Choosing Substance: The Whole Story (Day 12)

advent12_post
A person of substance understands the whole story:

From the beginning of time…
I AM GOD.
     I make known the end from the beginning,
          from ancient times what is still to come.
     MY PURPOSE WILL STAND.   Isaiah 46:9-10

To the unraveling of relationship…
     For our offenses are many in your sight,
          and our sins testify against us. Isaiah 59:12-13

To the pursuit…
And she gave birth to a firstborn, a son.
     She wrapped him in cloths and laid him in a manger. Luke 2:7

To the sacrifice that brought restoration and redemption…
     Darkness fell over the whole region. The darkness persisted until about three in the
afternoon, 
and at some point during this darkness, the curtain in the temple was torn in
two. Luke 23:44-45

And I heard a great voice, coming from the throne.
     See, the home of God is with His people.
     He will live among them.
     They will be His people.
     And God Himself will be with them. Revelation 21:3

To the longing…
     Amen. Come Lord Jesus. Revelation 22:20  


Yes, here we are back at the longing, the forever Advent.

I imagine we’ll be here in this ache until we meet Him face to face. For Advent is not about just waiting for the baby in a manger. Advent is waiting again for the One who pursues when we rebel, for the One who heals when we sin against those we love, for the One who makes us brave when forgiveness is the only way.

As more hurts unfold year after year, He becomes all the more beautiful.

Are you longing for Him, too? Yes, “come, Lord Jesus.” 


Thank you for being part of these Advent devotionals over the past 12 days. What acts, what traits, do you think are important for one who desires to push against culture and choose substance instead?

On the twelfth day of Christmas my True Love gave to me a perspective bigger than my own story.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.

…*Joy to the world, the Lord is come!



Photo by ANIMESH MANDAL on Unsplash

*song excerpt | Joy to the World

Choosing Substance: Fear (Day 8)

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As for me, I will wait for the Eternal, even though He feels absent, even though He has hidden His face from the family of Jacob. I will put all hope in Him. Isaiah 8:17

A Person of Substance knows who her real enemy is.

Oh, the irony.

When I’m scared, I withdraw deeper into myself, farther away from the mystery. My heart can’t bear the heaviness of the unknown or the weight of the worst-imagined brought to fruition.

I may be smiling if you see me out and about. Or, I may become more controlling with my kids and look anything other than fearful. But the smile and the ugly garb of bullying power — those are really just masks disguising my fear. I may look engaged, but I’m really hiding. Reality is just a little too scary, a little too unknown, so I hesitate to “go there” and put more distance between myself and the Prince of Peace.

And Satan is laughing and celebrating. It’s exactly what he wants.

Are you my companion in this? I see you and your scared eyes buried under smiles. I see you trying to control those around you.

And as I attempt to ignore reality, or control it a little too much, I wrap the chains of fear around me and my precious gift of life. I chain worry and anxiety around my friends and loved ones, too, for rarely does my sin only affect me. The enslavement to fear — oh, the bondage can last a lifetime. Fear of never rising from the past into a new identity. Fear of the spinning present that taunts with confusion.  Fear of what is not yet seen but distorted in our imaginations.

Since we, the children, are all creatures of flesh and blood, Jesus took on flesh and blood, so that by dying He could destroy the one who held power over death—the devil— and destroy the fear of death that has always held people captive.  Heb 2:14-16

And Christ descended into this mess with the plan of destroying not only our biggest fear – death – but the very source of this fear – Satan himself. Satan, the owner of doubt. Satan, the originator of confusion. Satan, the distorter of what’s real. Are you letting him have mini-victories in your life? His very purpose is to destroy you, but he’s oh, so very subtle.

My Redeemer, though, He comes and speaks truth louder than the lies that try to paralyze. He became flesh centuries ago to battle my fear in 2015. His Forever Story more powerful than the finite is my gift this Christmas. It’s your gift, too.

A person of substance knows who her enemy is. She knows who her Rescuer from fear is, too.

On the eighth day of Christmas my True Love gave to me deliverance from my chains of fear. He gave me truth that speaks louder than lies.

…*Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes of life of gathering gloom
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb…
…Glorious now behold Him arise
King and God and Sacrifice…


Choosing Substance

  • How do you respond when you’re scared? Do you withdraw? Fight to control? A little of both?
  • When has your fear and sin hurt those around you?
  • Read Hebrews 2:7-17.
  • What fears are you needing to be released from this Christmas?

photo source | Andrew Pons

*song excerpt | We Three Kings

Choosing Substance: Personality (Day 7)

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(Are you just joining us? Welcome. We’re half-way through our 12 Days of Christmas advent devotionals, and you can access them all here. It’s a busy time of year, but take a few minutes to care for YOU as you make countless preparations. Coffee, anyone?)


For You shaped me, inside and out.
    You knitted me together in my mother’s womb long before I took my first breath.
      I will offer You my grateful heart, for I am Your unique creation, filled with wonder and awe.
    You have approached even the smallest details with excellence…
I carry this knowledge deep within my soul. Psalm 139:13-14

I read Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking last year, and oh my goodness, I learned quite a bit about myself. I wish I had read it 30 years ago.

