Mar 272016
 

 

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He is Risen

He is Risen, Indeed

A stone written on by the finger of God gave us the law.  Condemnation.  Sin.  Judgment.

The wages of sin is death.

 

A stone moved by the hand of God opened the tomb.  Defeated sin and death.  There is a new outcome.  Death no longer has the final word.  Victory over the grave.

The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

O praise the One who paid by debt

and raised this life up from the dead.

Mar 262016
 

 

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I attended a Good Friday service last night.  It was moving.  Worship that lifted up my need and His sacrifice.   Old songs & new songs that point my heart towards a Savior who has paid my debt in full.  Scripture reading and prayer filled my heart to the brim.

In the middle of all this goodness I felt the urge to jump ahead.  To quickly move from songs of the cross to songs of resurrection and victory.   To move from my need to a shining morning of victory.  It’s hard to sit in the slow pace of holy week.

He hung on the cross for six hours.

Darkness covered the land for three long hours.

Between his death and his resurrection is about 36 hours (according to my quick math).  Two nights and one long, quiet day.

We don’t like this.  The entire day on the cross.  Hours in darkness.  Nights and day of waiting.  The in-between.  The pause in the plan.  The unexpected and unnerving.  The long, quiet wait.

 

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I grabbed my Bible and thumbed through for a quick tour to grab this fleeting thought.  How often did people have to wait – uncomfortably – in the middle of God’s plan?

  • They were promised a son but it took 15 years to get pregnant.  Way after her body had given up its cycle of fertility.
  • They ate the food of Heaven but longed for fresh vegetables and spices from Egypt
  • He was anointed King but spent years as an outcast and rebel leader.
  • He should have been a Prince by marriage but she was taken away by a political plot.
  • May of God’s chosen walked through military defeat and being conquered.  They were slaves, moved against their wills, alone, deserted and often far from family.

But we squirm when God’s plan for our lives include periods of waiting.   Unexpected changes.  Isolation, fears and long pauses.

His ways aren’t ours.   His own Son suffered and was buried.   The day of quiet in the middle of the plan that purchased our redemption.

Tomorrow I’ll sing the songs of victory.  I’ll weep at the immense glory of His love for us.  But today I’ll sit in the quiet.  Uncomfortable.  Unnerving.  The in between.  The day of Sabbath rest as we wait for God’s timing.

Nov 282015
 

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The house is decorated for Christmas.  Colored lights twinkle in the living room.  Greenery is hung over the door frames. The nativity scenes are standing watch.  The candles are ready.   Advent starts in the morning!

Advent is dear to me.   I love this holiday.  I enjoy the food & sweets.  I love buying gifts and thinking about parties and my family coming home.   But, above the holiday festivities, I love Advent.  It anchors me in this consumer culture.  It keeps my heart soft – waiting for my Savior to arrive.  It keeps my mind pliable to consider that maybe Jesus will show up in a way that I’m not expecting.

My boys asked about Advent yesterday and got an impromptu sermon in the living room!  Why do I think the church needs to celebrate advent?   Because it is the one time of year when we sit in the 400 years of silence.  The time between the promise and it’s fulfillment.  Those hard, dark in-between spaces of waiting and wondering and hoping.   The moment before the angels break open Heaven with singing and news.

Advent is that in-between.  The not-yet.  The still-believing.  The holding onto hope.   The breathing in and out of faith.   The moments we don’t speak about in church or ladies Bible studies.  The moments when it seems darkness will overcome the light.  The long period of waiting where it seems that God has forgotten or turned his back.

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This morning I read an excerpt from Tim Keller’s new book, The Songs of Jesus – a daily devotional in the Psalms.  (By the way, everyone in my house is getting a copy of this for Christmas! )   Today’s Psalm meditation was in Psalm 126.  Let me give you my thoughts, prompted by his writing and these ancient words:

The Psalm starts out with the exiles rejoicing   They have been restored and are full of laughter, joy and praise.  We all love living in these three verses.  When you feel the blessing of God’s provision and your heart bursts in praise.  If only the Psalm would stop at verse three!  But verse four pulls us back into them calling out to BE restored.   That part that isn’t restored YET.  That advent part of waiting for restoration.

The psalmist uses two metaphors for bringing water back into a dry, desert place.

  • The first is the gushing streams sent by the Lord that flood & fill the dry land with water.   Bring on the gushing streams, O Lord!
  • The second metaphor is a lone farmer planting seeds by hand.  These seeds aren’t watered by the gushing streams of miracle water.  Nope, they’re watered by the tears of the farmer.  Little salty drops of tear-water.    The lone farmer doesn’t see the quick results of gushing streams.  But the Scripture says that he does get a harvest – and sings with the harvest of his little seeds.

