A blog share

Yesterday was Mother’s Day, and when I arrived at church, I received a tulip.

So did both my daughters.

So did every woman who arrived at our church yesterday–whether single or married, biological mother or not.

I am glad of this–because every one of us is called to a mothering of one kind or another. My children have several spiritual mothers, and I’m grateful for every woman who pours into their lives. My children need them. I need them. They receive mothering from all kinds of women–from me, from their grandmother, from their female teachers, from the young women who work in their after-school program, from the coaches who lead their soccer teams…

They are challenged and encouraged and pushed and comforted and guided and stretched and corrected–by all these women in ways that are specific to each one.

They need more than one “mother,” and, most of all, they need the motherly love of God, who, though generally referred to as “Father,” also speaks of himself as “motherly.”

I was very blessed this morning to read Mike Frost’s post “The Ferocious Motherly Love of God,” on this topic, and I am so glad to share it with you. May it encourage you as it encouraged me.

Grace and peace this day.

~Jen

 

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Guest post: Clay

Sus's bowlThe theme of the potter and the clay is a popular one in Scripture. Isaiah and Jeremiah both used it, as did Paul in Romans, and many have learned from and written about the metaphor. My friend Susanna, a nurse, missionary with Kids Alive International (the link is to her missionary page on the KA Int’l website), artist, and oh, so many other things, just wrote about clay on her blog, and I asked if I could share her piece through my blog. (She said yes!)

Susanna's bowlSusanna is a wonderful potter (the pictures with this post are of a bowl she made and gave to me), and what jumped out at me in her piece was her perspective on the potter’s attitude toward the clay. Many of the Scripture passages emphasize the truth that we, as the clay, should accept the potter’s intent. Susanna, whose journey to the mission field has been challenging and circuitous and downright hard at times, does write about this aspect of the metaphor, but she also talks about these passages from the perspective of the potter. Working with clay brings joy to Susanna. She loves crafting even the simplest pieces. Working AND reworking the clay brings her satisfaction, and she assumes the Potter feels the same!

The potter took what was spoiled and made it into something else. Not only did he take the time to do it, but he found it good to do. It wasn’t a hassle or pain. It was a process that the potter took delight in. I know that it is in the process of creating a piece of work that I take such enjoyment and I must be reminded that the great Potter enjoys the messy process that I am.  

Click HERE to read the entire piece.

 

 

Good Friday: three things

frozen grassFirst: a link to a piece on The Well Blog (a blog produced by InterVarsity specifically for women) titled “My Sacrilege, Our Sacrilege” by Ashley Van Dragt. Here’s an excerpt to tempt you to click the link and read the whole thing–which, if you want to know the “moment” she refers to in the first sentence, you will have to do.

Over the course of Lent, I’ve kept coming back to that moment. I keep going back to it because I came to realize that there are words for it.

“Crucify him.”

And these are the words that get at the significance of Lent, of Good Friday. It’s the time of year when we remember Jesus on the cross. And at the end of it, on one horrible night we carry ourselves and our preoccupations and our snotty-nosed children to church to mentally put Jesus on the cross and into the grave. And we say together the most hellish sounding words: 

“Crucify him!”

And it’s profane and terrible…and important.

Because — my God, my God — we have indeed done something wrong.

Here’s the link again–so you don’t even have to scroll up!

Second: Today I went to our church’s Stations of the Cross service. I wrote a post about what emerged for me from this service last year. This year two things were fresh and new:

1. Jesus’ heart for US–WHILE while enduring SO much pain and suffering. “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do,” he said, and then he interacted with the thief on the cross. “I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Oh, the heart of God revealed in these moments! Forgiveness beyond what we can imagine!

2.  This prayer–so simple, yet coupled with the heart of God, so powerful: O blessed Lord Jesus, be gracious to us and all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring us home again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith; who now live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

Third, this is a link to “Good Friday Blues,” a piece published at Christianity Today. It’s about Texas gospel bluesman Blind Willie Johnson’s recording of “Dark Was the Night—Cold Was the Ground” with Columbia Records in 1927. Though the song has no lyrics, it is about Good Friday, with the title borrowed from an 18th century English hymn by Thomas Haweis:

Dark was the night, cold was the ground
on which the Lord was laid;
His sweat, like drops of blood, ran down;
In agony he prayed.

