Overflow Is No Deficiency

“Surely, it is no argument of [neediness] in God that he is inclined to communicate of his infinite fullness. It is no argument of the emptiness or deficiency of a fountain, that it is inclined to overflow.” – Jonathan Edwards

 

John Piper alerted me to this quote yesterday, in reference to why God, if He was perfect, complete, and utterly happy in Himself (the Trinity) decided to create the world and man. Piper highlighted the fact that when things are full, complete, good and joyous, the result is it overflows. It abounds. It’s uncontainable. When one is full, our good and right tendency is to share that fullness with others.

As Ransom and I prepare for our son to arrive, there have been those normal vacillating moments from elation all the way to fear of loss. Elation at the privilege to be designated by God as authorities and caretakers of this precious soul. Elation at the thought of meeting our little boy, knowing him, loving him, forgiving him, confessing to him, teaching him, learning from him, and the list goes on. But there is also this fear of a sense of loss in the sweet marriage relationship Ransom and I share. It won’t be “just us” anymore. My attention will be more divided now. There will be another man in my life (albeit, not prioritized as highly as Ransom) vying for my attention. Sometimes I feel like I don’t want the beloved intimacy Ransom and I share to change in any way. Can you catch the faint whiff of selfishness in there? It’s easy to miss and it’s only one layer in this complex heart, but what a joy it is to confess and repent those faint whiffs when the Spirit is gracious to reveal them!

BUT, God has used this quote to enter into that fear and smash it to pieces. If Ransom and I have experienced something good, joyous, full, and satisfying, shouldn’t it be our tendency, our delight to share it with children? It is good and right that our intimacy should extend to them. We want our fountain to be an overflowing, abundant one…not simply a “working” fountain.

I’m not saying that this fear (or other fears) won’t sound good to my heart anymore. But I have been encouraged that this new chapter of sharing the love Ransom and I have been gifted in our marriage, is good and right. This is the way God does relationship and I want to follow in His footsteps. It is a lovely reminder for my heart to settle into this metaphor and it’s a challenge to share open-heartedly, with welcome and abandon, the love we have with our son. Help me to do so, Lord. Amen!

The Cultured Artist

I share convicting things sometimes and basically 100% of the time those things are what I’ve been convicted of; they’re things I’m learning about. I read this C.S. Lewis quote today and immediately said, “YES, this is for me.” Maybe it’s for you too, beloved?

I consider myself an artist. I grew up loving the theater, literature, music, dance, journaling, scrapbooking, letter writing, decor and all things that move me to my emotional, relational, and spiritual core. I still love artistic endeavors dearly, as I see so much of my Maker in them. However, I’ve noticed how tempting it can be to make these good gifts into bad gods (props to David Powlison for that phrase). Yee-ayah DP! Sometimes art and artistry subtly and sneakily saunter their way to the top of the ladder of my heart. They become almost religion-like to me. C.S. Lewis articulately warns against this temptation, but also reminds me of the truth of what is infinitely more valuable than art:

“The Christian will take literature a little less seriously than the cultured Pagan…The unbeliever is always apt to make a kind of religion of his aesthetic experiences…and he commonly wishes to maintain his superiority to the great mass of mankind who turns to books for mere recreation. But the Christian knows from the outset that the salvation of a single soul is more important than the production or preservation of all the epics and tragedies in the world: and as for superiority, he knows that the vulgar since they include most of the poor probably include most of the superiors.”

-C.S. Lewis, “Christianity and Literature”

Surprise Snow

Ransom and I should have checked the weather before driving to Buffalo this Friday. But our judgment was “clouded” (I’m my Father’s punny daughter) because we had to run pre-Christmas errands, and we were dazed by the opportunity for a work break. Plus, it had been 60 degrees less than 5 days prior. We never expected a snowstorm.

Halfway there, the snow began. It was a beautiful addition to the gorgeous backdrop of north western NY. Large, lonely fields welcoming the white, silent fluffiness. The snow wasn’t menacing; magical and mesmerizing. It began to rekindle my hopes for a White Christmas.

