To Remember // Se Souvenir

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I’m not sure exactly how it began or why I started doing it, but 22 years ago I began a little tradition.  At the time, I don’t think I even knew it was something that would become significant…it was just something that happened once, and then again, and then again. When we were young newlyweds, and everything seemed like an incredible new adventure, every time we went somewhere together, I would secretly grab a little “souvenir.”  Not the sweatshirt, keychain, coffee mug or magnet kind.  This was something different, all together.  If we went on a little weekend getaway, a family trip, or to camp or on a mission trip, I always came home with a pocket full of  small pebbles, or sand from the beach, rocks from a mountain path, or a small bottle of water from the ocean.  I’d pick flowers, and leaves, and tuck my little treasures away in my suitcase to bring back home.  Soon I began to put each of my little souvenirs in vintage glass bottles and labeled where each particular little treasure came from.  

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Sometimes, when you start something, you have no intention of doing it forever… but without realizing it, you just sort of keep doing it.  Throughout the last 22 years, I’ve been known to bring home water bottles filled with small samples of lake or river water, or little ziplock baggies full of dirt or sand or driftwood.  My family doesn’t even blink anymore when I sheepishly bend down to grab a few leaves.  They’ve gotten used to how I hang on to my empty water bottle so I can fill it with less than 4 ounces of water from the ocean we’ve just visited, so it can make it safely through TSA, and home to join the collection. None of these little creation bits cost a single penny, but I’ve come to treasure these small handfuls of significant places and special moments I want to mark, forever, in my mind.  

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to somehow always remember.

So now, we have shelves full of antique bottles and small glass jars of creation souvenirs marking significant moments of our journey through the years.

Admittedly, it’s a quirky little collection we’ve got, but I love that it helps me remember.

This summer I got out an old box of journals from my years in college.  I spent a few weeks, waking up each morning and thumbing through the journals and reading them like novels, one by one.

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The pages took me on a journey that walked me straight down memory lane.  It was like going to coffee with my 18-year-old self, and it was fascinating!  Half of the words written in them, in my very own handwriting, are things I literally have no memory of today, and other pages were filled with significant moments I remember like they were just yesterday.  Dreams, prayers, heartaches, worries, failures, and second chances.  Years of my heart, poured out on the pages, reminding me now, of who I was then.  Prayers recorded then that only now, I can see answered, in full. I’d arranged the journals in chronological order, and as I read them I could see evidence of growth… the beautiful result of painful pruning that would so often bear fruit in the next season’s journal. Reading my own words, from what seems now like lifetimes ago, was like getting to stand outside myself, and watch as the Lord would gently call out to my heart, tenderly correct my attitude, lovingly bind my wounds, challenge my thoughts, and fill my soul with His Truth and His Promises.  So many pages filled with deep questions, as I pondered God’s will for my life and walked alongside friends as we stepped into the great unknown.  Sometimes my adult self would laugh out loud reading the words, from my college-age self.  (Was I really this dramatic? Insecure? Unsure of my future? And oh my word…how did I have time to write all this down?)

My overwhelming takeaway, as I closed the last journal in the stack, was that there may be nothing more powerful than taking a moment to stop and remember all that God has done. 

Sometimes, we don’t even need to remember all the details, just that God was right there with us, every step of the journey, just like He said He would be.  Sometimes the most powerful thing I can do today is to stop and remember all the steps that have led me to where I stand now.  All God’s provision, all His protection, all the ways His plans were weaving together a better story than I could have ever imagined.  How even the heartbreaks served to create a more whole and tender heart.  How even the failures served to bring humility and understanding.  How all the questions, and unknowns brought a hard-earned trust in a God who keeps His promises.

There is something in all of us that wants to remember.

It’s why we love watching home movies, and making scrapbooks, and telling stories around the campfire or the table. 

I made my way through college and graduate school by making stacks and stacks (and more stacks!) of flashcards.  Over time, I figured out that making flashcards was the way that engaged my learning style the most effectively. It’s like my mind just needed a hint…the slightest visual reminder, and then, all of a sudden, I could recall everything that I’d already learned.

Sometimes we just need a visual reminder of God’s faithfulness.  

We need something that helps us to remember what is already true when feel like we might forget.

In the Bible, God gives the command to remember literally hundreds and hundreds of times.  God calls us to remember, because He knows how easily we forget.  We are not the first to have this soul amnesia that tempts us to forget the road we’ve already traveled of God’s faithfulness.  The way His provision came that time, at just the right moment…the way He taught us about Himself and who we are in Him, in new ways, over and over.  The way He called us each by name, made all things new, and set our feet to walk a different road, covered by His grace and mercy.

The heart of man is not only prone to wander but prone to forget.  Having fashioned us Himself, this is no surprise to our Creator, so it makes sense that all throughout His Word, there is a familiar command…a prompting over and over “to remember” God and all that He has done. 

