So you can come along

A girl with stories

Helmet Child June 4, 2017

Filed under: Discipleship,Nerdy Thoughts — Amanda Lynn @ 7:31 pm
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Would you consider yourself a protective person? Pretty chill until someone messes with one of your people and then you’re up in arms? About wanting to keep someone from any perceived threat?

Protecting others can be tricky.

I want to tell you a story about a kid who wore a helmet when her parents discovered she was a bit too clumsy, accident, prone curious for the average toddler.

What if they hadn’t put the helmet on her? And instead they had put her in fences of a play pin with only a 4×4 space to explore? Or what if they used a “child safety tether” (read: leash) instead?

There she was, the kid with a helmet whose dad pulled her back from walking in distractedly in front of a few buses. The same kid sneaky watched an episode of E.R. behind the parents (who were totally obsessed) circa 1996. In that episode, they highlighted the genocide in Rwanda and she decided then and there, tears and all, that she was going to have to go to Africa. That same kid’s parents stood at security and hugged her off to India, then to her long-awaited Africa, then to her graduate school where they couldn’t put a helmet on her to keep her from bearing the burdens of others. That same kid was drawn to jobs like emergency rooms, safe houses for abuse victims, crisis hotlines and talk-you-off-the-ledge type jobs.

What if her parents took their job as protector to mean they needed to fence her in, not let her get in over her head, not let her try something she might fail at? How much sheltering is helpful and what role does trust play in all of it?

The bounds of protection in spiritual terms maybe look something like this. Do my spiritual leaders make sure I have a helmet on and then let me free or do they build 4×4 fences and say these are the boundaries in which God is known and experienced.

Is the helmet of salvation enough? What’s the Body’s role in protecting each other? What about under-shepherds?

From the experiences I’ve had and the lives of mentors I bear witness to, I see that sometimes protecting brothers or sisters in Christ means knowing the Lord is just as present in our questions as He is in our answers. The urge to protect another spiritually should always be checked by the Spirit of God and aligned with scripture.

If we aren’t careful, we see members of the Body being crippled and stunted in the name of spiritual protection. The goal cannot be to keep others from any and all suffering. Prayers for safety are much more prolific than are prayers for growth and the glory of God is what I’m sayin’.

The word “suffer” is from the Latin and literally translates ‘to bear under’. Suffering is something that we are promised in scripture if we are His.

 

In this world you will have trouble,

but take heart!

I have overcome the world.

::  John 16:33 ::

 

I don’t know about you, but I have never hand-picked my own genre of suffering. It is out of our control and that alone causes us to suffer for lack of trust. This means we are bearing under that which is out of our control. In this, it’s more than the fact that we can’t take the actual trouble; we can’t seem to handle not having total control of it and/or be self-sufficient. This is the very thing Christ came to redeem. Suffering urges our hearts to surrender so that we can more intimately identify with our Lord gaining wisdom and giving God the glory!

But what if we think protecting other believers means keeping them from all suffering? Too often, we (I) want to rescue others from God-ordained suffering too soon. OR step in an attempt to protect another believer and so direct them away from the opportunity to be stretched in their faith.

Praise God that those who have protected me have not stolen me away from the joy of my suffering and the growing of my faith for fear that I may be hurt in the process. I pray my brothers and sisters in Christ have the same story to tell when it comes to our friendship.

It’s taking part in trusting others to come into my suffering that invites strength in the body. This strength is not like the world’s as it doesn’t toughen up, rather it leaves room for more vulnerability. This is the type of suffering in community that helps me in the fight to keep a soft heart!

 

My clumsiness adventurous spirit hasn’t changed much since I was learning to walk (i.e. I half fell/half walked out of a restaurant earlier this week), but I’m so thankful for physical and spiritual protectors who trust the Spirit’s work in my life. Whose ultimate goal was to see me grow and not to see me safe. I’ll keep that spiritual helmet on and am thankful beyond words for it. Let’s be careful to examine our spiritually protective instincts and remember we have a Father who is sovereign in the details.

 

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
    you hold my lot.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
    in the night also my heart instructs me.
I have set the Lord always before me;
    because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
    my flesh also dwells secure.
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
    or let your holy one see corruption.

 You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

:: Psalm 16:5-11::

 

Crisis Response for Children May 23, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amanda Lynn @ 5:05 pm

Flipping through channels on the evening news, scrolling through social media, tuning into your local radio station…reports of violence or threats of violence are not far from us at any time. As adults, we see the media reporting the events of the last twenty-four hours and we have a variety of emotional and even physical responses. Your children are doing the same and are turning to you as their support to process what they witness. Below are some tips to help you navigate these delicate and vital conversations.

