Character Introduction: Adele

The most wise, righteous, and gracious God does often times leave for a season His own children to manifold temptations and the corruptions of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled; and to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon Himself; and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for other just and holy ends. So that whatsoever befalls any of His elect is by His appointment, for His glory, and their good. – 2LBCF

I wanted to explore the symbolism behind Adele’s character a little bit. I will try to keep this as spoiler free as possible, but if you haven’t read my first book there will be some spoilers. For some of you, this isn’t a big deal. You haven’t read it and aren’t planning on reading it, or you’re waiting for it to be published, or you just never thought about it. No worries. I’m well aware of the fact that what I write isn’t for everyone. For those of you who have read it and loved it, I will do my level best not to give away much in book 2.

Jonah and Adele are two friends in my book The Cost of Two Hands. They’ve both been salvaged from their past life into a new one at Greenhome. Symbolically, more deeply, they are a reflection of converted children. I was saved as a very young child. I don’t know the date, or the time I was saved. All I remember was crying out to the Lord for mercy one night as I faced my own sinfulness. Nothing exciting.

Nothing like Jonah.

Jonah symbolizes the people I envied. They had moving conversion stories. They were horrible people before they were saved, then ‘bing!’ they were converted, and suddenly became saints. For years, I wished to be able to see such a strong demarcation between unsaved and saved. I went from struggling to obey my parents to . . . struggling to obey my parents.

What I didn’t grasp, in my youth and inexperience, was my own sinfulness.

I looked at the life of another saint, filled with sin, until the grace of God came, and envied it. I didn’t know yet the depth of my own sinfulness as a saint. I look back at that little girl and I want to cup her face in my hands and tell her that she will face the horror of how sinful she really is. She will come to find out she is every bit the sinner those others were and are, and she needs God’s mercy and grace every moment of every day. I want to tell her that there will be times when she will weep for forgiveness, and be sick at her own sinful heart. I want to tell her there will be times her sin will rage against her assurance. Salvation as a child doesn’t promise a life without deep dark sin.

In The Cost of Two Hands, Adele represents me, and all those like me. She represents children who grow up in a good home, and are converted early in life. They have never cussed, stolen anything, deeply rebelled, taken drugs, slept around, cheated, gone behind their parents back, or anything. They are good kids. I was a good kid.

At some point, I believe all ‘good kids’ run right smack dab into the wall of their own sinfulness. They have to learn the depth of their salvation.

Adele is tempted to do something that at first revolts her. She is tempted to put a soul in a machine. At first she resists. She see the wrongness of doing this. One night, Adele and Jonah are trapped out in the snow. A pack of feral hounds attack. Jonah fights them off, but is injured. They get lost trying to get home and almost die out in the freezing-cold night. It is then that Adele decides she will build Jonah an indestructible body. She justifies what she knows is wrong, betrays her friends, betrays them again, and doesn’t see what she is doing until two of them are dead.

Being a fantasy story, the path of destruction is exaggerated. We aren’t often faced with betraying friends and killing them in the middle of a pitch battle between warring gangs and bands of kidnappers. We do often justify what we know is wrong, and end up destroying the relationships around us. Sin destroys. Adele comes face to face with her own sinfulness. She sees that just like Jonah, she needed to be salvaged. She needed someone to show her grace and cover her.

What I find interesting about Adele, as a character, is how much readers dislike her. Obviously, on a surface level, she’s not a real likeable character. She betrays her friends for selfish reasons, and even murders two of them in an experiment. Adele isn’t like Jonah at this point of the story. She isn’t good and kind and strong and brave. There is nothing there for us to like.

And yet, she has been salvaged.

She is a child of Greenhome.

I hope and want readers to not like her. I want readers to wonder why I saved her. I want readers to think of her as a monster who deserves to die. I want readers to weep over the death of several characters and wonder why I didn’t kill Adele.

Why?

Because this is my own character arc. I am Adele. I thought I was pretty good. I wasn’t like Jonah. Many times I have seen people God has shown grace to and wondered why he saved the monsters. Why did my own sweet great-grandmother not ever show a bit of trust in the Lord, but there is evidence that Jeffrey Dahmer might have been saved. That’s not fair! He was a real monster. Why show him grace?

