Monday, July 20, 2015

Treasures in Song

We found my hymnal. I’ve been looking for it for the last two years. I guess it was in one of the boxes that went into storage when we downsized for the last two years, and now that we’re finally opening all the boxes in our new house, we found it. We also have our piano back after two years of storing it. It’s days like these that I wish I’d listened to my mother and really practiced the piano instead of just sort of practicing. She told me I’d feel that way one day, and she was right.

This hymnal has been a great help for years, and I’m glad to find it again. These have been the go-to songs for me since childhood, treasures that help me remember timeless truths that focus my eyes on my God and Savior, especially at times when I feel adrift or lonely. Tell me you can keep a self-centered pity party going while singing “Jesus Paid it All.” Certainly after singing the first three verses, once you get to the fourth verse and sing these words, “And when before the throne, I stand in Him complete, ‘Jesus died my soul to save,” my lips shall still repeat. Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe; sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow,” you just see if tears that started out self-pitying and self-centered don’t melt into tears of repentance and joy and just awe with a renewed focus on what truly matters in life and in death.

I love that with the church we have been attending since we moved here my children will learn and sing and hear the voices of the saints in the aisles around us sing together a beautiful mix of rich hymns and also a solid mix of the rich new hymns that are being written by people like the Gettys and Sovereign Grace and people like that. What a rich heritage good music that sings the deep things of the gospel gives us to lean on when our hearts are heavy and when they are joyful and all the times in between. I wonder if anyone is going to put together a new hymnal with some of those good newer songs. I would like that a lot. I have complained a great deal in the past about how shallow so much of the newer praise choruses are, but one thing I’m very thankful about having gotten the privilege of worshiping with Parkside Church last year while we lived in Cleveland was being introduced to the wealth of actually good new music is being written. I truly did not know. I had not heard much of it before then. So it’s a joy to find a church here that also sings those songs I’ve grown to love and so many of the timeless old hymns as well. Serious, thoughtful, doctrinally deep preaching of the Bible and music that focuses our attention on the gospel are so refreshing to start the week and encourage us in the faith.

Yesterday we sang “Amazing Grace,” and the verse that stuck out to me where I am right now was this one, “The Lord has promised good to me, His word my hope secures; he will my shield and portion be as long as life endures.” I almost put those words out as a status update, but I didn’t because out of context I know so many people who would take it the wrong way, with a shallow view of the Lord promising good to me, and I just don’t want to convey that. It’s not talking about worldly riches, but eternal life, and that is real hope. Jesus, the anchor for my soul. I am thankful. So very thankful.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Because We Can!

I didn’t actually mean to quit blogging. The early days of blogging when we formed friendships and networks and linked to each other and blogged about our blogging addiction and lived for comments and links and badges for the sidebar and whatnot seem very long ago indeed. These days, writing long blog posts seems to be much more difficult. These days, short little Facebook status updates and Twitter tweets seem to take up more time and energy. Does anyone even read blogs anymore? For me, when the Google reader went away and I discovered Facebook, it seems my infatuation with blogging dwindled. And I’m not all that sure this is a good thing, this addiction so many of us have to Facebook. Not at all. In fact, I have thought for some time now it’s quite the opposite of a good thing, but I haven’t given it up yet, either. I still want to write blog posts, but finding time and energy seems harder. Where did I find the time back in those long ago blog days? (Long ago in blog time, anyway. It does seem almost a lifetime ago, but in fact it was almost 9 years ago when I wrote my first blog post with trembling fingers, wondering if I was really ready to put my thoughts ‘out there’ for strangers to possibly read. I know this because my daughter was just a baby, and she’s 9 now. Wowza. Where in the world did all that time go?)

All that said, to say I would like to blog more, truly, but I’m not making any promises. I’m not even sure anyone ever even reads this blog anymore besides my parents. It’s not like I’ve had anything interesting to say here for some time. But there’s a new me. Well, not actually a new me. More like the same me, but older, in a new place. We’ve moved. Again. Third summer in a row we’ve had to pack up house and move. Hopefully we will get to stay here a bit longer this time. Packing up and moving three summers in a row is exhausting.