 

1. Limit media exposure
As stated above, the media has never been more readily accessible to us. We have wonderful tools for being up to date on current events, but these also provide inappropriate access to events too intense for children to handle. It is impossible and unhealthy to shield our children from all violence and negativity, but we need to filter these developmentally. It is important to be aware of what your child is exposed to in order to be the source of their processing questions or concerns.
2. Be open and receptive to their response.
Your child can trust you to be the safest place to bring questions, fear, anxiety and other responses to witnessing trauma. Although these are difficult for parents to hear from their children, it is important not to give into the temptation to distract or avoid these intense discussions and “just move on”. Giving our child an outlet to express concerns and ask questions is pivotal to their process. It is important for your child to know their responses are normal and that their compassion and empathy are valued.
3. Let them see you react.
Children are the best imitators the world will ever know. They will model what they see in the people they trust the most. Try during this time to keep routines as normal as possible as crisis events can evoke a sense of uncontrolled chaos for your child. Come to conversations with your children as a support after you have had time to process your own crisis response. Share answers or information that is developmentally appropriate for your child and be prepared to say, “I don’t know” when appropriate. Modeling with your words and actions how to respond to crisis is the most effective way to reach your child.
4. Look for the light
As we acknowledge the darkness, the important aspect of this process is seeing the light in contrast. Make sure to spend time with your children acknowledging all the helpers and first responders as compared to the one person doing the harm. Put an emphasis on the effects of those who provide help, comfort and healing in the midst of difficult times. Let them see you praying for the victims and their families and trusting God to be God knowing we are not. Share stories of when God worked an event for good. When it looks like the bad guys are winning it just means the story is not over yet.
5. Remember that love is the surest way to drive out fear.
If your child’s response is anger or asking what they can do to “fight the bad guys”, remember that loving others defies hate and violence. A normal response to an event like a terrorist attack is anger and generalization. Children may associate an isolated event with all large gatherings of people and the assign violence to an entire people group based on the actions of a few. Parents do well to treat isolated events as isolated and not generalize anxiety or fear responses to all similar events or people groups.

 

*Resources for you and your child*
Children’s books for addressing crisis events can be helpful to process reactions. A couple that have allowed children to explore their emotional responses are;
A Terrible Thing Happened by Margaret M. Holmes and Sasha J. Mudlaff
“This book is meant for children who have witnessed or endured a traumatic experience. Sherman, the protagonist of the story, witnesses an unspecified, horrible thing and begins to have stomach aches and nightmares. He keeps his scary story bottled up, and it affects the way he feels and interacts with others. When his teacher Ms. Maple encourages him to share his emotions, Sherman learns that he can recount what he saw and that talking to a trusted adult can make him feel better.”
Jenny Is Scared: When Sad Things Happen in the World by Carol Shuman
“Shuman’s story begins the conversation between child and caregiver about how to maintain one’s sense of well-being in a challenging world. The book is for young readers who fear violence or terrorism, and focuses on providing them with both short-term and long-term coping mechanisms…”

 
Please seek professional assistance if your child does not seem to be coping well and/or is exhibiting ongoing behaviors such as;
o Trouble falling/staying asleep, nightmares or other sleep disturbances
o Lack of or significant change in appetite
o Complaints of headaches, stomach-ache or fatigue
o Social regression with peers or increased separation anxiety
o Common fears are heightened or intensified

You can contact us at Genesis Christian Counseling LLC at 314-801-7995 to talk to a caring professional to come alongside you and your child in a difficult time.

 

Life or Death and Butterfly Tiles May 4, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amanda Lynn @ 3:15 pm
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It was just another Sunday evening when I was in a room with a dozen counselors answering hundreds of calls coming in from people hurting and not knowing what else to do.

“Crisis line, this is Amanda. How may I help you?”

Starting in January 2015, I spent two nights each week  that year as a “crisis intervention clinician” which is fancy speak for being a crisis response counselor.

 

                                       Crisis: noun [krahy-seez]: Latin: 1375 A.D. krī́nein to decide, separate, judge

  •   stage in a sequence of events at which the trend of all future events, especially for better or for worse, is determined; a turning point.
  • condition of instability or danger leading to a decisive change
  • point in a story at which hostile elements are most tensely opposed to each other.
 

