Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Good List 10-31-12

10. November. I typically don't mind October, but this year it kinda kicked my butt. Glad it's almost over. ;-)
9. Shrinky Dinks. Surprisingly, I have found that they are just as much fun for the adult me as they were for the child me. 

8. Coming home from church on Sunday to a crock pot full of hot, delicious lunch ready to go. This is especially awesome on rainy days for some reason.
7. The Halloween "parade" at Macy and Grace's school. Every year the kids don their costumes and walk from the school to the town green (which just happens to be the "front yard" of our church) and then back again. Pretty fun to watch.
6. Goo Goo Clusters. A Nashville delicacy hand-delivered to us all the way in Vermont by the lovely and fabulous Rachel McRae. (Yes, the box got destroyed in our excitement to taste the contents.)

5. Serving up "special" after school snacks. Macy and Grace don't realize it, but this is just as much fun for me as it is for them.

4. Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea DVDs (also delivered to us by Miss Rachel.) She made us vow to watch them at least once a year. I feel certain we will exceed the minimum requirement.
3. The way Macy's face lights up when I share something from my closet or a pretty pair of earrings. Such an easy way to give her a special day. Fun.
2. Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller. Great, quick and easy (but impactful) read.
1. My Dad. Today is his birthday. I love him more every single year. Seems like he just keeps getting more awesome.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Exciting Times for MSCC

Yesterday was our church's annual meeting. It lasted about 3 hours, during which all sorts of important things were discussed and pondered. Decisions were made, some unanimous, some not, but to our knowledge, no one left angry or upset, which seems a miracle in itself when we know how many differing opinions live among us. :-D

Nearest to mine and Jared's hearts were two things: the vote to install an elder board, which was unanimously approved, (or I should say no one opposed it. I'm not sure if every single person voted yes. Some may have abstained.) and the addition of a budget line for church planting, which was also well-supported.

These are exciting times for our sweet church. In so many ways, we have no idea what we're doing, but God is at work in spite of us, and it's so exciting to see him on the move. Grateful for the small role we get to play in this work.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Good List 10-24-12

Today's good list is in honor of my sweet little munchkin doodle niece, Dylan, who had the most difficult and painful week of her life last week. Today she is almost perfect. Praise God!

10. An airport 3 miles away from the hospital.
9. Pain medication.
8. Doctors and nurses who know what to do and do it well.
7. An incorrect (though intelligent) initial diagnosis which eventually landed at a much less threatening (though still terribly painful) condition.
6. Monica Milstead. So grateful for her love and help and support throughout this time.
5. A church family that simply WILL NOT REST when one among them hurts. I know I brag on them all the time, but seriously--I just wish everyone could know these people. They are phenomenal.
4. Grandmom and Granddad. They make everything better.
3. New creamy white skin with no scars or pain. Our little butterfly.
2. Watching my sister's strength and grace through what I'm absolutely positive was the most difficult week of her life.
1. Experiencing a miracle through the prayer support of people LITERALLY all over the world. This never gets old.

So grateful she's all better. And for those of you who have missed it, don't worry--the sass is back in full swing! :-D

Friday, October 19, 2012

Financial Help for the Dickersons

Many of you know the incredibly difficult journey my niece has been on recently. As you can imagine, her family is incurring a huge stack of medical bills in addition to all sorts of extra travel expenses, etc. They already have under their belts an emergency room visit to one hospital, a 2-hour ambulance ride, and 5 days in ICU in a second hospital with no immediate end in sight. I'm sure I don't have to elaborate on how quickly those expenses are adding up. If you are so inclined and able to help (even with a dollar or two), we have some options for you. You may either donate directly from your Paypal account into theirs through the following process:

OR you may mail a check to the following address with full confidence that every single penny will go straight to the Dickerson family:

Dickerson Family
c/o Middletown Springs Community Church
P.O. Box 1213
Middletown Springs, VT 05757

Also, if you can't help financially but are comfortable sharing this information among those who might be able to, please feel free to help us spread the word.