As you enter this season of Advent, you may be living in both parts of Psalm 126.  Hearts overflowing with God’s provision and goodness – but still crying out for restoration in dry parts of your life.  Take heart!   There may be a flood coming your way.  If so, rejoice!   There may be a slow, seed planting that is watered by your tears and prayers.   If so, stay in the field.   Persevere.   Plant & water.  Because even the lone farmer sees his harvest and breaks into song.

Let’s not hurry our lives through Advent.  Let’s sit with the in-between and not-yets in our lives.  Let’s praise for the goodness flooding us and plant seeds in the barren spots.  Let the season of Advent meet your heart this year as encouragement, comfort and joy.

 

Nov 262015
 

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A Thanksgiving blessing from the book of Common Prayer:

 

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you:

wherever he may send you;


may he guide you through the wilderness:

protect you through the storm;

may he bring you home rejoicing:

at the wonders he has shown you;

may he bring you home rejoicing:

once again into our doors.

Happy Thanksgiving – wherever in the world you may be saying a prayer of thanks.

Nov 252015
 

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Has a verse ever hunted you down?  I mean, really follow you around the block?    This verse has been chasing me all week.  It was my daughter’s memory verse for Bible class, mentioned in chapel, and popped up in my devotional.   It’s following me!   I think it’s the answer to the stone that my heart has been carrying this week.

How do we live in a world with innocents slaughtered while attending public events?  How do we respond to images of boats full of Moms & children risking their life for anything better than daily terror?   How long does our society keep killing in racial strife?   How do I sit at a full table and give thanks knowing how many are hungry in my city?

It’s been hard to slog through normal life this week.   To finish a blog post about Jen Hatmaker’s new book (that I adore!).   To educate in such a way that teenagers care about Ancient Roman artifacts.  To organize all the comings & goings of a house full of college boys home for the holiday.

But my heart is carrying around a stone.   Maybe God is chasing me with this verse because it is one of my only options.   To pray.  To seek.  To give thanks…even in this as obedience to His will.  My classroom has been full of conversation & prayer & thanksgiving.    Here are two things that helped give us faces & information so that we could pray & talk with some perspective.

I love Samaritan’s Purse and their front line, hands-on ministry to those arriving in rafts.  Let this video provide the faces & voices that are missing from the numbers being thrown around by politicians,

http://www.samaritanspurse.org/article/voyage-to-a-second-life/#ooid=lvYjcyeDoXG-OAM-rfGk3GS5O3_1lsGS

In order to get your heart around the number of people currently displaced due to violence, Lucify has a visual to track people for the past three years.  It feels like watching grains of rice parade across a game board…but these are people.  Bus loads of people.

I don’t have an answer.  There isn’t an easy answer.  There are only hard choices facing real people.  I wish I could solve it all.  I wish my understanding could figure out a way to put it all together in my mind.   But I can’t.  You can’t.  Politics can’t.   Only the will of God in Christ Jesus can transform this whole screaming mess.

So I give thanks from my full table.  I pray and seek and talk  – and give thanks  in this moment as obedience to God’s will for me in Christ Jesus, my Lord.

 

Nov 092015
 

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I cannot wait to get a copy of this book into your hands.  Kindle or hardback – pick the format that works best for you.  But you MUST get a copy of Jen Hatmaker’s new book, For the Love.   Okay, it officially launched into the world in August but my world was pushed through a narrow-focused funnel of high school psychology and art history this summer.   So I’m just coming up for air, ready for new books and stimulating adult conversation…and picked this up with my 20% off coupon at Barnes & Nobel.

I haven’t finished reading it in it’s entirety, which is my self-imposed rule before promoting something on the blog.  But I’m breaking the rule to invite you to join me in this book.   If the end gets wonky in an unforeseen way, I’ll apologize and never again break the rule.   But this is so good and life-giving that I can’t wait even another week to nudge you in this direction.

Since I missed the official hoopla of the book release this summer, there isn’t a book launch link-up or promo.  But I’d love to talk about this on the Martha Street porch.   It’s a little off hand and chatty so it may not be as official as some of our book clubs  – but it will breathe fresh air & life & health into your impossibly busy life.  The subtitle of the book is “Fighting for Grace in a world of Impossible Standards.”    

