Summer Study: Ephesians 1

This summer, on Sundays, the plan is to go through the book of Ephesians and Philippians, with a few other blog posts sprinkled here and there on other types of reflection.  But I’m super excited to really dive into more scripture this summer – both on Sundays and the Bible Study I’m doing this summer as well.

Ephesians1

Ephesians is a letter from Paul to the church in Ephesus as Paul is writing from a prison cell in Rome.  One of the things I noticed when I compared the other letters that Paul wrote to churches was that Ephesians was only one of two letters that Paul writes alone.  In 1 Corinthians, he is writing the letter with Sosthenes.  In 2 Corinthians, Philippians, and Colossians, it’s with Timothy.  In Galatians, it’s with all the brothers with him.  And 1 and 2 Thessalonians, he is writing with Timothy and Silas.  Only in Romans does he not mention anyone else with him as he writes the letter.

The part of the first chapter that truly struck me was this quote:

In him (meaning Christ), we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace, that he lavished on us…

Ephesians 1: 7-8a

That word lavished pricked me as soon as I read it.  As I continued through the rest of the chapter, my mind kept going back to that word.  Lavish is such a luxurious word.  I think of when someone lavishes gifts on someone else.  But I wanted to know what Paul said exactly, so, like any nerd, I looked it up in Greek.  The word is Perisseuo which means overflow and exceed.

It made me think of the story of the feeding of the 5000 with the 5 loaves and 2 fish.  How it fed everyone but still had 12 basketfuls left over.  Jesus not only met the need, but he surpassed it.

Christ’s sacrifice doesn’t just pay our debt to sin.  It surpasses it.  And then I got giddy.  Because you know what that means?

I will never be too broken, too sinful, too much for the love and grace of God.  The riches of God’s grace not only pay my debt, but it surpasses my debt.  His grace is greater than any sin I have ever done, even the ones I think are too big to handle.

Not that we should continue sinning, which Paul talks about in his letter to the Romans (6:1-2).  We are freed from sin, and from the guilt and shame of that sin.  We didn’t bankrupt God with our sin.  But God did purchase us in our sin.  In Ephesians 1:13, it says that we are marked in him with a seal, a sign of possession.  And that seal is the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit working within us is a sign that we are no longer our own, but that we belong to God.

Honestly, I have always thought that the Holy Spirit was a gift I could use, not a gift that used me.  You know, I thought that the power of the Holy Spirit was used to perform miracles, answer prayers, make life easier.  But this is saying that the Holy Spirit doesn’t work for me, I work for the Holy Spirit.  And the Spirit’s purpose is to be “the praise of his glory” (v 14).  The Spirit uses us to praise God’s glory, to glorify God.

And that really sticks it to the Devil.  No matter what he throws at me – death, depression, isolation, anxiety, the Spirit can use those things to glorify God.  In my own weakness, God’s strength prevails, not just barely, but overabundantly with room to spare.

The story is of this powerful creator of universes who has an amount of grace and power that is beyond sufficient for all of the bad done in the world, all the losses, the pain, the hurt, the addictions.  We are heirs to that power, that redemption, that reconciliation through Christ (Ephesians 1:18-20), that cannot be separated from us (Romans 8: 28-29).

How cool is that?

Ephesians 1

Advertisements

Friday Ramble: My Adventure to the Drug Store

Drugstore

Usually, I buy my pregnancy tests and all things ovulation related from Amazon.

SPOILERS: I am not pregnant.  This is not that post.

Let’s continue.

Lately, my cycles have been predictable, even leading up to the cycle, I know I’m not pregnant.  My body is really good at making that clear.

Until this month.

Now, last month’s cycle, without going into any TMI, was WEIRD.  It was so weird, you guys.  So, I should have suspected that this cycle would be a little off, especially since it’s finally sunny outside and I’m spending more time out in that sun, hence the extra activity can also play a factor in weird cycles.

But as the days have passed and I haven’t had any of my normal symptoms, that little voice in the back of my head starts to scream.  Of course, due to the “normalcy” of my cycles of late, I ran out of pregnancy tests a couple months ago and didn’t restock.  But, I can’t wait two days for Amazon to bring me more, so I have to go to the local drug store.