Jon, Jody, Ty, Jack and Dylan are so grateful for even the tiniest contribution.

And if you have any questions at all, please don't hesitate to leave a comment on this post with a way to contact you, and I will be more than happy to respond.

(Comments on this post will not be published publicly for the sake of those concerned with privacy.)

We thank you in advance for any help you can offer, and we are grateful for the miraculous way you have already supported this family through prayer and a glorious outpouring of love.

(If you're interested, you can see more of her story here on her CaringBridge Journal.)

Dylan's Daily Miracles

If you like watching miracles unfold, read all about one here. This is gorgeousness. We are so very grateful for God's hand on that baby and his presence in our lives.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Seems Right to End This Day with Prayer

I thought that I had poured out every prayer and every combination of pleas I could come up with today. Turns out I have one more in me before I can get still.

Father, I opened this CaringBridge page in tears to post one more prayer before I try to rest tonight, and I read that Dylan sassed and rolled her eyes. Now I have tears of joy. You're so good even when it doesn't make sense.

On behalf of everyone who loves that baby girl, Lord, I am asking for quick and complete and painless healing. I know that will take a miracle, but you're good at those, so it seems right to ask. You created that precious little thing from scratch. (And way to go, God! She is a Masterpiece!) Surely you can repair her. I know you can. Please do, and please do so quickly.

Father, in the very near future, may every negative thought and emotion attached to this experience drain from her memory like water through a sieve. But OH GOD, may she retain like a vice grip every act of love, every prayer, every evidence of your mighty power throughout her illness. Lord, may she experience you in a way that becomes a defining point in her life. She might not fully understand it yet, and she may never be able to articulate it to us, but that's ok. Etch it onto her heart and make it her very own treasure for life. May she one day look back on this experience as the time she KNEW Jesus was holding her and her family close.

Lord, come close to Jody and Jon and hold their very hearts. Wash over them with your mighty power and overwhelming peace. Give them rest. Give them strength. Give them wisdom. Give them smiles from their baby girl. Give them Jesus.

Thank you that you love these people--my family--even more than I do. Hold them close and make them whole again so very soon.

And all God's people said. . . . .

Dylan's CaringBridge Journal

Please keep up with Dylan's progress and find future updates at her CaringBridge journal found here:

Dylan's CaringBridge Journal

She is in excruciating pain. We are desperate for your earnest prayer.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Update on Dylan

I'm told she "did very well" in the ambulance (about an hour and a half drive). They are treating her pain with morphine, so she has been comfortable and has gotten some sleep. 

Doctors have confirmed that she has either Stevens Johnson Sydrome or Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TENS), which are very similar. My sister Vickie (who is a nurse) says that most doctors would say that one is just a more severe form of the other, but the treatment is pretty much the same for either. Basically, her body is developing blisters similar to second degree burns, and then the skin is sloughing off rapidly. I can't even imagine how painful that would be, especially for a little one. And the threat of infection through all those open wounds can be severe. Thank God for morphine (and that isn't a joke)!

Fortunately, it appears that the first doctor she saw reacted very quickly and appropriately to get her the right treatment as soon as possible. She was met by an entire team of doctors as soon as they arrived in Burlington who were immediately calming and positive. They say her labwork looks good, meaning no organ damage (other than her skin), and her white blood cell count looks good. It will take a couple days to get blood cultures back so that they know *exactly* what they're dealing with, but it sounds like they are confident enough in their initial analysis to begin addressing the most pressing concerns. Hopefully more (good) news tomorrow.

We are pleading for your prayers. Please keep them coming.

And PLEASE pray for my sister, Jody and her husband Jon. I am nauseated, so I can't even begin to imagine what they are feeling. Vick says Jody is handling everything with complete calm and strength, so please continue to give her strength with your prayer support.

And one last request--we've appointed Vickie the point person for now for direct communication (that's what happens when you're the nurse of the family) just to keep Jody and Jon from trying to juggle phone calls and emails all day every day. Certainly, they will want to hear from all the people who love their family, but maybe just not quite yet. Please feel free to reach out to me or anyone else you know in our family, and we will make sure they get every single message we see or hear.

