Archive for April, 2012

For Your Splendor

A few weeks ago, I swerved my car into the parking lot adjacent to the Chick Fil A restaurant six miles from my country house and glanced at my watch, so glad that I was on time. I knew we’d only have a few minutes. Most of the parking lot at the restaurant had already been roped off and overtaken with a stage, large speakers and lights. Fold out chairs were set in rows facing the platform but I know a little about the spiritual side of Houston and that most of those listeners would only sit in those chairs until the first note. Then they’d be up on their feet. This is a hot, sweaty, some-might-even-say-homely town in a lot of ways but it is a fair and lovely place to those who love Jesus. Maybe one of the reasons is that our area is home to a really fabulous, award-winning Christian contemporary radio station – KSBJ, 89.3 FM – that serves as a central station for unity, that turns up the volume on worship and still fights harder to win souls than awards. They host something called “Brown Bag Concerts” throughout the year where they bring in various CCM artists to do concerts at different Chick Fil A restaurants around the city. (I feel so sorry for you – truly I do – if you do not live where there is a Chick Fil A or, worse yet, if you have no idea what one is. Move.)

That day the artist going up on stage was Christy Nockels. My pastor of 25 years, John Bisagno, used to say, “All people bring gifts to the church. Some people are gifts to the church.” Christy would be one of those. A year or so ago (not sure how long it’s been), we invited her to one of our LPM Tuesday night community Bible studies. As I sat to the side and watched the women packed in that sanctuary and the aisles, lifting their faces throne-ward, many of them with their eyes closed and their hands raised, and listened to their voices in almost perfect pitch with hers, I had a revelation of sorts. I realized that in so many ways, Christy is to this generation what Amy Grant was to mine. She helps place words on the tongues of true worshipers who want so much to express themselves to God but don’t always know how to say what they feel. That makes a person a gift.

As I got out of my car and headed across to Chick Fil A, I spied my two friends, Christy and Nathan, and they were grinning at me just like I was grinning at them. We hugged then headed into the small RV so we could chat a little while. Mike McCloskey, who was managing the evening for them, asked me if I wanted anything from the restaurant while we were visiting and, of course, I did. “Nuggets and an Ice Dream? Oh, and Polynesian Sauce?” And in minutes, I had them. While I spooned Ice Dream into my mouth (always spoon down, for some reason), we conversed quickly like a couple of people on borrowed time.  We talked mostly about their kids, my kids, and my grandkids, and did a bit of musing about Passion 2012 and had some wild thoughts about Passion 2013. We got out pictures on our iPhones and even watched a video their son Noah had created. (Actually, it was astonishingly impressive. But I guess his gene pool is nothing to whine about, now is it?)

Mike reminded them about the time and Christy glanced over at me and said, “Hey, Beth, do you care if we rehearse one song really quickly?”

“Absolutely not. Please, do!”

And so I sat right there on the couch in that RV, six inches from Christy to my right and Nathan across from us, leaning in with his guitar. We were all three crouched in about 4 square feet. And I listened to a song I’d never heard from a voice truly as beautiful as any I’ve ever heard. The album is out now so you may well have already heard it but I really need you to join me in the intimacy – no, the strange sanctity, really – of that small RV and hear it again. With nobody else listening. Just you. Just the voice singing. Just that guitar. And Jesus.

 

“I’m so concerned with what I look like from the outside.

Will I blossom into what You hope I’ll be.

Yet You’re so patient just to help me see.

The blooms come from a deeper seed that You planted in me.

Sometimes it’s hard to grow when everybody’s watching.

To have your heart pruned by the one who knows best.

And though I’m bare and cold, I know my season’s coming.

And I’ll spring up in Your endless faithfulness.

With my roots deep in You, I’ll grow the branch that bears the fruit.

And though I’m small, I’ll still be standing in the storm.

‘Cause I am planted by the river by Your streams of living water.

And I’ll grow up strong and beautiful, all for Your splendor, Lord.

So with my arms stretched out, I’m swaying to Your heartbeat.

I’m growing with the sound of Your voice calling.

You’re bringing out the beauty that You have put in me.

For Your joy and for Your glory falling.”