My local drug store is great.  It has amazing people that work there.  But some of them are quite nosy.  For example, one day I bought a Dr. Scholls Ingrown Toenail repair kit for a stubbed toe, and the cashier proceeded to give me all of the tips and tricks to avoid such a situation.

Also, I worked in a drug store when I was a teenager, and I was quite the nosy cashier, myself.  So, I’m thinking as I pulled into the parking lot that I’m about to receive a lot of karmic justice.  I’m fearing that even a “good luck” and knowing look as the pregnancy test boxes are being rung up will send me into a tearful meltdown.  I know that either way (either preggo or PMS), I have a lot of hormones running through my system, and I’m gearing up for the inevitable breakdown in this store, a store that I frequent a lot due to the proximity to my house.  But I have to know, and that need overcomes my shaking hands, so I get out of the car.

As I walk in, I see the front cashier chatting with some customers, but he takes notice as I enter and welcomes me to the store.  I make a beeline straight for the aisle I need, but as I am walking there, the manager and another employee asked if I need help finding something.  Where is an invisibility cloak when you need one?

I head down the aisle.  It is not lost on me that on the same aisle as pregnancy tests, there are condoms.  So if one works, it means the other didn’t.  There are also pads on this aisle, which I guess is also appropriate.  Cause you will need these if the test doesn’t work.  Just found that slightly entertaining.

Oh!  Preggo tests are “buy one, get one half off”.  They know their customer.  Cause you know that pregnant or not, I’m taking at least two at a time just to be sure.  And there aren’t that many there, which means that of course, everyone else is doing the same thing I am, and I’m wondering if this time of year is particularly busy for the pregnancy test industry.  But now I’m standing too long in front of this section, so I grab two boxes and make my way up to the front of the store.

The cashier is still chatting to the customers, but as he sees I’m ready, he points me to a register and rings me up.  I’m thankful that “Ingrown Toenail” girl isn’t there today, and slightly happy that it’s a man at the register, as they are less likely to even realize what I’m buying, or at the very least less likely to say anything.  He rings me up, we talk about the loyalty rewards card and I leave the store relatively unscathed.

Of course, I go home and take a test, finding out that it’s negative.  Michael comes up later to put something away and I tell him the results.  He comes up and hugs me.  He doesn’t know what to say and neither do I.  It’s all part of it.  Every month this year has been a disappointment.  Tears fall down my cheek, but I’m not ugly crying or anything.  Just disappointed and frustrated that my cycle has decided to shift a few days to the right, giving me slight hope.

I don’t know if there was a moral to this story, although reading it back, I find it both hilarious and sad, which I think aptly describes life in general.  Some days we are hilariously anxious over what ifs that turn out to be nothing, and other days our hopes are delayed for a little longer.  I guess, I just wanted to share the window that is my life to you, my sweet, dear friends.

 

The Best I Can

Earlier this year, I shared a mantra I’ve been using that revolved around learning, growing, and staying curious.  It really helps to look on that and remind me to keep moving forward.

Lately, I’ve been working on a new, much shorter mantra to help me with my problem of people pleasing.

I’m really hard on myself when it comes to pleasing other people.  I want to be helpful.  I want to support others.  I want to show other people that I care about them and love them.  And the way to do that is to make them happy, right?

Sometimes this manifests itself in the form of volunteering too much, or not saying no when I probably should.  But the harshest form of people pleasing for me are the critical people in my life.

You know those people who always seem to have these expectations for you that you never seem to meet?  Or the ones who constantly feel the need to one-up you?  The ones who constantly move the finish line on how they think you should live your life or express your love or care for them?  The “you don’t truly care for me unless you…” kind of people, whether they say this exactly or their actions speak this to you in some way.

They feed into my insecurities, make me feel like I’m not enough and they have it all together.  And it’s easy for me to believe the lie, to tell myself that their critiques are really improving me, pushing me to strive for better.  But that’s not actually the reality.  And it doesn’t even have to be a legitimate person, the voice in my head gives me more criticism than all my people critics could combine.