This seventh day of Christmas, we’re not talking about tolerating culture or society near and far. We’re talking about tolerating you.

A person of substance understands she was created with purpose, so she’s comfortable in her own skin.

See, I personally dance between an introvert’s disposition and a world that celebrates something else. It leaves me tired. I’m still finding my rhythm. But I’m starting to believe I no longer have to make excuses for my personality.

Who are you? Are you craving crowds or solitude? Are you singing Joy to the World or Silent Night? Do you ever want to be someone else?

In ancient history we find a beautifully blatant account confirming God chooses different personalities to do His work. Long before the advent story came to earth, God’s people faced oppression once again, and His message to them wouldn’t be easy to hear. God pursued two men – Isaiah and Jeremiah – to bring truth. Two very different men.

God allows drama-loving Isaiah to hear His conversation with angels. He’s on His throne with a robe as long as the temple(!) while angels fly, doorposts shake, and smoke rises. The Maker gives him a multi-sensory invitation: “Who will go for us?” Isaiah is eager and volunteers, and he can’t bear the weight of his sin in the presence of God’s holiness. His mouth, God’s avenue for speaking, is touched with a hot coal from a holy altar. It was a rather dramatic scene. (Isaiah 6)

And later, after 30 years of silence, God pursues Jeremiah. In quiet solitude the Maker confirms he was known and set apart before his conception. In tenderness, He calls. Exposing his brokenness, Jeremiah responds, “I can’t speak. I’m not articulate. I have the gifts and wisdom of a mere child.” Two non-invasive visions later, God touches Jeremiah’s mouth, God’s avenue for speaking, with His hand. No hot coal. No drama. His Maker reaches out with His own fingers to commission Jeremiah with no one around. (Jeremiah 1)

Who were these men? Was Isaiah an extrovert who was always the first one to raise his hand as a boy? What childhood baggage influenced Jeremiah’s message of inadequacy?

But God chose them both. And they’d later each prophecy of a Coming Rescuer.

He chooses us, too. He knows our orientations, our predictable reactions. He knows our hearts, so therefore, he knows our brokenness. And yet Emmanuel, God with us, invites us to help redeem culture and heal this generation. Each personality, each unique calling, confirms the Eternal loves diversity.

On the seventh day of Christmas, my True Love assures me I’m known. Assures me I was intentionally fashioned. Assures me I have purpose.

…From our sins and fears release us; Let us find our rest in Thee… 


Choosing Substance

  • Who in your life has a personality you admire?
  • What gifts and talents do you crave? Or even envy?
  • Which ancient prophet do you identify with? Isaiah? Jeremiah? Both?
  • Read Psalm 139:1-12. What phrases speak loudest to you? Take an extra minute and read it again, letting the truth embrace you.

photo source | Dustin Lee

Choosing Substance: Thirst (Day 6)

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   Like a devoted gardener, I will pour sweet water on parched land,
        streams on hard-packed ground;
    I will pour My spirit on your children and grandchildren—
        and let My blessing flow to your descendants.
    And they will sprout among the grasses, grow vibrant and tall…
    One will call out: “I belong to the Eternal.”
    …Yet others will write “Property of the Eternal” on their hands. Isaiah 44:3-5 

That ancient land is mine, for I live in a culture that thirsts, too. Educated, but not satiated. Full of knowledge, but desperately thirsty.There’s no shame in thirst.

Our world, the endless library, crowds our thoughts with volumes and e-books, webinars and experts. We run to it all, for we we want to know. “Tell me all this matters. Promise me there’s purpose to it all. Teach me how to stay untouched by the very pain that drives me to seek.”Have you been there? Are you there this advent season?

A person of substance is unashamedly thirsty.

The quest to comprehend is endless. The more we find, the more we don’t know. The more we discover, the more we see our ignorance.

Cynicism sneaks in and whispers doubt. And out of fear, or maybe just exhaustion, we choose the desert. The parched, the impenetrable, is often more bearable than the fertile truth. Even the searching and the longing and the humbling thirst — it’s sometimes all easier than His flood of grace.

But wholeness is born out of my moments of dying, out of my surrender. And His truth blooms on a weary, withered soul, and I live despite the storm of deception throughout my land, my culture. Throughout my own thoughts.

A person of substance is thirsty. She uncovers her ache, looks her longing in the eye, and runs to the Source that can quench her forever.

I swim in His endless, raging ocean of grace and thrust my hand upward. As He carved me on the palm of His hand, I too, etched Him on mine. “Property of the Eternal” is my forever mark. Forever.

