Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter's Gratitude in Passover's Song

I will continue with the series on brokenness later in the week, but this weekend my heart is filled with Easter!

Passover . . . God's foreshadowing of His plan to send Heaven's perfect Lamb to shed the blood of the final sacrifice. Passover was the picture that prepared Israel for the real deliverance that would come to all who would put the Lamb's blood over the doorposts of their hearts.

In the Passover Seder is a joyous little song that catalogs ancient highlights of God's leading of His people, Israel.  After each remembrance of God's action on their behalf comes the Hebrew word Dayenu, which means something close to "it would have been enough" or "it would have sufficed for us."  They say it again and again, Dayenu. They sing the song, with its repeating chorus Dayenu, Dayenu, Dayenu.  From the plagues He sent against Egypt to sparing their firstborn in the final plague, from opening the Red Sea to destroying their enemies, and finally from giving them His Word to leading them through the desert all the way to the Promised Land, they recall each grace with the refrain of Dayenu, declaring that any one of these miracles would have been enough, and yet God did, not just one, but all of them, and more.

Like the children of Israel, we look back and celebrate the ways God has worked in the world and in our lives.  Jesus' death on Calvary's cross and His glorious and radical resurrection that first Easter Sunday morning were the culmination of the story only symbolized in Passover.

Passover people know to count the graces too--we Easter people know the gratitude with which they sing, Dayenu!

Jesus promised so many wonderful things and He will do them all, but
if winning our salvation
was the only thing Jesus ever did for us,

 “'Do not be afraid,
for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.
He is not here; He has risen, just as He said.'"

Have you met this Jesus who died that we might live?
Is the light of His life and the power of His resurrection shining in you and through you?

Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Monday
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!
In the counting of the endless gifts I say with C. S. Lewis,
"This also is Thou!"


446. The hot tub we bought when times were easier--feels so good!
447. Generous Drummer Boy and the Jason Castro CD he bought for me!
448. Provision
449. Ideas stacked up, ready to go
450. Young people who practice discernment
451. Cool tile on bare feet
452. The squirrel/cat/racoon "highway" that runs along the top of our fence and the entertainment it provides. :)
453. My family history information safe on a backup disk when I needed it!
454. No damage, no harm when we had a brush with ugliness.
455. Hero Husband getting to play golf for the first time in ages!! 
456. Ben Hur with my family for our own private Good Friday remembrance
457. Country music where Jesus is almost always welcome!
458. The cross
459. The victory Jesus won there
460. Knowing that  JESUS IS ALIVE!

Joining Michelle DeRusha for:

and for the first time, joining Jen and her Sisterhood

A heartfelt thank you to these generous bloggers
who make these communities available!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

When Brokenness Gets Broken: Part 2


In Part 1 I posed some questions about brokenness.  I related the fact that I have some concerns about the concept of brokenness, which has recently become extremely popular in some Christian circles.  Let me say here that it is not at all my intention to step on any toes or to be critical in any way of what others have said or written on the subject.  I started this series because I was troubled by some of the trends I've been seeing and I wanted to study it out myself before following or rejecting those trends.  My only purpose is to seek a clearer understanding of what the Bible really says and to get a better handle on what brokenness is and isn't.  I pray that we can, together, follow the example set by the Bereans who "examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." Acts 17:11 NIV

One of the verses most used as the basis for ideas about brokenness is this:

"The sacrifices of God are a
 broken spirit;
         A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise."

When studying God's Word, context is everything.  If you read this verse isolated from the words that come before and the words that come after, you might get the impression that brokenness is God's currency of choice and that it is a quality to be desired and cultivated above all.

That would not, in my opinion, be an accurate impression.

When you look at the context, this verse is speaking distinctly about a right response to the realization of personal sin. These words are part of a Psalm that was written by David after God had sent Nathan to deal with him about his sinful relationship with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of her husband. David was right to feel broken and completely humbled by his unimaginable failure. When he came to God in this contrite posture, acknowledging his weakness and need, He found that God responded with unimaginable grace.