If we find ourselves in a season that feels dry or stale, maybe the remedy is to simply look back.  If we’re feeling stuck or just unsure about where we stand on our journey today, maybe it’s worth looking back at where our feet have already been. When we feel alone in the dark, maybe it’s worth remembering, that we’ve seen with our own eyes, how each new day, morning dawns, and the light breaks in and His faithfulness preaches a sermon we didn’t even know our hearts needed to hear.  

The thing is…we are usually pretty diligent historians, but sometimes we remember and keep playing back the wrong parts of the story.  

When we feel afraid of the days to come or unsure of where to take our next step, sometimes the surest way to decipher the road ahead is to look back and see how His guiding hand has charted our course all the days of our lives, including today.  If we find ourselves not sure what the future might look like, maybe it’s worth stopping to re-read the last few chapters of our story.

For you, it might not look like vintage glass bottles full of sand or pebbles or shells, and it might not be a stack of old journals, either.  

But what if it looks like simply stopping to remember.

What if it means today, that you make a list of prayers that have been answered, or share or story of lessons learned, or recall a promise that only in the last season, you’ve come to see fulfilled.

“To remember” translated in French is literally, “se souvenir.”

Maybe we’ve been collecting our memories, our answered prayers, our Ebenezers, and our souvenirs all along, and we just simply need to take a minute today to go back and look through our own collection.  

Looking back at the past creates assurance for the present, and trust for the future.

Sometimes, to build our faith, and to remember who God is, we need to remember who He has always been so we can trust who He’ll always be.

We need to remember that we were made to remember.

He set the longing deep within us so that we’d remember when we are tempted to forget.

When we allow our souls to remember, we allow our souls to rest.

 

“Think about this. Wrap your minds around it.

 This is serious business, rebels. 

Take it to heart. 

Remember your history, your long and rich history. 

I am God, the only God you’ve had or ever will have— 

incomparable, irreplaceable— 

From the very beginning telling you what the ending will be, 

All along letting you in on what is going to happen, 

Assuring you, ‘I’m in this for the long haul, 

I’ll do exactly what I set out to do,’……….

I’ve said it, and I’ll most certainly do it. 

I’ve planned it, so it’s as good as done."

 Isaiah 46:8-11 MSG

 

   

 

Motherhood // The Work of Building Secret Cathedrals

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A few years ago, Eric and I were graciously invited to travel with some dear friends on the trip of a lifetime to Paris. I’ll never forget the day that we visited the renown Notre Dame Cathedral. To visit one of the world’s greatest treasures in person, after seeing it in pictures and movies, was an incredibly surreal experience. The quintessential heart of the city, Notre Dame, towers majestically from the Ile de la Cite, the small island rising right out of the waters of the middle of the stunning Seine River. Like most things in Europe, the history of how something came to be in centuries past, is equally as alluring as the beauty it offers today, and the story of Notre Dame is an amazing one! I could not wrap my head around some of the incredible details that make up the history of the beloved church. 

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Historians tell us that all across Europe, and particularly in France, within three centuries, from 1050 to 1350, the building process of countless Cathedrals began, as offerings and monuments to the glory of God. More stone was cut in three centuries in France than in any period in history, including the building of the Pyramids in Egypt. The epic process of creating, designing, gathering materials and workers to construct these grand Cathedrals was daunting. Cathedral building was driven by religious figures or institutions, but it was truly a community effort, employing laborers, quarrymen, plasterers, mortar-makers, stone-cutters, masons, blacksmiths, carpenters, glass makers, craftsmen, and artisans. 

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During our trip to France, I couldn’t believe how often we stood gazing at the beauty and wonder of these magnificent cathedrals and heard that many of these stunning works of architecture had taken centuries to build.  The construction of the breathtaking Notre-Dame Cathedral took almost 200 years.  I remember as we heard those words, thinking that’s a concept that I have no reference for, living in modern-day America,

To put that in perspective, imagine that a man, perhaps a French stone cutter, began working on the building of the vast Notre Dame Cathedral in the year 1160.  This stone-cutter would get up, and go to work every day, diligently and masterfully carving stone, making bricks for the foundation. The building of the Cathedral would take so long, that even if he worked each and every single day of his entire life, helping to build the great Cathedral at Notre Dame, he’d never live to see it finished.  

And neither would his son… or his grandson…. or his great-grandson, or his great-great-grandson. 

In fact, it’s possible that it took six or seven generations of French stone-cutters to see the great Cathedral unveiled as a finished work.

Can you even imagine? What must it be like to give your entire life to work that you will never see finished?  What must it be like to work with your hands to build something that, not only your own generation but several more generations to come,  will never see brought to fruition?  What silent prayers offered from the lips of those that spent each day… every day… their entire lives, with no reward of a job well done, no visible progress to bring motivation for yet another day…no “show and tell” moment to ever affirm this life-long work?