Heaven will be full of monsters, because God saves sinners. He saves the ones who come with need and hope, begging for grace. He didn’t come to save the good, but the evil. He came to retrieve the dangerous. It took many years, and much sin for me to realize that I was one of the dangerous. That while my outward actions might not be dramatically as monstrous as someone like Dahmer, I am no less vile. I would destroy everything and everyone around me but for the grace of God.

This is Adele.

She is a child who never did anything really really bad, was salvaged and adopted into Greenhome, and only there did she face her own depravity. I think this is the experience of many believers saved at a young age. I think it will be interesting to see if my readers accept the covering of Adele’s murders. I think it will be interesting to see which readers love her, pity her, or hate her.

One of my older nieces recently read The Cost of Two Hands. I think she’s the first person in my actually target age to read the book. She read it in about 8 hours, which was really gratifying. I’m not sure she’s ever read anything this dark. She loves Lord of the Rings, so she had no problem with the writing style. She really disliked Adele. It made me smile. She is also a young adult converted at a young age. I wonder if as she gets older, if she will see what Adele symbolizes. I don’t want her to deal with sin as I have, but the reality is, she probably will. I wonder if she’ll see herself in Adele at that point. She may realize that sometimes you feel your salvage, the depth of your salvage, more strongly as you face the depth and darkness of your own heart.

So, this is Adele. She’s a good kid who follows the path of her own selfishness only to find the great darkness she is capable of. Will she find her salvage to be deeper than her darkness?

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My Church is a Failure (Part 2)

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To see Part 1, click here.

Over the last few years, our particular church and our association have had some rough times. We’ve faced factures, splits, and a loss of membership. Some of this is normal, some due to impassibility, some due to our stance on the 1689, and some due to the common sinfulness of man.

All of these leavings, for any of the above reasons, are hard on those who stay. They are left battered, weary, and lonely as people they love just leave. Or worse, a trail of nasty words and unfair gossip follows behind the leavers inflicting deep wounds. I have battled with a fear of getting to know new attenders, felt sick anytime someone wasn’t in their pew, and struggled with an unfair and unkind level of anger towards those who left. (Pastor Jarrett’s most recent sermon on anxiety comes to mind here. I am constantly engaged in a war with the lie of peace at any price.)

Our two most recent departures raised up a new set of thoughts and feelings. Yes, anger was there, but it was mixed more strongly with pity and sadness. The anger was followed by a great amount of prayer for those who left and those of us still here. My anger burned away. I am far more concerned for those who left than I am for the pain they caused me and us.

It did strike me this time how surprised I was at the lack of success in my church and association. Christ was, well, Christ. He was God come down to us. God as a man. He had twelve men. Twelve. Less people than one of our family day get-togethers followed Christ, and I’m surprised when we’re not more successful than our Lord and Husband? Why am I always surprised that our Church looks like a failure when I’m looking at it with earthly eyes? Christ was a complete failure from a human perspective: thousands of followers at the start. None at the end. If Christ had this type of ‘success’ why do we expect to have more?

A big part of the struggle with those who left is my sense of betrayal. I hate betrayal. I esteem loyalty. (Thank you Sam Gamgee.) People I trusted, loved, prayed for, and helped when I could left, and left in an ugly manner. They betrayed us. Overwhelmed with the deep pain that caused, I saw Christ. He faced death on a cross and even his twelve, who knew who he was, left him. Betrayed him.

Struggling with my own sense of loss, betrayal, hurt, and loneliness mixed with the bitterness of worldly failure made the moment the twelve left more historically alive, and Christ’s humanity more real. I wept to think of my Savior betrayed because I know what betrayal and being abandoned feels like. Christ is 100% man. He knows what it is to be left by those who claimed to love him.

I found the connection helpful and comforting.

And! Eleven of his friends came back.

Christ restores.

But for the grace and care of God, any of us might start listening to the lies in our heart and from the Devil. Any of us might stop listening to the preaching of the Word, and start arguing with the preaching of the Word.

I know.