For a bit of fluff blogging, here’s a bit of a where I am right now sort of post.

After two years of living in an apartment and/or duplex kind of place, we get to be in our own house again, and we are loving it. The last two years were kind of difficult, but I’m finally feeling like we’re home, and things are settling nicely. Since moving to the great state of Texas this month, my husband and I have adopted a new catch phrase: “Because we can!” Let me show you a bit of our weirdness:

·         Park in the street over night? Yes! Because we can!

·         Park the camper in front of the house for one overnight while we’re unpacking? Yes! Because we can!

·         Launch a potato gun into the green space behind the house? Yes! Because we can!

·         Fireworks in the backyard? Yes! Because we can!

·         Tiki torches on the back porch? Yes! Because we can!

·         Drive 70 (or more) legally on the interstate or on the way to church? Yes! Because we can!

·         Drive faster than 35 MPH legally anywhere in town? Yes! Because we can!

·         Listen to loud music? Yes! Because we can!

·         Put the surround sound speakers back on the TV? Yes! Because we can!

·         Stop walking on tiptoes in the house and worrying about bothering someone else? Yes! Because we can!

·         Grill on the back porch? Yes! Because we can!

·         Not have to remind my youngest ONE MORE TIME to be careful not to make ‘stompy feet’ noises? Yes! Because we can!

·         Not have to tell my youngest not to run in the house? Yes! Because we can!

·         Sing, loudly, in the house? Yes! Because I can! (I have missed singing so much. I finally feel like I’m getting my song back).

·         Put out the bird feeders again? Yes! Because we can!

·         Sit on the back porch and read for several hours and NEVER hear a siren? Yes! Because we can!

·         Sit on the back porch and enjoy peace and quiet and bird sounds and crickets? Yes! Because we can!

·         Did I mention, grill? On the back porch? Yes! Because we can!!

I think we are going to like it here. I do feel like we’ve come home. I struggle with feeling guilt that we’ve had to move our kids around the country so often, and I know it’s not always been easy for them, but you should see how excited they are about living in Texas. Speaking of making the kids move and emotions, we saw the movie “Inside Out” and I cried. A lot. I also laughed a lot. So did my husband and kids. I am so incredibly thankful for this family God has knit together for us and for how resilient He has allowed our kids to be over the years. He has been very kind to us, and I am grateful.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Strangeness of Growing Older

You know that moment when you find out that one of the more mature members of the cast on a show you watch was born just one year before you were born, and that feeling of surreal shock it gives you, because he seemed so much older than you still feel on the inside? Or that moment you sit outside the banquet hall where your husband’s high school reunion is being held, and he says, “This can’t be the right place - it’s all old people going in that door,” and you think for a moment, blink a couple of times, and say, “You know, I think we are the old people now,” and you both sort of psych yourselves up to either go in that door or leave and not look back? Or when you try to wrap your brain around the fact that U2 and all the other ‘80s music groups that you’ve loved are ‘Golden Oldies’ to your kids in the same way that your parents’ beloved ‘60s music was to you? Or when you are reminded that 1990 really isn’t 10 years ago, not by a long shot, even though it really, truly feels like it? Or when you realize that BOTH of your sons are taller than you, and have been for a while now, and their voices have that deeper man-quality about them all of a sudden and they all of a sudden need to shave? Or when you realize your oldest son only has 2 more years of high school left, and his brother is right there at his heels ready to start high school next fall, and you try really hard not to do the math for remaining years that will take your breath away if you think too long about it regarding their little sister, and you feel like it’s only been a few blinks since they were little and cute and cuddly and barely walking and you felt so overwhelmed with being a mom to ‘littles’ and you were frustrated with all the older moms who kept telling you to ‘cherish every moment’ because it goes so quickly? 

