Sunday, April 13, 2014

Hosanna--Lord, Save Us: Palm Sunday

Every year when Lent rolls around, the inevitable Facebook statuses appear, "Welp!  Taking a break from social media.  See you in 40 days!"  or "Giving up chocolate or coffee for Lent.  Sooo hard!"  And while I can't judge the heart, fasting from these things means nothing if it doesn't drive us to the Lord.  Our lives are this precarious balancing act; once we remove something, we must fill it when something else.  So unless the removal of social media, coffee, or chocolate is filled with time spent with and a desire for the Lord, our fasting is but a "filthy garment" (Isaiah 64:6).  Throughout the prophets, God tells his people again and again that he does not desire their sacrifices but their hearts in true worship and their faith in Him to do great things when they trust in Him (Hosea 6:6, Malachi 3:10-12). 

I think what the Lord desires more than anything at Lent, during the Holy week, and each and every day is our hearts, undivided and loyal to Him above all else.  While fasting during Lent is a worthy discipline to create in us a hunger for the Lord, would He not be so much more pleased if our "fast," our "sacrifice" was not a woeful self-deprivation but a heart laid bare before Him daily?  What if our fast was a commitment to His Word and to time in prayer?  To draw near to Him?  When we give up frivolous things, our fast often becomes about us and the "sacrifice" we've made (after all, how amazing am I if I gave up coffee AND if I proclaim it from every social media outlet?  Matthew 6:16-18).   

Today, this Palm Sunday, I'm choosing to reflect on and rejoice in Jesus and His choice to enter Jerusalem knowing full well what that implied for him.  Knowing he would be sent to his death on a cross at the hand of worshipers-turned-indicters.  Lets take the focus off of us and consider our Savior.  I loved what was shared this morning at She Reads Truth.  Please take a minute to read and then worship our Lord.

I try to picture Jesus, fully man and fully God, looking at the crowd that was shouting, “Hosanna!” at Him. He had the ability to be all in that moment and to receive their feeble worship, but He also had the scope of eternity through which to view this moment. He could also see and hear pure worship of the angels and He could have (even then) perfectly described the day when He will eventually receive our pure worship at His return – like it was right there in front of Him. 
They cried “Hosanna” (a shout of adoration in the New Testament, but also found in the Old Testament Hebrew to mean “help” or “save, I pray” in Psalm 118:25). They threw their cloaks down and, as the donkey’s feet trod across the palm branches, only Jesus knew the full weight of what they were saying – what their cry of “save us” was really asking.
Only He knows the full weight of what we need when we cry out to Him today.I picture the loving way He considered His children even then, even as He knew what was ahead – even as He knew that their cries of “Hosanna” would turn to cries of “Crucify Him!” in a matter of days. 
For now, to know Him better, the best we can muster is to look behind and ahead based on what His Word tells us – like we are looking at His face in a dimly lit, memory-filled mirror. And yet, we can be assured – just like He was thousands of years ago as He rode to Jerusalem to take part in the events that would utterly change the course of history – when we cry “Hosanna! Save us!”, He will. 
When our hearts betray us like the crowds eventually betrayed our Lord – He still saves.
Hosanna in the highest! Salvation belongs to our God. 
--She Reads Truth, Hosanna, Posted on April 13, 2014, by Raechel Myers in #SheReadsTruth #Lent, quoted in part
Photo credit Buzo Jesus | Unsplash 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Text: 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

I had a rotten day today, seriously rotten.  And there were no huge catastrophes or any major incidents to point at and say, "Oh yes, that would make anybody's day bad."  No, I just had one of those days where my mind is sunk, my spirit plummeted.  Every little thing grated on my nerves.  Kids needed something?  Sounds like whining to me.  Kids whine?  Sounds like screaming.  Kids ask for something?  Definitely demanding tone in that voice.  Kids argue?  World War III in our living room.  The littlest things were blown way out of proportion in my mind.

Guys, it started bad.  I got out of bed an hour later than normal and fell asleep face down on the table while trying to pray and read the Word.  Not kidding.  All the farther I made it as a mother was to get the kids out of their rooms when they woke up before heading to the couch to fall asleep.  I had had my cup of coffee and got almost seven hours of sleep the night before but still could not peel my eyes open.  To put it lightly, I failed miserably as a mother, as a wife, as a person today.  And get this. . . I even took a pregnancy test to make sure there was nothing else on which to blame my funk.  (If you know us well, that should be medically impossible, but always best to make sure.  Oh, and it was negative.)

All this to say, I'm a miserable and selfish person.  And I'm capable of straight up ugliness.  I did not want to be a mom today.  I did not want to have to answer to anyone or clean up after anyone or simply care for anyone.  I barely wanted to care for myself.  I was selfish, unmotivated, lazy, angry, bitter, resentful, and even somewhat sad.  In and of myself, I'm all of these things on a daily basis.  I do not have it all together.  I do not have all the answers.  I do not have eloquent and beautiful things to write.  I am rotten.

And I don't believe I'm the only one who knows this to be true about one's self, simply because I know a lot of people.  I know as some of you are reading this, you're already dismissing this as "normal," that we all have those days.  But isn't that telling?  If being a miserable and selfish person is "normal", isn't that telling of our condition as humans?  That something is broken in us?  See, we like to say that deep down we think people are good, but we're not.  When left to ourselves, we become selfish, unmotivated, lazy, angry, bitter, resentful, sad.  We don't seek to do good to others and live selfless lives.  We are not good.  Sure there are those who seem good, but I bet they would confess having these same feelings.  If even those whom we consider "good" confess they are truly rotten, we have to admit we are broken and in need of something more.