We did our shopping thang, and by the end, my feet were aching from the boots I wore. #comfortoverfashionnexttime #ineverlearn. Finally we collapsed in the car, content with our bargains and buys, and began the 1.25 hour drive home. I groaned glancing at the dashboard clock to find it was way later than planned. And then, I neglected my navigating duties at the exact moment our exit passed by, setting us back an extra 15 minutes.

That’s when the snow started up again. Harder, heavier, and darker. This was a different kind of breed than earlier in the day, in the sunlight. I began reading a book aloud to distract us from the storm and to entertain Ransom. But soon, it became dangerous and we needed to turn the lights off for better night vision.

I was too nervous to keep reading anyway, although I sort of missed the safety I found in the world of our book. When I wasn’t reading anymore, I had to focus on the GPS, tracking the number of miles ’till home. There were still way too many for my liking.

It kept getting worse. The GPS took us back a different way than we came, through isolated back-roads. We’re still not sure why. We got stuck on an uphill, tires spinning. I tapped the accelerator as Ransom got out and pushed us up and over the hill.

We swerved around a turn and almost swung into a deep ditch. We were silent and about 30 seconds later Ransom said seriously, “I thought we weren’t going to make that turn.” We got stuck on another hill. No houses in site. We’re in the boonies, remember. 🙂 Ransom pushed us up the hill again. We moved as slowly as possible. A few cars whizzed past us (did they have snow tires?). We soon hit the 1.25 hour mark and we still had a long way to go.

It was treacherous. I prayed aloud a lot. I kept thanking God for getting us past the next hill, the next turn. I was suddenly amazed to find we were getting closer to home. But we had one more hurtle ahead of us. A long, steep downhill preceded our street. I would have preferred an uphill where Ransom could push us up. But we started down and we started to lose control of the car. It was steeper than we remembered. We were going to go down fast and we would probably start spinning, ending up who knows where down at the bottom. Thanks be to God, a driveway appeared and Ransom made a split-second decision to steer us into the direction of the driveway. Our car gained traction and we parked in a stranger’s long driveway.

At that point we were close enough to home to walk, so we left an apologetic note in their door, promising to pick up our car as soon as the storm let up. We gathered our things and walked home, arriving almost 3 hours later.

Phew. My adrenaline is pumping just remembering that anxious-ridden drive. But I want to express my thankfulness, beloveds. I am thankful for God’s protection. He kept us from danger countless times on that drive. I am thankful for my husband, Ransom. He stayed calm for the two of us, made wise decisions, and gave all he had (even brute force) to get us home. I am thankful for the life God has given us to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever. It’s experiences like these that help remind us just how small we are and how big He is. Just how out of control we are and how in control He is. We very well could have crashed at the bottom of the hill, if that was His will. But that doesn’t change the fact that even then, He is the same loving and caring God.* Ultimately, I am thankful God is the only refuge for our souls, our safe place, our eternal peace. Christ has and will ultimately silence the waves (and the snow), making it magical and mesmerizing again! Thank you God, for your Fatherly care on this life journey and for one day guiding us to home sweet home again.

snow falling

*Nancy Guthrie says this well-Jesus protects us from the Evil One and Judgment:

“The fact is, God cares more about our spiritual health than our physical health. Our bodies are going to die. Our souls are going to live forever. And God’s ability to protect our souls from eternal judgment and eternal death is more significant than his ability to protect our bodies from disease or death. Trapped in these bodies and in this time, it is hard for us to grasp. So in our prayer requests for safe travel and physical health, and in our more desperate prayers amid great difficulties, we try to apply to our bodies his promises of protection for our souls, and we’re left disappointed, accusing him of falling down on the job. But we will continue to be disappointed in him until our value system lines up with his, until we value the eternal life of our souls more than the limited life of our mortal bodies, until we understand that God’s primary agenda is kingdom building. It may cost us our very lives, and he is okay with that…

...God knows that you and I need protection from judgment, which is going to fall, flowing out of divine justice. So he sent us a Protector in the form of a vulnerable baby, a Savior who is no less than his own Son. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17). As we hide ourselves in the person and work of Jesus, we find shelter from the sure and certain judgment of the last day…

So can I expect God to protect me, and anyone devastated by a tragedy as big as Katrina? Absolutely! I’ve come to see that his “protection plan” is more vast and far-reaching than my shallow expectations once defined. I see now that God’s promises for protection go much deeper than protecting my body or my agenda or my plan for my life. I can rest easy. I’m protected.” –“Can I Really Expect God to Protect Me?” by Nancy Guthrie

 

Hymn Love- If Thou But Suffer God To Guide Thee!

