forty.

40.

It feels like just a number, it feels like “the new 30,” it feels like I was just 20 and I still think I am. But the Psalmist says, “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

Wisdom is to look that number right in the face and recognize: my years on earth are numbered, and they are fleeting. How will I live them?

This morning I ponder that, and my heart is stirred by the favorite scriptures that shaped me so many years ago, gave direction to my steps and fire to my soul. The grace of God in my early life looked like amazing men and women, among whom my parents stand out as chief, who lived and spoke these truths with zeal in their eyes and passion in their hearts. That living Word was passed on to me as treasure and life.

And so I share these today — a few passages and a song — because I am challenged again to live in the fear of the Lord, laying hold of wisdom for the next leg of my race. Maybe they will stir you afresh, too.

“But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3)

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12)

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” (Colossians 3)

All I once held dear, built my life upon
All this world reveres and wars to own
All I once thought gain I have counted loss
Spent and worthless now, compared to this

Knowing You, Jesus
Knowing You
There is no greater thing
You’re my all, You’re the best
You’re my joy, my righteousness
And I love You, Lord

Now my heart’s desire is to know You more
To be found in You and known as Yours
To possess by faith what I could not earn
All-surpassing gift of righteousness

Knowing You, Jesus
Knowing You
There is no greater thing
You’re my all, You’re the best
You’re my joy, my righteousness
And I love You, Lord

Oh, to know the power of Your risen life
And to know You in Your sufferings
To become like You in Your death, my Lord
So with You to live and never die
(All I Once Held Dear, Robin Mark)

If you read one thing this year…

I’ve written before about my [relatively new] reading strategy, and as is usual for January, I’m charging ahead with guns blazing because there are no gardens to distract me.

But what has gone without saying, but actually needs to be said, is that the first (and often last) reading I do each day is the most important, the most life-changing, and non-negotiable. I’m talking, of course, about the Bible.

I’m writing this because I have been recently prompted by the Holy Spirit to start taking in the Word as quickly as I can, and I want to say it is so good. I’m writing this because I see and hear a generation completely divorced from a godly anchor trying to piece together a scaffold of truth based on experience and feeling. I’m writing this because we make excuses — we all do — but it’s all just silly when compared to necessity of knowing and walking according to His Word.

The Word of God is for all seasons. I don’t just mean that its truth endures to all generations — which it does. I mean it’s for your seasons. I’ve done read-through-the-Bible plans in high school. I’ve spent months poring over the Psalms. I’ve spent months with the same 3×5 card in my back pocket, a snippet of Scripture scribbled on it and committed to not just memory, but meditation. I’ve washed dishes with a card taped to the window in front of me. I’ve taken forever to just get through the New Testament with a new baby and toddlers but giving up wasn’t an option. I’ve studied one word or topic for weeks, mining for meaning and truth to stand on. I’ve read in quiet and I’ve read amidst chaos. I’ve read my trusty, falling-apart NASB, and I’ve read every modern translation and paraphrase. I’ve quoted the same two passages of scripture every single morning for months and months. Taking in the Word of God may look different from season to season, but take it in.

It is daily bread. Have you read through the whole Bible — ten years ago? Did you memorize entire books — 15 years ago? Do you know that scripture because you heard it once — somewhere in some sermon? Yes, we build upon those things, but we don’t stop there. The Word is meant to feed us, shape us, transform us. That happens day by day, as we yield our souls and circumstances to its scrutiny, allowing it to the standard by which we live.

You need to know the Word to live by the Word. This seems so basic, but as we were memorizing Psalm 119:105 last week (Your Word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.), I pointed out that that verse challenges us to a heart posture toward the Word, but it also leaves an obvious implication: we need to know the Word. We are bombarded by ideas and worldviews (and much of that we invite via our phone, only to then make excuses about how we don’t have time to read the Bible), but are we equipped to “[cast] down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ”? We make decisions all day long about our actions, words, feelings, thoughts, and use of time. Is His Word really the lamp that illuminates those paths?

You don’t need to be a scholar. I bet you won’t understand everything you come across in scripture. Some of it will leave you with questions, and some of it will just leave you not even sure you were reading in English. Sometimes you’ll read something that just plain old rubs you the wrong way. Don’t stop reading. As I read recently, “Even if you don’t know what to do with the Word, the Word knows what to do with you.” Remember, it’s living and powerful. It will not return void. It is life-giving seed.

