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Eden's Mirror

Looking into the mirror of God's story

Resurrection

There is a fragrance of resurrection everywhere you go. The images in nature can be stark: after a wildfire, green shoots of grass and fern push through the blackened horizon, and wildflowers sprout. The plain white flower of a bell pepper whithers and dies before the produce appears. Darkness falls before the dawn. This cycle is entrenched in creation.

It is also entrenched in our hearts. Review some of your favorite movies and stories. Lord of the Rings, Remember the Titans, Hunger Games. In all these stories, brokenness and fallenness proceeds a rise of redemption.  And our hearts rise with the beat of resurrection again.

For deep down, no matter what our religious status, we all know, we must know, that this world is on the brink of a great redemption. Otherwise, how could we protest school shootings or abortion laws and women’s rights? We must believe deep down that there is reason to hope that things can change. That we are not bound forever to the chains of evil and darkness. We rise up and fight every day in the face of evil. We have not yet given up.

And that is because He has not given up on us. He has risen up before us. He has walked into death and turned it back around into life. The very curse we all deserved from our wayward godless selves, He took on for us, and redeemed on our behalf.

“Because He lives, I can face tomorrow”, the song writer says. Because He lives, our hope lives on too.

But it is only hope if we have laid down our pride and ceased striving for self-redemption. Because if you follow the rest of the story, the story weaved through out nature and our fictional sagas, and of course, Scripture too, darkness and evil and sin keep returning. Our own powers are not strong enough to undo this madness. We need a Savior, someone to do it for us.

And this is the Gospel story. He is that great Savior. Only He has the power to undo the brokenness in our lives and the lives of all who suffer greatly. Only He has the purity and perfect steadfastness worthy of our trust. Only He has already done it – crushed death once, with the great promise to do it again, once and for all, on the day of His return. And so only in Him alone is our hope found, for those who lay down their arms of self-redemption, who receive His atoning work on their behalf and wait in the Hope He offers, who are willing to wait for the Great Redemption, consummated by His soon return. He IS coming back and Redemption will be completed. He is worth the wait, and then again a hundred times over.

Ressurrection Sunday should be a small reminder of our Great Hope of Redemption Coming, if we but believe and trust in Him.  He is Risen! He is risen indeed!

Grief is A Letting Go

She said, “A mother and child live the first great love story and there is no love story without loss, and this is always gain.” This was her description of relinquishing her 16 year old son to the initial stages of his adulthood journey. Certainly that is not my current reality! But it stopped me in my tracks. “There is no love story without loss.” In the first great love story, God the Father “turned His face away”, as Townend’s hymn describes, as His only Son bore the wrath we all deserved on the cross. God the Father experienced the loss of a child, His only child: He let Him go — even as He knew He would receive Him back, He let Him go. 

I have heard it in all the great stories of parenthood — the theme of letting go. But here at my beginnings, I have not yet experienced its heart-wrenching power. Though it is of course the long-term goal, there simply is no empty nest or college tuition in my current line of vision.

And yet, her words took away my breath. For, in another way, this letting go part of parenting is very much present in my reality.

I am learning to let go of my sweet 2017 babies.

It is a paradox, like viewing a bright star from the periphery of your vision: somehow, I must hold onto and remember with all my might that I carried my babies with me, for their ever-so-short earthly life. And then, I must find a way to let them go.

For although they have gone too soon, they are not gone forever — they are waiting at the finish line, and that is the safest place in the world for them.

There is a sweet and tender mercy in learning to let them go now:

In my letting go, I do not have to worry if they will make it to Jesus with full faith — they are already there, shielded in His perfect grace.

In my letting go, I do not have to painstakingly endure their mistakes and troubles along the way, for they have already crossed over the greatest threshold.

In my letting go, I never have to worry about how my failures have harmed them, for they are securely set within Christ’s own perfections.

And the same speed at which time seems to progress applies either way, for even as I wonder how the years have already passed so quickly by with my two precious living children, I can trust that equally so, I will so very soon, sooner than I can ever imagine, be with my babies once more in heaven. “For with the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” (2 Peter 3:8).

And so, tonight, as I approach the Remembrance of All Our Lost Babies Ceremony happening at our church this Sunday, I am reminded that in grieving, we are also letting go. And there is a sweet comfort to me in knowing that even though my empty nest has  begun in part prematurely, I am not alone as a mother, in this letting go, and I can follow suit of all loving mothers who have gone before me, in learning to let go of my children, fully and completely entrusting them at last to their Creator.