I hope to go see them tomorrow (unless they forbid me because of germs or something), and I will post an update as soon as I have more information.

Please keep praying! Thank you!

For Dylan

Lord Jesus, snuggle that baby girl so warmly and gently and firmly in your lap right now that she can't possibly feel anything but safety and security and comfort and peace. Father, ease her pain completely, settle her mind and nerves, and bring complete healing to her body. Wash over her with your sweet fragrance and draw near to her in such a way that she might not ever be able to explain to us but that SHE will KNOW and UNDERSTAND to be you--her Jesus, her Healer, her Comforter, her Protector. Make yourself known to her, Jesus. Help her feel your presence and know your embrace. Make her whole again so very soon, Lord. And send her home to us well and smiling and happy and sassy.

Father, hold Jody and Jon so close to your heart right now. Give them a peace that is so huge it makes no sense but is so very real. Help them to rest in you and know that you hold their entire family in the palm of your hand. Lord, surround them with you. Only you, sweet Jesus. Your comfort, your peace, your power and control over this entire situation.

Lord, intervene in such a way that you cannot be denied. Show yourself mighty as we know you are, Father. 

Every. Single. Day.

"No one stumbles into holiness." 

I've heard this phrase so often and from so many different sources recently that I'm not even sure to whom I should attribute credit for the original statement, so I apologize to that person. My intent here is certainly not to plagiarize, but rather to bring attention to this combination of words that I am so grateful for.

What an incredibly true statement! And what a needed reminder. Holiness doesn't happen randomly or by accident. None of us will ever aimlessly wander into it and wake up one morning surprised to be fully sanctified. It simply doesn't work that way. I couldn't agree more with the original statement, and in an effort not to diminish the truth therein but to emphasize it further, I would even add that no one accidentally remains in holiness. Whatever challenge we might have overcome today doesn't guarantee for one second that we won't face the same one tomorrow. We don't master one category at a time, earn a certificate, move on, and never look back. The pursuit of holiness is not a video game that locks us in at whatever level we recently beat and keeps us there until we're ready to face the next challenge. The pursuit of holiness is an all day, every day journey for so many reasons.

Here are just a few--

Our natural human heart settings are permanently locked on sinner. Immediately after this, let me say THANK GOD for grace! Please hear me. Oh, thank you, Jesus, for your gift of daily moment-by-moment grace. The gift of grace is freely given to us over and over again through the finished work of Christ, but this is precisely because we so desperately need it over and over again. We are sinners. Every day, all day long. We will never "grow out of it" by chance. We must deliberately pursue our own sanctification as direct combat against our natural inclinations. (Philippians 2:12)

The struggles and challenges of this world don't wait for us. We are not entrenched in a video game that waits for us to click "go" or "start" or "level up" between each challenge. Not only do struggles and challenges fall upon us (or sometimes even feel like they're attacking us) without our permission and whether or not we have declared we're "ready", many times they do so all at once. We don't get to sign up for them one at a time in an organized manner and wait until we're prepared to do so. Rather, we must prepare daily so that "ready" becomes our constant state. (Ephesians 6:10-18)

Satan is brilliant and tricky, and he certainly isn't a fan of holiness. This seems like such an obvious statement, and yet I fear that most of us don't treat it as true most of the time. What I mean is that we don't guard our hearts and minds as though they are constantly being tampered with. Oh, but they are. And while the attempts at discouraging our pursuit of holiness occasionally may be overt and obvious, more often than not, they are subtle and attractive and oh-so-effective at lulling us right to sleep in the midst of our journey. Satan is smart enough to know that most of us won't jump at the chance to murder someone or rob a bank or build a huge golden calf in our front yard. But how often does he convince us to put off our Bible study just one more day or gossip share our concerns about a friend we're worried about? How many times do we allow our minds to drift toward self-righteousness or pride or selfishness or lust? Each one a small victory for our crafty enemy. And he knows it. And the only way to battle against him is through a deliberate approach to taking captive every thought. (2 Corinthians 10:4-6) If we are to pursue holiness, we must do so with an active, engaged mind.

