Christmas Presence

20 12 2016

Version 2

Hey, friends! Guess what? Christmas is only FIVE DAYS AWAY!

 

Maybe you’re one of those museum-worthy souls whose ducks are not only all in a row, they’re wearing Santa hats and singing “Angels We Have Heard on High” in perfect four-part harmony. I’m (sort of) happy for you.

But what about the rest of us? Those of us who live in the midst of all kinds of messy?

Today I’m over at The Consilium with GOOD NEWS: The messiness of life is the point of Christmas! Here’s a little glimpse.

“Jesus’ entire public ministry consisted of living into our messy. He tasted poverty instead of privilege, weariness instead of wealth. He gave instead of receiving. He served instead of being served. He healed the sick, raised the dead, gave freedom to captives, sight to the blind, and dancing to the lame. And He laid down His life instead of refusing the cup of God’s wrath because that’s exactly what He came to do.”

I hope you’ll take a few moments to join me over there.

Whether your perfectly ordered ducks have now finished singing carols and are performing The Nutcracker Ballet, or you haven’t even started your shopping, you can still celebrate Immanuel — the God who is with us. Merriest Christmas, friends. And may He light the coming year with His peace.

Love, Jeanne





Prayer for the New Year

1 01 2016

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As we begin a new year, may our kind Lord teach us to pray, and to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Our time is short, and our God is great. May we make much of Him, leaning into His sufficiency, rejoicing in His goodness, resting in unfailing grace and mercies that are new every morning.

Today I remembered this simple little recording (probably from the 1980’s) of George and me singing these verses from Psalm 90, and wanted to share it here as a prayer for all of us.

And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us.
And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us.
And establish thou the work of our hands upon us,
Yea, the work of our hands, establish thou it.

Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.
Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth or ever thou hadst formed the earth
From everlasting to everlasting thou art God.

And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us.
And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us.
And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us.

Amen. Grant it, Lord, for Your glory and our good.

Happy New Year, friends. Love, joy, grace, beauty, and peace to you. Thank you for all the ways you blessed me in 2015. Here’s to loving our God and one another well in the days ahead.





Like Leaves Falling

22 12 2015

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Creation understands. Birth. Life. Withering. Dying. Returning to the dust.

The leaves don’t cling to the green. When winter whispers her soon return, they explode in a colorful psalm, embrace the outstretched hand of the wind, and dance their way to decomposition. There’s no competition. No argument over which leaf left the more lasting impression or legacy. As one, they sink into the earth, and their memory vanishes.

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I need to learn from the leaves. Because I don’t want a life of “clinging to the green.” I want to be okay with Isaiah’s declaration that all flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, and — as much as I believe in wisely stewarding it — this body is breaking down.

So I’ve been thinking. About how to live the autumn of my life well.

I’ve been searching for the secret of the leaves, and I believe I’ve found it.

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I’ve been thinking about Jesus, and how all power belonged to Him — how He could have had everything this world has to offer (and was tempted to take it), but was pleased to do things His Father’s upside-down way.

He was formed in the womb of a poor, unwed teenager, and born in a stable. His birth was announced to shepherds — rough, disreputable men whose testimony wasn’t allowed in courts of law. As a toddler, His life was threatened by a murderous king, and His parents fled to Egypt as refugees. As a man, he never married or had children, and had no place to lay His head. He enlisted house servants to both assist and witness His first miracle.

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He left His glory to enter His humanity and our brokenness fully.

For he grew up before him like a young plant,
    and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
    and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men;
    a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
    he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” Isaiah 53:2

He welcomed the outcast, dined with tax collectors, healed the sick and oppressed, and fed the multitudes. He spoke in veiled parables, redefined the Sabbath, and invited the condemned to repentance. He was silent before false accusers, allowed mere men to mock and humiliate Him, and willingly absorbed the wrath of God on the cross.

All because He knew. He knew that three days later He would rise. That the grave isn’t the end. That death doesn’t win.

For the joy set before Him, He laid aside everything that was His right, and took on everything that was our due. And even now, He knows my frame. He remembers that I am dust. And when I don’t understand His ways, He gently lifts my head and asks me to look beyond this withering grass to the steadfast love that never ceases, to lay down my life and be caught up in His immeasurably more, that I might join in the triumphant song of the saints through the ages.

