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Eden's Mirror

Looking into the mirror of God's story

Make Something Beautiful

Everyone seems to have something to say about these strange times of pandemic. I’ve been hesitant to add my voice to the cacophony. But I’m a writer, I can’t help myself, even when it can feel like no one is really listening on the other side.

There is a lot that could be said, has been said, should be said. A lot of you are sharing your quarantine-survival tips, verses that comfort your anxieties amidst uncertainties; even opinions about the drastic measures our state and country is undertaking to stem the tide. These are all well and good and important!

What I have to say is going to fall into one of those general categories too, but if it helps even one person weather this season better, then it’s worth it!

So here’s my ten-day-quarantine challenge: starting Monday, March 23, I invite you to join me in 10 Days of Making Something Beautiful. Here are the guidelines:

1. “Make” = you may be an unpracticed creative person like myself. However, just like with children, certain uncomfortable boundaries create incentive for creativity: like being house-bound, like having less than normal groceries available, or like having no social events to clutter up your calendar. I think in the next few days if you haven’t already, you will find yourself digging in the backs of your closets for all the extra projects you stored up for a rainy day; or taking interest in learning something new. Your kids will feel it, you will feel it. Let’s re-open our creative channels and see what comes of it!

2. “Something” = I use this word quite intentionally. You may not be able to sew or paint, but you can cook! You may not be practiced at music, but you can inspire wonderful creative experiences for your children. When I say Make Something Beautiful for 10 days in a row, I mean make anything!! So long as you make it — and you make it beautiful.

3. “Beautiful” = Some say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I believe there is also an agreed upon consensus when something is truly beautiful and when someone is just trying to stretch the word (like the $100,000+ banana on the wall, remember that? Not beautiful, guys. It really wasn’t). So do your best, help us see what you find beautiful, and then help us all to enjoy the something beautiful you have created.

Once you have your daily dose of “something beautiful”, share it on your social media with the tag #makesomethingbeautiful2020 and lets all enjoy bringing extra beauty back to our visual senses. Let’s take our eyes off the worries and the TV and news, and let’s Make Something Beautiful together!

Follow me at Edens Mirror for my 10 days of #makesomethingbeautiful2020.

Death to the self

I’m lying here in my disheveled bed at 5am with my sleepless baby, awake yet again when my body craves sleep like oxygen, and I think I’m finally starting to understand what Jesus meant when He said “Whoever finds his life will lose its and whoever loses his life for my sake will gain it,” Matthew 10:39.

He not just talking about physical death here. There are lots of ways to lose your life.

Take the Jews in the Holocaust for example. It was a slow death for them. Death of their livelihoods when their right to own businesses was stripped from them. Death to their social status and dignity when they were hustled into ghettos like cattle and forced to wear the yellow stars. Death to their sense of security when neighbors were stolen off into the night. And death to their souls when their physical bodies were tortured by starvation, disease, nakedness and cold. Physical death came as a relief to many who had endured so much.

The Holocaust may seem like an anomaly, but we experience tiny deaths like this all the time.

Death to our comfort when the baby wakes up yet again even though she’s slept through the night before. Death to our convenience when the husband has to leave on a work trip the same time our children fall sick again. Death to our security when yet another friend faces cancer or a miscarriage or a child stricken by an autism diagnosis.

Death comes in tiny forms every day – another gray hair, another lost temper at our children, another argument with our spouse, another disappointment to our dreams of a happy life.

But these are the right kinds of deaths, Jesus says. Lose your life here on earth, He says. Let it die. Because this life is not meant to be your paradise.

It hurts doesn’t it? Every day, we wake up in the morning and with blind faith, hope that today we will find the happiness that sticks around a little longer; the relief from our fears and insecurities; the final comforts in our grief. Yet our hope is fixed in all the wrong places.

We must learn to see as Jesus sees: that living comes from dying. We cannot experience the life He has to give us while we are still grasping at the empty promises of life here on earth. We aren’t going to find it here.

So we must first die to that false hope, that idolatrous promise, and then in our desperation, we look up, we cry out, and then, only then, does His peace begin to settle our souls. Then and only then do we taste the sweet nectar of His Presence which cannot be taken away from us, no matter what happens to us circumstantially. It is only in our dying that we taste of the life to come.

But you must turn to Him and believe His promises. You must receive His gift of grace in forgiveness of your divine trespasses. You cannot receive His life-goodness without first dying to your own self-sufficiency.

“In this world you will have trouble,” He says. If you haven’t encountered that reality yet, you will. Whether it be your trouble or someone you love who suffers, this world is fraught with it.

But “take heart,” He says. “I have overcome the world,” (John 16:33).

He has died the ultimate death so that you can actually one day experience the life you were meant to have: a world where His presence is your oxygen and you don’t have to get it by dying anymore.

The Holy Scriptures

As I have sifted through my social media accounts recently, I’ve been pleasantly encouraged by the reminders to be faithfully reading the Bible this year. Many different reading plans exist and even The Gospel Coalition is urging its readers towards reading through the Bible in its entirety together as the scattered group of followers that we are.

I cannot speak highly enough of the significance of reading the Bible regularly and in community. If you haven’t already, pick a plan and find someone or many someones to read it with. Don’t neglect the Scriptures this year. There is so much more I could say.

But that is not the main reason I write to you tonight.

REFLECTING ON THE SACRED SCRIPTURES

This last year, our church read through the narrative books of the Old Testament. It was possibly one of the most formative seasons I’ve had in Scripture. I am still piecing together all that I learned and observed.