When David wrote these words, it wasn't because he was seeking or promoting brokenness as a quality of being. He wrote out of the appropriate anguish of his heart at the realization of how he had sinned against the God He loved so much. When God met his anguish with grace and love, David understood God's heart in a whole new way. The focus of David's words is not brokenness, but God and His amazing grace to those who recognize how broken they are.

Some people today are looking at this verse and saying in essence, "Okay, well if God values the sacrifice of a broken heart, then I want to be broken," and they make brokenness their goal. They turn a declaration about the tender heart of God toward people when they are legitimately broken over their sin, into a formula for getting God to approve of them or as a proof of spirituality.

My biggest concern about this subtle shift is that brokenness applied this way can become an idol, turning the focus selfward. The enemy loves this kind of switcheroo! If he can't snare us into being anti-spiritual, he'll change directions and be just as happy with hyper-spiritual or pseudo-spiritual--it's all the same to him.

What these verses DON'T do is tell us to live in a permanent state of brokenness for brokenness' sake. Brokenness is not an end in itself. It is not a coin you put in the vending machine of spirituality that gets you God's favor or approval. Brokenness is not a badge you wear to gain access to the "Most Spiritual" club. Brokenness is not something you can put on. This verse tells us instead that WHEN a heart breaks over its own sin, God will not scold and despise, but He will respond in accepting love. Brokenness is the right response of those who see their sin in light of the holiness of God.

It may interest you to know that the words meaning broken in the New Testament are not used in relationship to believers. The idea of brokenness is only used in the NT to describe those who need to hear the Gospel (Luke 4:18). Broken is what we were before Jesus came. Broken was our state of being before believing in Him. Broken is what happened when Adam and Eve introduced sin into the DNA of mankind.

BUT . . .

Jesus did come!

" . . . and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed." 1 Peter 2:24 NASB

Wait . . . what did that say? By His wounds you should be broken? NO! "By His wounds you were HEALED!!!" [emphasis mine] Are we willing to live like people healed from the brokenness of our sin? Do we really believe that Jesus took all our broken pieces and made us whole in Him? Or are we sometimes more comfortable to live stuck in sin and clinging to our old brokenness?

As we approach Good Friday and Easter's glory beyond it, I pray that we will be touched anew with the real truth of what Jesus accomplished for us on the cruel cross. He was broken on our behalf . . . for our benefit . . . to win healing and wholeness for us, to restore our sin-broken lives to the abundant life God has always wanted for us. With this in view, I want to walk in that blood-bought wholeness, moving ever closer to being like Him, lest I profane His sacrifice by staying broken.

Yes, I still blow it. I still have weak places and bad habits. I still fall into sinful behaviors, and when I do, the only sensible response is to have a humble and contrite heart, taking my weakness and need and failure to the One who has already paid my penalty and bought my freedom. In so doing, I appropriate the healing He made possible and allow Him to clean me up, and set me back on the Way, walking as one made whole by an inexhaustible and inexplicable Love.
How do you see yourself?  As broken?  As whole in Christ?
Have you believed in the One who came to free you from the brokenness of sin?

Joining Ann in considering "The Practice of Easter"

and Emily Wierenga for Imperfect Prose

and Bonnie Grey for the Faith Barista JAM


A heartfelt thank you to these generous bloggers
who make these communities available!

Monday, April 18, 2011

When Brokenness Gets Broken: Part 1



Brokenness is quite a favorite word in some circles of Christendom these days.  Google it and you'll find pages of results to scroll through. It seems to have many uses and multiple definitions according to the people who are passionate about it. People submit to it, aspire to it, seek it, and try to hasten it.

I'm not sure all of them are on the right track.

There are a number of passages in the Bible that people point to as their basis for their commitment to brokenness, but I'm concerned that there may be some misunderstanding and misapplication afoot.

Our understanding of the person of God through our study of His word is about as important as it gets for our Christian walk, not only for ourselves, but for the people who don't know Him yet--what does our understanding of God say to the people who know us?  It is vital that we present God as accurately as we know how to a world of people who are predisposed by our postmodern culture to be suspicious and even downright hostile toward God.  If they are hostile toward God, let it be because they choose to quarrel with who He really is, not with some misrepresentation we have put forth out of ignorance of one kind or another.

