Taking Heart

Just From Jesus Simply Taking

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Just from Jesus simply taking life and rest and joy and peace. I stand in my kitchen, listening as the words fall and flow like Isaiah’s waters in the wilderness. “The burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water”, he prophesied.

God knows I am thirsty.

And, just from Jesus simply taking— this is living, gospel water.

My default, a combination of temperament, experience, and the general human condition, is to approach the Christian life ready to do, to strive, to work. I am not a Deist; I do not believe God just wound the clock and left us to run. But I can live as if I am the main force in my life, God having jumpstarted it by grace.

We sang Tis So Sweet at our wedding, hands raised, declaring God’s faithfulness and our need. These days, the old hymn ministers to me again. “Just from Jesus simply taking” does not come naturally, and has not been my posture as of late.

Just from Jesus simply taking— can it really be that simple? In the midst of all that is going on in and around me, life and rest, and joy, and peace are mine to simply receive? As I meditate on these words, the weight in my heart shifts a bit.

If we have eyes to see them, to listen for it, we will find Scripture replete with God’s divine invitation to simply take.

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly (Jn. 10:10).

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Mt 11:28).

Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full (Jn. 16:24).

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid (Jn. 14:27).

Life. Rest. Joy. And peace. These are mine and yours for the taking. Not as mighty conquerors claiming a prize. No, not as the world gives does he give. Not by earning. Not with strings attached, only if you’re beautiful and smart and strong and good enough.

This is Jesus who gives. Precious Jesus, who said of his own body and blood, offered to sinners— Take, eat and drink. To those with no hope of making it on our own, he gave himself that we may freely receive what he has bought with his blood.

So come, weary ones, and find rest. Come depressed and despairing, find joy. Come, anxious and obsessive worriers, find peace. Come broken and dying, and find life. Take him at his word and rest on his promise. In simple faith plunge beneath the healing cleansing flood, and find grace to trust him more.

Motherhood & Family, Taking Heart

She Sings

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She sings as she suckles. The notes rise and fall and I feel her song on my chest. This moment is a gift, a divine yes.

The last month hasn’t been the easiest. We are walking on while waiting on many fronts. Some are shorter-term needs, others are distant hopes. We are praying for prodigals and struggling saints, for suffering friends and hurting ministries, for the faith of our children and our own sanctification. In my grief and anxiety, I have wondered if he truly sees, if he will really answer. God, help me believe that you answer prayers, I weakly offered just last week.

Now, listening to my baby breathe, I think about how each exhale is a resounding testimony that he indeed hears.

During pregnancy, I prayed almost daily— God, please let this baby live.

After miscarriage, after Jeff dreamt we had another little boy and girl— God, please let this be prophetic.

As newly married— God, would you grow our family?

When we dated— God, please confirm our steps.

As a single woman— God, you know my desires.

Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes, he said. And this is just one trail of petitions.

If I reach for a different thread, I find countless others wrapped up in this very moment. There’s confirmation about where to serve, the home I am sitting in, the faith to follow. There’s the silence right now—the gift of rest as Jeff takes out the big kids, and the notable absence of the voices of shame and condemnation, once constant companions. I have a steady sense of purpose, a will to live, an assurance that I belong to God. This hasn’t always been the case.

There have been plenty of no’s and the answers have not always come as quickly as I hoped. But I pleaded in years past— God, make yourself real to me. Steadily and surely, he has. The gift of our fourth child and the faith I have as I hold her now is but a small sampling of how.

From the lips of my baby he has ordained praise, the gift of unveiling and an invitation to remembrance. Do you really answer prayer? Her song is the gentlest rebuke for my forgetfulness, a soft yet strong word: See here my yeses.

Taking Heart

Gaius

IMG_9670“Unfortunately, no other information about Gaius has survived,” I read. I pause and store this fact (of lack of facts) to come back to.

The unknown surrounding the life of the recipient of an epistle (3 John, specifically) is strangely comforting to me. Although, I shouldn’t say ”strangely” since I’m predictably drawn to such stories of hidden, Godward lives. I wouldn’t dare to say I identify with these saints as if I’d number myself among them. But their stories refresh my heart and recalibrate my desires. And they give me relief from the soul-shaping pressures of what is showcased and applauded in the world and much of Christian ministry today.

We minister, work, raise children, and live life in an age where we’re presented with constant, often instant, measures of success. The Bottom Line. Likes. Reach. Church Attendance. Conversions. We admire those who manage to bring in more of the above. We study how they made it. We listen to their talks and hope to one day share the same stage.

It is exhausting, discouraging, confusing, and our hearts know something is off here.

Which is why I am grateful for Gaius, whose hospitality was commended by John: “Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers.” And I wonder how appealing such praise would be to most of us today, to be told we are doing a faithful thing.