God calls me to trust Him and lately I’ve been struggling to. #thestruggleisreal! But we sang this hymn at evening service tonight and the words have made my soul feel like this:

Beloveds, let us “be still and wait his pleasure.”

IF THOU BUT SUFFER GOD TO GUIDE THEE

If you but trust in God to guide you
and place your confidence in him,
you’ll find him always there beside you
to give you hope and strength within;
for those who trust God’s changeless love
build on the rock that will not move.

Only be still and wait his pleasure
in cheerful hope with heart content.
He fills your needs to fullest measure
with what discerning love has sent;
doubt not our inmost wants are known
to him who chose us for his own.

Sing, pray, and keep his ways unswerving,
offer your service faithfully,
and trust his word; though undeserving,
you’ll find his promise true to be.
God never will forsake in need
the soul that trusts in him indeed.

Holiest of Holy Days

On this holiest of holy days, we are transfixed by Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross…we can ponder but not fully comprehend the enormity of what happens this day…we are simultaneously dismayed and grateful: his torn flesh makes us whole, his bruises bring us healing, and his death gives us life. -Bobby Gross

God, who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly superfluous creatures in order that He may love and perfect them. He creates the universe, already foreseeing – or should we say ‘seeing’? there are no tenses in God – the buzzing cloud of flies about the cross, the flayed back pressed against the uneven stake, the nails driven through the mesial nerves, the repeated incipient suffocation as the body droops, the repeated torture of back and arms as it is time after time, for breath’s sake, hitched up. If I may dare the biological image, God is ‘host’ who deliberately creates His own parasites; causes us to be that we may exploit and ‘take advantage of’ Him.  Herein is love.  This is the diagram of Love Himself, the inventor of all loves. – C.S. Lewis

There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.
Lose all their guilty stains, lose all their guilty stains;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day;
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.
Washed all my sins away, washed all my sins away;
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.

Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood shall never lose its power
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.
Be saved, to sin no more, be saved, to sin no more;
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.

E’er since, by faith, I saw the stream Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.
And shall be till I die, and shall be till I die;
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.

When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.
Then in a nobler, sweeter song, I’ll sing Thy power to save,
I’ll sing Thy power to save,I’ll sing Thy power to save,
Then in a nobler, sweeter song, I’ll sing Thy power to save,

Lord, I believe Thou hast prepared, unworthy though I be,
For me a blood bought free reward, a golden harp for me!
’Tis strung and tuned for endless years, and formed by power divine,
To sound in God the Father’s ears no other name but Thine.

-William Cowper

Posting My First Paper!

It’s about time, since I’m going to graduate next month (ow ow)!

This was an easy peezy, short, and fun paper due today! The task was to share a non-scriptural resource that has impacted our lives and could be used in a counseling context. In fact, a blog post I wrote back in 2011 called “Jesus Everywhere” inspired my resource choice (you’ll see I copied parts of the blog post, though it doesn’t count as plagiarism since it was my own writing). 🙂 To get you in the mood, I thought I’d share this video. Enjoy!

 

In the spring of 2011, my family sat around the table eating pancakes for dinner. My sister asked if we had ever read The Giving Tree because the book came in the mail for her earlier that day. I wracked my brain trying to recall the moral of the story, or even just the mood. I knew of the famous children’s book. I am sure I read it at one time or another. The only thing I could remember was that distinctive cover: green, a tree towering over a little boy looking up at it. Not being able to withstand my ignorance any longer I said, “Story time.” I put down my syrupy fork and reached out for the book. I read the story aloud, showing pictures to my family like I would to a Kindergarten class. And my mind kept darting ahead, trying to predict Shel Silverstein’s ending. But it went in a more tragic direction than I had expected. The tree gives to the little boy throughout the years. First it’s her apples, but as the boy gets older he demands more and more of her, until she’s chopped down to a stump. And at last, when he’s an old man, she says she has nothing left to give. But then she realizes she does have something, and she invites him to sit on her stump to rest. “And the boy did. And the tree was happy. THE END.” Both Dad and I had silent tears. Who would have known that such a little book could conjure up such emotion? ”Jesus.” I said it again, “Jesus. For some reason this makes me think of Jesus.”