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This fall, I gathered a group of dear friends to go through “Go and Tell No One.” At our first Bible Study, we began to talk about what it would look like, over the next six weeks, to let the words of Jesus, draw us to remember and rest in the secret and the sacred with Him. I shared how my prayers behind writing the Bible Study and gathering to learn these words of Jesus together, were to let the Lord draw our hearts towards learning how to live in a way that we begin to truly treasure the secret, hidden, unseen moments with Jesus, more than anything else. At that first gathering, my friend Elizabeth shared that it reminded her of a book she’d been given once. The author wrote that in ancient Europe, many of the intricate, and vast Cathedrals had secret areas built into them, hidden on the inside, in the back, and often underneath the outer structures, that no one would ever see…

Her words brought back memories of seeing some of those incredible Cathedrals in person, and the Lord began shaping some beautiful prayers in the quietness of my heart. I’ve spent the last few months researching and learning about the building of the Great Cathedrals, knowing the Lord was continuing to draw my heart to some deep and profound, life-changing truths.

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The every-day laborers and artisans of the Great Cathedrals anonymously gave their lives to the secret, hidden beauty they created, simply as a gift… simply an offering, given in great humility and love, to God.  

They worked, not for the satisfaction of a job well done…not for their names to be recognized or attached to the greatness of what they were building. It was a slow, steady lifetime of work, that would never be applauded or recognized. They’d probably never see their work finished and on display for all to see, but along the way, they found ways to offer beauty and hidden treasure, even if no one would ever see or know. Their hands crafted beauty, often kept secret, for the glory of God and God alone.  

Soli Deo Gloria. 

Literally.

Many of the hidden areas that held secret, intricate carvings and masterfully honed stonework, artistically laid in the foundations of these great Cathedrals were not even discovered until they were restored, only in recent years.

And even though we have a wealth of information about the process and types of skilled artisans who masterfully crafted their work into each aspect of building the Great Cathedrals, in many of the books, the artists, craftsmen and laborers are simply named as "unknown."

We can learn from the astounding wisdom and beauty of the Cathedral laborers, and their secret offerings, generations ago.

 

I can’t help thinking…

the gift and calling of Motherhood can look a lot like building a great Cathedral. 

 

Days and days of labor-intensive work…stone cutting, brick-building, anonymous work…a lifetime of laying the foundation for a masterpiece we’ll never see fully finished. This day-after-day name-less work can feel like a lot like the offering of an unknown artisan, giving a lifetime to building something beautiful, in the secret.

Whether it is yet another load in the never-ending pile of laundry, one more book to read aloud in the pile of bedtime stories, one more hard, tearful conversation, one more prayer offered in silence, one more deep breath, as the journey continues another day, and another season begins.

What if today, we borrowed the wisdom of generations past, and positioned our hearts and our minds, to purposefully giving our lives to building secret Cathedrals…

What if we set our hands to work, and we learned to be content, even in knowing that we’ll never see our work fully finished? And what if our hearts began to shift, and we were able to work, and work diligently, and take great delight in the treasure that comes with building a Cathedral… in secret?

Yes, much of our day to day work will be about building the things that are visible, and functional…some, even beautiful.

But what if the things that become most beautiful in our own eyes are the hidden, secret areas that no one else will see, but the One who sees it all…?

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Lord, remind us that just like a stone-cutter picking up his tools, giving his life to a work that he might never see finished, and that no one might ever even see, that we too, can pick up our tools today, and set our hands to build You something beautiful.  

Each whispered prayer, each teachable moment, each tear wiped away…all the times, we gather them up in our arms, or let them go through prayerful tears, are days well-spent as an offering to You. 

If it takes a lifetime of ordinary days filled with never-ending, unseen work to build a Great Cathedral, then maybe the same can be true for us.

Maybe the work of following Christ, of learning His character, of shaping and building His great love and humility into the foundations of our own lives, our own homes, our own families, and of the little lives we’ve been entrusted to shepherd, looks a lot like the life-long, secret work of building a Great Cathedral…

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Lord, today would You teach our hands how to build something beautiful, in the secret withyou, and for You, and would You teach our hearts to call it beautiful…?  

Teach our eyes, that even if we never get to look upon the finished masterpiece, we can still learn to see the beauty in the gift of building it withyou, and that we can trust You, with what You’ve entrusted to us…

Set a fire within us to move right past those voices we sometimes hear, and right past the work we can see with our eyes, to the hidden, and far side of the Cathedral to build something for Your eyes only….

Lord, we want to build You a cathedral today. 

In fact, we want to give our lives to it.

But we are often shallow in our efforts, and sometimes we forget, and our eyes begin to search for progress, and our ears begin to listen for affirmation. When we find ourselves there in the quiet today, Lord will You remind us that You are right there with us…

In those secret, sacred places that no eye will ever see…maybe our own eyes will never see….may we remember, that’s often when we most clearly hear you say, “I’m withyou…”

Lord, would you give us hearts that long to build Cathedrals?

Not the famous ones, where people stand in line to take pictures….not the ones we recognize from the photographs. Not the ones we can even see at all…

Lord, open our eyes to see how You make all things, even invisible things, beautiful…

Would You draw our hearts and hands to a work that will take our whole lives, and we’ll still never really see it finished. Would You give us strength for the work and joy for the journey, and a holy contentment as Your eyes only, will see the offering?