And now here I am, living that moment, living that season of life. I no longer have ‘littles’ and all the types of frustrations that filled the mommy blogs and MOPS discussions back then, (and which complaining - which it very often was, honestly, I found annoying even at the time - I wasn’t all that into ‘mommy blogs’ and parenting magazines that focused on superficial things that in the long run weren’t actually the most important concerns). No, now I have the, in my opinion, more difficult, but so rewarding, time of older kids, being an older mom when I don’t think it’s nearly as cute or wise or funny or kind to blog about the things my kids say and do. Now I’m much more careful about what I share about them, because they really are their own people. And I should have been more careful, back then, too. But that’s for another blog post, another day. It’s not really what I had in mind to write about today, but I did read a good post regarding that here, that is worth reading and thinking about.

Those older moms who always wistfully told us to cherish every moment? I understand them a little better now. People are not kidding when they tell you that time flies. It does. Oh, how it does. And as I’m in this season of being an older mom with kids who are getting older and on the verge of flying from the nest in just a blink of time, it seems, I find myself wondering and pondering. Have I taught them enough? I know I’ve failed in many ways, as we all do, none of us are perfect parents. But I know they’ve heard the Gospel along the way, often, maybe not as often as I wish now looking back as it could have been, but often and in various ways and discussions and watching us live life in light of the Bible truth we know and the Savior we love. My prayer is that, in spite of our imperfect and learning-along-the-way parenting, please, God, would You draw my children to You every day? May the faith we’ve taught be more than just their parents’ faith, may they know and love Jesus and repent and trust Him for life?

I didn’t actually set out to write a blog about being a mom, though. What I was really thinking about was how strange this whole thing of getting older is. Inside, I still feel like I did when I was in my late 20’s, though I am so thankful to be able to look back with tears of gratitude that I’m not actually the same person I was then. God has graciously taught me so much along the way and through the years of reading His Word and listening to men who preach it faithfully. I saw a quote the other day, and I don’t remember it word-for-word, but it was something about how you may read the Bible and forget exactly what you’ve read when you get up that morning, but over a lifetime, faithful, daily reading of the Word will ultimately shape your thinking. I can bear witness to that. I may not be able to pinpoint exact moments of Bible reading or exact sermons heard, but a lifetime spent thinking about them and filling my mind with them has shaped me, by the grace of the Holy Spirit. I am so grateful. I look back at the prideful little thing I was back in my youth, and I’m so thankful for things along the way that God has used to gently humble me and change how I think and then how I act. I have a long way to go and much to learn, but by His grace, what a wonderful Savior Jesus is to be so very patient with His own!

Growing older is a strange thing. It’s amazing how when you’re young, it seems like you have all this time to do things, but how quickly you are all of a sudden nearing the end of your son’s high school years and you’re not in your 20’s anymore and time just seems to have drifted, sifted away while you weren’t looking because you were so busy in the very dailyness of it all.  All the adults I knew as a kid, I thought they were so put together and knew so much. And they did, but now that I’m that adult, I realize how insecure, scared, young they must have felt deep down inside sometimes, too. It’s a humbling thing to realize you are now the adult that the marketers target as you hear ‘your’ music playing in the grocery store, and as you realize politicians and CEOs and doctors and lawyers and important people, as far as making society run goes, not to mention pastors and elders at church, are your age…….and younger. It’s a weird thing to be the mom who your kids think knows everything, when you know how much you don’t know. We are that generation now. Sometimes that’s an overwhelming thought. But it also makes me appreciate my own parents so much more. They were here once, too, feeling these same strange feelings I’m feeling, and they did it well. I’m thankful for their example, and their love and support. Most importantly, I am extremely thankful for the example of a Christian home, and for the many, many, many faith filled discussions as we rose up, as we sat, and as we walked along the way. What my parents learned from the Bible, they shared with us, and that is a true legacy. I hope I’m doing the same well with my own children.