This story points to the God of Scripture and his relationship with us. First, as the tree delights to give to the boy, so God delights to give to his people. This reminds me of Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:11, “ If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” The lie Satan set loose in Eden was that God does not want good things for his children—Jesus’ words set the record straight. Secondly, every time the tree sees the boy and gives parts of herself, the narrator repeats, “and the tree was happy.” Does this not echo God’s exuberance and excitement over being in relationship with us? Zephaniah 3:17b affirms this, “…he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” In addition, like the boy, we are too busy. We pursue all the things he does- money, a wife and family, a house, and a boat. He hurt the tree to get what he wanted, and so we squander God’s grace in pursuit of worldly treasures. Though the tree suffered, she was still so excited to see the boy, and she loved him. The tree’s unrelenting love harkens back to the parable of the Prodigal Son where the Father (representing God the Father) runs out to the meet the wayward Son, even though the Son had greatly maligned him. What an unexpected and unhuman welcome!

Most powerfully, the tree gave all of herself to the boy (apples, branches and trunk) to the point that she had nothing left but a stump—yet even that she eagerly gave to the boy! Christ, too gave all of himself for us, even his very life. And he did that by “climbing up a tree,” a different tree, to suffer and die for us. Philippians 2:7-8 describes Christ’s sacrifice: “ but [Christ] emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Jesus emptied himself and died so we might live a glorious life and eternity with him. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13). That is the Giving Tree. That is Jesus.

This story surprised me by the powerful depiction of the nature of God’s love. His love is perfect and almost unfathomable. After our read aloud, I realized a lie had crept into my heart; the lie that God is distant and unforgiving. The Giving Tree compelled me to explore Scripture—was the tree’s unconditional love for the boy like God’s love for me? Does God delight in me that much, want me that much, is he willing to sacrifice everything, even though I’m such a sinner? The verses I mentioned are only a sliver of those I found proving God’s sweet and intense love for me. In all my sinful estate, God sacrificed what was most valuable to him, his perfect son, Jesus Christ, for my sake. “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). This truth, prompted by the story of The Giving Tree, changed me in that I strive and pray to be the “anti-boy.” Spending as much time with the tree as I can, cultivating thankfulness, and turning away from earthly treasures are a few ways I attempt to do that. Moreover, the selflessness of the tree and her rich love are held out as a beacon before me.

In conclusion, the most obvious counseling application is to read The Giving Tree to a child in order to explain God’s love to them. However, not only did the story touch my heart as a woman in her 20s, but it also touched a man in his 60s, my Dad. God can use anything, even a children’s book to share his truth. Read this story to any aged counselee when in need of demonstrating the extreme measures God has undergone in order to be in an intimate relationship with them. No matter how we have maligned God, his love is greater. Does that not burn a fire in our hearts, springing us into action? Does that not ignite within us a love to worship, serve, and please him? Let us live today in light of such sacrificial love, as servants of the Man on–now off–the Tree.

Let’s Be Vigorous Writers

“Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences…This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.” -W. Zinsser, On Writing Well: The classic guide to writing non-fiction

You Welcome All Who Come to You, though You Never Lost Them

Be blessed beloveds, in thinking on Him. There’s not much better we could meditate on.