If you look up the word broken, (depending on the dictionary) you will find more than a dozen definitions, and they are, almost without exception, negative in connotation.

Let me ask a simple question--did Jesus come to break us or to restore us?  To hear some people talk about it, you might get the impression that God is in the harsh business of breaking His children down until in His eyes they are battered, bruised, and after enough bashing, have arrived at the coveted state of brokenness befitting the godly.  At this point, when they are sufficiently aware of what worms they are, they can finally be of some miniscule use to Him, provided they stay perpetually and acutely aware of what wretches they are.

Is that the God we serve?

Is that what it means to be a "new creation?"

Is that  the "abundant life" Jesus came to give?

Does this sound like the God who promises we will be overcomers and that He will give us victory?

Hmm . . . let's chew on this a little more.

Where does brokenness really come into play?
Where has brokenness become a distortion of truth, perhaps even an idol?
What does the Bible really say about whom or what needs to be broken?

As I studied and explored this concept, I discovered that one post would not be enough, so I hope you will share your comments and questions with me and join me for the next few posts as I continue to seek God's heart on the matter of brokenness.


Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Monday
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!
In the counting of the endless gifts I say with C. S. Lewis,
"This also is Thou!"


431. Coming up with just the thing for her birthday
432. Drummer Boy following through and achieving an important goal
433. Surprising She So Sweet with a birthday breakfast in bed
434. The fun of helping her friend plan a surprise of his own . . . and her joyfully surprised face!
435. Chili cheese dogs for a mother-daughter birthday dinner
436. Candy bars that stood in for the birthday cake we'll make this weekend for her to enjoy with her friends
437. That Drummer Boy is such an awesome big brother
438. What a difference a year makes!  I could write 1000 gifts just about that!
439. Humble and healing words from one who really heard
440. She So Sweet singing so beautifully at her school's "Coffee House" evening!
441. Baked potatoes
442. "I love the smell of dirt," and "I feel like a farmer!" she said as we planted her herb garden together--Grandpa Hitchings would have loved that!!
443. Carmelized Bacon and the on-the-fly recipe that inspired it
444. Hero Husband's fried chicken with the seasoning all the way to the bone!!
445. Dark chocolate Brownie "cake" with peppermint patties in the middle--way better than traditional birthday cake!!

Joining Michelle DeRusha for:

A heartfelt thank you to these generous bloggers
who make these communities available!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Thin Places, High and Low

Most mountaintops are thin places for me.  If you asked me what God smells like, I would tell you He smells of pungent pine and crisp, snow-chilled mountain air.  His power is in the wild wind, His whisper in the flowers-in-miniature that grow, impossible, on top of the world.

I have known thin places on horseback, in basketball games, in babies’ first smiles and at rock concerts—God comes close to play and breathe and cheer and celebrate with us.

I have known thin places in the depths of heartache too . . .

. . . At 17 when twice in one year I dealt with the death of someone close who was too young to die—thin places to be sure, where God taught me to sing through the darkness, that the only way through is through . . .

To read the rest of my story, come with me over to Mary DeMuth's site where I am honored to offer this as a guest post for her Thin Places series!

Mary is an insightful and prolific author whose work I have come to admire so much! Her own personal story, told in her book Thin Places, is one of soaring redemption after the heartbreak of childhood abuse. Mary knows the God of whom she speaks. In addition to her talent as a writer and her experience as a speaker, Mary is incredibly generous with her knowledge of the writing life.  Her newsletter and other resources you will find on her website are treasure troves of knowledge for any aspiring writer.

I am so grateful for the opportunity Mary is giving me today. I would love it if you would leave a comment over at her site!  Thank you!!

If you are facing some deep places in your life,
I pray that through this post you might
begin to see them as thin places where
close . . .