So here's the thing I'm trying to say.  By outward appearances, I think many would consider me "good."  I say a lot of right things, write some nice words, and do some kind things every now and then.  But none of those things is good enough to fix this brokenness in me.  See, I know that no matter how much I do for others, how selfless I seem to be living, unless I find a way to fix this brokenness, it doesn't matter.  My "goodness" cannot fix me, and it cannot fix others.  It can temporarily bring happiness or relief, but we are all left in this muck together without someone to save us.

And that is where Jesus comes in.  See, God created us to be in perfect fellowship with Him.  That was broken when Adam and Eve sinned and desired control over their own lives.  And every man and woman since has fought the same fight against God to control his/her own life and has worked to earn some sort of divine favor by being "good" enough.  But that's what's so beautiful about this sweeping story of God's.  It's that he tells us, "You can never be good enough.  In fact, you have to be perfect, holy, in order to be in my presence."  Doesn't really sound like good news, does it?  That's because it's only part of the good news.  If you read the Bible, you find all these stories of sacrifices and offerings that priests make to appease God's wrath and seek forgiveness of sins for man's brokenness, and it doesn't seem to make sense, unless you read with the end in mind.

The end of the story is that Jesus comes to offer grace and salvation to broken humanity.  To pull us out of the muck of our miserable and selfish existence.  He does this by offering his perfect life as a sacrifice to take on the full wrath of a perfect and holy God so that those who believe in him and call on him as savior and Lord can be fixed of their brokenness.  No more trying to be "good" enough or having faith in my goodness to try to fix me.

And that's the beauty of knowing Jesus.  That when I have a rotten day and fail as a mother, as a wife, as a person, I know that there is always grace.  That all I have to pray is one word, "Grace,"  "Jesus," and I'm covered.  That tomorrow starts anew and there's grace.  I do not have to have all the answers, be in control, use eloquent words.  He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world.  I do not have to be overcome by my brokenness.

"And so it was with me, brothers and sisters.  When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.  For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling.  My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God's power."  1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (NIV) 

Linking up with #SheReadsTruth #SheSharesTruth Lent series.


Monday, April 7, 2014

21 Dreams Project: Everything We Needed

We live in the Indianapolis area and have been so blessed by deep relationships with families of kiddos with Down syndrome.  About a year ago I told you about The Lucky Ones, a group of women whose common bond is parenting a child of Down syndrome.  Through some of the same women, I learned of Sycamore Sisters Photography and the 21 Dreams Project.  Jen of SS Photography is a fellow momma of a child with Down syndrome, and to help raise awareness she started the 21 Dreams Project, part of which is publishing volumes of books featuring beautiful photos and touching stories of individuals with Down syndrome.  

So it is with great excitement that I announce that Bear is part of the most recently released volume!  I would love to see every OB/GYN office carry these books in their waiting room, as now nearly 92% of women who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome choose to terminate the pregnancy.  I choose to believe that many of these women do not make this decision out of malice but out of fear and ignorance.  With a little awareness and education, surely we can work to overturn this horrifying statistic.  I plan to gift one to my doctor and hope many others follow suit.  

Portions of the book's proceeds support Down Syndrome Indiana, and you can purchase your own copy here.

Since you can't preview Bear's page in the book, I thought I'd let you in on what I wrote about my beautiful little man.  Enjoy.  

It’s in his eyes.  I always said that about Bear.  Long before his lips curled into his first smile, he smiled with his eyes.
It’s in his touch.  The way he can’t sit beside me without playing with my hair.  How he pats his sister’s back as she sobs broken-heartedly because he’s heading to school.  How he eats his dinner with his hand on his daddy’s knee or arm.
It’s in his laugh, the one that is sheer unbridled joy and delirium. 

It’s in his stubborn perseverance.  Insisting that pizza, quesadillas, or doughnuts are for every meal or clearly letting us know, “I don’t want to.” 

It’s what we never hoped for; it’s everything we love. 
Bear is our eldest, the first grandson on my side, the first to steal all of our hearts.  As with all firstborns, the amount of expectation surrounding his arrival was immense.  Would he be Daddy’s little champ on the football field and baseball diamond?  Would he be Grandpa’s little buddy, hunting and farming at his side?  Would he become a fiercely protective older brother?  Would he have a tough exterior that secretly melted in the presence of his momma?  Would he enjoy music and academia and head to a prestigious college?  So many dreams.

During our pregnancy, there were some flags indicating our baby might have Down syndrome, but I was only twenty-six, we were both young and healthy.  Surely Down syndrome couldn’t affect our family.  When Bear arrived five weeks early, any physical traits of Down syndrome were nearly undetectable, and based on that, we were told by several medical professionals that he did not have Down syndrome.  We requested to have the necessary testing done to be sure, and at twelve days old, his doctor knelt at my feet in her office and cried with me as she broke the news.

Our perfect, first-born son has Down syndrome. 

I was crushed.  Dreams shattered.  Hearts broken
Calls made, tears cried, more calls made.  Husband rushing home from work.  More tears cried.  But somehow, my rock of a husband walked in the door with a new set of dreams.  His son was not a disappointment, had not fallen short of the dreams and expectations he had for his firstborn.  No, this boy of his would still accomplish great things.  Special Olympics, college, a prestigious job, these things were not out of Bear’s reach.  And after a few months of raging and grieving within my own spirit, this hope of his began to crack my fragile shell and let some light in.

Bear’s twinkling eyes smiled up at me; that belly laughter rolled at the sound of my voice; the comfort of his snuggles in the wee hours of morning softened my hard and bitter heart. 

And today, five years later, everything we hoped for has been far surpassed by the love and joy Bear brings our family.  There are no words to contain the fierce, protective love we have for him, no pictures to capture his endearing relationships with his sisters.  He is beyond what we hoped for, everything we needed to love.