Birth. Life. Withering. Dying. Returning to the dust.

But that’s not the end. Because a Baby was born in Bethlehem, we rise up laughing, swept into the beautiful, dancing purposes of God, where it’s grace upon grace upon grace.

Just like leaves falling.

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Wishing you a glorious Christmas, my friends, and the freedom to soar with Him into the New Year. With much love.





When we need to lift up “Thanks to God”

4 06 2015

gloriaandodeliaGloria and Odelia, newborn

Hey, friends. Remember the virtual baby shower many of you attended for Zhanna and Stepa’s twin baby girls?

Remember how God moved our hearts, and many gave what they could, and together we helped raise the $40,000 needed to give those baby girls their very own bedroom? Oh, the big and beautiful things we can accomplish when we each do our small and humble part!

Now those sweet babies are six months old, and one of them needs our help again. Her name is Odelia. It means “Thanks to God.”

GloriaAndOdeliyaGloria (“Glory to God”) and Odelia (“Thanks to God”)

Odelia is not thriving, and her parents don’t know why. Here’s the unfolding of events as shared on Zhanna’s Facebook page:

OdeliaApril 17: “Please pray for Odelia’s health, we are in the hospital to find out diagnose.”

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Odeliya2May 30: “Hello friends, thanks for your prayers for our baby girl Odelia… Finally, June 2, we will fly to Bangkok, Thailand, to Bumrungrad International Hospital to find out diagnose. Here we just spent a lot of money and finally didn’t find the main reason of her health problem. Please – continue to pray for Odelia and now pray for Thailand doctors’ wisdom.”

June 1: “Dear friends, please pray for financial part of Odelia’s treatment in Bangkok’s hospital. For now, we know that examination will cost about $5000, but if they said that Odelia needs surgery- we don’t know how much it will cost! Pray for my English – that it will be enough to understand all medical words during treatment. Thanks:)”

InBangkokThen this, yesterday, June 3: “We are in Bangkok in Bumrungrad clinic. Pray for us [as they] start [the] examination.”

When I invited you to the virtual baby shower, I began by sharing a story about Zhanna and Stepa, because I wanted you to fall in love with them like I have. If you didn’t read it then, you can go back and read it now. But here’s one snippet from that post:

When you ask them how they’re going to handle all the changes and make ends meet? Their response is as calm as the one they gave the camp director when the power went out. They don’t know. But worrying about it won’t help. So they pray. And smile. And keep on tirelessly pouring out their lives and their love on these kids and their families.

I’ve never known anyone I admire and respect more than these two. Seriously. If the dictionary had an entry for “Salt of the Earth,” I’m pretty sure their pictures would be beside it.

If you’re wondering who “these kids and their families” are, they’re all of Young Life Central Asia and Young Life Capernaum (Special Needs) Kazakhstan. Zhanna and Stepa are not only raising four biological children in a small apartment, here are some of their other kids:

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This precious couple needs super-human strength and stamina just to function from day to day. I can’t imagine bearing up under their load. I know they willingly and joyfully carry it, but I also know they’re human, and they need rest. They need space to breathe. They need our help.

So, you’re invited again. And this time, we want to lift up “Thanks to God.” Isn’t that the sweetest thought? As we surround this family and this baby with love, we are tangibly expressing our gratitude to God for all the ways He meets our needs and for the privilege of being part of His family on earth.

I hope everyone reading these words will pause and pray for God’s healing touch in Odelia’s life and for blessing, strength, wisdom, and grace for her weary parents. If you feel inclined to help with Odelia’s hospital expenses (and all the other costs piling up for this family), you can give the same way you did when we hosted our virtual baby shower, through Orphanos. Here’s the drill:

1. Click here to access Orphanos’ giving page, and fill in the personal information.
2. Scroll down and select “Partners in Asia”
3. From the drop-down menu below, select “Central Asia Young Life (Kazakhstan)”
4. In the memo box asking how you want to divide your gift, write “Odelia’s Medical Expenses”
5. Indicate the amount of your donation in the appropriate box.
6. Fill in the billing info.
7. Solve the simple math problem (apparently to prove you’re an actual human with kindergarten level math skills?)
8. Click “Submit Donation” and you’re done! You’ve lifted up “Thanks to God.”