Sometimes, their crisis was deciding whether to live or die, whether to stay with him or leave and report their injuries, whether to go through with the pregnancy or not. Sometimes they were looking for a place to sleep that night or some food they wouldn’t have to steal and sell their dignity for.

Sometimes, their crisis was needing to hear someone say, “I hear you. I’m here.” And the only way they knew to hear it was to call our line.

More often than not, there were lots of crisis moments leading up to the moment they decided to give us call. There was the moment they visited the church to see if someone would notice (they didn’t) and that moment they smiled at the person on the sidewalk and that person scowled back, that moment they tried calling their brother and he didn’t pick up, the moment the all the kids at school declared them “other”. These are the moments

What I heard was that someone’s day was easily shaped by a smile, a kind word, someone taking the time to really hear them to see them.

We don’t realize how often things really are life or death.

 

 ********

During the winter of that year my other job as a counselor in a private practice finds me fielding the phone call every counselor dreads. I needed to go a hospital for children because a child is considering whether to choose life or death. In her eyes, death doesn’t look as bad as life does. She and I discuss a safety plan and a life worth living between conversations about her needing new chap stick and stressing about the homework she was missingShe confessed this desire to end it all was mostly about wanting her parents to see her, to love her for who she is and not who they want her to be.  She was serious about taking her life, but would have traded it all to have a conversation with her dad where no one yells.

In a way, words had driven this girl to where we were. Words and the lack thereof. The hospital was there to keep her safe from herself. And words were her way out. She has to say she won’t do it. She could simply speak against death. She merely had to say she’d “follow up with her treatment plan”.

And as all the words were said, I looked up and there were butterflies painted on the ceiling tiles.

Life and death were hanging in the balance. In a children’s hospital. Under butterfly tiles.

 

 ******

Proverbs 18 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death” and boy is that true!

 

But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.

:: Matthew 12:36 ::

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

:: James 1:19 ::

Anxiety weighs down the heart,
but a kind word cheers it up.
:: Proverbs 12:25 ::
Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.
:: Colossians 4:6 ::
Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.
:: Psalm 141:3 ::
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
:: Ephesians 4:29 ::
********

I think it’s no small thing that the Lord is known by the name, “The WORD of God”, that the Word says “In the beginning was the Word” and that the Word SPOKE creation into beginning when it could have gone down any kind of way He chose. He chose to create all things by using His words. He will bring all things to a glorious close by the word of his mouth.  Words are significant to the God who created you and me.

We are created in the image of God and speak to those created in His image. No word is too small to matter. Whether our words are spoken on stages or in living rooms, conference rooms or college dorms…they hold weight. They are either forming us into the image of Christ or belittling His image in others or in ourselves.

Eugene Peterson once said,

“The metaphors Jesus used for the life of ministry are frequently images of the single, the small, and the quiet, which have effects far in excess of their appearance: salt, leaven, seed. Our culture publicizes the opposite emphasis: the big, the multitudinous, the noisy.”

 

We may believe the everyday way we spend our time, who we choose to smile at, which words we choose to say and which we don’t, are all just little insignificant things…ordinary.

It is ingrained in us that we have to do exceptional things for God—but we do not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things of life, and holy on the ordinary streets, among ordinary people—and this is not learned in five minutes.

:: Oswald Chambers ::

 

These moments or ordinary life are points of collision for souls whose ideas about life or death are being shaped in every moment. Some are approaching the tipping point with each passing day and some of those people are you reading this. When was the last time you really felt like someone heard you, really heard you? When is the last time you really listened to someone else?

 

Looking back on those crisis calls and that first time in a children’s hospital with a suicidal girl…and every difficult “Visitor’s Pass” clad arrival to a hospital since….there are moments of crisis that don’t just spring up on a random Tuesday. These are mountains of hurt on top of each other that were built one stone at a time. Words said or unsaid. Words heard or unheard. The good news is that we can be part of lifting the weight off by choosing our words with the precision they deserve and with taking the minutes we have to hear someone with no agenda but to hear them.

 

The little girl under those butterfly tiles is about to be marking two years since that day and has put in a ton of work to get where she is. Her fight isn’t over yet, but there is hope with each day that passes. She just ROCKED out her college entrance exams!

My pastor says, “Every miracle begins with a problem.” The way I see it, there are front row seats to miracles all around us if we take the time to see them and listen.

 

Questions We Ask April 29, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amanda Lynn @ 11:56 am

How often have you been in a classroom, Sunday school room, or even a court room? One room might feel a whole lot like the other depending on the questions asked. Questions carry with them possibilities in these places and in general. The whole concept of a question is a request to know information. Sometimes though, statements and accusations carrying shame parade as questions. The questions we ask can often answer much more about who we are than they do about the one being asked. Questions can open windows to let cool, fresh air into hidden places and they can also slam a cell door full of shame and regret so fast it’d make your head spin. The questions we ask are key to the answers we get.