Here’s a challenge I embraced last summer that absolutely blew me away: Set a time for ten minutes. Morning, noon, evening — whatever is your jam. For those ten minutes, read. Don’t check your notifications. Don’t wonder how hot it will be today. Don’t jot down to-dos. Don’t add to your instacart order. Just read for ten minutes. (If you’re like me, you will suddenly realize that you severely lack discipline. WOW.) In one month, you will be astounded by how much scripture you have consumed! It’s very fun and very motivating.

Another challenge: next time you’re wanting to learn about something, don’t buy a book on it. Do a Bible study on it! There is every tool you could possibly need, available for free on the ol’ internet. Not sure how to start or what to do? I’d be happy to help get you started. I’m no expert, but that’s the point: you don’t have to be!

Last: some scripture, which puts excitement in my soul and conviction in my heart. We need to know the Word.

Thus says the Lord:
“Heaven is My throne,
And earth is My footstool.
Where is the house that you will build Me?
And where is the place of My rest?
For all those things My hand has made,
And all those things exist,”
Says the Lord.
“But on this one will I look:
On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit,
And who trembles at My word. (Isaiah 66)

Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path. (Psalm 119)

The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
Yea, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
Moreover by them Your servant is warned,
And in keeping them there is great reward. (Psalm 19)

Your words were found, and I ate them,
And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart;
For I am called by Your name,
O Lord God of hosts. (Jeremiah 15)

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (James 1)

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3)

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. (Joshua 1)

repentance: a gift

Repentance is a gift.

I’ve been thinking about that lately, after praying with several carrying the weight of failure on their shoulders.

Falling short — that’s something we all do. We know, deep in our hearts, the standard of a holy God. Made in His image, our hearts imprinted with a moral code we did not write, we struggle in our brokenness to hit a mark light years beyond our own ability.

Individually, we pledge to not raise our voices so much. Say no to that cookie. Read more books out loud. Compost and recycle. Look better, do better, be better. Corporately, we convince ourselves that if we just rewrite the penal code, if we just hand out more tax dollars, if we just add one more layer of accountability, if we just outlaw this, that, and the other…

And still, we’re a mess.

Because yes, we fall short.

Enter: the gift of repentance.

Romans tells me that, for me, one who has believed in Christ, been purchased with His blood, whose life is hidden in Him, there is therefore now no condemnation.

And it’s not that there’s a free pass to sin. Nor is there a promise that I will now have a sinless life. But rather, my failure no longer can torment me with the whispers and weight of condemnation. It does not own me. I can repent. I have access, in every moment, to the throne room of God, and when I lift my eyes and my heart, I find grace to help in time of need.

The enemy of my soul wants to make the most of those failures. Hold me there, convince me that not only have I failed, but that failure is my name, my identity. His whispers become shouts in my soul until I’m carrying the weight of not only my failure, but condemnation, too, and I am convinced there is no way out.

Not true. There is repentance.

I will stumble. I will. I will raise my voice, I will snap under pressure, I will eat the stupid cookie, I will cave to selfishness and pride. The things I don’t want to do, I will find myself doing. (Romans 7.) But in those moments of failure, I can find immediate freedom through repentance. I can name the sin, repent, and turn away — and be free.

Condemnation has no place operating in my life any longer. I am not condemned; I am redeemed.

Today, find freedom — not in perfection, but in repentance. Grab a hold of His hand, reaching out to you in every moment, drawing you further along in the good work He began and has promised to complete.

Jesus, my portion, + photos

O Lord, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup;
You maintain my lot.
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Yes, I have a good inheritance.

My life, made by Him and for Him, is not my own. Not that such yieldedness comes naturally — oh, no. Far from it. We come into this world grasping and grabbing, and we grow into goals and certain assumptions. Clinging to days that we know slip like sand, the idea of letting someone else dictate our moments can be frightening, maddening, unclear.

And yet, there is this treasure to be found: life in Him, for Him.

You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

He calls us to Himself, calls out of us gifts and purposes, calls us into abundance.

Life seldom goes exactly as planned — by us, anyway. What freedom and peace to understand that His plans are good and His path firm.

Day after surrendered day, threaded together. Moments faithfully lived, stewarded and not hoarded. And suddenly, instead of being a statement of sheer faith, you look back and exclaim, “the lines have fallen to me in pleasant places!” Not always easy places, but oh, full of His presence and blessing. Joy and sorrow, mountain top and valley, tribulation and triumph — all made pleasant because He is our inheritance.