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Fear

Are you afraid of the future that 2018 holds for you?

I know I’ve not exactly been confident. 2017 has been a hard year, and it has not been ending as expectedly well as we had hoped. Instead of experiencing the multiple family Christmas celebrations like we planned, our entire family has been house-bound with a 72 hour flu – staggered across the entire week of my husband’s vacation. No, not exactly the “high” I wanted to end this year on.

And so, to be honest, its been hard for me not to look ahead at 2018 and wonder what other hardships await us…

Fear…phobia…terrified…anxious…nightmares…

There are so many ways that fear seeps into our world and our lives. Fear of the future; fear of the “worst-case” happening to us; fear of loss; even something as simple as a night-mare that keeps us up at night, from our finite brains being tricked into thinking that the world being taken over by spiders, or aliens, or whatever other monstrous identity your mind conspires, is worth losing sleep over.

Early on, we learn to accept fear. It is such a normal human development that experts have actually tracked it in childhood. Beyond separation anxiety, at age three, fear becomes ramped up in the form of being scared of the dark or scared of shadows, or scared of-you-name-it-they’re-afraid-of-it. It is something that we have to teach our children to address, and so, it becomes normal: it is normal to be afraid.

And yet at a deeper level, this is perhaps one of the greatest lies the Liar has ever spun. For if you stop and really think about it, what is the origin of fear?

Surely it all began in that Garden so long ago? The first moments of fear in the human heart? And what were they afraid of?

They were afraid of God. The God with whom they had just been talking with, walking with, enjoying life with. Now, they were afraid of Him.

And rightly so. He created them, after all. He is the most powerful being in the universe. And they had disobeyed His one request. But for a moment, they had denied His power and perfection, doubted His goodness, and stepped out on their own authority, to decide what was best for them.

And so entered fear into the hearts of mankind. And it wasn’t just anxious-fears. It wasn’t just worrying that God would actually follow through on His word that they would die if they disobeyed Him. It was a knowing-fear. Their God, whom they so loved, would punish them. They knew without a doubt He was right, and what He said would come true. And that thought terrified them into hiding, even though deep down they knew they could never hide from Him.

Here we see fear is always encompassed by disillusionment. Their fear of God’s punishment of their sin was right. But instead of pushing into the truthfulness of their fear, they recoiled back into the disillusionment that they could hide from Him — to the point of blaming each other for their wrong choices, instead of taking responsibility for their sin.

If we only we could see our fears for what they were: a fear of a God with whom we have disobeyed, a God who has rightly and graciously and more-times-than-we-can-ever-count warned us of the consequences of our sinful choices, and a God who is well-within-His-rights to enforce those consequences. This is His world, after all. And our sin that has brought such devastation upon it.

But instead our fears are warped into twisted lies: He doesn’t care; He doesn’t exist; He won’t notice. Fear of losing someone you love? The accompanying lie is: He doesn’t care. Fear of losing your home, your financial security, your comfort? The accompanying lie is: He is not in charge. Fear of never having your desires fulfilled? The accompanying lie is: He doesn’t want you to be happy.

At its bare root, our fear is a fear of God’s rightful and just wrath against our sinfulness. A sinfulness we were born with, yet continue in as easy as breathing because we are so entrenched and enslaved to it. At its core, our fears are a fear of being ultimately and completely separated from the One Source of all that is good and beautiful and right.

What is our hope in such a dire condition?

Well, it is Jesus of course. If our fears stem from being afraid of separation from God – something actually worth fearing – then our fears, all of them, are absolved in the greatest act of salvation mankind has ever known.

In Jesus, our sin problem disappears. In its place, we have perfect peace with God – an eternal guaranteed peace with God. That one act of God’s wrath poured out on His perfect, sinless Son, covers all our sins, past, present, and future. And we have nothing – absolutely nothing – left to fear. God’s love is covenanted to us. Guaranteed. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can now separate us from His love. We never have to be afraid of being separated from Him again.

So how do we face our fears?

With this truth: that our fears, at their core, are rooted in a fear of a God whose wrath is worth fearing; and that we don’t have to be afraid anymore, if we believe in Christ, who bore that wrath on our behalf.

There is no greater confidence in the world we can have than this.

“…that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies” namely, sin and its resulting separation from God, “ might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days…” and so Zechariah said as He praised God for the promised birth of the Savior Jesus. And he said, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited us and redeemed His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us…as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old…” taken from Luke 1:68-75.