I wonder if we’d opt for other adjectives: It is an effective and productive thing you do. It is an unprecedented and amazing thing you do. It is a groundbreaking and world-shaking thing you do. In the office, at home, in ministry, on social media, how many of us would consider being called “faithful” high praise?

But God rejects our terms and pays no heed to our metrics. Because, yes, you can be famous, highly effective, and praised while walking with God— but you could also gain the world and lose your soul. Because, if God saw success like we did, how would Jesus have measured up, finishing his ministry with 12 disciples—one a traitor— a mere 120 in the upper room after his ascension?

Scripture shows us it is his job to makes things grow, ours to be good and faithful servants. Thus, I am asking for grace to reject the world’s descriptors of a thing well-done and choose to do the faithful thing. As one who is beloved by God (as Gaius was described by John), to do the faithful thing in midnight baby feedings, in everyday marriage, in speaking to my children, at church, in writing. And in of it to leave the measuring to him.

I am asking for eyes to see past the screen, the praise of people, my own legacy.

And I am asking for a heart that daily works toward his praise in both senses– for the glory of his name and for his precious words of encouragement when I see him face to face.

Beloved, we may be forgotten by the world, but we will never be forgotten by him. And on the day of Christ, we will see that nothing was worth pursuing more than his welcome and well done.

Taking Heart

On Whale Sharks and Wonder

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(from Instagram)

The world will never starve for want of wonders; but only for want of wonder.
– GK Chesterton

Wooow, my boy says to himself. He’s a bit scared that the fish are so close. But still, wooow, he repeats. Our hearts expand— mine with joy, his with wonder.

Did you know there are fish that can look up through their own transparent skulls? Or that after decades of research and even trackers on female whale sharks, we still don’t know where they give birth? They go into the deeps and scientists’ screens go black.

At the aquarium, I think of whale sharks and the nature shows our family loves. I think in wonder of all of creation exclaiming his praise.

I need more wonder most days.

Sometimes my life seems too small. My living and working feel obscure. And I need the reminder that God’s infinite creativity reaches the depths. That there are amazing creatures whose existence are hidden from human eyes. They have proclaimed his glory for thousands of years.

Just because our lives are unseen by most doesn’t mean they aren’t beautiful. What happens before God alone can still be glorious.

Sometimes my life feels too big. My here and now consume me. It feels as if all I see in my little sphere is all there is, and God’s arm is too short to reach in. I need wonder then too.

I need to remember how much there is still undiscovered on our own planet, created for his pleasure alone, giving glory to him in the depths, heights, and beyond! How his powerful hands have wrought wonders beyond comprehension, “and these are but the outer fringe of his works” (Job 26:14)!

God is more than big enough for my world.

Perhaps your life feels too big or too small for God today. Might I commend to you the discipline of wonder?

Consider the heavens, the moon and the stars (Ps. 8:3). Look up at the skies, pouring forth speech, attesting to his glory (Ps. 19:1). Maybe go to the aquarium or turn on a nature documentary. All you see is but the outer fringes of your Creator’s work.

Perhaps wonder might expand your heart to give you the perspective you need. May you wooow today to his glory and for your good.

Taking Heart

My Baby Girl Smiled

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(Reposted from Instagram)

Men are afraid to have good thoughts of God. They think it is a boldness to eye God as good, gracious, tender, kind, loving. I speak of saints. They can judge Him hard, austere, severe, almost implacable, and fierce (the very worst affections of the very worst of men, and most hated by God). Is not this soul-deceit from Satan? Was it not His design from the beginning to inject such thoughts of God? Assure yourself, then, there is nothing more acceptable to the Father than for us to keep up our hearts unto Him as the eternal fountain of all that rich grace which flows out to sinners in the blood of Jesus.
– John Owen

My baby girl smiled.

Oh, the way her bright eyes turned crescent and her little mouth opened to almost laughing! I laughed with her, and was so moved by her that I teared up. I know it’s a newborn reflex, but that’s fine. She’s mine, and she smiled, and I love her so.

That was yesterday, and I am thinking today: If I, with my finite love, can take such delight in my daughter, how much more does our infinite Father delight in us, his children?

Some see God as a cosmic, soft, permissive, Santa. Their wrong thoughts of him don’t allow them to see his holiness, justice, and wrath. But I am constantly tempted to see God as harsh, disapproving, and impossible to please. My wrong thoughts of God cloud my vision of his steadfast love and Fatherly delight. How far from the truth this is and how it must grieve him.

Perhaps you are like me, jealous to uphold God’s holiness but timid about his love. To God’s children who are like me–

…What if we dared to believe that God delights in his creation?

…That he regards us with joy and love— fruits of the Spirit?

…That as he makes us more like Christ, he rejoices in the image of himself he sees in us?

…That as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him? (Psalm 103:13)

…That he sent his Son to save, because that’s how much he loves?

How we would know him more truly and love him more deeply!

Beloved, believe. May you smile to think of his love for you today. And would you know his delight for you when you do.