Certainly we will fail repeatedly no matter how hard we try. But each attempt at deliberate pursuit of Christ is a victory unto itself. The desire alone is not natural for the unregenerate heart, so even if we just "want to" be holy and haven't done a thing about it yet, we have taken at least one step in the right direction. And what an encouragement to know that God has promised he will not leave us unfinished and incomplete. (Philippians 1:6) He will give us the grace we need to pursue the holiness we long for.

Beth Moore says it well in her recently published study of James:

"James wrote for people serving actively, openly, and humbly right in [the world's] thick, pungent pollution. So, how on earth do we serve in it without smelling like it? With serious discipline and determination, that's how. With courage and deep conviction. With a large daily dose of the Holy Ghost, as my girlfriend says. You don't live this kind of life accidentally. You make up your mind who you want to be and daily die to the rest. You surrender yourself to living in the tension where you'll always be stretched and often be broken. Religion pure and undefiled is grit without the grime. You accept that far easier ways to live exist, but you were born for nothing less. And when we sniff ourselves and smell the world, we run to the One who can wash us."

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Excerpts from *Counterfeit Gods* by Tim Keller

***This is a short little book and easy read, but it contains so much goodness. (I started underlining on the second page of the introduction!) These are just a few of the passages that got my attention:

There is a difference between sorrow and despair. Sorrow is pain for which there are sources of consolation. Sorrow comes from losing one good thing among others, so that, if you experience a career reversal, you can find comfort in your family to get you through it. Despair, however, is inconsolable, because it comes from losing an ultimate thing. When you lose the ultimate source of your meaning or hope, there are no alternative sources to turn to. It breaks your spirit.

Long ago, Saint Paul wrote that greed was not just bad behavior. "Greed is idolatry," he wrote. (Colossians 3:5)

The Bible's answer is that the human heart is an "idol factory." . . .In Ezekiel 14:3, God says about elders of Israel, "These men have set up their idols in their hearts." . . . God was saying that the human heart takes good things like a successful career, love, material possessions, even family, and turns them into ultimate things.

What is an idol? It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.

The only way to free ourselves from the destructive influence of counterfeit gods is to turn back to the true one. The living God, who revealed himself both at Mount Sinai and on the Cross, is the only Lord, who, if you find him, can truly fulfill you, and, if you fail him, can truly forgive you.

Every human being must live for something. Something must capture our imaginations, our heart's most fundamental allegiance and hope. But, the Bible tells us, without the intervention of the Holy Spirit, that object will never be God himself.

If we are not willing to hurt our career in order to do God's will, our job will become a counterfeit god.

Idols enslave.

We have to know, to be assured, that God so loves, cherishes, and delights in us that we can rest our hearts in him for our significance and security and handle anything that happens in life.

You will never be as great, as secure in God, as courageous as Abraham became simply by trying hard, but only by believing in the Savior to whom this event points. Only if Jesus lived and died for us can you have a God of infinite love and holiness at once. Then you can be absolutely sure he loves you.

In our lives there are always some things that we invest in to get a level of joy and fulfillment that only God can give. The most painful times in our lives are times in which our Isaacs, our idols, are being threatened or removed.

As many have learned and later taught, you don't realize Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.

We know a good thing has become a counterfeit god when its demands on you exceed proper boundaries. Making an idol out of work may mean that you work until you ruin your health, or you break the laws in order to get ahead. Making an idol out of love may mean allowing the lover to exploit and abuse you, or it may cause terrible blindness to the pathologies in the relationship. An idolatrous attachment can lead you to break any promise, rationalize any indiscretion, or betray any other allegiance, in order to hold on to it. It may drive you to violate all good and proper boundaries. To practice idolatry is to be a slave.