Sound like something that would bring you giggles and insight and freedom?   Do you have space in your life to pick up a new read?  It isn’t long and the chapters are in nice, digestible bites.  Even those with little ones at home and church responsibilities should be able to read this while locked in the bathroom during nap time!

I don’t know what schedule I’ll use to keep us reading & chatting on the porch.   But get a copy and jump in and breathe the fresh goodness of her message.  I’ll work on keeping us together and on topic in a way that gives you a supportive community to absorb this grace into your life of impossible standards.

The conversation is only beginning…

Oct 252015
 

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I usually post the Weekend Prayer Prompt on Saturday…but am spending this weekend catching up from being away from home three weekends in a row.  Laundry.  Housecleaning.  Cooking.  Taking a nap.

I didn’t want you to miss this prompt from Rachel.  Ken & I are in the yucky-long part of waiting for some prayers to be answered.  We need this prompt.  Maybe you do too.   

At the beginning of this week, take a moment to grab your prayer journal and pray for all the unknowns and “not yet” in your life.

 

Friends,

 
All of these (Abel, Noah, Abraham & Sarah, Isaac, Jacob) died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them.
~ Hebrews 11:13
 
In a classic line from the movie The Princess Bride, Inigo Montoya mutters, “I hate waiting.” His sentiment echoes a disgruntledness that we sometimes feel in faith: a frustration that God has not yet fixed the world, a disappointment that God has not yet fixed us, a despair that a new day may never come.
 
Yet our ancestors in faith, who did not see the fulfillment of everything God had promised them; our ancestors in faith who at times struggled with God when life was uncertain & the way was unclear; our ancestors in faith saw glimpses God’s dream and they embraced it as though it was already part of the present.
 
Pause to pray for tomorrow — for all that is known and for all that is unknown — believing that God is faithful across time. (Here is my post for today.)
 
Peace to you,
Rachel
Oct 162015
 

Want to take a field trip with me?  This post is for those of you living far from home.  Maybe you can join us vicariously on our Fall Crawl and feel a little closer.   Every year my daughter, Grace, and I spend a lovely Autumnal day stopping by every local pumpkin & apple farm.  The Fall Crawl.

Upstate New York is full of yellow & red leaves, pumpkin patches, fields of cabbage & squash, apple orchards and fresh pressed cider.  I missed these little treasures so much during my years as a missionary.  It refreshes us every year to spend a day soaking all this goodness into our hearts (and mouths!)

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We started at the Ford’s Farm.  Isn’t this farmhouse a great advertisement for their pumpkin patch?  If you’re looking for exotic, large pumpkins you got to stop here!

 

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They had a cute photo “booth” set up at the back of the patch – with a huge pumpkin throne and a jack-o-lantern cut out.  This is an instagram-able patch!

 

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We walked around the property, camera in hand.  On the side of a shed we found these delightful pumpkin stacks on planters & bird baths, surrounded by fall flowers.  My favorite of the day!

Our second stop wasn’t as scenic…but you could pick your own apples.  This is how a dancer picks apples:

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Our third stop was at Kirbys, one of our favorites.  It is the full experience:  pumpkins, squash, dried corn stalks, local honey & produce, and lots of varietals of apples.  Oops!  Did I forget that they make my favorite fresh pressed cider?  They do!

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The score of the day was TWO new varietals of apples.  TWO new varietals.  You know we bought a basket of each to taste test at home.

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This was my favorite of the two new tastes.  Very crispy & juicy.  Sweet like a honeycrisp.  I’ve had one with cheese & crackers for lunch every day this week.  The perfect crunch of fall.

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Grace enjoyed the Autumn Crisp.  It is a softer apple.  Very sweet to the taste.  The inside flesh of the apple is a butter-yellow.  She’s a fan!

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We love taking photos in their front lawn that is strewn with every size & shape & color of pumpkin.  Isn’t Gracie so beautiful in this photo?  She told me she’s practicing for her senior photos next year.  Already?!

 

Our last stop is a local favorite.  Huge pumpkins.  Fresh pressed cider.  Homemade donuts.  You can’t do a fall crawl without stopping by Kelly’s Farm Market.

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One of the unique features of Kelly’s Farm is the bee hive – inside an old kitchen hutch.  The fun thing is that you can watch the bees through the hutch windows.  Talk about local honey…it’s from that exact spot!

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We brought our load home:  3 half gallons of cider (one from each stop), two baskets of apples, 6 homemade donuts, 12 little pumpkins for the porch steps, 3 stacking pumpkins for the dining room sideboard, parsnips and carrots from Kirby’s.  An autumnal feast!   I made a tasting menu for Grace.  She had to pick her favorite cider and new apple.   Of  course we needed the home made donuts to clear our palate for our tasting!