Sunday, April 10, 2011

From Whence This Beauty Springs


A patchwork of color captures my attention in my side view mirror as the road flows away like a grey river behind me. Day after day in the well-worn groove of my many trips on this road, I watch as the colors change and intensify. I keep thinking that I must come and take pictures in this spot before this scene as it is right now is gone. I don't know how many times I've taken pictures of seemingly permanent things, only to find that something unexpectedly changed and I would have missed it forever if I hadn't taken the shot when I did. Finally, on a suddenly sunny day after a string of storms, I follow through on those thoughts.

The scene from a distance and the scene up close, it is all so unspeakably beautiful to me. The colors, the textures, the complimentary nature of all the parts into one glorious canvas like something Thomas Kinkade would want to paint. What must be the nature of the exquisite Imagination from whence this beauty springs? Now THAT'S someone I want to know!

I am ever captivated by the beauty of creation. God's creation and the beauty He has put into His work speaks to me of Him as no scholarly treatise on theology or philosophy ever could. He lays His heart out for all to see in the works of His hands both great and small, and I must notice . . . I must stop and whisper, "Yahweh!"

I was recently asked a wonderful question about my faith, "What is so convincing to you [that you believe what you do]?" I could have gone the intellectual route and engaged in a debate-style layout of my case for faith, but the first thing that came rushing to my mind was, BEAUTY. The fact that there is beauty in the world and that we have the capacity to notice and appreciate it is incredibly compelling to me as evidence of an omnipotent and loving Designer-God.  There are an infinite number of convincing reasons to believe that God is real and that He is good--beauty is just one of my favorites!

Apart from God, beauty makes no sense!

I am often reminded of an episode of the TV show, Man vs. Wild. The intrepid host, Bear Grylls, was deep in a remote jungle somewhere that people (besides him) never go. It really touched my heart when this incredibly tough soldier-survivalist-adventurer stopped to marvel at what he called "the extravagance of God" when he saw a beautiful and exotic flower blooming in a place where on normal days, it would never be seen by anyone. He was right. God IS extravagant! God constantly creates beauty--completely unnecessarily I might add--because He IS beauty. He can not do other than to be beautiful, to make beautiful, to give beautiful, and I cannot in good conscience do other than to be grateful, to live . . . grateful . . . and BELIEVE!

"He has made everything beautiful in its time."

What do you find so convincing that you believe what you do?
Do you whisper "Yahweh" when His beauty touches your senses?

If you love this verse and the beauty of God as much as I do,
here is one of my cards you can use to share it with someone else!

Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Monday
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!
In the counting of the endless gifts I say with C. S. Lewis,
"This also is Thou!"


416. She So Sweet lending me her words to shore up my flagging spirits
417. An opportunity to consider questions of faith, knowing God's answers are good
418. Encouragement from a dear sister in Christ
419. She So Sweet, confident and full of praise, singing and playing bass for worship
420. That she is thoughtful and discerning, and can tell the truth from a lie
421. Playing vocal coach for Drummer Boy on his new song
422. Wet, slushy hail that bounced off the grass like popcorn
423. Watching She So Sweet ballroom dancing with her Daddy at her school's Open House--I didn't think he'd do it!
424. Drummer Boy's entry in a songwriting competition
425. Ecclesiastical "giants" who are willing to be my sounding boards 
426. Laughing into the wee hours while Drummer Boy burns off his late night Starbuck's drink--slept in 'til 10:00 and still only got 6 hours of sleep!
427. Photoshop--a veritable playground!!
428. Clouds that puffed taller than tall and blinding light that turned them all to silver
429. Good morning hugs and goodnight kisses
430. The glasses I wish I didn't need

Joining L.L. Barkat for:
On In Around button

Joining Michelle DeRusha for:

And for the first time, joining Laura Boggess for:

A heartfelt thank you to these generous bloggers
who make these communities available!

Monday, April 4, 2011

God in High Places


Standing atop the very spine of North America, the Continental Divide, I drink in the majesty of what for me, is an always-place.  This view, these rocks, this air runs through my life like a favorite melody that recurs again and again in a movie soundtrack.  It's a place I always seem to go back to, a place I never get tired of, a place I miss deeply when I'm far away.