The Bible repeatedly shows us weak people who don't deserve God's grace, don't seek it, and don't appreciate it even after they have received it.

"If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world [something supernatural and eternal]." ~C.S. Lewis

The gods of moralistic religions favor the successful and the overachievers. . . . But the God of the Bible is the one who comes down into this world to accomplish a salvation and give us a grace we could never attain ourselves. He loves the unwanted, the weak and unloved. He is not just a king and we are the subjects; he is not just a shepherd and we are the sheep. He is a husband and we are his spouse. He is ravished with us -- even those of us whom no one else notices.

Who can I turn to who is so beautiful that he will enable me to escape all counterfeit gods? There is only one answer to this question. As the poet George Herbert wrote, looking at Jesus on the Cross: "Thou art my loveliness, my life, my light, Beauty alone to me."

Jesus warns people far more often about greed than about sex, yet almost no one thinks they are guilty of it.

God's salvation does not come in response to a changed life. A changed life comes in response to the salvation, offered as a free gift.

The solution to stinginess is a reorientation to the generosity of Christ in the gospel, how he poured out his wealth for you.

An "achievement addict" is no different from any other kind of addict.

The false sense of security comes from deifying our achievement and expecting it to keep us safe from the troubles of life in a way that only God can.

God is not an extension of culture, but a transformer of culture, not a controllable but a sovereign Lord.

If you want God's grace, all you need is need, all you need is nothing. But that kind of spiritual humility is hard to muster.

The idol of success cannot be just expelled, it must be replaced. The human heart's desire for a particular valuable object may be conquered, but its need to have some such object is unconquerable. How can we break our heart's fixation on doing "some great thing" in order to heal ourselves of our sense of inadequacy, in order to give our lives meaning? Only when we see what Jesus, our great Suffering Servant, has done for us will we finally understand why God's salvation does not require us to do "some great thing." We don't have to do it, because Jesus has. That's why we can "just wash." Jesus did it all for us, and he loves us -- that is how we know our existence is justified. When we believe in what he accomplished for us with our minds and when we are moved by what he did for us in our hearts, it begins to kill off the addiction, the need for success at all costs.

The biblical story of salvation assaults our worship of success at every point.

An idol is something that we look to for things that only God can give. Idolatry functions widely inside religious communities when doctrinal truth is elevated to the position of a false god. This occurs when people rely on the rightness of their doctrine for their standing with God rather than on God himself and his grace. It is a subtle but deadly mistake. The sign that you have slipped into this form of self-justification is that you become what the book of Proverbs calls a "scoffer." Scoffers always show contempt and disdain for opponents rather than graciousness. This is a sign that they do not see themselves as sinners saved by grace. Instead, their trust in the rightness of their views makes them feel superior.

The fish was God's provision for Jonah. It gave Jonah a second chance to recover and repent.

Now Jonah says that idol worshippers forsake "their own grace." It came to him like a thunderbolt that God's grace was as much theirs as it was his. Why? Because grace is grace. If it is truly grace, then no one was worthy of it at all, and that made all equal. And with that realization, he added, "Salvation comes only from the Lord!" It doesn't belong to any race or class of people, nor do religious people deserve it more than the irreligious. It does not come from any quality or merit in us at all. Salvation is only from the Lord.

Jonah stands as a warning that human hearts never change quickly or easily, even when a person is being mentored directly by God.

Jonah shows us that it is one thing to believe the gospel with our minds, and another to work it deep into our hearts so it affects everything we think, feel, and do.

When an idol gets a grip on your heart, it spins out a whole set of false definitions of success and failure and happiness and sadness. It redefines reality in terms of itself. Nearly everyone thinks that an all-powerful God of love, patience, and compassion is a good thing. But if, because of your idol, your ultimate good is the power and status of your people, then anything that gets in the way of it is, by definition, bad. When God's love prevented him from smashing Israel's enemy Jonah, because of his idol, was forced to see God's love as a bad thing. In the end idols can make it possible to call evil good and good evil.