 

Written by Christy Nockels and Nathan Nockels, Copyright 2012 sixsteps Music/worshiptogether.com Songs/Sweater Weather Music (ASCAP) (Admin. at EMICMGPublishing.com)

 

As that melody floated in the air, I pictured Annabeth running down the path from my house to Big Pops and Memmaw’s, sunlight dancing in her dark honey hair.  I pictured Amanda and Melissa, each of them growing up before my eyes in Christ. So, so different from the other, just the way they’ve always been, but equally breathtaking. My mind cased across the faces of so many women I’ve seen, faces reflecting the light bouncing from an open page of Scripture. Oh, now, you know I love our brothers. But I’m not called so much to our brothers. I’m called mostly to sisters. And somehow the lyrics touched me in a deep place for all of us. Deep enough that I’ve thought of it every day since then and played it many times in the same car I pulled into that parking lot. Now I know it almost by heart. But that day I knew it more by faith. More by growing experience.

I want to say to you today that I watch many of you fight this good fight, trying to keep your equilibrium in this crazy culture where – for the most part – a woman is as desirable as she is sensual. Or, on the other side of the spectrum, she’s as valuable as she is marketable. I want to cheer you on and say to you, Good Job! And Don’t Give Up! And don’t forget, no matter what this world tells you, that the most gorgeous blooms come from a deeper seed. The lyrics ring so true. “It’s hard to grow up when everybody’s watching.” And sometimes God lets others behold the pruning process in us when we’d just as soon have done it in private. But He always knows what He’s doing. And He is only doing you good. Never evil. Never harm. He cannot be unbiased toward you. The blood of His Son flows through your veins. Even through the silence He is talking. Even in the stillness, He is moving. He is hemming you in. He is closing in on you to open you up to Him.

All that you are going through, all that you are learning, is bringing out the beauty that He has put in you. And some of those same folks who watched the pruning will see the blooming.

I just want you to know that I already see it happening. And others already see it, too. And if you’d look really close, not into your rear view mirror, but into His Word, I think you could even catch a glimpse of it.

You get more beautiful by the day, Darling Child. Don’t be discouraged. Don’t decide it can’t matter all that much. “For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for His name in serving the saints, as you still do.” (Hebrews 6:10) He will see to you until you are stunning for His splendor.

I know your season’s coming.

 

 

 

 

 

PS. I totally forgot until this morning (Tuesday) that we snapped this picture that day in the RV on my iPhone. If you’re like me, you love pictures in blog posts. If you’re not like those of us who do, stop reading now. Laughing. Man, I so love you guys.

 

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Missing You! Want to do a few minutes of Q&A?

Hey, Sweet Things! I thought I’d take about an hour’s break from my preparation for a message God is laying on my heart for Gateway’s Pink Impact (isn’t that a fun name?) Thursday night. As you’ll see, I’m sort of a captive audience for you right now.

I am so in the mood to interact with you and I don’t have a ton of time but I’ll try to make the best of what I have! Want to do some Q&A for the next little while? I’ll try my hardest to take the first 20 questions that are best suited for this format. (Mainly it’s a matter of time. The best kinds of questions are those more easily answered in the brief time frame we have. In other words, this is not the time for us to expound on deep theological issues or how to get past childhood trauma. Your questions can be fun or trivial or serious or simply information oriented. If I pass over yours, it was simply a time issue – OR, even more likely, that I just didn’t have an answer. Or MAYBE it’s a surprise I need to save for later.

I’m not a big expert. This is just kind of a lopsided slice of how two friends sitting across a small table at Starbucks might get to know each other a little better.

So, let’s talk if you’d like to! Just so you can picture where I am and what I look like right now:

 

DO I LOVE YOU OR WHAT???

When you write in, tell me where you are right now. It will help me picture you on the other side of the table.

I’m crazy about you.

 

For the siesta who asked about the color of lipstick on my coffee cup. I loved that question! Here you go:

 

The Stila shade is “Petal” and J Lo inspired me to get this shade. It’s a stain and I like it but it sort of tends to smear if I’m not really careful to let it dry completely before I add the gloss. Needs more time to set than other stains I’ve tried.

The gloss/plumper I wear over it and many other stains is Buxom’s (such a stupid, embarrassing name) “Sandy.” It makes everything have kind of a creamy look. I love it.

You guys are such a blast! I wish I could have done more! I’ll try to do a few more in the next 24 hours if possible but, if I can’t, I love you just the same.

 

 

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Are You Some Living Proof?? Oh, I Think So!