We’ve had some difficult things happen in our extended family recently, a heart-breaking loss, that has me thinking even more about mortality, and how fleeting this life is, and what a gift each day is. How important it is to know Jesus and love Him and live in His light every day. We have today, but we really do not know about tomorrow. Only He knows the days of our lives, before there ever was one of them, and I want to live the days He has given me well. One of the great comforts of this life is knowing that Jesus knows my days, before there ever was a one of them, and I belong to Him. He knows every day, and He is ever interceding for His own. I don’t want to fear growing older, and all the strangeness that brings, and I also don’t want to presume upon tomorrow. I want to trust Him with even the uncertainty of these days. He is Lord. May my life be a reflection of Him.

Psalm 139:16
“Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” 

James 4:13-17
“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’ - yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” 

Monday, March 09, 2015

Status Update, March 2015

Seeing as I haven’t posted anything here since the end of December, Happy (not so )New (anymore) Year, blog world! My blogging ability seems to have waned along with my mood this winter. Winter in Cleveland has been quite an experience for this former Florida girl. I thought I liked a little winter, and I do like A LITTLE winter. Snow is great and pretty and fun when you only get a couple of big snows and then it melts away soon after. Though people jokingly warned me about winter here, I do not think I was prepared for quite so MUCH winter. I think you can’t be prepared for it until you experience it, and when you experience it you will either love it or hate it. Guess which side I landed on along with my many falls on icy sidewalks? I told someone recently that I think Cleveland winter has done its work and turned me into a bona fide snow Grinch. We haven’t seen grass or sidewalk or driveway since November (brief respite in an unusually snow-free December which lulled me into blissful unpreparedness) and January, oh, January, when we began to get mounds of snow and ice and more snow and gray, gray, gray, dismally gray skies for MONTHS. I’ve been truly fighting a bit of the winter blues, what with winter in general and some other things along the way that I don’t want to write about, and my energy for writing was completely sapped. So, if anyone even bothers to check here anymore, I’m sorry for the blog silence, but maybe, just maybe I can start getting my head above the gray clouds again now, with the hope of spring around the corner.

Driving here is not fun on a good day, in the winter it’s been….interesting. Throw in the mix that the last time we had the oil changed in my car (the one 4-wheel-drive vehicle we own) they put the wrong size cap on and it slowly lost all its oil without us realizing it, resulting in one day the car just not driving at all and the bad news that the engine was completely fried, and, well, it’s been a frustrating winter. Now, three weeks and quite and expense (but not a new car payment!) later, I have my car back with a new engine. Thankful, I am.

I know I shouldn’t complain and be so low in the winter. I know people who are facing real hurts and struggles, for whom I’m praying daily, and my griping about winter in Cleveland is pretty lame, which only makes me feel even more guilty about the confusing fog of blues into which I descended over the past few months. But my fog was real for me, and I’ve been praying through it, and God is good all the time, even when my feelings and emotions lack zeal. How extremely thankful I am that my standing with God and salvation are not based in my feelings and strength, but in my gracious Savior Jesus, who never wavers and who is ever interceding for His own.

Some great news today is, as I said on my Facebook wall just now: The sun is shining! The snow is melting! It’s a glorious 46 degrees and for the first time since November it feels LOVELY outside without a coat! No coat! No need for hat, scarf, OR gloves! The air doesn’t hurt my face! And I can see pavement on the sidewalks! No more ice skating to school! There are even a few spots of, what’s that stuff called again? Oh yes, grass! Dare I say the long, gray misery of winter may be coming to a close at last? AND I hear birds. Birds! I’d almost forgotten how very much I love to hear birds singing. It’s a lonely world when the birds go silent. So long, winter!

I will say that one very bright spot in our year here in Cleveland has been the church we get to join with while we’re here. The prayer, music, and Bible teaching are so rich, and I have been greatly encouraged by this body of believers and their commitment to worshiping Jesus well. I think this encouragement has done much to keep the blues at bay. 