And Isaiah, that prophet who promised sweet water on a parched land and the unleashing of His Spirit on my children and the assurance of being known — that same Isaiah seemed to touch the depth of everyone’s doubt. The naturalist, the philosopher, the realist, the dreamer — he spoke to us all:

“Hope of all hopes, dream of our dreams, a child is born, sweet-breathed; a son is given to us: a living gift. And even now, with tiny features and dewy hair, He is great. The power of leadership, and the weight of authority, will rest on His shoulders. His name? His name we’ll know in many ways— He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Dear Father everlasting, ever-present never-failing, Master of Wholeness, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

Are you wandering in the desert of your heart this Christmas? The very Source of the stream will pursue, washing you away in His mercy time and time again.

On the sixth day of Christmas my True Love gave to me the humility to admit my thirst and the courage to quench it.

…He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found…


Choosing Substance

  • Read Isaiah 44:1-8
  • In verse 6 God proclaims, “There is no God except for Me.” To what gods of culture have you been running to quench your thirst?
  • Read verse 8 again. What promises has God made that you’ve seen revealed? How has He been your Wonderful Counselor, your Giver of Wisdom, this past year? When was He the “ever-present never failing” in 2015? What has the Master of Wholeness redeemed in your life?
  • Deepen your definition of what it means to choose substance. What is He revealing to you?

photo source | David Marcu

Hope

10888478_10203590246578826_910944565872039823_n Be strong, I thought as I silently scolded my quivering voice. Deep breath. Don’t you dare let those eyes water.

“I’m sorry this is your story,” I said to my 13 year-old.

“I’m sorry this is your story, too,” he replied.

My goodness, how does he do this? How does he balance between childhood one minute and manhood the next? I was trying to comfort him, and he let his tenderness spill out, flowing right toward me like a stream I wasn’t expecting.

We were talking about nothing life-threatening. Nothing that would look tragic to someone on the outside. To us, though, the ache we whispered about, the pain that was reaching both our hearts, was real. It was a simple conversation in the car that suddenly turned intimate.


And here we all are — well into the second half of 2015. I had intentions of taking a seat at the table again as we approached mid-year. July 1. It would be a Happy New Year and a Half post, full of reflection and challenge and grace as we pondered where we all were on December 31, 2014… and what we were hoping for on January 1.

But sometimes you literally can’t find words. Sometimes you must wait for your mind and heart to intersect again, in what you know and believe to be true, before you bring words into the equation. And as hard as it is to give yourself grace in the silence, sometimes it’s your season to be quiet. When you can’t find clarity within, it’s certainly hard to join the conversation again — especially that cyber one.

I remember back to last New Year’s Eve. I was weary, carrying burdens that really weren’t mine to carry. I was in the company of dear friends and slipped away for a moment, succumbing to social media numbing myself with social media. And somehow, I stumbled upon this photo of a street called “Hope” victoriously giving direction through the brokenness.

This will be my story in 2015, I determined. I am choosing Hope. A picture says a thousand words, and this would be my voice. So I boldly posted and shared this photo of Hope personified. Thank goodness we can’t see the future, for if we did, we’d be constant cynics.


“They’re really struggling,” I said to my husband recently.

“Who isn’t?!” he replied. It wasn’t said in disgust, but almost in a comforting tone.

I read between the lines. He was speaking truth again. We’re not lone victims, Christan. Our chapters read differently, but we’re all surrounded with the reality that we were made for a different Place.

We’re all kind of aching for something that doesn’t exist here, yes?


Another school year’s about to start. And you know what a whirlwind fall is, as we hold on tightly and watch life quickly unfold into new stories. It’s easy for me, come August, to mentally place myself in the autumn cool and the bustling holidays and another calendar year coming to a close. We blink, and what in the world?! We’re already Christmas shopping after stocking up on pencils and glue sticks and notebooks galore.

But this year I’m choosing to mentally place myself half-way through 2015. Seven months down, five to go. Am I still clinging to Hope? Watch closely, I am preparing something new; it’s happening now, even as I speak, and you’re about to see it. I am preparing a way through the desert; Waters will flow where there had been none. Isaiah 43:19

I’m still so thirsty, and I’m really needing those streams in my desert. I look at my friends, my dear community near and far, and they’re choking on broken relationships and cancer and parenting aches and racial inequity and loneliness and mental illness and more. They need grace to wash it all down. My friends — those I hold dear have carried quite a bit in 2015.

And if I’m not careful, I start doubting in my mind what I know to be true in my heart… I am preparing a way through the desert; Waters will flow where there had been none. 

But in the voice of a child, or in a young teenager this time, I’m reminded that I am seen, and those I love are not forgotten, and Hope really does rise boldly out of the rubble.

“I’m sorry it’s your story, too, Mom.” You see, I was resenting the fact that sometimes you just can’t protect your kids, and out of nowhere, I drank in empathy. And tenderness. And I saw facets of God’s character I had been ignoring.

Whatever it was you were hoping for on January 1, let yourself go back to that place. My intentions are not always yours, explains the Author, and I do not go about things as you do. My thoughts and My ways are above and beyond you… My word will go out and not return to Me empty, but it will do what I wanted; it will accomplish what I determined. Isaiah 55:8-11

And hope will never fail to satisfy our deepest need because the Holy Spirit that was given to us has flooded our hearts. Romans 5:5

Cheers.