I am just beside myself about something. The LifeWay event team (in charge of all the Living Proof Lives, Going Beyonds, Abundance events, etc) thought up such fun ideas for the booklet that participants will get at the LPL Simulcast on September 15, 2012. One of them involves you. They want to hear testimonies from you about how you are living proof that God’s Word is alive and active and that His Son redeems. (This is not meant to have anything to do with me or with this ministry. It’s about YOUR own personal story with Jesus.) They are going to go through each one of them, find a great cross section of testimonies, select 5 stories and add them to the booklet for the whole simulcast community to read! And, that, Sister, will be a batch of women from all over the place.  

Here’s what you do: In a comment to this post, write a 200-250 word testimony about how God has accomplished a work in you or through you that leaves no other viable explanation (in your eyes) than Himself. Use your words carefully and save them all for your testimony! You might consider doing it on a word document then cutting and pasting it into a comment so you can really think about what you want to say. Your participation through a comment will act as your automatic release for the publication of your testimony if yours is selected, SO, be sure, Sweet Thing, that you don’t say more than you mean to. You know your blog mama’s trying to protect you here.

Listen, these will be such a blast because, even if only 5 get to be selected for the booklet, just think how we are going to encourage one another and build up each other’s faith! NOT ONE STORY WILL BE WASTED. Thousands of eyes see these posts and comments. Girlfriend, T-E-S-T-I-F-Y! I will be sitting on pins and needles to watch these come in. Let’s call the deadline for your entries midnight on Thursday, April 26th.


The five who are selected will be contacted by LifeWay and will win the following:

  • Free registration of the 2012 Living Proof Live simulcast for a small group of 7-14 of your friends!
  • Free copy of Praying God’s Word
  • Free James member book (I realize lots of you may already have one of these but I’ll get these five signed if you want.)
  • A special section in the Living Proof Live simulcast listening guide including YOUR story, Girlfriend! (We’ll want your picture, too, if you’re willing to submit it to us. You’ll be contacted and asked for it if you are selected.)

One of the things we’re so excited about this year for our Living Proof Live Simulcast is that, for the very first time, small groups and INDIVIDUALS are able to participate. If it’s anything like previous years, women will be joining us from church buildings, military bases, and prisons, but this year for the FIRST TIME, also from living rooms and couches. You can watch all day in your jammies if you want to!

If this event sounds fun to you, go ahead and get that thing on the calendar: September 15, 2012. We are believing God to permeate walls, embattled minds, and rock-hard hearts and speak words of life, freedom, redemption, ministry. AND UNITY, for crying out loud.You game??
 I love you guys so much. Can’t wait to hear from you!

 

From LifeWay:

If you would like more information about the simulcast or how you can be a host, visit www.lifeway.com/lplsimulcast. 

 

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Living Proof Live – Kansas City Recap Video

Good Tuesday afternoon, ladies! We hope you all had a wonderful weekend. Here is our very first LPL recap video of the year captured and created by our very own Rich. Thank you so much for your hard work! It is awesome! And praise the Lord for the way He graced you all in Kansas City this weekend!

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Kansas City LPL is Sold Out…But Guess What?

We held back 10 tickets for Siesta Scholarship Giveaways!

This is the first Living Proof Live of the year and the team could not be more excited to land in Kansas City to see what God is up to this weekend!  There is never any way for us to tell if an event is going to be sold out or not, so when it is, and we’ve already snatched 10 tickets, we know it’s a God thing. No doubt He is up to something in the minds and hearts of those attending this weekend!

Can you believe the last LPL was in November? It’s been a good four month sabbatical, so to refresh your memory, please remember that these 10 tickets are for those of you that really desire to attend this conference, but just flat cannot afford it at this time. Our desire is to bless you!

If that is you and you qualify, meaning, you didn’t just forget to buy your ticket in time but you really just cannot afford it, then the first 10 of you that call the Living Proof office will receive a Siesta Scholarship ticket! Just call 1-888-700-1999 and Kimberly will get you taken care of.

May I be as bold to say you might want to call pretty quick? I have a feeling these will fly out of Kimberly’s hands in no time.

We cannot wait to hear a report of how God showed up and showed off at the very first LPL of 2012. May He be lifted ever so high and His name alone be praised! Oh, and if you’re headed that way, don’t be shy, let us know!

And lastly, would you please join me in praying for Beth and the team as they make their way this very day to Kansas City and prepare to serve you in Jesus’ name? Your prayers do make a difference. Believe that, Sister! We love you!