Lord, as we remember and rest in the secret and sacred withyou,

may we give You a secret offering, 

and build You the most beautiful Cathedral that no one’s ever seen….

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In honor of all the amazing, beautiful women giving their lives to building Great Cathedrals in the Secret and the Sacred, with Jesus. Happy Mother’s Day.

 

 

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For more information on studying the words of Jesus, that invite us to remember and rest in the secret and the sacred, check out the six-week Bible Study, "Go and Tell No One."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Story of a Saint

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I love a redemption story.

I love when the Lord, the great promise-keeper, gently brushes away the dirt and rust from a life that seems so far gone and pulls forth something majestic from underneath, for His glory.

Such is the life of St. Patrick.

So many people think March 17th is about wearing green to avoid getting a pinch, loading up on shamrocks and circling up to the local pub.

Somehow we’ve forgotten who St. Patrick really was.

How his life was restored…. How he changed a country for the cause of Christ…

How his, was a story of true redemption.

I want us to remember.

His story is beautiful, fascinating and worth celebrating well.

Patrick was born in England in 389 into a family of strong, active faith. His parents were believing Christians, and his grandfather was a minister, but as a boy, he rejected the faith of his family. And then one day, as if it were a scene from a Hollywood movie, his life was changed forever. Unbelievably, when Patrick was 16, one day while playing on the rocky shores of an English beach, he was kidnapped by Irish pirates. He was taken away to Ireland and sold into slavery.

Patrick was made to live as a slave for six years.

He was taken. He was stolen from his family at sixteen years old… just a boy and made to be a slave.

It was in his lonely, terrifying first year in the new country of Ireland, working as a slave that he remembered the faith of his parents and grandparents back in England.

“I was sixteen years old and knew not the true God. But in that strange land, God opened my unbelieving eyes, and, altogether late, I called my sins to mind and was converted with my whole heart to the Lord my God who regarded my low estate, had pity on my youth and ignorance, and consoled me as a father consoles his children.” -St. Patrick

It was in a season of bondage, praying every day for freedom, that Patrick developed a true and personal relationship with God.

After six years in slavery, Patrick eventually broke free and escaped. He literally ran for 200 miles and finally boarded a boat that eventually took him home to England.

Patrick’s family was overjoyed to have him home, and he felt like he was breaking the chains from those years stolen from him in Ireland. He was ready to begin a new life; however, once he arrived, he began having unusual dreams. He started to have dreams in which he saw the children of Ireland calling him back. In his dreams, he saw himself teaching them about God’s redeeming and restoring love. God began drawing him back to the war-torn land and the broken people that had once held him as a slave.

In 432, after receiving training as a minister in France, Patrick returned to Ireland by his own free will.

In the greatest act of selflessness, Patrick returned to the land of his captors to tell them about the greatest freedom.

By faith, and with complete forgiveness, after everything they had taken from him, he made a choice to go back to Ireland to give them Jesus.

For nearly 30 years Patrick gave his life away preaching the gospel and teaching in Ireland. It was a land of strife… of warring tribes, null of faith or religion. Missionaries had tried to reach these people before, but it wasn’t until Patrick, who was familiar with their Celtic customs and traditions, shared with them that they understood. Often sharing in such an unstable place, he was put into very dangerous situations, but in large part they knew he had returned to them out of compassion, so the Irish people had a willing ear to hear his message of a Redeeming God.

St. Patrick was well known for using the three-leaf clover, or shamrock, to explain the Trinity and the three-in-oneness of God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. A nation that had once not known of God’s love at all was learning through this redeemed life, what true freedom was.

It’s amazing to see what God was weaving together all along in Patrick’s story… The beauty quietly being cultivated underneath the surface… The countless generations saved because of Patrick’s yielding and obedience to what seems like an unspeakable ask. There must have been a wound over his heart that, at one time, seemed too gaping to heal. Patrick’s story of restoration is beautiful, but his story of obedience is stunning. I want to let his unselfish bravery for the kingdom of God seep into my soul today, and to be reminded that no matter what I feel surrounded by, that being in the center of God’s will is always the safest place. I want to learn from St. Patrick, the worthwhile lesson that what I see from where I sit now, is most likely not the full picture of what God is orchestrating in the heavenlies, so its just always better to trust and obey. And also to never under-estimate what God can do with just one willing heart.

History tells us that by the time of St. Patrick’s death, he had started over 300 churches and baptized over 120,000 people!

What a breath-taking, beautiful example of a life surrendered to God’s redeeming, restoring work.

The prayer of St. Patrick has become so very dear to us over the years.  Some precious friends even had a painting commissioned for us, bearing the words of the prayer, and we get to see it every day.  It is such a beautiful expression and heart cry for every believer in Christ.