When people say, "I know God forgives me, but I can't forgive myself," they mean that they have failed an idol, whose approval is more important to them than God's.

We prefer our own wisdom to God's wisdom, our own desires to God's will, and our own reputation to God's honor.

Have you heard God's blessing in your inmost being? Are the words "You are my beloved child, in whom I delight" an endless source of joy and strength? Have you sensed, through the Holy Spirit, God speaking them to you? That blessing -- the blessing through the Spirit that is ours through Christ -- is what Jacob received, and it is the only remedy against idolatry. Only that blessing makes idols unnecessary. As with Jacob, we usually discover this only after a life of "looking for blessing in all the wrong places." It often takes an experience of crippling weakness for us to finally discover it. That is why so many of the most God-blessed people limp as they dance for joy.

Turning from idols always includes a rejection of the culture that the idols produce. . . . There is no way to challenge idols without doing cultural criticism, and there is no way to do cultural criticism without discerning and challenging idols. . . . Contemporary observers have often noted that modern Christians are just as materialistic as everyone else in our culture. Could this be because our preaching of the gospel does not, like Saint Paul's, include exposure of our culture's counterfeit gods?

Idolatry is not just a failure to obey God, it is a setting of the whole heart on something besides God.

Jesus must become more beautiful to your imagination, more attractive to your heart, than your idol. That is what will replace your counterfeit gods. If you uproot the idol and fail to "plant" the love of Christ in its place, the idol will grow back.

Fear-based repentance makes us hate ourselves. Joy-based repentance makes us hate the sin.

"If I may speak of my own experience, I find that to keep my eye simply on Christ, as my peace and my life, is by far the hardest part of my calling. . . . It seems easier to deny self in a thousand instances of outward conduct, than in its ceaseless endeavors to act as a principle of righteousness and power." ~John Newton

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Good List 10-10-12

10. Wearing the ugliest, cheesiest, fuzziest socks I can possibly locate under my tall boots. Yesterday they were hideously gold, and today I'm rockin' snowmen. (And it's our little secret.)
9. My fabulous new grippy, bendy Pampered Chef cutting boards. (Thank you, Caitlyn!)
8. The super cute candle holder my Mom bought me last time she was visiting a few weeks ago. Perfect for any day, but I'm especially excited to use it during the holidays.

7. Texans start the season 5-0! Yeah, baby! (My other teams? Not so much. . . So how 'bout we just focus on the Texans for now, K?)
6. Hat season. People think I'm trying to be stylish, but it's really just an excuse to go days without "fixing" my hair. Wash. Air dry. Hat. Repeat. Seems right to me!
5. The creativity of the Ohio State University marching band. This is brilliant. (Don't give up on it too early. Some of the best moments are toward the end.)

4. Learning that living in a cold climate makes it much easier to convince people to start watching Christmas movies early. Bonus!
3. "Just because I miss you" flowers from my baby. (And the sweet side note is that Macy and Grace thought this was the most romantic thing ever. Awesome.)

2. Using old pictures as bookmarks. Doubles the fun of reading.
1. Standing beside Macy on Sunday mornings as she sings her heart out at church. Every single thing about that scenario makes me happy. I love her beautiful voice. I'm grateful that she enjoys using it as the gift and instrument it is. And I'm THRILLED when she lifts it in worship.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Ty ~a poem by Macy Wilson

Ty is loving.
Ty is kind.
Ty has a very brilliant mind.

Ty is funny.
Ty is cool.
He tackles me in the swimming pool.

Ty loves games.
He plays Minecraft.
He always tries to make me laugh.

Ty is polite,
Not rude to anyone.
He really is a lot of fun.

He sleeps with a blankie,
Yet he's super mature.
He loves me more than he did before.

Ty is the best cousin I could ask.
Loving him is an easy task.

***Macy loves her Bubba. (And all of her little cousins.) They see each other at least 2 or 3 times a week most weeks (and that's outside of being at the same school all day every day), but she still asks me almost every day, "Mom, when is the next time we'll be with the Dickersons?" I love that. :-D

Just Wash

Last week I heard or read some version of this message no less than 4 times from 4 different sources in the span of less than 72 hours.