For those who prefer a visual guide, here’s a screenshot of a few key steps:

Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 2.43.07 PMFriends, I mean it when I say no donation is too small. Your little bit plus my little bit added to lots of other little bits becomes immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine. And the result? “Thanks to God” is lifted up, the saints are refreshed, and all of our hearts are encouraged, to the glory of His Name.

“For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.” 2 Corinthians 9:12

Grant it, Lord. And may your will be magnificently done in this sweet family’s life. In Jesus’ Name.

* * *

Thank you, thank you, thank you, friends.
Please share this opportunity as you feel led.
The more people who participate, the more thanksgiving overflows.
I appreciate you so much more than you know.





A Word for 2015: Abide

6 01 2015

Abide2015

I don’t know who originally started it, but I like the trend of choosing one word as a focus for the year. It feels less rigid than New Year’s resolutions, and as Anne-with-an-e would say, offers more scope for the imagination — like I’m standing on the edge of a vast meadow, scanning the horizon, catching a misty glimpse of glorious design, then moving forward into an adventure certain to hold many challenges and delightful surprises along the way.

This is my fifth year to choose one word. 2011 was Rest. 2012 Contentment. 2013 Receive. And 2014 Known. The progression has felt more like building on a foundation than jumping from one stepping stone to another. Rest leading to contentment, preparing my heart to receive all God’s gifts with humble and trusting gratitude, discovering again and again that He opens and closes doors for my good (even when I don’t get what I think I wanted), reinforcing the assurance that I am deeply, intimately known and loved beyond my capacity to comprehend it.

Which brings me to a new year and a new word.

I considered the word Small, because I am. And Sufficient, because He is. I also considered Light, because the darkness cannot overcome it (and the darkness these days is getting awfully dark). And Purpose, because everything we see (even the darkness) must ultimately serve His eternal plan. I love these words and all the depths of meaning they embody, and perhaps I’ll choose one or more of them another year.

But when I thought of the word Abide, it was like all that I loved most about the other words distilled and blended and absorbed into those five little letters.

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By dictionary definition, Abide can mean stay, live, tolerate, endure, or wait. All of those meanings have substance and are worth pondering. But the picture that came to mind when I landed on the word was the one Jesus painted in John 15, specifically verses 4-5:

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

He is the true vine. I am only a branch. A chosen, grafted-in, beloved branch, but still, only a branch. I can do nothing apart from Him, but the more connected I am to Him, the more freely His life flows into and through me, and the result is much fruit for the nourishment and delight and eternal good of others.

A branch makes no demands. It has no agenda. It doesn’t choose where it grows or how visible it is or what kind of fruit it produces. A branch simply abides in the vine. And His roots reach deep into the eternal purposes of God, and the sap rises with holy urgency, and the branch that stays in His Word, lives in His light, tolerates the gnawing teeth of pain, endures the oppressive heat and bitter cold, and waits patiently for His good timing? That branch explodes with fruit.

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When I abide, my eyes are on Him, my ears are tuned to His voice, and my heart aligns with His. People may misunderstand, accuse, mock, or persecute, but they can’t sever that connection. And the fruit will come. And the Father will be glorified.

Because that’s the whole point, isn’t it? Shouldn’t that be the “why” for everything I do? If my primary purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, then I need to learn how to abide in Him, to lean on His wisdom, and to walk in His light. And when I do? Jesus said His joy will be in me, and my joy will be full.

I can’t think of a better life or better reward than that.

So, the journey of 2015 begins. Only God knows what it will hold and how life will look when it ends.

Hopefully we’ll need lots of baskets.

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Do you choose a word for the year? If so, I’d love to hear yours. And if you’ve written about it, please share the link along with your comment!





Echoes

25 11 2014

 

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A canyon can
be
a mountain top
salted with saints,
majestic ones,
in whom is

All
my delight.

Light
from glowing ember
singing star

Far
from distraction
by distraction

Near
His heart
and yours
and ours, we

Come
and take, eat,
this is one
body, one
spirit, one
hope, one
high calling to

Walk
worthy of
the bond of peace
over all
through all
in all
humility, and

All
shall be well, and
all
shall be well, and
all
manner of thing
was
is
and ever shall be

world without
end

well.