The Prayer of St. Patrick

Christ with us, Christ before us,

Christ behind us,

Christ in us, Christ beneath us,

Christ above us,

Christ on our right, Christ on our left,

Christ where we lie, Christ where we sit,

Christ where we arise,

Christ in the heart of every man

who thinks of us,

Christ in the mouth of every man

who speaks of us,

Christ in every eye that sees us,

Christ in every ear that hears us.

May we be inspired today by the redeemed life of this kingdom-minded man of God and celebrate God’s glory in His legacy.

When Your Heart Is Broken For This Broken World

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We are in one of those seasons, aren’t we? It seems like every single day, our world groans with the ache of even more heartbreaking news.  Hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, senseless violence, extremism, racial tension, political division, unimaginable injustice.
It seems our world is just as broken as our hearts.

These recent days and weeks have continued to feel heavy.

What do we do with that pit in our stomachs, as we hear one more news report of crisis and tragedy?  And how do we, the people of God, reconcile our broken hearts with the belief that we have a loving and sovereign God?

Somewhere along the way, especially in the Bible Belt, we started hearing the message that Sunday School answers are what works best here.  Somehow, alot of us started believing that no matter what crushing heartbreak, deep sorrow, or sincere pain or fear we have deep inside…as we start to articulate words to describe our feelings, by the time those words come out of our mouths, they need to be tidied up and reconciled.

It can be devastating to feel like you’re not allowed to feel pain if you love Jesus…

Maybe you had a Sunday School teacher who pressed in a little deeper to “Sunday school answers.”  I pray that someone, somewhere told you that it is ok to be brutally honest with God.  

But in case that hasn't been your story, or in case you need to remember that again today, let’s rest in the fact that we have a God who knows our hearts better than we know ourselves.  He is able to discern the thoughts and the intentions of man, and when everyone else is looking on the outside, God already sees and knows what is deep inside our hearts.

I don’t think a God who tenderly holds our hearts in His hands, has ever expected that we’d mask our mourning, or our heartbreak, with words that belittle or try to tie up in a bow, the depth of what we are actually feeling.

My husband Eric has always said that “spiritual transformation comes when we can be real and authentic with our pain to God.”  We know it’s a “real relationship” with Jesus because we are seeking to be honest with Him… Not stuff our feelings, not turn away from Him, not turn to someone or something else, to numb those feelings with some coping mechanism of choice….

But when we go to Him in our most, raw and intimate moments to share our deepest, darkest pain, suffering, confusion, and fear, and we allow Jesus to be the one to catch it, to hear the honest cries of our hearts… we invite Him to be the source of all comfort.

Real spiritual transformation happens in us, in those brief, but beautiful moments that the Holy Spirit enters in and eases the pain, not of the situation, but in the tension in us, and meets our sorrow with hope.  The Holy Spirit enters those moments and brings to our remembrance, what we already know to be true, even if our sorrow tempts us to forget.

And the most amazing thing is, the God who put on flesh and walked among us in our broken world, has always known that we’d feel this way, and He tells us exactly what to do in those moments of heartbreak.

It’s been there all along…in the pages of our Old Testament, this Biblical prescription for what will ease the pain.

God’s Word calls it “lamenting.”

To lament, as it is in Scripture, is to be very real with God in our deep mourning and overwhelming sorrow, WHILE still also proclaiming the goodness of God and the hope found in Him!

It is both an honest, and hopeful, sorrow.

There is freedom in the real honesty of laying open these feelings before God… the drawing near to the heart of the Father, while being honest about those feeling in the darkest depths.  There is no glossing over… no skipping straight to the happy ending… “no church answers.”
There is permission to say that “things are not OK.”

It is a theme woven throughout the Old Testament, but even Jesus, Himself lamented.
By giving us a model of lamenting, God gives us a freeing invitation, to say what we feel in the darkest corners of our hearts.

In a lament, there is real honesty about true despair.

The difference is that it is framed within the context of the goodness of God, in a posture of recalling and remembering His character.

In Scripture, we see that David lamented. Job lamented.  Isaiah and Jeremiah lamented.  The Psalms are full of lamentations.

We learn that historically, certain lamentations, sometimes even became a habitual place of hope and comfort to return to… to remember.

In Scripture, the Hebrew word “zakar,” is often associated with lamenting.  It means, “to remember, to recall, to be brought to remembrance.”  This pivotal step in lamenting is what opens the door, for God to walk us through our pain and sorrow, and out of the other side with healing.

In the true spirit of a real, honest relationship with God, there is permission to be authentic, while never forsaking Him and even still, yet proclaiming His goodness!

There is freedom to be real, but then, an almost circular discipline or practice of reminding one’s self of what IS good: 

The Lord is good!  His character is good; He can be trusted, He is faithful, He is worthy…

Right in the midst of this, I will say that out loud. I will recall and remember.


There is freedom to both cry out in pain and desperation, and in the same breath, remember.

Even as our hearts break…even in the middle of deep pain, we can remember the faithfulness of God.