And so, more than ever, I declare that my boundaries — the lines of my life — belong to Him. He expands them, time and again, a greater territory than I feel up to. Responsibility, testing, even blessing — can I do this? Can we do this?

Yielding to His boundaries, and not clinging to my own life, is only the beginning of the faith He calls me to. Now there is a vast field, a harvest to come in, a wealth of treasure to steward, and there is little old me. Trust Me, He whispers, as I wake each morning to nothing fancier than a pencil and paper turned to to-do list. It is I who work in you both to will and to do for My good pleasure.

Will it always look the way we anticipated? Turn out exactly the way we assumed? Will His timeline for fruitfulness match our estimation? No. But our lives are yielded to Him, not to a formula. And so this yielding isn’t just about His plans and purposes on the earth, but about us knowing Him, trusting Him, loving Him. What fellowship He invites us into! This notion of losing our lives in Him — it truly isn’t about loss at all, but gain. Great, great gain.

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.

He stills the tumult

This morning, as we add “fever-pitch fight over empty Supreme Court seat” to the uproar that already is 2020, I am settled by the profundity of this thought: Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.

A promise.

And our God is a promise-keeping God.

As my soul churns afresh, I glance up to see the first traces of pink lace the sky. Within minutes, there is brilliance bursting from the horizon, a yet-hidden sun declaring its coming. I am struck: He is able to oversee all the affairs of men. He graces my life with perfectly formed flowers, the warming nourishment of wholesome food, the knitting of a form within my womb, the growing of young men, moments alone with my best friend and a man I so deeply admire, candlelit mornings, distant Adirondack peaks breaking through fog, and mornings gloriously shouting of new mercies and omnipotent reign.

“By awesome deeds You answer us in righteousness, O God of our salvation,
You who are the trust of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest sea;
Who establishes the mountains by His strength,
Being girded with might;
Who stills the roaring of the seas,
The roaring of their waves,
And the tumult of the peoples.
They who dwell in the ends of the earth stand in awe of Your signs;
You make the dawn and the sunset shout for joy.”
(a portion of Psalm 65; go read the rest!)

hope in this broken place.

There’s a song on repeat here at our house — if it’s not playing through a speaker, it’s rumbling in my heart. Over and over, I hear,

“Do you feel the world is broken? [We do.]”

Broken and breaking. Dark and growing darker. It is.

“Is all creation groaning? [It is.]
Is a new creation coming? [It is.]
Is the glory of the Lord to be the light within our midst? [It is.]
Is it good that we remind ourselves of this? [It is.]”

Is it good that we remind ourselves of this?

Oh yes, so much yes. We aren’t to just hold hands and hunker down, but we’re to stir one another with a word of faith, a declaration of His Lordship, a bold confidence that of His Kingdom and increase there will be no end.

“Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, ‘Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!'” Psalm 2

Tumults rising all around. Lightning and hurricane winds from above, surging waves threatening to swallow from below. The tragedies and evil and violence I can see with my eyes — eyes that can barely believe what’s before them, eyes that turn away, weeping, before the video has a chance to play. Dangerously deceptive whispers pulling us under, luring us with words that sound true but whose motives are nothing less than bondage and rebellion to the King. This is not a time to pull up anchor, to throw in your lot with whatever wind may blow. This is when Truth matters — Truth that exists outside of time, outside of experience, outside of culture and personal preference. Truth that is found in the Word who existed from the beginning. This is when Love matters — Love personified in Christ, the Love that God is, Love that warns of destruction and points to sin and bondage and then delivers no matter the cost. These are not words that can be redefined, for they find their source in a God who was and is and is to come. He is a roaring Lion of justice. He is jealous for His own. He is establishing His Kingdom — a reign of peace that will know no end. He alone has the words of life, and there is One Way of rescue. He does not change. We find our footing by turning to Him, not by looking within ourselves. Every nation, tribe, and tongue finds hope and deliverance in Him.

“Is the glory of the Lord to be the light within our midst? [It is.]
Is it good that we remind ourselves of this? [It is.]”

May we be rooted in Him, His Word richly dwelling within our hearts, His Spirit flowing like living water through us to a weary, harassed, broken world. His glory is the light that will penetrate this darkness.