 

Have you ever been asked a question that stuck with you? For better or worse, questions can shape our days, our weeks and even our lives.
“Who do you think you are?”
Or
“Can I tell you about a love so powerful, it is willing to die in your place?”
Or
“Will you marry me?”

 

The way we ask, can change the answer and invite real dialogue rather than a lecture. Some examples of this in my own life look like…
“What is prayer like for you?” instead of “Have you been doing a quiet time every day?”
Questions easily answered with “yes” or “no” don’t always cultivate real conversations.
“Would you tell me what it’s like when you read the Word?” is a lot different than “Did you read the Bible today?”
One is about the process of how the Word can never return void, is living and active and ready to move in our hearts and lives. The other is a lot more like a check-list that supports the “good girl”. If she can answer with a simple “yes” and move on, then all is right with the world. The first is more about what the Word is doing in us than it is about us at all. When I am asked the former, I am invited into a deeper discussion where grace is found. When I am I asked the latter, I am told via question that I should continue to try harder, be better and do more.
Some questions I have been asked that shaped my life and the way I view discipleship, friendship and relationships in general are…

  • Where is your worth coming from? Who? What?
  • Where/when are you most or least aware of His presence?
  • What are you placing your trust in most?
  • Has your view of who God is changed because of ______?
  • What do you desire now more than anything else?

 

These questions for me, were steeped in grace and weren’t ever graded on a scale of “right or wrong”. The only thing that would’ve made them wrong was if they were answered perfunctorily or dishonestly.
Looking at the questions Christ asked while on earth, they often were answered with another question because they weren’t always “normal”. Sometimes they were so simple and beautiful they seemed like trick questions.

 

What do you want me to do for you? :: Matthew 20:32
Why are you so afraid? :: Mark 4:40
Who do you say that I am? :: Mark 8:29
If you are not able to do this small thing, why are you anxious about the rest? :: Luke 12:26
Why are you crying? Whom are you seeking? :: John 20:15
Do you love me? :: John 21:17

 

Through the questions of Christ recorded in scripture, we don’t see one where he asked people “How is your prayer life?” or “Are you plugged into a synagogue?”. Really, none of his teaching or the questions he asked seemed to assess spiritual performance. In fact, he was harshest with the spiritual performers of the day. His questions are pointing to desire, to identity, these root issues where sin can grow largest or is cut off at the quick. His questions point to healing and meeting the deepest needs of humanity. They center on His ability to provide life and holiness rather than on our ability to get ourselves together and try harder.

 

Our Savior asks us, “Do you want to be made well?” :: John 5:6

 

****

The girl who is only asked the questions with simple “yes or no”, right or wrong, black and white answers is usually the girl who is told to be “an example”. She may start to believe that “examples” don’t mess up, don’t share their problems (if they have any because “God never gives us more than we can handle, right?”..Ugh) and people who are “examples” do NOT burden others. She may grow into believing she needs to have it all together and be a few steps ahead in order to help others. She will probably have a handle on her behaviors, but is at the mercy of others’ affirmations. Her reputation may be squeaky clean, but scratch the shiny veneer of the external and you’ll find fear, loneliness and bitterness inside. She can be a “good example”, a person people look up to, but she’ll be at a loss on how to be a real friend-someone people can relate to.

“BUT! What about ‘be holy as I am holy’?! WE are told to be lights in the darkness!”

You’re absolutely right. We are called to be light and we are called to be holy. She has a friend who is free. Her Light is the Light that shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it. She is aware of how deeply in need of His holiness she is. He became holiness for her when He was made to be sin on her behalf and gained victory over sin in her stead. She owns her mistakes; she feels the weight of her sin and knows where to take her questions that don’t have easy answers.

Her friend was asked better questions. Through those questions, she learned how freeing it is to know it’s not her job to fix people, including herself. Her responsibility is to be a disciple who is learning how to work alongside the Spirit of God as He continues to make disciples. This has everything to do with following the example Christ laid for us. He didn’t offer spiritual health assessments and check boxes. He made room for questions, offered grace and truth as He healed people from the heart outward. Our hearts are the first things that need changed and the rest follows.

Put first things first and we get second things thrown in:
put second things first and we lose both first and second things.