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Glorious Resurrection Day: He’s Already Up

The glorious appearance of Christ Jesus to Mary Magdalene in the Gospel of John is the consummate show stealer. All else pales in the glimpse of His beautiful face, rinsed of blood and flushed with fresh life.

She’s sobbing. The hole that the loss of Jesus would cause in a life would be unlike any other. Incomparable. A canyon carved out of granite earth. A bottomless pit. A soul’s abyss. His words, “I’ll never leave you nor forsake you” in Hebrews 13:5 relieve us of the most horrific prospect in the human experience: the loss of Jesus. But the woman in this scene got to feel it and, in this terrifying state, nothing of value – no one of value – was recognizable to her.

Deeply moved, He puts His loved one out of her misery.

“Mary,” He says.

“Rabboni!”

And she grabs onto Him for dear life until He has to peel her off His Person to send her forth with the news that changes everything.

But right there in the very first verse is a piece of information that captures my imagination over and over.

“Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.” (John 20:1)

Look at it one more time. How early?

“While it was still dark.”

Really, does it get any earlier than while it is still dark? And He was already up. Already alive. Already raised.

“While it was still dark” was too late to catch Christ in the tomb. She’d overslept the divine alarm.

Doesn’t it touch you that the Father did not wait till dawn? For Scripture to be perfectly and vividly fulfilled, Christ had to be raised on the third day. Isn’t there treasure in the realization that the One and only Father of this One and only Son did not even wait until the sun peeked over the horizon? If it was still dark when Mary found the tomb empty, what unthinkable time must God have raised Him from the dead?

I don’t know. Call me sentimental but I wonder if the Father, patient and long-suffering through the ages, that one particular hour could not bring Himself to wait another minute. After all, He’d been up all night – Blessed and Wide-Eyed Insomniac – while those who could sleep slept. And He’d waited. And waited. And waited. We earthlings have few greater challenges than waiting. Wouldn’t you say? And, as people of faith, our longest waiting can be, in particular, waiting upon the Lord. As one of my mentors used to say, “God is never late but He misses a few good opportunities to be early.”

Except, notably, on this particular Sunday morning.

Well, I wonder if perhaps that late Saturday night, God Himself grew anxious waiting upon the Lord. And maybe He watched the clock just long enough for the hour to qualify as morning. And way before dawn, when it was pitch black outside, when the earth seemed without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep, God spoke. Maybe something close to this…

“Arise, my Son. My one and only Son, Whom I Love. In whom I am well pleased. up with You! Rise!”

 

“While it was still dark outside.”

 

And God said “Let there be Light.”

 

And there was.

 

“The light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God…for God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:4b,6)

This morning when I got up to publish this post for you, it was like pitch outside and so very still and the full moon shown like it was proud of itself. And it made me think. Only the moon was up that morning when God brought up the Son.

“They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 22:5)

Happy, happy Resurrection Sunday, my beloved Sisters! There is no day on our calendar like this day. It was without competition, the Father’s best day. As 365 days fly by on the annual calendar, this one is His favorite. Dance it away from dawn till dusk. Worship Him, study Him, seek Him, feast before Him, laugh before Him, hug the people you love before Him, kiss and cuddle those babies before Him, eat dessert before Him, hide eggs before Him, LIVE this whole day before Him. In Him, Through Him. With Him. Dance in the crowd of angels toasting. All emptiness is swallowed whole. He is our fullness. Celebrate this Day! He won it for you. Live it with all the life you have! Give those who know you but do not know Christ a glimpse of abundance alive and spinning in human flesh. Have a festival of praise. Death has lost its sting!

Pat that yawn away. Wash the sleep from your eyes. For no matter how early you got out of bed this morning, one thing is certain.

He was already up.

 

 

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The death of Jesus

For most of my life the Easter holiday has been all about Sunday. Well, it’s been all about the palm branches on Palm Sunday and then “Resurrection” Sunday a week later. Oh, and I suppose I have to mention the Cadbury Mini Eggs if I’m going to be honest. Let’s just say that I’m definitely giving up Cadbury Mini Eggs for Lent next year. But, seriously, the older I get the more desire I have to really journey through, as best I can, the final days of Christ’s Passion. I’m learning to pause and take each day carefully and individually.