I’ve been there.

We left our church before for bad reasons.

God showed my husband and me far more mercy than we deserved. He used that rescue from sin to develop in us a great love for our particular church.

So I pray. I pray Christ would tend to those who have left, and tend to us who have stayed. I pray He would grant us all the grace to endure. We’re weak, feeble, sad sinners. We need His strength to fight the battles every day. To come to church, be there, and listen. I pray for our pastors, teachers, and deacons.  I pray they would stay the course and not give in, or break. That they would follow Christ, and not the desire to please men. That they would have courage! I pray that by God’s grace we would all earnestly endeavor to endure.

To the world, our church and our association will look like a failure. We are not mighty. We aren’t growing into a huge conglomeration with hundreds of members. In fact, we’re struggling. Always struggling. But that kind of growth isn’t our goal. Our goal is the truth of the Word. Our goal is sound doctrine so that we may worship God and know God. Our goal is the means of grace honored and practiced correctly. Our goal isn’t hundreds added with false security, but the steady sanctification of the saints, and the saving of the elect. May we, by and only in God’s grace, continue even if the world tells us we’ve failed.

What Infertility has Taught Us

 

The Lord, in his wisdom and goodness, gives each and every one of us tailor made struggles to help us grown in holiness. Infertility is one of those struggles for me and several women I know. Even women who are able to have children struggle with not getting to have as many as they like, miscarriages, and difficult pregnancies. Our goal is not happiness, it’s holiness in our individual circumstances.

One of the other ladies in my church who struggles with infertility approached me with the idea of writing down lessons she’d learned through this very personal and private trial. I offered to share what she had to say on my blog in the hopes of encouraging others. From that sprang the idea of adding my own lessons and that of another woman I know in another church who also deals with this.

Here are 15 things that the Lord has taught us:

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Leslie Stice

1. I am not in control. I know this seems obvious but I have friends who are teachers and can plan to have all their children in the summer time when they are already off. I get frustrated when I can’t do the same and I have to remind myself of who is in control. I know I’m ultimately mad at God for the situation I’m in and I don’t like that. I think my plans are the best when in fact God knows what is best for me. “A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9  

I know God’s plan for my life is better because “… all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

2. Our ultimate call to life is not to get married, get a 3 bedroom 2 bath home, and have kids. You can be blessed with those things in this life but Psalm 1 describes a blessed man in this way, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night.” Our ultimate calling is to love and serve God in this life. We are to strive to be more Christ-like and to “set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” Colossians 3:2.

It might feel as though you aren’t as blessed when you don’t have a spouse or kids. It doesn’t make you any less of a person if you aren’t married or don’t have kids. Some people make it seem like there’s something wrong with you if you aren’t married or don’t have kids and they try make things “right” for you. I feel sorry for Hannah because she was provoked by Peninnah for years.

The Bible doesn’t talk less about women who were barren nor does it say that they are being punished in some way. When these feelings come about or people say things that make me feel like there’s something wrong with me, I remind myself of the truth.

3. My sin and discontentment not only affects me but also my husband and vice versa. We both want kids so it’s a struggle for both of us to not have any. We don’t like seeing each other sad or disappointed and sometimes we feel like we failed each other. We have to remind ourselves of number 1 and 2 and realize that discontentment can sneak up in any season of your life.

4. A blessing of not having kids is that my husband and I can serve our church in ways we couldn’t if we had kids. We are trying to use this time to serve our church more.

5. Finally, God uses the trials of this life to bring us to our knees. He wants us to pray. I pray that God will be merciful to me and forgive me of my unbelief. James says it well, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” James 1:2-8

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Abby Jones

1. Idol Factory: I can make an idol out of anything, even something good like having children. It’s easy to look at others who have what you’ve always dreamed of having, and create a scenario in your mind of ultimate happiness: I’d just be happy if I had kids.

You build up this chief goal and the next thing you know, it’s your god. This leads to bitterness and discontentedness because your god isn’t meeting your desires.

Infertility has caused me to wrestle with worshiping other gods and put me on my guard. Even good and right blessings can be turned into idols if we don’t protect ourselves with truth.