Just wash. 

Stop trying to earn your salvation. Stop viewing others as more desperately in need of grace than you. Stop pretending as though your success makes you worthy of eternal life. Stop seeking a king in his palace from whom you might purchase favor. Stop working to supplement Christ's finished work on the cross. STOP.

Just wash.

My first (recent) encounter with this message occurred on Friday morning as I worked through the homework for my Ladies' Bible study. Beth Moore spent the better part of one whole day's lesson elaborating on the concept that the Gospel is the great equalizer of the rich and poor. In either case, what they need is the Gospel. In the very same sentence, James encourages the poor to boast in their exaltation in Christ and the rich to boast in their humiliation, realizing that their wealth is temporary and brings them no advantage before God. The overarching truth which permeates both ends of the spectrum of wealth is that nothing of this world really matters. Those who are poor should look forward to their reward in heaven. Those who are rich should realize that nothing of this world compares to the reward they await in heaven. The rich supplementing God's grace with earthly riches is no more helpful than the poor lacking earthly riches to offer.

In either event, they are to just wash. 

Shortly after this encounter, I read about Naaman in Tim Keller's Counterfeit Gods. Naaman possessed power and riches and most every earthly comfort and even luxury one could hope for in his time. He lacked nothing money could buy or power could achieve. However, Naaman had leprosy. One of his servants (who loved him and forgave him despite a long list of reasons to harbor anger and bitterness toward him) felt pity on him and suggested he visit Elisha in order to seek healing. Naaman (sort of) followed through on her suggestion except that he fully expected to purchase his healing from the king of Israel rather than receive it freely from the Lord. He had no framework for understanding the free gift of grace (and healing). In his experience, one must either earn or purchase all good things, so he offered wagons full of wealth to the king of Israel in exchange for healing. Of course, the king of Israel was no more fit to heal Naaman's leprosy than our president is capable of forgiving our sins, so he ripped his clothing in distress over the impossible request. When Elisha heard of the king's trouble, he sent for Naaman and instructed him to wash in the river. Just wash and be healed. But Naaman simply could not understand these instructions. Surely there would be some massive display of power offered to him in exchange for the wealth he carried with him. 

No. Just wash.

Naaman became so angry. He just couldn't understand. But finally. . .

He washed. And he was healed. Such is the power of God.

Sunday morning Jared shared a story about a cab driver he encountered while in Washington, D.C. on Friday. The man expressed that he was a non-practicing Muslim, but he enjoyed discussing theology. He knew who Jesus was and even made the connection between Jesus serving as our substitute just as God provided a substitute for Isaac's life in the Old Testament. What he couldn't grasp, though, is how God might be able to forgive *his* sins. In his estimation, it was impossible to believe that forgiveness could be freely given to him. 

He couldn't believe "just wash" would be enough. (But we are praying for him.)

Later on Sunday morning, I helped Mrs. Connie in children's church. To be clear, as "helper" I simply showed up ready to love on kids and act as another set of eyes and hands for the teacher. I had no previous exposure to the lesson plan. I just showed up to help. So imagine my surprise (and delight) when. . .   Y'all ready for this? The lesson was Naaman. WHAT?!? My first thought here is to give a huge shout out to Sally Lloyd Jones for including so much more than Noah and Joseph and Daniel in The Jesus Storybook Bible (which is quite possibly the best children's book in the entire world). But aside from that--  You think maybe God is trying to teach me something? Maybe even wanting me to share something? 

Why are we so resistant to this message? Why is it so difficult to receive free grace?

Just wash. Christ has already provided everything else. Your hopelessness and helplessness and utter need are all he wants. 

Just wash. The blood of Christ, which is the only thing with the power to cleanse you of your sin, has already been shed.

Just wash. Nothing else you try will bring healing.

