Borrowed Thoughts

I was reading an interview with Kerri Caviezel (wife of Jim Caviezel who played Jesus in the Passion of the Christ) and her answer to the last question struck me as profound. In a few paragraphs she manages to sum up a lesson that I am continuing to learn about what it truly means to be in the moment with God and let everything else fall away. You can read the rest of the interview here. 

Q: What is the most valuable lesson you have learned?

A: We have this plan for our life—and it doesn’t include any of the challenges. And yet every life at some point, whether at the beginning, middle or at the end there is some challenge. Suffering is universal. What God asks—He puts us on earth at that special time for a special purpose—we have to be present in that moment, not in the past and not in the future.

And we can’t know these things are going to happen. If we did, we wouldn’t have accepted any of them. But He gives us the grace we need at the time we need and asks us to live in that moment. When I have done that I’ve seen amazing things happen.

We all think we’re supposed to do these amazing things—that they are valuable and important—whatever we’re doing at that time, like “when I get married,” or  “when I have a child.” We focus too much on what we think needs to happen and we lose what we’re supposed to do at that time.

We have three children we adopted. My husband and I used to say that if we had had three or four children like we thought, we might never have chosen to adopt. And we would say to each other, “Can you imagine not having them?” We cannot understand God’s plan for us. It’s too immense.

Just some food for thought.

This Christmas (is not what I expected it to be)

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The other day I was attempting to finish up my Christmas shopping. I had just returned home from a long drive back from college and wanted to try and avoid the day-before-Christmas crowds. Frazzled, tired, and going through a transition I set out to find a hooded sweatshirt since it was on my mother’s Christmas list. It had to be a zip-up sweatshirt with a hood that was in a lighter color than black. Should have been simple enough, right? Wrong.

After four stores, three parking lots, and a lot of sorting through jackets I was unable to find what I was looking for. Wandering aimlessly through the jackets at Sports Authority I was almost in tears because I could not find this impossible gift. A few hopeless minutes later I found myself in a store that sold calendars and purchased an NCIS calendar instead of a sweatshirt.

As I was buying the calendar I thought of something: the tighter I held on to my narrow set of expectations, the more frustrated I became. I was so caught up searching for something within such narrow, impossible parameters that I missed out on the bigger picture. I nearly walked past the calendar store because it was not in the plan. I let my unwillingness and, frankly, inability to think out of the box drag me down to a frustrated, sad place.

I feel like this series of events describes my holiday season. My dad had a stroke on Thanksgiving which threw everything off. To make matters worse, my mom managed to sprain her ankle pretty badly not long before he was supposed to be released from the rehab facility. I moved from Southern California back to Oregon which was an ordeal in and of itself as it left me home merely two days before Christmas Eve. Needless to say, I was not feeling the holiday cheer. Everything seemed to be falling apart around me. A state of frustration became my default as I found myself overwhelmed and disappointed. Nothing was turning out right.

Really, my definition of “right” was what was throwing everything off. My expectations of what Christmas was all about were wrapped up in the state of my family’s health, my own stress level, the presents I could purchase, and all of the things that I could do. Christmas became about me. Christmas was not what I wanted it to be and was therefore wrong.

Yet as I stood at the shopping counter buying that calendar I realized that I was missing the entire point of the holiday season. Somehow in the midst of all of the insanity I forgot the real point of Christmas. Christmas is not about me, or my family, or what I can possible do to make it a shiny, perfect holiday.

 It is about living in the light of a Messiah who came to earth as a baby and conquered through sacrifice.

When that becomes the center of the holiday suddenly everything else seems to work. I don’t know how it works. I don’t know how my sister managed to find a hoody the morning of Christmas Eve for a good price. I don’t know exactly how all the food got made or how my parents managed to be well behaved and cooperate with all of the family around. It all worked out.

The holiday wasn’t about everyone being in perfect health, or the food being gourmet, or all of the decorations being up, or even all of the gifts wrapped. It was about being together as a family to rest, if even for a moment, in the peace of Jesus Christ who came and died so that we could live.

Find peace in the love of Christ and let that be the center of your holiday, because when we do everything finds a way to fall into place. 

The Lion and the Lamb

I am bothered.

I’m currently taking a class on Revelation and there is one image that has stuck out to me. In the midst of all of the symbolism, the Old Testament references, and all of the insane imagery that Revelation uses there is one moment that I think sums up everything about this life I’ve chosen in Christ.

Revelation 5:1-7 (ESV):

Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. As I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?’ And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, ‘Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.’

 And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne.”

John is weeping because no one is able to open the scroll, which scholars believe is a symbol of God’s plan of redemption. Yet in the midst of his sorrow one of the elders around the throne calls out and declares that all is well, the Lion of the tribe of Judah can open the scroll! The Lion, the powerful kingly and conquering Messiah had arrived. All would be well because the Lion of Judah would decimate the enemies of His people and end suffering.

Excited at this prospect, John probably swung his head around sharply in order to catch a glimpse of this magnificent defender and conqueror.

Instead of a lion, however, he saw a slaughtered lamb.

The slaughtered Lamb is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of the house of David, the Messiah, and the conquering King.

You see, Jesus did not come to conquer with violence. He did not come to bring glory to himself and his people through blood and death. He conquers through suffering. He conquered through dying.

The implications of this are heavy and hard because our idea of glory in this life is not what the Bible makes glory out to be in the Kingdom of God. We conquer through suffering. We begin to model the Kingdom of God when we sacrifice ourselves humbly.

While evil still exists and Christ is still to come again, our call is to not glorify ourselves and our actions. We’re not called to prideful boasting in our own holiness. We also do not get a free pass from the suffering of the world just because we believe what we believe. We are called to pick up our cross daily, die to ourselves, and engage with the world from a place of humility because that is the model our savior laid out for us.

So now I’m bothered because this is both a beautiful revelation and a hard truth to swallow. There is no gospel of prosperity, Deuteronomistic theology holds no ground. We will not achieve glory, fame, and riches in this life. Rather, we will have to pour ourselves out like Jesus did and realize that we are here to serve even in our suffering.

Ouch.