:: C.S. Lewis wrote to Dom Bede Griffiths (April 23, 1951) ::

****

Just a little caveat on the recent questions that drove this post if you don’t mind…
Growing up in church, loving people who love the Lord have been ever-present in my life. As a young woman, people spoke into my life and the lives of my friends. One question asked of us often was, “How are you preparing for marriage?”

My earliest memory of this was about 12 or 13. So my answer would’ve been, “I’m not. I’m lucky to be prepared for my math test next week, if I’m honest.” This well-intentioned question surfaced regularly throughout high school and into college. Meanwhile, we saw a rise in the idolization of marriage. (Maybe there’s a correlation there? Maybe not?) A study by the Barna Group identified females age 18-30 leaving the church in large numbers. The common factor among those young women? They’re unmarried. Maybe they were preparing, doing all the “right things” for the marriage that hasn’t happened and got disillusioned. Maybe they got tired of people asking that question. Who knows? I can say for certain I’ve never asked that question of anyone. I believe marriage is an amazing gift from God to show us in the most tangible way what His love for His Church looks like. I can also say I believe eternal, abundant life with God starting at my salvation is the most amazing gift…married or single.

I can tell you I also had/have mentors in my life who love me, love the Lord and who ASK BETTER QUESTIONS. Such as, “How has God prepared you for the works He prepared for you since before the foundation of the world? How are you seeing Him walk with you in those?”

Lastly, I was in a court room listening to all manner of questions directed at this precious middle school girl who is courageous and caring despite the atrocious things done to her as a child of single digits. The opposing lawyer was asking some questions we all hated. The one that stuck with me was, “What were you wearing?”

She was 10.

It might just be me, but I don’t think what she was wearing is pertinent information. I realize that this man was on the opposing council and yet, that doesn’t excuse his choice of inquiry here. She answered saying, something about shorts and a t-shift and I’ll have you know a third of the jury decided the accused wasn’t guilty that day. This kind of thing is happening more than once in the county I was raised in. This an example of why Jesus asks us, “Do you want to be made well?”.

The question she was asked after it was all over came from someone who loves her, believes her and values her answers. “You were SO brave. Are you ready to go home now?”

For the love….

LET’S ASK BETTER QUESTIONS.

 

Lent: On Ashes, Dust and Healing March 2, 2017

Filed under: His truth,Uncategorized — Amanda Lynn @ 9:32 pm
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The streets were still lined with beads and remnants of “Fat Tuesday”. Driving to work that morning, I stopped at the light at a busy cross street in St. Louis. Anyone familiar with this area would tell you that South Grand in St. Louis is a place celebrating diversity and individuality. There on the corner, was a sign that read, “Ashes to Go: Drive-thru prayers for Lent”. I know people who took off work on Fat Tuesday. We need a drive-thru for Ash Wednesday.

 

 

blog-ashes

Being a born and raised Baptist girl, Ash Wednesday wasn’t on my church’s calendar of events. For me, it was something my Catholic friends at school did. I was told it was unnecessary because of Christ’s sacrifice and we went right through to Easter Sunday. The Lenten season was all about preparation for the annual Easter Pageant at church complete with costumes and chock-full of livestock to roam the aisles. I loved it. That is all but the crucifixion scene. I wasn’t able to watch it until I was in high school and even then, like the sun, I couldn’t bring myself to look directly at it. I was much more comfortable skipping right from the miracles in Cana to the resurrection.

While I knew in my heart that the death and sacrifice of Jesus was the remission of my sin and the reason the resurrection was possible, it wasn’t until college that I was confronted with the importance of observing Lent and repenting of the sin my life as I reflected on the sacrifice of Christ. I was encouraged to remind my soul that I am made of dust and to the dust I will return-reminded of my finite and fallible nature and that true repentance and confession beget a sense of mourning.

In scripture, dust and ashes are used in all kinds of ways. First, it is out of the dust that God made human-kind. From the dust of the ground He formed Adam and breathed life into him (Genesis 2:7). We see the dirt or “from the dirt” representing things finite and created after the fall in Genesis 3 (Psalm 104, Proverbs 10, Matthew 6, 1 Corinthians 15).

All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return.
:: Ecclesiastes 3:20 ::

Similarly, we see the Bible pointing to dust or ashes as a synonym for being brought low by another (1 Kings 20:10, 2 Kings 13:7). Throughout the Psalms and into Isaiah there are frequent analogies of dust or ashes representing what it feels like to be overcome and subjugated.