2. God’s Goodness: Infertility has forced me to deal with the issue of God’s goodness. Do I trust God is good? Do I trust God is good when I don’t have children? Do I trust God is good when others have multiple children and seem so fertile and I don’t and I’m not? Do I trust God when I get asked again about having children both by people I know and perfect strangers? Do I believe God is good when empirical data suggests otherwise? See 8.

3. Hope: Does my salvation and standing before God depend on having children? No. Am I outside the Kingdom in my childlessness? No. In heaven we won’t even be married! Am I outside God’s will for my life? No.

See, God never promised me anything but to make me more like Christ and all the blessings that entails. Has God used infertility to bring me closer to him? Yes. Has he used it to loosen my death-grip on this earth? Yes. My hope isn’t in having children. It’s in Christ’s death and resurrection. Even if I was to have children, they wouldn’t be my hope.

The Lord helped me push past that dream and cling ever more to him: my true hope. He kept his promise to use everything for my good.

4. Contentment: Infertility could breed bitterness, or by God’s grace contentment. After many tears, many prayers, and much thought, God gave me a certain amount of contentedness in this area. This was a hard, long battle.

He used my infertility to crush idols, challenge my trust in his goodness, turned my eyes to heaven, and in all that he has given me peace. This in turn has produced:

5. Tenderness: I know what it is to want something with an inexpressible desire. I know what it is to have to set a good dream at Jesus’ feet and trust that its lack of fulfillment is good for me. I know what it is to go to another baby shower, or congratulate another woman on her pregnancy, while trying to hold back the tears. I know the “bitter watches of the night”, the discouragement, sense of failure, and even disgrace. All of this makes me gentler with the struggles of others. You never know the fight someone is engaged in, so you go gently. You talk softly. You watch your words. Infertility has taught me tenderness.

 

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Paige Giarrizzo

1. Christ is My All in All. Infertility is teaching me that Christ is My All in All. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. He is all I need. Infertility is teaching me that Christ is my only hope, my only strength, my only joy. He is the giver of life, the opener and closer of the womb. Apart from Him, there is nothing. Before infertility, I knew this in my mind but through infertility, God has continually brought me back to Himself. I’m learning He is all I need. His grace is sufficient. When I suffer, I know that Jesus suffered more intensely than I ever will. When I’m lonely, I know that He, the incarnate God, has experienced loneliness greater than I will ever know. Hebrews 4:14 tells us that Christ sympathizes with our every weakness and we can call on Him in our time of need. I’m so thankful for that truth, because infertility has taught me that I am completely reliant on Him for everything.

2. I Need the Church. Infertility is teaching me that I need the local church. Where would I be without the body of Christ? Throughout this infertility journey, Christ is teaching me to truly love His bride. I have been overwhelmed by the love of others who have come alongside me with encouragement, fervent prayer, help, and exhortation. I’ve had people who I don’t know that well tell me that they are praying for us regularly. I’ve even been surprised to find out that dear brothers and sisters in other churches in other states are also remembering us in their prayers. What a blessing this has been! The church has comforted me as they have been comforted. The church has mourned with me as I mourn, with literal tears and weeping, and they have also rejoiced with me as I have rejoiced. My friendships have deepened, my love for Christ has been strengthened, and God has used me to encourage others as I have been encouraged.

3. It’s Not About Me. Infertility is teaching me that it’s not about me. Growing up, I dreamed only of two things: getting married and being a mother. Like many children do, my sister and I used to love to play house. As the older sister, I was always the mother, of course; my sister was the father, much to her chagrin. And we always had lots of children. As a high school student on career “dress up” day, I dressed up like a mother. (Well actually I dressed up like Santa Clause to be funny, but I reasoned that Santa and a mother were pretty much the same thing!) The plan seemed simple. Find a spouse. Have kids. Easy. David and I met in high school and were married in our earlier twenties. The plan was coming together nicely. But God. He had other plans. It wasn’t long into our marriage until we realized things were not going quite as planned. I literally thought we would get pregnant the first month we officially “tried.” But the months turned into years, and our plans, we felt, were crumbling before us.  Through this time we are learning over and over again that it is not about us. We have celebrated many new babies over these years, but never our own. And we are learning, it’s not about us. We are learning to die to self, to rejoice with others, to seek Christ above all. His ways are higher than our ways and the secret things belong to Him. It’s not about me. It’s about Him.