My natural tendency is to rush through, to think already on Maundy Thursday, “But . . . Sunday’s coming!” While this is true, Resurrection Sunday does not “erase” Friday.  Hans Urs von Balthasar says: “The whole New Testament is unanimous on this point: the Cross and burial of Christ reveal their significance only in the light of the event of Easter, without which there is no Christian faith” (Mysterium Paschale, 189). Indeed, Resurrection Sunday legitimates Friday as the cosmic act of God, but it is crucial to recognize that Sunday does not obliterate the significance of Friday. In other words, Jesus’ resurrection does not render his death as theologically unimportant or unworthy of my contemplation. Not to mention, Sunday is most meaningful when we give Thursday night, Friday, and Saturday the respect they are due.

Serendipitously, a few days ago I came across a review wherein Walter Brueggemann opines that the final three days of Passion (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) “must not be homogenized but must be kept discreet and distinctive, each for its own weightiness” (Walter Brueggemann reviewing Alan E. Lewis’ Between Cross and Resurrection). I think Brueggemann may well be on to something. If you’re like me and you’re theologically inclined to move too quickly from Jesus’ death to His resurrection, perhaps for the rest of the weekend (and God willing, future Lenten seasons) we can focus on experiencing the Passion narrative as it progresses from one event to the next.

This evening imagine Jesus enduring despicable violence. I hear his plea: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” I try to imagine the unimaginable. I think of Jesus–everything that is good, pure, beautiful, and noble being defeated by the evil hideousness of human cruelty. Truth, hope, beauty, all nailed to a cross. “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5). Linger here before the cross; think through its implications again. No matter how many times we’ve done it.

“O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red”
(George Matheson).

What was it like for Jesus’ disciples that dreadful day? They had just eaten a meal with Jesus the night before. They gathered with him to celebrate the Passover, to remember the glorious night when the LORD had delivered Israel from Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm (Exodus 12). Now, at long last, they hoped, Jesus, the long expected Messiah, would deliver them from the hands of the Romans. “We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel,” two confounded Jesus followers said on their walk to Emmaus (Luke 24:21). Jesus hadn’t come through for them in the way they expected. He died. How could the Messiah die?

Interestingly, several years after the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, the apostle Paul would tell the church in Corinth: “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). Why so many years after Jesus’ resurrection does Paul wish to know nothing except Christ crucified? Because the cross of Christ changes the way we think about everything. Elizabeth Johnson puts it this way: “the cross turns everything upside down and makes the first last and the last first, the wise foolish and the foolish wise, and even the dead alive” (“Life Together in the Household of God” in Shaking Heaven and Earth,  100).

Likewise, in the book of Revelation, John begins to weep loudly because no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth is worthy to open the scroll (Rev. 5:4). But one of the elders tells him: “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals” (Rev. 5:5). And then, John sees; he looks between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders and he sees that the lion has been transformed and now there is a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain (Rev. 5:6). Oh what a beautiful and glorious reversal of imagery; the cross redefines power itself.  Here in the most triumphant of New Testament books, the one who has authority to open the seven seals is a slain lamb. The word of the cross is the power of God! The lion of the tribe of Judah is transformed before John’s very eyes into a slain Lamb.  Jesus’ earthly death, even post-resurrection, remains crucial to his identity as the ruler of all things.

If Jesus’ death remains crucial to his identity as cosmic ruler even after his resurrection and ascension, then we can only conclude that the cross is central, even paradigmatic, for our lives as Jesus followers. This is why Paul can say, among other things: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed . . . always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies” (2 Cor. 4:8-10). It turns out, manifesting the life of Jesus is directly connected to carrying in our bodies the death of Jesus. Truly, “the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18).

We’ve said a few things about Good Friday but let’s also think about the significance of tomorrow, Holy Saturday, when Jesus is dead in the tomb.  We must think about what we’re saying here; we’re saying that God actually died. These are enormous theological claims and they bear immense significance. Faith and hope are non-existent from dawn to dusk. As Alan Lewis says poignantly in regard to Holy Saturday: “death is given time and space to be itself, in all its coldness and helplessness” (Alan E. Lewis, Between Cross and Resurrection: A Theology of Holy Saturday, 37). A disquieting thought, right? You know, God could have willed from eternity past that Jesus would be resurrected a fragment of a second after he died on the cross. But He didn’t. Holy Saturday: an entire day when God was presumably absent from the scene and no answers were offered but a mocking, chilling silence. We’re talking here about humankind having literally no hope and no confidence of redemption secured or battles won.

What is flooding your mind and heart this Passion weekend?

 

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