Dust or ashes in scripture are often an outward expression of repentance in grief or sorrow over sin and the effects of sin as a reminder of how deserving of death (dust) and in need of a sacrifice (ashes) we are as fallen men and women. (Joshua 7:6, 1 & 2 Samuel, Nehemiah 9, Job 2 & 42)

The elders of the daughter of Zion sit on the ground in silence; they have thrown dust on their heads and put on sackcloth; the young women of Jerusalem have bowed their heads to the ground.
:: Lamentations 2:10 ::

While these are not the most uplifting things to study, the problem is that without the dust and ashes, there is no life, no healing, no forgiveness. We can come to love dust and ashes as the means to a glorious end. This is what the Lenten season has become for me.
We know that in the Old Testament and in the temples of the New Testament Jews, there were sacrifices made for sin. These burnt offerings were burned to consumption-only the ashes remained. Ashes are a true sign that something of value has been sacrificed. Someone humbled themselves to confess sin and knew sin would have to result in death to the point of ashes. Jesus, as the full representation of God on earth, did so much with ashes and dust in the way of healing. He didn’t just do away with the old system of sacrifice and offering, he fulfilled it once and for all.

A couple of stories involving dirt or ashes keep surfacing in mind. In the old testament, there were instructions for what to do with a woman who was accused of adultery (See Numbers 5). She was brought to the temple where the priest would mix dust off the earthen floor of the temple with the water that had been sanctified. She was given an oath to repeat before God as she was instructed to drink down the water and dust mixture to purify her and decipher if she was truly guilty.

Similarly, in John 8, Jesus is coming through eastern Jerusalem around the Feast of Tabernacles which means a whole bunch of travelers were in Jerusalem to celebrate. He was in the middle of teaching in the temple when the religious leaders decided to interrupt him and make a spectacle of a woman supposedly guilty of adultery. Levitical law required both guilty parties to be stoned, but in this and other cases, solely the woman is held responsible. When the Pharisees fill Jesus in on the law saying they should stone her, their aim is to put him in a dilemma in front of all who were listening. Jesus responds not addressing her sin but theirs.

First, he knelt and wrote in the dust. While we don’t know what he wrote, we do know that this same finger drawing in the dirt is the very same that wrote the law these leaders were referring to (Exodus 31:18). After, Jesus asks those who had no sin to start her death sentence, they all end up leaving. He asks her who condemns her. There he is asking a question we know he knew the answer to. He asks for her benefit just as every question regarding our sin is one he asks for our benefit. As she tells him her accusers are gone, he tells her he isn’t condemning her either. Spiritually, she stands free. Here, the God who formed us from dust, stooped down to write in the dust. He offered her forgiveness not because he ignores sin. He could offer forgiveness that day knowing he would die for her.

Law and grace do not compete with each other; they complement each other. Nobody was ever saved by keeping the law, but nobody was ever saved by grace who was not first indicted by the law. There must be conviction before there can be conversion.
:: W. Wiersbe ::

 

 

In the very next chapter of John, Jesus is around that same area where he and the disciples cross paths with a man who is blind and has been since birth. The word says that Jesus noticed him, which is worthy of pause because it’s likely many people walked by this man blind his whole life and never noticed him. The disciples started to debate the cause of the man’s blindness, agreeing that it must be sin, but whose was it? Jesus let them know that this man’s lack of sight was an opportunity for healing and the glory of God. Again, Jesus stooped down to touch the dirt. This time, he spat and made it mud to spread on the man’s eyes. Some theologians say this is a picture of the incarnation with the first man being made of dust and Jesus, as a member of the Triune God, stooping low to become human in order to heal us all. The Creator God became human, touched the earth, truly saw one of the most unseen in society, and touched him to give him sight. This gift of healing was given to a man who didn’t recognize Jesus as anything more than a prophet.

 
People immediately started asking him how he was healed. We can see it asked four different ways and each time the man just gave testimony to the events. He had no way to answer on the how. Wanting a break down on the miracle of sight via dirt is fair enough. We all certainly crave the answers to “how”. It’s very official and efficient, but it’s a sure-fire way to avoid the bigger question… “Who?”

 

We want to understand the mechanics of a miracle instead of simply trusting the Savior. Understanding the process, even if we could, is no guarantee that we have experienced the miracle.
::W. Wiersbe ::

 

 

Looking at the observation of Lent and rituals like Ash Wednesday, we can ask the same questions. “How does this help you draw close to God?”. It’s a fair question and we can give testimony to fasting and praying or participating in a service, but the better question when it comes to the miracle of grace that is being nearer to the Lord…It’s always, “Who?”. “Who is the one who brings beauty for Ashes? Who is the one who heals you through sacrifice? Who is this one brings life to the dust?”