So, not a very serious post, but hopefully one to get me back to blogging again. I hope. If you’re interested, I have found a couple of books that are helping me learn how to pray well, and they’ve been a blessing to me alongside reading my Bible. One is The Valley of Vision, and the other is Prone to Wander: Prayers of Confession and Celebration by Barbara R. Duguid and Wayne Duguid Houk. 

Happy (almost) spring!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Highlights (and Lowlights) From the Books I Read in 2014

I’ve kept track of the books I read this year in the page called, “Books Read 2014” on this blog,  but here at the end of the year I thought maybe I’d highlight the ones I either liked best or that have stuck with me most.

  1. 11/22/63 - Stephen King (F). I wrote quite a bit about my thoughts on this one on the list page, and as I said, I probably wouldn’t recommend it without qualifications, but it’s one that I still think about and enjoyed.
  2. Resisting Gossip: Winning the War of the Wagging Tongue - Matthew C. Mitchell (NF). I wrote a blog post about my thoughts on this one here, and yes, it’s one that I’m glad sticks with me, and I probably need to read it again at some point. 
  3. Cutting for Stone - Abraham Verghese (F). My mom and dad gave me this one for Christmas last year and I very much liked it.
  4. The Orphan Master’s Son - Adam Johnson (F). Another one my mom and dad gave me last Christmas that I very much liked. Both of these I find myself remembering long after I had put the book back in the bookshelf, and both I will probably re-read at some point.
  5. Two books in this one: A Time of Departing  and For Many Shall Come in My Name- Ray Yungen (NF). These have stayed with me, too, and I found it disturbingly eye-opening to the influence of “New Age” type of spirituality that is creeping into the evangelical church. I do wish more people would be alerted and concerned about this.
  6. I thought when I was reading the first of the Divergent books by Veronica Roth that they would end up on a list like this, but I ended up HATING the last book and ending so much that I would say, “Don’t bother,” if anyone were to ask me about this series.
  7. Safely Home - Randy Alcorn (F). Though there are things about this book that made me a little uncomfortable, over all it has really stayed with me and I find myself thinking about the overarching story in a good way.
  8. A Land More Kind Than Home - Wiley Cash (F). I’m looking forward to reading more by this author. 
  9. The four Light books by Terri Blackstock - Last Light, Night Light, True Light, and Dawn’s Light - (F). I really enjoyed this series, and I don’t typically like much Christian fiction for reasons I’ve mentioned on the blog before like how problematic many I’ve read are theologically, but these I did like, so they make the list.
  10. The Witch of Blackbird Pond - Elizabeth George Speare (F). This is a classic I had not read before, and I very much liked it.
  11. The Gospel’s Power and Message and The Gospel Call and True Conversion - Paul Washer (NF). Written with a pastor’s heart.
  12. The Hole in Our Holiness - Kevin DeYoung (NF). Another very good read that I hope sticks with me, and just may need to be read again. This one was challenging and I'm glad I read it.
  13. Stepping Heavenward - Elizabeth Prentiss (F). Probably one of my favorite books since I was a young girl. I like it more every time I read it.
  14. John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace - Jonathan Aitken (NF). I very much enjoyed this biography about a fascinating Christian man. I love how his testimony and life show how he never forgot God’s amazing grace.
  15. Unfriend Yourself: Three Days to Detox, Discern, and Decide About Social Media - Kyle Tennant (NF). This has been the beginning of me finally starting to break my addiction to Facebook, and it couldn’t have come at a more welcome time. 
  16. The Blessing Way and Dance Hall of the Dead - Tony Hillerman (F). Books one and two of Hillerman’s Navajo mysteries. I read some of these years ago, but didn’t read them in order, so I’m reading them from the beginning now. I am enjoying the mysteries and the peek into Navajo culture and thinking. 

These are not all of the books I read in 2014, and you can see the full list on that page. Just because a book didn’t make this list doesn’t mean I didn’t like it, necessarily, but these were some of either my favorites or the ones I find myself still thinking about. I could have added the books from my list that dealt with Christians and pop culture as well. There were at least two of those, and they’ve continued to make me think also.