The article about Blind Willie Johnson tells part of his story and contains a link to a recording of this song. Both are wonderful.

 

Suggested Read

My sister just sent me a commentary on Matthew 6 that she found on Bible Gateway. She
called it “challenging.” She wasn’t kidding! It’s incredible–and, in my view, very, very necessary for American Christians. PLEASE read! It’s titled “Do Not Value Possessions Enough to Seek Them.”

max looking out to sea

I think the way of living described in the commentary might feel like a lonely choice AT FIRST. So I picked this picture to go with the post. But Max–the guy standing out on the rock while I stayed on the dry ground and took the picture–would have no regrets about his choice to venture out.

 

I’ve got a post up on the Redbud blog

flower closeupI’ve got a post up on the Redbud blog today. “The Myth of Mediocrity” appeared on this blog a while back, so it may sound familiar if you’re a longtime follower.

While you’re at the Redbud blog, you may want to check out some of the other posts, all written by my fellow Redbud writers. There’s some really amazing and encouraging stuff there–and if you’re a writer, helpful writing advice as well.

Thanks for reading–I’m praying today for all those who read this blog. This very day may you see the Lord more clearly, love Him more dearly, and follow Him more nearly.

Grace and peace,

~Jen

Check out “End the NOW”

My friend (and former boss) Karin Swihart has a great passion for the neglect of women (NOW) worldwide and blogs on that topic. I just wrote a guest post for her blog and it’s up today. Follow this link to read it.

I also suggest you check out this link to her blog to read her post titled “50 Shades of Something.” Karin hasn’t read the book or seen the movie but she provides summary of an excellent post written by a woman who did–and also a link to the complete post, which is chock-full of wisdom and a lot of humor.

Finally, I suggest you follow this link to End the NOW’s home page so you can scroll down and explore the whole site. It has lots of great posts.

Odds and Ends: a recording, a verse, a suggestion

A RECORDING: If you didn’t read the last post, a poem by Wheaton Academy student Tyler Jackson, please scroll down below this post to see it (or follow the link above). The more I read her poem, the more I am influenced by it, so I made a recording of it in case any of you would rather hear it (poetry so often has a different effect when it’s listened to) or listen as you read along. Here’s the recording:

A VERSE: In my latest post in the Confessional Living series, it was implied but not actually stated that the Holy Spirit most often uses the very Word of God to make us aware of our hidden (or not so hidden) sins. Hebrews 4:12 is a oft-quoted verse about the power of Scripture. I’m putting it here in the New Living translation because it makes the verse new and fresh even to those who have quoted it since they were children. I am also including verses 13-16 because the Gospel, hallelujah, goes beyond our sin to the Savior who rescued us through His own sacrifice.

Hebrews 4:12-16 For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable. 14 So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. 16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

*Here is Hebrews 4:12-16 in several different versions/paraphrases.

A SUGGESTION: Are you wanting to read Scripture more and allow God to use it to change you? Bible Gateway has recently added a section to its website titled “Scripture Engagement.” Here’s the first paragraph on that page: “This section of Bible Gateway, created in partnership with the Taylor University Center for Scripture Engagement, outlines a set of practical exercises and activities you can undertake to interact more meaningfully with the Bible.” I would encourage you to check it out by following the link above.