“What, then, is the God I worship?…You, my God, are supreme, utmost in goodness, mightiest and all-powerful, most merciful and most just. You are the most hidden from us and yet the most present among us, the most beautiful and yet the most strong, ever enduring and yet we cannot comprehend you. You are unchangeable and yet you change all things. You are never new, never old, and yet all things have new life from you. You are the unseen power that brings decline upon the proud. You are ever active, yet always at rest. You gather all things to yourself, though you suffer no need. You support, you fill, and you protect all things. You create them, nourish them, and bring them to perfection. You seek to make them your own, though you lack for nothing. You love your creatures, but with a gentle love. You treasure them, but without apprehension. You grieve for wrong, but suffer no pain. You can be angry and yet serene. Your works are varied, but your purpose is one and the same. You welcome all who come to you, though you never lost them. You are never in need yet are glad to gain, never covetous yet you exact a return for your gifts. We give abundantly to you so that we may deserve a reward; yet which of us has anything that does not come from you? You repay us what we deserve, and yet you owe nothing to any. You release us from our debts, but you lose nothing thereby. You are my God, my Life, my holy Delight, but is this enough to say of you? Can any man say enough when he speaks of you? Yet woe betide those who are silent about you! For even those who are most gifted with speech cannot find words to describe you” (23). – Augustine’s Confessions

Economy Destroyed by the Love Lavisher

More and more God’s revealing to me my economical bent. I like to keep things even. Get a tally board. Keep track! I want to see my earnings! You give me a gift, I’ve got to write you a thank you note, or at least give you a thank you hug. You invite me over, now I’ve got to invite you over. Gah, what an endless cycle! Fun gets sucked out of it all because my earnings never measure up, and a balanced scale one moment can surprisingly become imbalanced the next.

For my birthday this January, I was given a surprise party like none other. I had no clue what my party planning friends were up to (they were sneaky mcsneakersons)! It’s impossible to describe all the delightful minutes of that night, but I’ll say this: not only was it a rockin’ party, but it was full of everything I love. All my friends and family (mom and dad came and lauren and mark sent videos) put on a show, performing some of my favorite musical numbers! All my favorite foods were in attendance (pizza n’ twizzlers- don’t judge) and they had me teach some Zumba dances. Basically, it was a night where people participated in things I love, not because they necessarily loved those things (it’s super scary to go up in front of people and perform) but because they loved me. How overwhelming. I sat in the audience, the receiver of such love, shaking my head in incredulity. Again, I don’t deserve this, so what could I do? Nothing but receive. I laughed heartily at my silly, amazing beloveds. And it was as if God had gotten a megaphone and yelled out across the mountaintops and the seas and all the houses over all the villages, that He loved me. With that resounding yell, my carefully measured scales were dashed to the ground.

What is more amazing is that I’m not alone in this undeserved party. No, no, God’s turning our personal economies upside-down right and left. God’s love for all of us is literally out of control. Wait, so love keeps no record of wrongs?! Do we realize he’s not keeping records, balances, or clothing us in stained attire? All of it is literally wiped away because of Christ. I’ve heard that 1 Cor. 13 passage before, but are we getting that truth into our everyday lives?

That’s where Ephesians 1:4 blows me away: “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” Before we walked around and started being awesome or making mistakes, God chose us. It was nothing we performed or achieved to deserve God’s love. He just chose us before the creation of the world. If that doesn’t chip away at our innate works righteousness, I don’t know what will.

I’ll end with a vignette that personally answers my question above, “…are we getting that truth into our everyday lives?” The answer for me is, “Slowly but surely.” Today, when I looked inside my school mailbox, I was pleasantly surprised to find a york peppermint pattie there. I love york peppermint patties! Who doesn’t? This was my thought process that immediately followed: “Yay, chocolate! That’s so sweet. Wait, who gave it to me? No name. It’s an anonymous gift. Wow, that’s cool. Is it for me? Maybe it’s a mistake. No, I’m going to assume it’s for me. But wait, I want to thank them! Aw man, I can’t write them or text them or thank them now. I owe someone, and I don’t know who that someone is.” I started to get frustrated when the Spirit pricked me. The reality is I definitely don’t deserve a york peppermint pattie, and yet a kind person decided to lavish me with love by giving me one. No strings attached. So I will receive, and give thanks to my God. For he is the original love lavisher, and he is teaching me to joyfully receive with a thankful and humble heart. Oh how the gospel turns our world upside down! Thank you, my Father, for your megaphone loud love, for family and friends who put on such a surprise party, for the york peppermint pattie, and for Christ who was weighed and found wanting so that I would be weighed and found “nothing wanting.”

A blessed Ash Wednesday to you all.

(linking up at www.quitetheblog.com/)