When God Remembers

When God Remembers

During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew. Exodus 2:23-25

I forget a lot–forget my laundry in the washer until it starts to smell, buy jelly but forget to buy peanut butter, forget to write a thank you note or RSVP. So, when I suddenly remember something, it’s a jolt from my forgetting. But when God remembers it’s different.

“When the Bible says that God remembers someone or his covenant with someone, it indicates that he is about to take action for that person’s welfare,” says my ESV commentary. And in the second chapter of the second book of the Bible, we find God’s people groaning, a sound I’m intimately familiar with in this stage of our adoption. Their cry for rescue is heard and God remembers, not because He ever forget them, but because the sovereign moment has come for Him to take action.

This is our introduction to Passover and the blood of lambs across doors, to the exodus, to the parting of the Red Sea, and to the eventual Risen Lamb of God who would stretch out His arms for you and for me.

I find myself in a weary, groaning state as we count down the hours to Lent, but perhaps this is exactly where I need to be, acutely aware of my need for a Lamb, for rescue, for redemption.

In my search for meaning and remembering in this season, I came across Jennifer Naraki’s ebook Rich + Rooted Passover. I’m looking forward to sharing these activities with my family as we remember together how God remembered His covenant people.

What Good People Need

What Good People Need

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The wind is howling outside the window. The tiny white blossoms on the neighbor’s tree cling for dear life with every gust that threatens to separate them. They whisper the promise of hope. Of resurrection. Beside me is my grocery list for the weekend–eggs, cream cheese, powdered sugar, and lemons for sticky lemon rolls, our Easter breakfast tradition. And here we are in the middle of Holy Week, the final days of Lent, drawing near to Easter. I was texting with a friend this morning about Psalm 16:5, “The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup.” My cup. Cup, like the cup Jesus drank from the night before He went to the cross.

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:26-28 ESV)

When Jesus took this meal with his disciples, they were observing the Passover meal, the annual remembrance of how God had rescued them, redeemed them. A time to remember with grateful hearts how God brought them out of slavery into freedom, out of death and into life. During the Passover meal, there are four cups taken, each cup corresponding to a different promise from Exodus 6. The ESV Study Bible says the cup described here in Matthew 26 was “most likely the third of four cups at the Passover–the cup of blessing, or the cup of redemption–corresponding to God’s third promise is Ex 6:6.”

Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. (Exodus 6:6 ESV, emphasis mine)

This cup of redemption for us was a cup of agony for Him.

And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luke 22:41-44 ESV, emphasis mine)

But He would take the agony in stripes across His back and nails pierced through His hands. He would take that cup so we could have the cup of redemption. He would redeem us with an outstretched arm. He would stretch out His arms on a wooden cross. He would be mocked and insulted. And darkness would eclipse the light.

Our savior displayed on a criminal’s cross
Darkness rejoiced as though heaven had lost
But then Jesus arose with our freedom in hand
That’s when death was arrested and my life began

“Death was Arrested” by Northpoint Music

I remember hearing Louie Giglio teach a message years ago where he said the message of the gospel isn’t that Jesus made bad people good. The message of the gospel is that Jesus made dead people ALIVE.

The gospel is so much more than a self-help message. Without Christ, we weren’t bad. We weren’t unchurched. We didn’t need a little help. We were dead. And being dead is a huge problem. Dead people can’t do a single thing to help themselves. Not one thing. So the gospel begins with really bad news–all have sinned and can’t do a single thing to improve their standing with God.

But the gospel ends with great news! Though the gospel begins with people who are spiritually dead because of the penalty and the power of sin, through Jesus, the spiritually dead are raised to life. The gospel isn’t a message of how bad people become good; it’s the power by which dead people come to life. It’s not about Jesus making us better. The gospel is about our cold, dead hearts starting to beat again by the power of God.

Passion, the Bright Light of Glory by Louie Giglio

Tiny, white blossoms bursting forth. The scent of lemon zest. And dead hearts beating with life again.

The cup of agony became our cup of redemption.

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup. 

How We Write Our Story

How We Write Our Story

IMG_4091I wonder if my Papaw ever dreamed his chair would one day be filled with Minnie and Lambie and Baby Ariel. I wonder if he knew a feisty girl with wild, blonde curls and mischievous, blue eyes would one day use his chair as a bed for all her stuffed critters. I wonder if he imagined a great-granddaughter with the middle name Anne after his beloved wife, her beloved great-grandmother, Annie Frances.

