly took back His beloved.

 

Thank you father. Thank you for this love that is better than life. Amen.