Guest Writer: Tyler Jackson’s poem “Beloved”

Beloved
I don’t want a fairy tale that’s sweet on the mind, but fades when the book closes
I don’t need curled up pages, binded by hardback covers on wooden shelves
I want petals penned in stone
literature so smooth it’s like a lullaby
Scripture so strong it sets fire to hearts closed up by the world
I want words written on flames that dance through fields of roses
I want graphite to flow through pages like an evening spring
I want poetry to hit so hard it leaves scars on the very parts of your soul you’ve locked away
I don’t need illusions and alliterations to unlock the chains you bind to your feet
You’re a child of wrath, living within the glory of darkness
so unaware of the brightness
I want to show you a different world
where literature isn’t just princes and witches
I’ll show you pages that were written in the sky, bright like stars and timeless like the universe
God breathed they say
Sonnets of love and sacrifice
just stories they say
But I tell you, I don’t believe in fairytales
So give me a reason why we hold the rambles of man as greater than the words inspired by one greater than all
For He calls you Beloved, is that not more wonderful than all the praises of man?

Tyler, a very talented writer and photographer, is a junior at Wheaton Academy. She went with us to Scotland in January 2015. This poem was written as she reflected on her time in a country that has such a rich heritage of Christian faith but now has so few who believe in and follow Christ.

Thy light and Thy truth

DSC_0882They give me an unlit candle when I enter the service. We sing “Our darkness is never darkness in your sight: the deepest night is clear as the day,” but the candle, still unlit, dangles from my fingers. Then we sing “Wait for the Lord, whose day is near. Wait for the Lord: be strong, take heart,” and down the aisle I see a small child, no more than four, carrying in her tiny hand a shining taper, its flame high and bright. Her mother, hunched over her, helps her hold the candle steady as the end person in each row bends their candle sideways and brings the wicks together till the flame is shared.

When the child nears my row, I watch her beautiful little face. She is old enough to be frightened of strangers, but though these unknown adults bend over her, one after another, she looks at nothing other than the bright flame. It is mirrored in her dark eyes.

The symbolism overwhelms me. She, too, began with an unlit candle. She, too, held it sideways, a picture for me of bowing down, of worship. Now she is captivated by the light. She has lost sight of herself and can share the flame with others without self-consciousness.

The mother shuffles, crouched over, keeping pace with her daughter’s short steps, aiding her in this beautiful work. This, too, makes me draw a sudden breath. For don’t we all share this responsibility as well at times: to slow our pace to match the faltering steps of another, to steady others’ hands so they can see the light, to bend our backs if that is what they need?

It is my turn. I tip my candle and receive the light. I hold it straight so my friend can do the same. The director sings the lines of Psalm 43, pausing at the end of each so we can respond with “Alleluia.” We lift our candles high as we sing, and my eyes follow the light. The flames from the individual candles, held above our selves, blaze as one.

“Oh, send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me,” the director sings.

Thy light and Thy truth, Lord. Let them lead.

Book Suggestion: A Minor by Margaret Philbrick

A few months ago I went to a book signing for my friend’s debut novel, A Minor: A Novel of Love, Music & Memory. The author, Margaret Philbrick, is a both a writing friend (she’s on the board of the Redbud Writers Guild) and a fellow member at Church of the Resurrection (though she’s been there much, much longer than I).

The book deals with a teenage piano prodigy, Clive, and the mentor who helps him to, as Clive puts it, “set his fingers and his heart on fire.” I was fascinated with the way Philbrick describes music throughout the novel. It becomes a character, and it drives and woos Clive.

Clive’s relationship with his mentor, Clare, also becomes increasingly complex, and he finds himself falling in love with her. But Clare is more than twice his age, and Clive soon notices her memory is slipping. Clare is diagnosed with early-onset dementia, and Philbrick explores the effects of this on human relationships and on a person’s gifts and passions (with a particular focus on the effects of music on memory).

I don’t usually suggest an e-book over print, but this book is an exception BECAUSE Philbrick has done the coolest thing ever. In the e-book, the reader has the option of playing the music Clive is working on; it becomes the background music as the reader experiences the scene!

Here’s another reason to purchase the e-book: November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, so Philbrick and her publisher, Köehler Books, are donating 20% of all proceeds from e-book sales to the Alzheimer’s Association AND it’s on sale for only $1.99.

Intrigued? Here’s another link to the book’s Amazon page and here’s a link to the info about the publisher/author donating money during Alzheimer’s Awareness Month.