4. Gratitude. Infertility is teaching me to be grateful for what God has given me. We so often focus on the things God is withholding, rather than on the good gifts God has already given. Infertility is teaching me to count my blessings. I am thankful God called me at a young age to follow Him, sparing me years of heartache and searching. I am thankful for God’s gift of a godly husband and a beautiful 10+ year marriage. I am thankful for a wonderful church with a plurality of elders who seek to follow God’s Word. I am thankful for many friends and family members who are in Christ and stand beside me in joy and in pain. I am learning to be grateful, even for the seemingly small gifts God has given. He is showing me that everything I have is because of Him and nothing I have is my own.

5. Vulnerability. Infertility is teaching me vulnerability. I have always had a difficult time developing deeper connections with others and had attributed this to “shyness” or my lack of conversational skills. My circle of friends was very small and I rarely took the time to develop significant relationships outside of this circle, not because I didn’t want to get to know others but because I didn’t want others to get to know me. My insecurities, thoughts, and feelings would be too exposed with too many. However, infertility is teaching me that I’m not the only one with insecurities, heartache, despair, loneliness, joys, and struggles. As I am learning to be more open with others, to share details about my life and what God is doing in these details, I am getting to know many others who experience the same things I experience and who enjoy talking to someone who can relate. Infertility is teaching me to let down my defenses, to show others who I really am, and in turn to develop deeper, meaningful relationships in Christ.

2 cor 4.16-18

Infertility is a pain you carry around for many years. It affects both spouses. It can make you feel on the outside of life looking in. But, God has used it mightily to bless and sanctify me and these two dear sisters. We hope that by sharing basically the same things in so many different words, we can be an encouragement to other couples, to those who are single, to those who are lonely. God is good. He can be trusted. He keeps his word.


Being a Childless Wife

Happy Mother’s Day (A Happy and Sad Article)


 

Sunday Thoughts: Happiness and the Health, Wealth, and Prosperity Movement

Yes, cause you are the center of the universe and get to decide who is worthy and unworthy.

Yes, cause you are the center of the universe and get to decide who is worthy and unworthy.

I know I promised to start the series on things I learned from managing our boutiques that have helped me as a housewife, but two things have been irritating me so I’m going to write about them first.

Sometimes a rage builds inside me, wanting out.  Maybe it’s my Irish roots turning me into a flaming redhead with anger management issues, but whatever the reasons, it happens.  In my line of sight today are two things: one, our modern-day concepts of personal happiness, and two the Health, Wealth, and Prosperity movement.

So, first things first.  You’ve all seen the quotes on Pinterest, on cards, plaques and on your Facebook feed proclaiming your happiness to be of chief importance, right?  They say that true love accepts you for who you are, no one should ever try to change you, and that if the world doesn’t accept you as you are, you have the right to reject and ignore them.

How narcissistic and self-focused could we possibly be?  If I followed any of this advice, I would be divorced, fat, lazy, lonely, alone, and angry at the world. (I’m not saying being fat is a sin, I’m saying I would be a glutton cause I like food.)  I would push most, if not all, of you out of my life starting with my husband and going on from there.  When did we decide being happy was the chief end of man?  And why don’t we see the inherit dangers that belief brings.  With that line of thinking, we would see the murdering of innocents because they get in the way, a high divorce rate, and suicide….oh wait.  We see all that.  This belief system would also incapacitate a society from convicting murderers of all stripes from bullies, to serial killers and terrorist….oh wait, we see that too.