 

He raises up the poor from the dust;

he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes

and inherit a seat of honor.

For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s,

and on them he has set the world.
:: 1 Samuel 2:8::

 

 

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.
:: Isaiah 61: 1-3::

 

Advent: Trust,Wheelbarrows & Waiting December 20, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amanda Lynn @ 10:18 pm

In February this year, one of my best friends and I were gathered with women we didn’t know, a couple hours from home, in a woman’s house we didn’t know for a live stream of a conference. Women all across the United States and even across the world were all listening to the same talks and gathered praying and asking each other the same questions. “IF God is who He says He is, now what?”

Toward the end of what was an amazingly overwhelming time of learning and being challenged, we were asked what God was calling us to “fall into” that year. The illustration was to use dominoes and have each woman write what they knew God was asking them to do on the back as a visual reminder.

Some women were being asked to leave relationships and start new ones, to move jobs, launch into new ministries or leave their current ones. I knew within moments the Spirit was saying “TRUST…I want complete trust”. He could not have been more clear. I wrote it down thinking, “Of course I trust you, Lord. This seems a little out of place.” And that’s when stuff started happening.

*******

My family and I have spent more time in waiting rooms this year than any other time in my life. We have faced terrible odds and lots of “Impossible” and “Improbable” and “Never” in medical terms. My grandmother had a heart attack in August that turned things upside down for us. All that time that I thought I trusted the Lord was truly examined and laid bare. Did I?

 

His presence remained my constant. No matter how I felt or how good I was or good I wasn’t, He never changed. I learned that my grip on Him wasn’t at all what mattered. It is His grip on me that is my strength and my stay.

 

This week, my grandmother is home for Christmas and we’re still trusting Him to provide her every heartbeat as she continues to heal and our family continues to rely on His peace. In all of this, my grandfather, who has never darkened the door of a church or prayed or acknowledged Christ as Lord, arrived an hour early to a Christmas program at my home church to save seats for us all. Today, he told me he is praising the Lord for all He’s done and is praying for my dad.

 

My grandfather is praying for my dad because as of today, we were once again in a hospital waiting room. My dad’s heart has been so healthy for over a year and a half, but has gone into a dangerously irregular rhythm…again. And today, the doctors in the ER saved his life. Tomorrow they’ll do a procedure to attempt to reset the heart’s rhythm to a safe and steady one.

 

In these waiting rooms, it is never more obvious to me that I am powerless and helpless. There is nothing I can do to will breath into lungs or a steady pulse into a heart. Nothing. There is a Maker, an Author of Life, and only He can do these things. And I wait on Him.

 

 

And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath[b] to enter you, and you shall live.  And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

:: Ezekiel 37:3-6::

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;

::Psalm 130: 5::

 

 

To think that thousands of years ago, the God who made the very first human heart and breathed life into the very first human lungs, made Himself nothing and took on infantile heart and lungs. After His beloved sons and daughters chose self over His loving plan, He made Himself susceptible to disease and pain and all the fragility that our fall from grace has brought on us. He came into life with His people who were waiting…waiting on this promise…waiting on hope and deliverance.

 

Oh, come O Rod of Jesse’s stem,

From ev’ry foe deliver them
That trust your mighty pow’r to save; 
Bring them in vict’ry through the grave.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Oh, come, our Dayspring from on high,
And cheer us by your drawing nigh,
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Oh, bid our sad divisions cease,
And be yourself our King of Peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

 

And He did come. In the flesh, through flesh to deliver us from our flesh. There is now nothing that can separate our King from His people. He came, not on a silent night, but a loud, dirty, crowded, desperate night made holy. He came in the midst of waiting and asks us to trust His upside down ways.

******

About a month ago, I heard a story about this amazing tightrope walker who just kept moving up the ladder on the risk factor and succeeding. Crowds of followers and thrill-seekers would go where he went to watch with bated breath as he did riskier and riskier things. He crossed over city streets at sky-scraping heights in different major cities.

For his ultimate feat, he would cross Niagara Falls. As usual, there was a crowd gathered to watch this tense and amazing adventure. The man took a poll and asked how many thought he could do it. Nearly everyone raised their hands cheering and clapping. Then he asked if they thought he could do it pushing a wheelbarrow. Almost all the same people were still cheering and applauding. He paused and smiled. And then it got real.
“Great! So which one of you wants to volunteer to ride along?” 