Even when there is still no resolution, we can recall and remember God’s character in the past, and allow that to invite peace in the present, and let that create trust for the future.

If you just look at the book of Lamentations, Jeremiah, who was often called the “patriot-poet,” opens with pages and pages of how brutally hard things really are… real suffering, weeping, captivity, destruction, darkness, desolation… real felt and honest pain.

Then, like a faint flicker of light:

In Chapter 3, verse 20:
“Surely my soul remembers and is bowed down within me.
This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope.
The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Thy faithfulness.
“the Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
Therefore I have hope in Him.”
 
What freedom there is for us!
There is context and a safe place for the believer to be real with our feelings…

but then a circular call to remember.

The word “lamentations” that is used, often means a dirge, elegy or mournful song.

When our hearts are breaking, what if we learned to sing a Lamentation Song…?

Scripture actually teaches us how.
In a true lament, just like a song, there can be “verses” or thoughts that allow for real honest confessions of hurt and pain, but then always, a circling back.

In the verses, there is freedom to be honest about true pain and sorrow,
but in the Lamentation song, we can always return to sing the chorus.

There is always a circling back to the proclamation…
to the familiar confessions, we know by heart.
Our hearts and our mouths begin to remember the words, and we can sing the chorus again.

The same mouth that cries out in pain and sorrow,
can remember again, and at the same time, breath out the words that are true even, still.

Surely my soul remembers and is bowed down within me.
This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope.
…Great is Thy Faithfulness.”

May that be true of us in these days, Lord.
May the honest cries of our hearts turn in to a song of remembrance.

May our lamenting bring remembering,
and in our remembering, may we find rest, withyou.

 


You turned my lament into dancing;
You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
so that I can sing to You and not be silent.
Lord my God, I will praise You forever.
Psalm 30:11-12

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Withyou Texas

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I just got back from several days in Houston.... For a week I've been looking for the words.

I'm not really sure I can find them.

Maybe Dickens said it best...
"it was the best of times, it was the worst of times."
If you were to drive down the flooded streets of the areas hit hard by Hurricane Harvey, you'd be blown away.
House after house, street after street, has piles and piles of ripped out debris- sheetrock, floorboards, insulation. But it's not just the homes themselves, but so often, all the treasures they held inside them, as well...
Out by the curb in piles stacked high, are couches, TV's, High chairs, wedding albums, letter jackets, fine art, refrigerators, cribs, diplomas, desks, stuffed animals, computers, and piles of clothes and shoes. Damp, musty, and swollen with week old flood water.

It's overwhelming.

And it is easy to start to lose hope.
It's not one home.
It's every home... every where you look.
But here is what I learned from being back with the brave and beautiful people of my Home State, and the city that raised me...

It would be easy, to let your eyes fall on the devastation. There is plenty of that to see. But don't let your eyes stop there. If you look just beyond the piles, you'll see the helpers. And they're everywhere, just like Mr. Rogers said they would be. If you look a little harder, you'll see crews and crews of friends and neighbors, carrying wheelbarrows and sandwiches, and gloves and trash bags. You'll see the Church, far outside her walls, mourning with those who mourn, and holding up the arms of the weary.
And if you look even further, you'll see what I got to see with my very own eyes, this last week. Parents, walking down the streets, next to their children, pulling their own little red wagons full of ice cold water bottles. Families driving slowly down the streets, asking "how many are working here today?", and offering brown bag lunches and snacks.

You'll see friends becoming family, as so many people open their homes to the displaced. People are sharing their cars, their kitchens, their clothes, and their time.

The hum of the fans and dehumidifiers, carry the sounds of both the laughter and the tears.

So, it really is...
It is the best of times, tucked right inside the worst of times.
It feels time has stopped, yet real life goes on. There will be birthdays, and first days back at school, and you better believe there will be Friday night lights.

The people of Texas are weary.
But they are also rising up out of the flood waters. They are struck down, but not destroyed. Discouraged, but not without hope.

It is heartbreaking, and also beautiful.
It's both... at the same time.

Texas, we are blown away by your courage and your compassion. We know it will be weeks and months and maybe years, til the days feel normal again, somehow.
Please know that we love you, we are praying, and we are withyou, Texas.
 

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 Photos by https://www.hannahelizabethstories.com/  This post originally appeared on September 7, 2017

Photos by https://www.hannahelizabethstories.com/

This post originally appeared on September 7, 2017

Remember and Rest

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Then Jesus said, "Let's go off by ourselves

to a quiet place and rest awhile..."

Mark 6:31 

 

 

Here's the thing....
It's easy to talk about a word like “rest", when we find ourselves in a beautiful place, and we are able to slow down a bit. 

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When we wake up in the morning, and our view is the sun rising over the horizon, shining onto a sandy beach, or a majestic mountain, or a picturesque lake, we can’t help but start to breathe a little more deeply. 

 

The real challenge is in believing that same rest is available to us, right in the middle of our everyday lives. 

 

We don’t have to go on vacation to find rest.