That’s the beauty of legacy–we write a chapter in a story without ever knowing the ending. We cling to a heavenly promise but can’t imagine how will it all be fleshed out one day. We are writing a story right now–this day–whether we want to or not. Honestly, some days I feel like the paragraph I penned is one word long–Survival. But if a bunch of those get written together the page starts to take a monotonous tone like having a PB&J sandwich for the 89th day in a row. Sometimes PB&J is our saving grace, but sometimes it’s just an excuse to stay in the box you’ve been living because it’s known and comfortable and easy.

My oldest loves to declare any day “the best day ever” so naturally holidays are her jam. Today, she woke up and said, “Mom, Easter was so much fun. I wish it could be Easter every day. But today is just a regular day, isn’t it?” She wanted a reason for today to be something special. But I told her today can be as special as she wants to make it. And the same is true for me. It’s a Monday, and it’s been rainy and overcast. I had five loads of laundry to catch up on from taking a break over the weekend. It’s easy to think, “It’s just another day. Let’s get through it and survive.” But I don’t want my chapters to be about survival. I want them to be about life and life abundant.

Yesterday morning as I was getting ready, I kept saying to myself, “He’s alive.” And every time tears welled in my eyes. I’m alive because He lives in me. Not just alive, like I’m exchanging oxygen for carbon dioxide, but alive like I can see the beauty in what others call mundane. Alive like I can trust in the middle of a dark Saturday because I know the promise of Sunday. Alive like I can see purpose in piles of pink laundry and smushed up Goldfish crackers.

Alive and spilling every drop of precious ink onto the pages of my story because He spilled out His sacred blood for me.

This is how we write our story. It isn’t through a highlight reel. It’s through the daily pouring out of ourselves into the lives He has entrusted us with.

This is my story. This is my song. 

Whom the Son Sets Free

Whom the Son Sets Free

Man of sorrows
Lamb of God
By His own betrayed
The sin of man and wrath of God
Has been on Jesus laid

Silent as He stood accused
Beaten mocked and scorned
Bowing to the Father’s will
He took a crown of thorns

Oh that rugged cross
My salvation
Where Your love poured out over me
Now my soul cries out
Praise and honour unto Thee

Sent of heaven God’s own Son
To purchase and redeem
And reconcile the very ones
Who nailed Him to that tree

Now my debt is paid
It is paid in full
By the precious blood
That my Jesus spilled

Now the curse of sin
Has no hold on me
Whom the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed

See the stone is rolled away
Behold the empty tomb
Hallelujah God be praised
He’s risen from the grave

-Man of Sorrows by Hillsong

Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Lord. Those words seem so small, but I will spend my whole life telling you and showing you how grateful this wretch of a sinner is. Whom the Son sets free, oh, is free indeed! Hallelujah! God be praised!

Messy Love

Messy Love

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

A couple days ago, Lydia and I were reading The Velveteen Rabbit. As I read those words to her, tears toppled over my eyelids. I remember my grandmother reading those same words over and over to me, and I thought about my own sweet girl and her beloved pink kitty cat with the faded fabric and tattered tail. This world glamorizes new and shiny, glossy and first edition. But Love isn’t slick or polished or gleaming. Love is messy and dirty and bloody and ragged. And the greatest example of Love left heaven to enter our mess, hung on a cross to save us and rose from the dead to give us victory. This weekend I will celebrate Love that changed my life. Love that changed my marriage. Love that changed my parenting. Love that changed my every interaction in life.

I don’t want to get to the end of my life and look like I’m a well-preserved version of my twenty-year-old self. I want to look like Love, and that means I’m going to keep getting messy. Messy looks like vulnerability and facing fear and pressing on. It looks like seeing people for their heart and their place in God’s Great Story. Messy looks like pain and sacrifice and holding on to hope. Messy looks like Love.

We chase beauty that can be bought in a jar or a syringe, but nothing is more beautiful than Love poured out. Christ entered our mess, our struggles and temptations, our pain and tears, our everything. And He entered our death so that we could be free to live. And free to get messy showing others how much He Loves.

Since the children are made of flesh and blood, it’s logical that the Savior took on flesh and blood in order to rescue them by his death. By embracing death, taking it into himself, he destroyed the devil’s hold on death and freed all who cower through life; scared to death of death.

It’s obvious, of course, that he didn’t go to all this trouble for angels. It was for people like us, children of Abraham. That’s why he had to enter into every detail of human life. Then, when he came before God as high priest to get rid of people’s sins, he would have already experienced it all himself–all the pain, all the testing–and would be able to help where help was needed.

Hebrews 2:14-18, The Message