Happy reading and as we are reaching the end of 2014, I’ll wish you a Happy New Year, too!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Isaiah 9:2
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.

John 1:9-18
9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’ ” 16 And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

“When we were undone, with no will or ability to return to Him, He came, God-incarnate, to save us, as man to die our death, to shed His blood on our behalf, and work out a perfect righteousness for us.

O God, take us in Spirit to the watchful shepherds and enlarge our minds, let us hear good tidings of great joy, and hearing, believe, rejoice, praise, and adore. Place us with the oxen and sheep in that stable, to look with them upon our Redeemer’s face and know ourselves delivered from sin in Him. In Him, you have given us so much that heaven can give no more. (Adapted from Valley of Vision).” - from our Christmas Eve service at Parkside Church last night.

Merry Christmas! Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Far As the Curse is Found

Revelation 21:1-8
“1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ 
5 And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ 6 And he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. 7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.’ “

Revelation 22:12-14
“12 ‘ Behold I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.’
14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.”

Revelation 22:20
“20 He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”

I’ve been thinking quite a bit the past several months about relationships. There are several reasons for this pondering, but one is that I read a book recently called, Unfriend Yourself: Three Days to Detox, Discern, and Decide About Social Media by Kyle Tennant. I wrote a little about the book on my book list page, and I’m not writing a review of it here since it isn’t the final point I’m wanting to make today, but that book has done what it was meant to do and started me thinking a little more about how and why I use social media, which has also helped me continue thinking through relationships in general. What came out of reading that book for me is that I’m really trying to spend less time with Facebook - reading and posting. I think that we impose expectations on social media that it really isn’t designed or able to fulfill. Social media is helpful and can be good for networking and maybe staying in contact with people when, like my family, you have to relocate often. In that way social media has been a blessing and I’m not ready to completely give it up. But, on the other hand, social media can hold some dangers in that sometimes we can expect it to provide closer relationships than it is actually capable of delivering. 

A couple of observations I’ve noticed along these lines to sort of lay some groundwork for the point I really want to make is that, first of all, we can be tempted to assume that if we interact often on Facebook that we have a close friendship, or that we’ve sort of done our duty to care for our friends. This an especially attractive temptation for those of us who are more introverted and not as naturally outgoing. The sad thing is that, though that kind of friendship is a type of relationship and sweet in its own way, it isn’t as close as real, face-to-face, in-the-flesh relationship. It just can’t be. Online communication cannot substitute for the more vulnerable, frankly messier but so much more fulfilling ultimately, nature of in-the-flesh relationship where we talk face to face and share life together. Mediated friendships allow us to carefully control how we present ourselves and how others perceive us. We can edit and delete posts that we think show something about us that we don’t want others knowing or thinking of us. Face-to-face, it’s much easier to know the real person, but it’s also a lot scarier because we may find out that we do not seem as perfect or flawless as we want people to see us, and we have a whole lot less control over that carefully crafted image while sitting across the table from someone than we do behind a computer screen. Another thing I’ve noticed is that because so many of us aren’t as careful as we maybe should be about remembering our whole audience of social media ‘friends’ and the varying levels of intimacy we’ve earned in those friendships when we post our every thought out there on the internet, sometimes we end up knowing more about mere acquaintances than we would without social media. We have a false expectation of intimacy because of this - and it opens the door for more hurt feelings and misunderstandings, in my opinion, because we assume a level of friendship that isn’t actually there because of how much we think we know based on what we’ve read on Facebook.