 

The rest we long for isn't limited to the number of personal days we get per year.

It’s not just a "siesta", lay in the sun with your toes in the sand, kind of rest....
although that is lovely and certainly a gift. 

 

A lazy morning sleeping in, laying on a hammock, or for some, a round of golf or a long bike ride, are all amazing ways to settle our minds and our bodies, for sure.


But we’ll find ourselves quickly restless again, if we think that is what will finally bring rest
to our souls.


What Jesus offers to us every single moment of every single day, right in the middle of our everyday lives, is a settled, soul-rest. 


We find it in the practice of stopping to remember who He says that He is,
and who He says that we are, in Him. 


That rest is ours, when we remember to preach to our own souls, what He has ALREADY done,
and that He promises to be with us always. 

 

These are the truths that we so often forget to remember.

 

The confession of St. Augustine, just a few hundred years after Christ, is the same confession of our hearts today, whether we can articulate it or not…


 “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, 

and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

 

It is not the view that brings us rest.

It’s not the absence of responsibilities or stress that bring us rest.

It’s not the sound of the crashing waves, or the sand in our toes, that bring rest.

It’s not a healthy family, a safe home, or a steady paycheck, that bring rest.

A comfortable life, without tension or worry, is not even the thing that will ultimately bring us rest.

 

What each of those things offer is relief.

 

And relief is good.  Relief can make it easier to catch our breath.

 

But relief is not rest.

 

And having a temporary sense of relief wasn’t ever meant to satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts.

 

When we think that a certain set of circumstances, whatever we imagine those to be, will bring us lasting peace and rest, we miss the deep, abiding rest that comes only in Jesus.

 

When we remember what we already know to be true, only then, can we find the rest we so desperately long for…


Despite what is happening around us, deep soul-rest is already in us, and it’s ours in Christ, when we choose to remember.

 

Jesus is offering it today... 

right there in your kitchen, in your cubicle, in your car.

 

Wherever you find yourself today, 

stop for just a minute to remember…

 

This is what the Lord said, “My Presence will go withyou,
and I will give you rest.”  -Exodus 33:14

 This entry was originally posted on June 25, 2017

This entry was originally posted on June 25, 2017

When mystery brings clarity

When we began this ministry in 2010 we knew right away we wanted to name it "Withyou."  God used the story of Moses, in Exodus 3 to renew our spirits and encourage our hearts, in a difficult season. God had given Moses a seemingly impossible task, and when Moses responded with feelings of inadequacy, asking, "who am I that I should go?", God reassures him with the promise of these words...  "I will be withyou."

We learn a lot about the character of God, and our part in His greater story, when we look at all the things God didn't say to Moses in that moment. He could have puffed Moses up with a pep talk, and encouraged him that his training or skill set would equip him for the task.... but He doesn't say anything like that. Instead, He clears away all the clutter and simply speaks life-giving power and freedom in the promise:  "I will be with you…"

That promise continues to remind us of God's bigger picture. It can, for all of us, bring a comforting clarity to our souls, as we step into the mystery that often comes with following God.

We are reminded again that God has already done all the work, and simply invites us to step into all the good works He has already planned in advance for us.  We have truth from God's Word, but sometimes we panic if there is no formula, or no 10 easy steps to follow that can guarantee it will all be okay.

But when we aren't sure which way to walk, we can lift our feet up to take a step in faith anyway, knowing that our feet will land on the rock of the His promise, "I will be with you".

Sometimes that promise, "I will be with you" feels sort of grand, and maybe a little vague. It's a banner that waves over all of us with its strength and promise. And every once in awhile, we find ourselves in a familiar position.  We feel the Lord saying, "you believe this so easily for others...but do you truly, in the deepest most quiet places of your own heart, believe this is true for you?"

We recently found ourselves in that moment, and God brought things full circle for us, in the most surprising and beautiful way.