When I think my goal in life is to be happy and that all stress should be eliminated, then I am my own god, my own authority, and you have no right to say otherwise.  Could we embrace a more unchristian attitude?  Now, it is true that I can’t change my husband….in the grand scheme of things, and he can’t change me.  But, we should be helping each other in the process of sanctification.  If my happiness and lack of stress are the most important thing, then I need him out of my life.  I mean the guy wants me to decide what’s for dinner.  He works all day and expects me to keep the house clean, our finances done, and food on the table.  I don’t like doing finances, cleaning the house, or deciding what to cook.  I’d rather sit on the couch and write fantasy stories.  Who does he think he is?  Well, I think he thinks he’s responsible for leading our home, and the man earning the paycheck while I work from home, which is exactly what I’ve been telling him for years that I wanted to do.  If he wanted to do what made him happy, he would sit at home playing video games all day and eating junk food.  If we both did what made us happy, we would both be slobs living on welfare doing nothing.

See the problem is that our society has lost a critical component of truth – total depravity.  Human beings are not naturally good, kind, hard-working, honestly, loyal things.  Occasionally, God shows us some common grace and we are all those things.  But, left to ourselves, left to pursue our own happiness, we would all stop working, engaging, and growing.  We would, instead, sit around selfishly ignoring others, while the world crumbled around us.

Because Stress is the worst Sin you can have in your life.

Because Stress is the worst Sin you can have in your life.

The idea that you should love me for who I am is another lie.  Have you looked in the mirror recently?  I’m so glad my husband loves me despite who I am.  I’m glad God loves me because of Christ.  I’m not a nice person, nor a pretty one.  I can only be those things by the grace of God.  I’m thankful He puts people in my life to help me who aren’t worried about me being happy, but instead being holy.  Pursuing holiness is hard work and stressful.  It requires you to put yourself in a state of iron sharpening iron.  You have to hang out with people who just don’t think highly enough about you.  You have to hang out with people who aren’t as cool as you.  The horror.  (You should read this with your sarcasm voice.)

We, as Christians, need to stop pinning, reposting, and decorating with lies.  We need to see them for what they are – the Devil’s whispers.  We need to remember that nowhere in the Bible does God say our happiness is our chief end, that you need to get rid of stress, and you should be accepted for all you are.  What the Bible does say is that we should be poor in spirit, mourn over our sin, be meek of heart, and put on the fruit of the Spirit.  We are to go to war against sin.  War.  If you’ve forgotten how bloody war is, go watch Lone Survivor.

And, the Health, Wealth and Prosperity movement only adds to this.  Could there possibly be more of a First World Problem than not being healthy, wealthy, and prosperous enough?  Only in a wealthy country like America could such a religion spring out of the Bible.
“God is not afraid of pain.  He does not try to keep us from it.  He does not avoid it for Himself.”  – The Language of Sparrows

So...who is defining blessings and what gave you the right to just hand them out without any qualification?

So…who is defining blessings and what gave you the right to just hand them out without any qualification?

If you can read the Bible and deduce that you are supposed to be wealthy here on earth, you have skipped some critical passages.  If that was true, why did Christ die?  But not just die, why wasn’t he wealthy, healthy, and prosperous while he was here?  Did he not have enough faith?  What part of laying your treasure in heaven do you not understand?  What part of the world hating you do you not get?  The Bible is not speaking of physical riches but Spiritual ones.  We aren’t called to live healthy wealthy lives, but quiet ones in the pursuit of holiness.  God is not in the business of making you happy.  He is in the business of making you holy.

“Life is pain, Highness.  And anyone who says otherwise is selling something.”  – The Princess Bride

Do you think Pastor Saeed Abedini is clinging to promises of happiness here on earth while he suffers, and is tortured in an Iranian Prison?  No.  Those concepts won’t sustain you when you are suffering, being tortured, hurting, angry, or enduring trials.  You must cling to the hope that just as Christ suffered, you will suffer, and just as He is glorified, you will be glorified too.  You must know and understand that the sufferings of this life are nothing compared to heaven, to seeing Christ.  You must know that God is in control and is not the cosmic Santa Claus, but the one who is redeeming, cleansing, and making holy a people unto Himself.