High places are always like that for me. I have never met a mountain I didn't love--the higher and more jagged and snow-covered, the better.  Shimmering with an unearthly glory, mountains are rife with evidence of an all-powerful and monumentally grand Creator-God. I am only one of the more than 3 million people who visit these mountains in a year.  Whether they know it or not . . . whether they recognize Him or not . . . each and every one, in some way, feels God on those heights.

Ancient people felt God's presence on high places too. Sadly, though they felt Him on peaks and high mountain slopes in the land of the Bible, too many of them chose to put up asherah poles and places of worship to other "gods" instead.

What arrogance! What pride! Like beautiful Lucifer who wanted to elevate himself from an already high place of honor to the highest place, to the place of the Almighty, these people placed themselves too high.  These created ones created things with their own hands and set about to worship their own creations rather than the One who created them!! Have you ever witnessed greater folly? Have you ever seen a more devastating fall?

To stand on ground made holy by His beauty and power and pay tribute to anyone or anything other than the God who hallowed it was worse than spitting in God's face. It was a willful, purposeful act of rebellion and hatred toward God.

Paul taught that God has revealed so much of Himself and who He is through His creation, that "people are without excuse."  He went on in his letter to the church at Rome to say this:

" . . . they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshiped the god they made instead of the God who made them—the God we bless, the God who blesses us. Oh, yes!" Romans 1:25 MSG

It is impossible for me not to notice God in the high country--it is all holy ground to me . . . but are there other kinds of holy ground that I miss? Do I miss the holy ground in ordinary places on ordinary days?  Holy ground and holy moments are always bush-burning miracles that quietly ask us to investigate, to come closer, shoes off and hushed in reverence. Do I get distracted by the cares of life and fail to notice where I'm standing and the bushes that are burning?

May I never use holy ground to elevate anything or anyone but Yahweh! May I never build monuments to created things on high places meant for worshiping the One who created everything! May I always have eyes and heart open to notice and investigate the extraordinary presence of the God who breathes my name and sustains the life He created in me.
She So Sweet, my precious daughter who is about to turn 15, knew I was struggling with this post today--lots of interruptions had me fighting for coherent thoughts. She read what at the time was just fragments of what I had started and she wrote her own reflection in response--she is pure blessing to this Momma's heart--her writing brings me to holy ground . . . Enjoy!

How could they look at such an awe-inspiring sight, and not know that it was our Creator who composed the beauty that stood before them?

How could they stand watching a perfect flame set on the beautiful mountains, and not give all thanks to our impeccable God?

How can I stand and only focus on the horrific tragedies of this world, and forget to say, "Wow, Father. You are amazing," every day?

When I stand in altitudinous places such as those, I remember that I am His daughter. He created me. Me! He remembered me! He loves me! He does this for me!    ~~Ashtyn Friday~~

Where and how do you experience high places?

Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Monday
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!
In the counting of the endless gifts I say with C. S. Lewis,
"This also is Thou!"


401. Late night train whistle in the distance . . .
402. Mommy and Daddy sharing God's love with the world on YouTube!  How cool is THAT?! (Daddy's message is in two parts, moving from left to right)  

-- --

403. God's wisdom shared by His daughters (great morning at BSF)
404. Self-control--clearly the Fruit of the Spirit!
405. Lunch with fun friends
406. The balm of sleep when a migraine comes
407. Shout of joy in the morning when the migraine is gone!!
408. A phone conversation that felt constructive
409. Hero Husband taking me out to lunch--I really like being with him!!
410. Blank notebook paper
411. That our last name is Friday and not Monday! =)
412. Knowing what I believe and why I believe it
413. A brother-sister collaboration where they both have "a vision!"
414. The bittersweet sorrow-joy that came with the news that Hero Husband's Grandma woke up in heaven on this Sunday morning. Welcome home Grandma!
415. The 96 faithful years lived by sweet Fannie Gaines!

Joining L.L. Barkat for:
On In Around button

Joining Michelle DeRusha for:

A heartfelt thank you to these generous bloggers
who make these communities available!


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