So, spring boarding from those observations, I’ve been thinking about relationships in general, beyond social media, because what I’ve been pondering is how even in ‘real-life,’ away from the screen, in-the-flesh, sitting-across-the-table, sharing life relationships, we still very often have a hard time really getting to know anyone else. I think part of the Curse, the Fall, is that we crave intimacy, but we also fear it and run from it even while seeking it. I think we all have walls and eggshells that we use as shields to varying degrees to protect our vulnerability. Some have huge walls, some have miles of eggshells, some have lower walls and fewer eggshells, but in the end, I think that it is very, very difficult to really know another person and truly relate to them in full fellowship. 

This is one reason that marriage is such a precious gift from God to humanity. This is also why divorce is so hurtful and capable of inflicting such deep wounds, and why it is so important for a Christian to marry a godly spouse and seek to be a godly spouse. Marriage, and to a great extent the family, is the one human relationship where we should be able to really be ourselves and not have to hide behind our walls and eggshells. Marriage, as God designed it, is the one human relationship where we should be able to be vulnerable with each other and not have to fear that vulnerability. In our fallenness and sin, even the best marriages can only hint at that, but how kind of God to give us this glimpse of what relationship should be. Marriage is also a grand picture of the gospel - Christ so loving the Church that He laid His life down for her to make her a pure Bride. 

So, what I’ve been thinking about this morning as I ponder various friendship mishaps and misunderstandings and brokennesses I’ve experienced and grieve over, I’ve been wondering if perhaps some of the tears that God will wipe away in the new Jerusalem just might be the tears I can’t help but think we will cry when we get to Heaven and we finally know each other as we are meant to and realize what we’ve missed behind our walls that we built between ourselves. That person we were so angry with, when we see their heart, when we know what we didn’t know here, what did we miss? What have I missed when I misunderstood a friend’s intent and chose not to assume the best but rather assumed the worst and was hurt and angry or bitter or distant and lost some of the intimacy that friendship could have had? What have I missed when I chose to remain hurt and hold a grudge?  What have I missed when I was indifferent to someone I should have cared about? What have I missed when I’ve harbored prejudices? What have I missed when I was just too busy and distracted or selfish to share in friends’ joys and sorrows? What have I missed when my pride caused me to care too much about what someone else thought of me, or what I perceived that they thought of me, and I kept myself at arms’ length, unable to just be and not have to carefully guard my image? And the list could go on.

This is where the gospel gives such hope. Those tears WILL be wiped away. Wrongs will be righted and misunderstandings cleared away.  But even here, even now, there is such amazing hope and grace. You see, in reconciling us to Himself, which is such amazing grace, God also grants us to be reconciled with each other. Understanding that I am, actually, just as wretched, no, even more wretched, than I suspected is actually quite freeing. Rather than having to carefully guard the notion that I’m all that and oh-so-wonderful, I can admit that I am a sinner, I am so very, very flawed, and so is everyone else. Jesus came to us while we were yet rebels, while we were ugly, pride-filled, self-centered, sinful people, and He came to redeem us and wash away our sins. When we repent of that ugly, ugly, ugly sinful wretchedness and turn to Him in grateful trust and faith, He washes us white as snow. We are freed to love others. We are freed not to have to carefully guard our image. If only I would learn this well. 

I think on this side of Heaven, relationships will always have that tension of wanting intimacy, but fearing it and feeling tempted to run from it, not really being able to lower the walls completely. But, for the Christian, we ought to be growing in grace and the ability to lay down grudges, forgive each other more easily, share in joys, sorrows, and burdens - life, in other words, and learn to really be a friend and family member who chooses to assume the best, bear with wrongs, choose to overlook misunderstandings when we’re able, give much room for grace in other people’s lives, and trust our Savior to teach us ever more to walk in His light. We are the grace people! We are Jesus’s people! We ought to be growing in that light and walking in it ever more closely. The light has dawned in the darkness and we have beheld HIS glory. 

That’s what I’ve been pondering recently.

In light of that, here are the words to one of the most beautiful, joyous Christmas hymns. Pay special attention to verse three in light of those thoughts. Jesus reigns, and He makes His blessings flow - far as the curse is found!


Joy to the World, the Lord has come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room, 
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the World, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders of His love.