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I don’t often post poetry in this space, but today it seemed appropriate. My heart is full, thankful for gifts of God’s presence and people at Laity Lodge this past weekend, heavy for Ferguson and all the ways our pride and blindness rob us, leaning into divine purpose that makes all things new, and looking toward a day when the redeemed from every tribe, tongue, and nation will worship with one voice around the throne.

Thanks for the inspiration to the High Calling community, Marilyn McEntyre, who invited us to slow down and play with words, Vincent Bacote, who reminded us to be salt and light, the psalmist David, T.S. Eliot, the apostle Paul, doxology, and Julian of Norwich, who said:

“In my folly, . . . I often wondered why, by the great foreseeing wisdom of God, the onset of sin was not prevented: for then, I thought, all should have been well. This impulse [of thought] was much to be avoided, but nevertheless I mourned and sorrowed because of it, without reason and discretion.

“But Jesus, who in this vision informed me of all that is needed by me, answered with these words and said: ‘It was necessary that there should be sin; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.'”

And so it shall. Hallelujah.





A Word for 2014

19 01 2014

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Once upon a time, a long time ago, a man named Jeremiah wrote a letter. But it wasn’t actually from him.

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel,” it began, “to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.” And right off the bat, two important things were established: The letter was from God, and so were their circumstances. Though Nebuchadnezzar had taken the people of Israel captive, God plainly says He sent them to Babylon. And not only that, He goes on to tell them to put down roots there. Build homes. Plant gardens. Marry and give in marriage. Seek the welfare of that city. Pray on its behalf.

To a people whose identity was inextricable from the promised land, all of this must have sounded absurd. But the letter from God also explained that, in His time, He would bring them back to Jerusalem. And then? This wonderful, glorious promise:

“I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

And I imagine that those who believed were filled with joy, just as countless others through the centuries have read these same words and rejoiced. No matter how hard, confusing, or heart-breaking things may be now, there are better days ahead. Such comfort!

Sure, some might caution that this promise was written to a specific people for a specific time, and they would be right. They might go on to say that believers today can’t “claim” this promise, because it wasn’t originally intended for them. And in the narrowest sense, they would be right again. But in their strict adherence to context, they would risk losing sight of a big glorious truth that applies to every believer in every place in every generation.

And that truth?

God knows.

Our God is a God who makes plans for His people, knows what those plans are, and can be fully trusted to accomplish them.

You and I may not be natural descendants of Israel, but if we’ve trusted Christ, we’ve been grafted in. Jeremiah’s God is our God. We are His adopted sons and daughters.

And we are known.

A friend of mine once wondered aloud if perhaps a Psalm 139 level of intimacy was reserved for the King Davids of the world, and my whole soul recoiled at the thought. No, I insisted. That can’t be. The whole of scripture reveals a God who knows. He has written our names in His book, numbers the hairs on our heads, and notices when even one sparrow falls to the ground. He knows our thoughts and words and ways every bit as well as He knew King David’s. He knit us in our mother’s wombs, and ordained our days, and His thoughts toward us outnumber the sand.

We are known. 

And this changes everything. Because the God who knows us also loves us and redeems us and welcomes us into His kingdom. When we come to Him, we realize we are not our own. We’ve been bought with a price. We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

It’s not my dream, my career, my ministry. I’ve been crucified with Christ. Mine is to walk in what He has already prepared — the plans He has for me. The plans He knows and has always known.

The more I think about this, the greater my joy grows. The King of the Universe, creator and ruler of all things, knows me and has plans for me. And if this is true, then obedience to Him is my fulfillment. Submission is freedom. When I walk in the good works prepared for me, His light shines, His body is strengthened, He advances His kingdom, and He receives the glory. When I embrace His plan for me — however grand or humble it may be — then I’m free to celebrate His plan for others without envy or competition.

When I know I am known, I long to love and worship and seek Him more. To cease striving and know that He is God. To rest in His sufficiency. To be pliable in the Potter’s hands, a useful vessel for Him.

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2014 is shaping up to be a full year, and I’m grateful for every opportunity to declare and celebrate God’s goodness and faithfulness. I’m also grateful for this humbling, amazing truth. I am known. Fully known. And the One who knows me is able to sanctify and anoint and fill with His grace and power to do His work in His beautiful name to His glory.

And the same is true of you. Isn’t it a wonder? Friends, we are known. May we lean into this truth and go forth to do His will rejoicing.








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