Don’t let yourself get sucked into the idea that all suffering is to be avoided.  Keep your eyes on your treasures in heaven, on Christ.  Don’t look for a better church, better friends, and a better life.  Look for the fruit of the Spirit, a way to serve, and battle your own sin.  This is the life of a believer.  Not happiness.  Not peace.  Not distressing.  Fighting.  Failing.  Looking to grace and the hope of eternal life motivated by the unfathomable richness of the love of God seen in Christ….and Christ died.  Don’t lose that.  Christ died.  Do you want to be like Christ?  Remember he died in a point of submission.  How much does that fly in the face of our culture?

You are never out of the fight.  Don’t let the world around you define who you are!  Look to the Scripture.  Look to Christ.  Submit your heart and mind to the teachings of the Scripture and get busy serving your local church.

Okay….I’m getting off my soapbox and getting busy managing my home.

Sunday Thoughts – The Last Christmas Without You

10.20.13: Something that had been in my mind all week:

“When darkness was shattered,

The dawn of God’s grace,

And the Journey’d begun

To the first Easter Day.”

 – The Last Christmas Without You by Sixpence none the Richer

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Yes, I tend to be the kind of person who cries easily.  I’m empathic, sentimental, and nostalgic.  I easily sense the emotion of the situation and react emotionally.  You should just know that up front.

The song “The Last Christmas Without You” is about a woman who is about to celebrate her last Christmas alone before her child is born.  As she expresses how excited she is she thinks of Mary on the way to Bethlehem about to have her first child.

I love this song.  I love the concept of the Last Christmas you celebrate before your child is born.  It’s a natural sentiment and creates a beautiful Christmas song.  It is soft, sweet, and filled with excited longing – much like Christmas itself.

But.  But then there is this line in the middle of the song that just horrified me.  The modern pregnant woman is thinking about Mary, thinking of her holding her son and her Savior in her arms and speaking of it as “the journey’d begun to the first Easter Day”.  That made a sick dread fill me.  Can you imagine raising a son and then watching him die crucified on a Roman cross?  Mary did.  She was there.  From Gabriel’s visit to her son’s resurrection, Mary was there.  She clung to hope and truth and salvation, but before Easter could come there had to be a violent death.  And Mary watched it.  This is the equivalent of singing a happy loving song about your new baby and including a line about them journeying to the time they fall prey to a murderer.  It’s totally gruesome in this context. But it’s more than that because Mary was holding her son who we all knew was going to die a tortured death.  It’s flippant.

Don’t let the Roman Catholic veneration of Mary steal from you that she was a girl like any other girl who trusted the Lord, a wife, a mother, and that she watched her son be crucified for her sins and ours.  Don’t lose the emotion of what she endured.  We tend to see her, even as Protestants, with a halo over her head, forever calm and holy.  She was a woman just like the rest of us seeking to submit and trust the Lord.  And what the Lord required of her was to bear Christ, be his mother, let him go, and then watch him die.  Dear women who have lost children of your own, look to the example of Mary to encourage you to continue trusting in the Lord.  She didn’t have the Word, Systematic Theology, or the Established Church.  She lived at a time of unbelievable change when all the shadows were done away with and the light came.  And she trusted the Lord.

“All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.” (Acts 1:14 ESV)

Don’t let the fun of Christmas and silliness of Easter steal from you the fact that God came to us offering peace (just dwell on that idea for a moment) and the blood that had to be shed to accomplish that peace.  Do you see how far removed we are in our culture from where these holiday’s started even as Christians?  Do you see how disrespectful the phrase ” the journey’d begun to the first Easter Day” is?  Do you see how it disregards what Christ suffered for us?  Before we can celebrate Easter, Christ had to endure a tortured death.  Never forget that.  Never ever pretend that didn’t happen.  Never be glib about the price salvation required.  Your sin, my sin required the blood of God to be wash away.  Justice still had to be served in the midst of mercy.  Christ paid justice’s price.  And not so we could have Easter!  But to bring peace between God and us.  Don’t lose that!  Don’t let fun and good holidays steal that from you.  Keep them where they belong, and remember what was required to remove the stain of sin from you.

Now….go back to listening to Christmas songs. 🙂  I think our Pastors are rubbing off on me.  So I’d like to point out that I still like this song, I just think it’s a bit odd and if you think about it too much like I probably have, it’s a bit creepy.