In all honesty, following the Lord in ministry, more often than not, feels like stepping into that "mystery."  It's not easily managed, and there are certainly no blueprints to follow. It calls us into that place of mystery spiritually, emotionally, sometimes physically, and most deeply felt for us, financially. We continue to be humbled as we learn and lean into wisdom from others for how this all works. Earlier this year, We found ourselves in unfamiliar territory, wading into those waters of 501(c)3 non-profit fundraising. We knew we wanted to do something different... to somehow use the opportunity to provide an experience that not only fit those objectives, but almost more importantly, pointed back to our mission of providing resources and experiences to help people remember and rest. In one of the retreat experiences that we offer, we follow the relationship of Jesus with one of His disciples, and after being with us for a retreat weekend, a wise and dear friend suggested that a great companion experience would be a Seder Dinner for families the week of Easter.
We loved the idea, and with the help of dear friends, put a date on the calendar, booked a venue, spent months preparing and invited hundreds of people.
We were blown away, the more and more we began to dig into this kind of celebration, and how participating brings such an amazing way to remember God's story of faithfulness. A Seder is an integral part of the traditional Jewish feast of Passover. We have found the meaningful reasons for a follower of Jesus to participate to be two-fold. First, the amazing tradition… The words, the scripture, and even the food on the table, all tell story of God's redemption and rescue. It's a story He's been weaving through generations, and it's beautiful how every year, there is a prompting to stop, remember and re-tell the story of God's faithfulness. The other beautiful reason that followers of Jesus may find participating in a Seder significant, is that because Jesus Himself was Jewish, He grew up celebrating Passover, joining in the re-telling of the story, eating the familiar foods and praying the same prayers. So, it helps us to understand Jesus more fully, and significantly deepens our understanding of the words Jesus spoke the night before He went to the cross, as He gathered with His disciples in the Upper Room for the Last Supper.
Jesus and all the disciples would have participated in this familiar tradition every year of their lives, so it is even more significant, when we realize that He used a familiar moment in an annual Passover Seder dinner, to offer His body as the Bread, and His blood as the wine, to begin His new covenant with us.
For generations, the people of God bore the weight of striving to be made right with Him, by trying to keep an unkeepable law! And in that one moment, at the Last Supper, Jesus put striving and performing, and feelings of inadequacy and insecurity to rest. He offered Himself as the perfect, and ultimate Passover sacrifice, and all at once, and once and for all, He made a way for us. Through Jesus, God's story of redemption and rescue was fulfilled. Freedom through Jesus extended not just for one people, but for all people, now and forever.

Learning and participating in these ancient traditions, and following the example of Jesus was so very meaningful to us, and the night of our Withyou Seder Experience was something we'll remember forever.

Sometimes, it's important for us to follow the lead that Old Testament scripture gives us to stop and make an Ebenezer to mark and remember God's faithfulness.
And sometimes God begins to build them for us...

One of the most sacred and life-changing moments happened for us, as we were finishing preparations the day before our Seder a few weeks ago.  We had an amazing epiphany, and it was nothing that we had intentionally realized or planned for.  On this side of it, we can so clearly trace the lines, but while we were in it, God had to open our eyes to see it.

We'd spent months and months planning this whole Withyou Seder Experience around the Last Supper of Jesus in the New Testament, because it correlated so amazingly with another encounter that we've studied between Jesus and one of His disciples. It was the way these two New Testament stories of Jesus complemented each other that captured our attention. What we hadn't realized at first though, is that these two New Testament stories we've been studying actually had their beginnings, way back in the Old Testament.  Instead of "Once upon a time", the story began with Moses and a burning bush, and God's words to him, "I will be withyou."

God's rescue and redemption story through the Passover,

is what was waiting on the other side of "I will be withyou..."

Moses couldn't have known it at the time, but when He stepped into the mystery of following God, armed only with God's promise that "I will be withyou",  he joined in God's invitation to bring about the rescue and redemption of His people.

An event that is so significant that millions of people have gathered every single year, for thousands of years, to remember and celebrate.

An event that Jesus Himself, used as the backdrop to initiate His New Covenant with us.

Moses couldn't have known...
We rarely get a glimpse of the end of the story while we're still in it, do we...?

But we are learning that for all of us, there is a clarity that only comes in the mystery.

We can stand firm on the trustworthiness of God. It was true for Moses.
It was true when Jesus, Himself explained to His disciples that it was time for Him to go, but He looked at their confused faces and said, "and surely I am withyou always, even to the end of the age."
And it is still just as true for each of us today. Even when we can't see what's next, and even when we don't fully know what following in obedience will look like, we do know that He promises to be right there with us, every step of the way.  There is a clarity that only comes in the mystery.

For years, we have read and told and re-told the story of that encounter, and God's promise to Moses...

"I will be withyou".

And you know what... ? It's an amazing story.  God's promise to Moses in Exodus 3 is a game-changer.  It stands on its own.

It is so much more than a nice little catchy phrase.  God uses those words... His trustworthy promise, to bring rest to our weary souls, as we step into mystery.

What we hadn't realized at first, is the whole Seder Experience, the whole Feast of Passover, the whole reason we stop and re-tell the story of God's faithfulness and redemption, all go back to the moment when God told Moses, "I will be withyou," and Moses believed Him and stepped out in faith into the mystery.

God's redemption of His people through Passover, is the next chapter in the story that began with the words, "I will be withyou..."

It is quite literally, the rest of the story.
And it is so beautifully, the rest in our story.


"He will be withyou..."
These great and precious promises are ours in Christ. 
There is clarity waiting in the mystery.

What mystery is God asking you to step into today?
You can rest in knowing that He is withyou in that today, and also, already waiting for you in tomorrow, on the other side of His promise,

"I will be withyou..."

My Grandmother's Gift

My Grandmother's Gift

It has been exactly two years, since my beautiful grandmother stepped out of this life, and right into the arms of Jesus.  Beverly June Sperling Malick Kennedy was her name, but to us, she was "Gammy."  The other day, something made me think of her, and for the tiniest, slightest, split-second, I reached for my phone to call her... and then I remembered.