Just wash.
Just wash.
Just wash.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Glorious Mystery

Yesterday I woke up to the most gorgeous foggy fall morning. It has been raining off and on for several days, so the bark of the trees is nice and saturated, dark and glossy in sharp contrast to the brilliant leaf colors. Set all of that against a mysterious, soft white backdrop of fog, and I have a hard time looking away. 

I posted these pictures of what I thought was such elegant beauty on my facebook page with the following comment: "There is something about the colors of fall set against a foggy backdrop that is so gripping and stirring to me. I can't explain it. . ."

In the hours that followed, the Lord spoke to me as clearly as I've ever heard his voice. Not audibly, but clearly nonetheless.

I have always struggled with the challenge of not being able to explain my faith as well as I'd like to. I'm nowhere close to being a Biblical scholar or teacher. I enjoy studying, but my brain just doesn't function the way I wish it would, connecting dots at first glance, recalling Hebrew root words, understanding the settings and cultures of the Bible as though I'm seeing a live action play take place as I read, etc. There is so much I don't understand as well as I would like to, and what I do grasp somewhat well, I still don't articulate eloquently. It's frustrating. I want to have answers for people. I want to be able to explain to them why they should respond to the Gospel and why Christ is truly their only hope. Unfortunately, explanations often elude me, and I've learned that practical answers have very little to do with the way the Spirit moves anyway. Still, my deficiency in this area has never stopped bothering me.

Until yesterday morning. . .

Certainly there is a backdrop of mystery to the Bible. We just can't know or understand it all with our limited human brains and lacking insights. And yet, just like that mysterious foggy backdrop set such a perfect contrast for the rich, dark bark and vibrant, color-drenched leaves yesterday morning, doesn't the inexplicable wonder of the Scriptures create the perfect canvas, frame and highlights for the truth that we can grasp? 

Ah, sweet freedom! We don't have to have all the answers. We just have to display what we *do* have as clearly and as often as we can. That gorgeously mysterious background will naturally illuminate and brighten every leaf and twig, every truth and promise. The very factor that makes the forefront so striking and gripping is the contrast it produces against its opaque surroundings.  So amazing. Thank you, Jesus!

I found such hope and freedom in these thoughts, I couldn't wait to share. I hope this resonates with others as well.

I've always loved foggy fall mornings for reasons I couldn't quite grasp. I think I love them even more now for these reasons I newly understand, but also for the ones that likely will always linger just beyond my reach and remind me of this conversation. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Good List 10-3-12

10. Big, fat pumpkins and vibrant mums everywhere these days. Must be fall. 
9. Red Velvet Cupcake coffee. Also known as magicalness in a mug. Pretty decadent for a fat free, super low calorie "dessert." 
8. Space heaters and fleece sheets. It's that time of year when we need to stay warm and toasty, but we're too cheap to turn on the heat. :-D
7. Big, fluffy hay bales all over the place. I have no idea why I love this so much, but I do. 

6. Singing with my friend Barby. I love that precious woman!
5. A Christian college is opening in Bennington, VT next fall. Not sure how much impact (if any) this will have on our immediate community, but a presence of young Christians in southern Vermont certainly can't be a bad thing. (Can you smell that sweet aroma I mentioned a couple weeks ago?)
4. Gospel Deeps. We finally got a couple boxes last weekend. Always such a great moment to open the box and see all that hard work so neatly printed and bound and ready to (hopefully) stir people toward Jesus.

3. Merck Forest. A new favorite place. (I know I have lots of favorites, but can you blame me?) LOOK!:

2. A happy and comfortable Gracie who is finally approaching wellness. It's been a slow healing process, and we're still keeping our eye on a couple "in progress" areas, but she's mostly done with this nastiness. THANK GOD!
1. 25 ladies showed up yesterday for Ladies Bible Study! This is fantastic in any setting, but when you live in a town of only about 700 people, it's pretty much a miracle! (There's that sweet aroma again. . .) So excited to learn and grow with these special ladies, and especially grateful for the always magnificent Kim Carr leading us!