Joy in Sorrow

Joy. Isn’t it what we all want? Joy that lasts forever; not the fleeting joy that comes and goes with the circumstances of our lives?

I have had a good life, all things considered. But I have longed for joy. And with the losses of our babies this year, more than anything 2017 has un-earthed my desire and longing for joy that lasts.

It feels evasive. Impossible. Too much suffering, in my life and the lives of those I love. Despair says there’s no reason to have joy — sorrow will inevitably come and snuff it out. Why pursue that which does not last?

I cannot say yet from personal experience what its like to have that lasting joy — but I can say that I believe it is possible, and that I have tasted of it today, this Christmas of 2017.

As I realize the stunning statement that is, tears spring to my eyes. This week, I have been knee-deep in my grief, and yet today, despite the fact that my husband has been out sick for the last two days, despite the fact that this week, I have been mourning my lost babies, despite the fact that some of my family is far from me, despite the fact that so many others in my life are grieving, struggling, lonely, longing…today, God has given me joy. And deep down, I know that this is His joy; joy that comes from seeing all I have.

Loss has a way of doing that — showing both the depth of your emptiness and the riches of what God has already supplied. I hug my dear children close to me; I sit before our fire and beautiful tree with presents surrounding it, and I see what He has given me: love — most importantly, His love, which will never ever, no matter what happens, leave me.  I am secure in His love.

And He has given me the love of so many among my family and friends; two precious, healthy children; a husband who knows me, loves me, cares for me more deeply than I will probably ever know.

And He has given me forgiveness for my sins, known and unknown, past and present and future,  — I have forgiveness that gives me relationship with my God, my Father, my Creator, my Savior, and my King. How much richer can I be? Truly?

This joy He has given me today — I must stop to count it, to reckon that this too is the joy that comes after the mourning; a ray of the rising sun upon my grief. There will be hard days ahead, no doubt. But today, I know, I have His love which holds me and keeps me…and gives me joy.

My Christmas Gift

Have you ever noticed how much the words “longing,” “waiting”, and “hope” are in Christmas hymns? Those words have stood out to me uniquely this year, understandably. My heart is full of longing and waiting, and looking for hope these days as I continue the slow process of letting go of the sweet babies I lost this year.

Early on after this second loss, the words “gift” came to me – the “gift of loss” – that even when we lose something, with God, that loss always comes with gain. I committed myself to discover what gifts the Lord had for me in this loss. What better time than now, to reflect on that question, as I prepare to celebrate and give gifts on Christmas.

First and foremost, He has given me the gift of Himself, in deeper, sweeter, richer ways. His love is always nearer, and more real to me. How can anything surmount the gift of knowing the love of my Father more deeply?

But there is another gift to me in the losses I have faced this year. He has given me the gift of perspective.

I am grieving the losses from my individual life this year. He came to redeem the losses of the whole world.

I am longing for the hope of heaven so that I might see my babies some day. He came to bring hope to the whole world.

I am waiting to see His promises unfold more and more in my life. He came to bring consummation to promises He gave when the first man and woman walked the earth.

The glory of Christmas is in how much bigger and greater a hope and salvation Jesus brings than just redeeming my little life. He came as the Hope for all the grief and sadness this world has ever known.

The truth is that the great story of Christmas has become more true and more real in my life this year than perhaps ever before. I have come to understand at last that nothing, nothing, nothing matters more than the story of Jesus.

I don’t need to see God’s promises come true in my lifetime. It is enough that they are true, the truest hope there ever will be.

And so as I sit here today, watching the sun begin to fade on another day, and the cars pass by on the busy street outside our dining room window, cars filled with busy people going home for busy holidays, I stand amazed at this small, but precious gift of transformation He has already begun to do in me, this seed of faith, growing larger by the day, a faith that finally understands in some small way, that He is all that matters, because my words, my story, my life will all one day fade like that sun setting in the West, but His words will never pass away, and His story will be told for all eternity: how He promised redemption from the moment sin entered our world, and how over and over again, He revealed the next layer of His plan; how He promised His love and forgiveness to those that received Him; and how He, the God of all eternity, would become a tiny, helpless infant, taking on human flesh, and all of human likeness, so that He might one day redeem all of humanity, past, present, and future, through the greatest act of salvation in history. We are in the last act of the story, for any day, He could return, consummating the final elements of His promises that He has been faithfully fulfilling from generation to generation.

O Come O Come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel…
 

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