One of the things that stood out to me is how much Israel strayed from the Lord. The entire Old Testament narrative ends with Nehemiah bemoaning the people’s faithlessness yet again. It just seems like they can never hold up their own side of the covenant. And this isn’t just one person’s life. It’s thousands of years of living.

Well, I dove into the Psalms for this year, to accompany our church’s reading plan, and I stumbled across a footnote on an untranslatable word: “Selah”. Interpreters don’t know what it means. They can only guess it’s a musical or liturgical direction.

THE HUMAN SIDE

As I reflected on that simple reality — that even now, our Bible literally has words that have been lost in translation — I don’t feel threatened by it. Unlike many in our world who question the integrity and authority of Scripture, I understand now that much — oh so very much — HAS been lost to us. By the people who have gone before us who were often half-hazard in their faith in following God and at times, half-hazard in what they passed on to us. No one thought that anyone beyond their generation would ever read the Psalms and not be able to understand the word Selah. And can we blame them? I am equally half-hazard in my attempts to pass on truth and values to my own children! It is part of our fallen state that we leave things out in the process of “passing on” to the next generation. (Does this idea make you nervous about my faith in the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture? Hang tight, we will get back to this).

More than that, having read the Old Testament story, I see now that there is SO much of Gods story with His people that we don’t get to see. Generations go by without a word from God about them other than the names scattered among the genealogies.

No, the Old Testament story is not a pretty one with a bow on top. It is not a “complete season of episodes” like our favorite TV dramas. It is full of “holes” in the plot line, and words we simply do not know the meaning for. Their culture and way of life, while assumed in the writing of Scripture, is in so many ways lost to us. This is the human side of Scripture.

THE DIVINE SIDE

But the human side in all its weaknesses betrays more clearly the divine side: that Gods Word is sufficient. Just as the Old Testament shows God’s infinite mercy for His people, sovereignly guiding the affairs of His people, so too we can trust that in the Bible’s humanness, it is protected and guarded by its True Author. In this way, the Bible is sufficient. Nothing is really left out that is necessary for our continued faith and obedience. And so Peter assures us that God has given us “everything we need for life and godliness…in His divine promises…” (2 Peter 1:3-4). That means we don’t really need to know the translation of the word “Selah”.

It is equally endlessly meaningful. You can never quite plunge the depths of each chapter. Each of those genealogies and broken-up narratives hold together in an incredible uniformity of thought, despite the “holes” in the story, the untranslatable words, and the historical cultures guiding certain characteristics of its writings. No other book has stood the test of time with such integrity in its diversity. What HAS been faithfully passed on to us is incredibly consistent in its content. There was no iCloud backing up the files. It was intentionally preserved for us today through the painstaking work of God’s fallen people, guarded and protected by God Himself. No. Clearly the Scriptures are guided and driven by the Divine Hand of a Faithful, Merciful God.

WORSHIP HIM

So, as you dive into whatever reading plan you have for yourself this year, lean into the idiosyncrasies of Scripture. Allow those odd confusing parts to reveal the humanness of our heritage so that we may more clearly perceive and thus worship the Divine and Faithful, Gracious God leading us onward into His Beautiful Truth.

“Open the eyes of my heart that I might behold the wonders of your law.” Psalm 119:18

2020: A New Beginning

Where were you last night when the clock struck midnight?

I heard the climactic fireworks outside my husbands study window while nursing my two month old back to sleep. I didn’t plan to welcome the New Year in, it just so happened that was when she woke up for her first feed.

For some reason, our family just can’t seem to climb into celebrating the New Year. Maybe it’s because we are “celebrated out” from multiple Christmas events. Maybe it’s because I am secretly averse towards popular trends like setting New Years Resolutions. Or maybe it’s because we all know hardly anyone actually keeps their New Years Resolutions, so why even bother?

But I got to thinking today that God instituted many annual festivities for His people, including the Year of Jubilee where everyone in debt gets a fresh beginning. And maybe, just maybe, there is something to that longing in each of us for a reset on life. A New Year hints at that possibility.

It’s as if God structured time and culture in such a way that we would be annually reminded of our need for a clean slate. And that clean slate actually comes in the person of Jesus. He gives us a fresh start — and He doesn’t wait until a New Year to offer it. His mercies are new every morning!

So here I sit, rocking my newborn, and thinking maybe, just maybe, I can capitalize on the momentum of a New Year and pick up where I left off here on this blog. Get back into the rhythm of writing again. Not to secure an audience but to release the words that build up inside me. Maybe my words won’t peek your interest too much and that’s okay. I forgive you. I hardly read anyone else’s blogs anymore either. But maybe just maybe I’ll capture your attention and be given the great gift of redirecting you back to your Father in Heaven who loves you and gave up His only Son for you. For HE – not me — is worthy of all of our attention.

Cheers to a New Year and fresh mercies every day from our Father. Happy New Year!

A Poem

When is the last time you visited the ocean? Have you ever tried to put into words the sound of its waves crashing on the sand? This poem uses a particular description that might catch you off guard if you’ve never really paid attention to the sound of the ocean. See if it helps you recollect your experience of the seaside:

Immensity.

The cacophony of a thousand human voices cannot overpower its song.

Shhhhhh, it thunders, a beckon to all

To Be Still and Know that He Is.

A thousand people submerge beneath its waves

And rise again above the shifting foam.

The straightest line composed of perplexing ripples of motion.

Its power, man cannot tame.

Yet it bestows pleasure and happiness upon us.

And so we return to its immensity again and again, and to those with ears to hear, we find peace in the safety of its might.

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