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Thanks for joining me on the Fall Crawl.  I hope these pictures made you smile and lifted your heart for a moment.  You’re in my heart and prayers…even when I’m focused on conferences and my school job. I look forward to being back with you on the porch soon.

 

Sep 272015
 

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The lake at Odosagih Bible Conference & Retreat Center

I’ve missed you girls!  You’ve been in my mind and prayers during this long quiet spell on the porch.  The school year is underway.  I don’t know if I’ve found my new rhythm yet.   It’s quite an adjustment being at the school full time, both working as the guidance counselor and teaching two AP/college courses.  Our second full week of school was Spiritual Emphasis.  We had three chapel services, special music & activities…and a lot of shorted and interrupted class time!  As a teacher I was needing another week of “normal” to get new students settled into the class routine.   Maybe this week?

Once things get running smoothly, I’m planning on using one evening and some weekend time for Martha Street writing & conversations.  However, right now I’m preparing to speak at a ladies retreat at Odosaigh Bible Conference and Retreat Center.  The ladies weekend is October 16-18.   If you live in this area, I’d love to have you join us!  The topic for the weekend is seasons of growth and will focus on what happens spiritually during different seasons of our lives.  Odosagih has beautiful fall colors and a gorgeous lake.   Does that photo above entice you?   You can message me or follow the link above to get more information.  I’d love to see you next month!

I won’t be writing consistently on the blog until after this teaching.  It’s taking up any spare minutes that I have in my schedule.  Know that you’ll be in my heart and we’ll pick up conversation mid-October.   I’ve been reading & studying and may have some good book ideas for us to read & discuss.

Until then, I adore you and continue to lift you up to the throne of grace and ask for help as you minister to families, churches, communities and countries.  See you soon on the porch!

 

Aug 252015
 

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I want us to sit with about another Old Testament woman that I studied along with the girls at She Reads Truth.  Today I want to urge us to think about Hannah.  I love that the Bible doesn’t cover up the interpersonal nastiness in these Old Testament stories.  The New Testament went for brevity – but these passages give us little juicy nuggets to think about.  Here’s what caught my eye in the Hannah story found in I Samuel chapter 1:

Deeply hurt, Hannah prayed to the Lord and wept with many tears.

Hannah replied, “I am a woman with a broken heart…I’ve been pouring out my heart before the Lord…I’ve been praying from the depth of my anguish and resentment.

The next morning Elkanah and Hannah got up early to bow in worship before the Lord.

We all know the visual – she was praying quietly but moving her lips and seemed so distressed that Eli thought she was drunk.  Nope.  Just a woman with a broken heart, pouring out the depths of her anguish and resentment.

And I pause.

Honestly and emotionally spending her time at the sacred place in Shiloh to pour out the depth of her anguish and resentment.  Not nice public prayers.  Not pretending that things were great between her and Peninnah (who was causing the deep hurt, tears and resentment).   She took the moment to get real before the Lord.  Deeply real.  She wasn’t playing.  She wasn’t trying to impress anyone – God or Eli or anyone else watching.  She knew she had a moment of prayer and went straight to the depths of her broken heart.

It says the next morning she bowed in worship before going back home.  Worship that follows truthful prayer.  Worship from those same depths of her broken heart.  Worship mingled with tears.  Worship knowing what she was walking back into when she returned home.

I’m challenged by Hannah.  I want to hide how deep some of the hurts & resentments are in my heart.  I don’t even want to get that deep in prayer.  Or I hold all the pieces together and pretend everything is alright.   Sometimes the pain & resentment shut my heart to worship.  Worship and weep?  In public?

I love Hannah’s prayer in I Samuel chapter 2:

My heart rejoices in the Lord;

my horn is lifted up by the Lord.

My mouth boasts over my enemies,

because I rejoice in your salvation.

There is no one holy like the Lord.

There is none besides You!

A heart change.  Broken heart is now rejoicing.  Still has enemies in her life – but now she’s boasting and rejoicing…in the Lord’s salvation.  Of course, this song ends with worship that is mixed with cheering and exclamation marks.  There is none holy like the Lord.  There is none besides You!

Pour your heart out.  To the depths.  Stop pretending in prayer.  Got to the bottom of how hurt & resentful you feel.  In that deep place worship, even if it’s mixed with weeping.  And continue to get up and pray & worship until your heart turns and begins to rejoice.

I’ll join Hannah is saying, “There is none besides You!”