***Crickets***

 

This year, the Lord told me to trust Him and in February I said, “Sure I do.” Then we went higher. Then we went even higher and the stakes went up. I watched Him remain true to His indelible character of gracious power in the lives of my dearest friends. I can raise my hands and clap in those moments and profess my belief in His sovereign hand to be faithful and true.

 

As I am standing there waiting, looking out over Niagara Falls-worthy feats in my life, He pulls out the wheelbarrow and asks me to volunteer. And in all the waiting rooms and on the riskiest days, it’s only by His boundless grace and my fear of heights that I can say I got in and faced Him as he guided that sucker across that gap of the known and the unknown.  And the age-old advice absolutely holds true….

“Whatever you do, don’t look down.

Keep your eyes and your chin up, Kiddo”.

 

 

So, if you’re there with me this Advent season or this year of being one who waits and hopes and prays…Whether your feelings are involved or are numbed out. You can tell your soul, He hears. He is here. He IS and He WAS and He WILL BE.

 

 

PS

If you’re reading this before December 21st, please pray for my dad as they do all they can do get his heart beating in rhythm again. Thank you so much, dear friends!

 

I See You September 1, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amanda Lynn @ 9:58 am

There are moments so weighty it feels like a crushing of spirit. There are also moments so full of hope and light that our hands seem to lift into a V all on their own as our chins tilt upward. My sweet grandmother lives that second part out and has for 75 years. When she does go through the weighty moments, she calls them valleys. The thing about valleys is that they are always between two mountains. There is always a mountain to look to…

 

I lift my eyes toward the mountains. Where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

:: Psalm 121: 1-2 ::

Earlier this month, Patricia Keel, big sister to 4 incredibly ladies, mother to 3 aunt to 14,  great-aunt to 23, grandmother to 3, wife of 56 years and friend to countless others….had a heart attack. The Lord has given her a capacity to love like none other. He saw her and knew and so He prepared the way to healing with already having her at the hospital during the attack. She went straight into open-heart surgery and miracle after miracle has poured in. She was not supposed to live through the night, but the Lord who holds our hearts had a physician hold her’s and bring back a heart beat. She has gained strength slowly and continues to struggle for breath, but what she doesn’t struggle with is to find joy.

This wonder of a woman, can’t speak just yet due to having assisted breathing, but she mouths her words well. She compliments her Occupational Therapist’s earrings and asks about their family. She mouths “Thank you” to each of her care-takers in the ICU. She jokes about me sneaking her in a Popsicle. And as long as I can remember she has said, “I see you, Miss Mandy! And I love you more.” She mouths this to each of the 25+ family members who have come each day to the ICU to visit.

There are things I have learned about the Lord in the ICU waiting room. I would not have picked the means by which I am learning them, but I’m grateful He still speaks. I have learned that trust is not something I have or maybe ever will arrive at completely. And yet, He is always good and so worthy as He calls me higher into surrendering with open hands. See, my people are always what I hold onto the tightest. And my grandma is my people. She is the strength to others’ weakness, the “you can” to anyone’s “I can’t”, the “Sunshine girl” for my grandpa’s cloudy days and the best courage-giver you can imagine. But she’d tell you, it’s Christ in her, her Solid Rock – the God who sees us. {Genesis 16:13}

He has taught me more about how He never sleeps, so we can. About how He never leaves us, so grandma is never alone. About His hope, though her flesh may fail He is the strength of her heart…and of mine. He has taught me about community, the people He uses to be His loving hands and feet mean everything when your family doesn’t know how much strength a casserole, fervent prayers and a hug can restore.

So today, as I head to the hospital to see my grandma, and she mouths, “I see you…and I love you more”, I can know the same words are being spoken and sung over her by the Maker and Healer of our souls. He is trust-worthy. Faithful and true. He is.

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Reader, your prayers are heard and our family does covet them. Please continue to lift her up to the God who restores.

Life is easy, when you’re up on the mountain
And you’ve got peace of mind, like you’ve never known
But things change, when you’re down in the valley
Don’t lose faith, for you’re never alone

For the God on the mountain, is still God in the valley
When things go wrong, he’ll make them right
And the God of the good times, is still God in the bad times
The God of the day, is still God in the night

We talk of faith way up on the mountain
But talk comes easy, when life’s at its best
Now its down in the valley, trials and temptations
That’s where your faith is really put into the test

For the God on the mountain, is still God in the valley,
When things go wrong, he’ll make them right
And the God of the good times, is still God in the bad times
The God of the day, is still God in the night