So, here’s the mantra that I’ve been telling myself when the critical speak rears its head at me.

BestICan

 

I had a professor in college who once said at the beginning of the semester.  “When you turn in a paper or take a test, don’t tell me that you could have done better.  In that situation, with your resources and distractions, you did the best you could.”  At first, I thought he just didn’t want to hear whining or complaining, but really, he was giving us the freedom to grow and learn.

I don’t talk to myself the way I talk to a friend.  I don’t give myself the grace and space that I give my friends.  And I need to start being a good friend to myself.  I mean, if I knew someone who had lost three babies, deals with bouts of anxiety and depression, and still gets up in the morning and tries her hardest to make other people happy.  I would think she is a rock star.  Sure, she has imperfections.  Sure, she loses her temper or her patience or both.  Sure she has her cranky days.  But I would tell her she isn’t defined by her good or her bad, but by her God.

defined

 

I don’t have everything figured out.  I’m still learning and growing as a person.  Hence, the mantra I tell myself every morning.  Today, in this situation, with the resources, and talents and knowledge I have, with all of the distractions and criticisms and anxieties and depressions I will sift through today, I am doing the best I can.  And that is true for my friends, my critics, and for you.  In whatever situation you find yourself in today, give yourself grace and space and just do the best you can.

And whatever we can’t do, God will handle.

Lamentations

My Mother’s Day

We have done different things in the past on Mother’s Day.  Up until my first miscarriage, Mother’s Day was a day to celebrate all of the mothers in my life – my mom, my mother-in-law, my friends.  I would make little gifts or write cards to them.  I enjoyed it because I really enjoy encouraging other people.

But that all changed with my first miscarriage.

2013 – I went to church that day.  I was still recovering from my miscarriage I had just 6 days earlier.  I didn’t want to be the kind of person that stayed home.  I wanted to embrace the “this isn’t about me, this is about celebrating my friends just like I’ve always done” mentality.  But when I walked in, the first person asked me when I was going to be celebrating this day, myself, and I almost lost it right there.  But I held it together….that is, until the first video during the service.  I managed to get out to the hallway before the ugly crying started.  My husband was making coffee that morning, so I just stayed with him in the kitchen for the rest of the service.  My in-laws had come in that weekend to support us, and I left them in the sanctuary.  Thankfully, they understood and were awesome about it.  I would also like to note that the church put a beautiful poem in the bulletin that day, honoring all mothers.  One of the ministers who saw me leave the sanctuary came to check up on me and told me that he was thinking of me when they put that particular poem in the bulletin that week.  Another minister also came to check on me.  That church rocks.

2014 – Michael and I decided to get out of town this time.  We went to Austin for the weekend.  He shopped at fish stores and I had a morning at the spa.

2015 – This was after my first daughter passed away.  It was this Mother’s Day that I requested a special heart-shaped urn for my daughter.

2016 – I was actually pregnant on this Mother’s Day.  I went to church, dreamt of future Mother’s Days.  It was a pretty amazing day.  I didn’t know that only three months later, she, too, would pass away unexpectedly and inexplicably.  But this day was a happy day that I still cherish.

2017 – This Mother’s Day, I holed up in my house.  I didn’t know how I was going to be on this day.  I spent the morning snuggling with my dogs and watching light-hearted TV shows on Netflix (that had nothing to do with motherhood). 20170514_090933My husband gave me two cards – one from him and one from the dogs (the dogs’ card included a pack of highlighters because just recently, Teddy destroyed my favorite pink one).  I wasn’t on my phone very much, but I think one of the most amazing things that happened this year was the unexpected texts and messages I received.  I didn’t respond to very many because I was overwhelmed by the kind words and thoughts and prayers included in each message.  You are all a part of God’s work on my healing heart, and I’m so thankful for each of you.

Just like how different each of my Mother’s days these past four years have been, other women who have experienced or are experiencing pregnancy loss or infertility may do this day differently than I have.  And that’s okay.  Maybe some need to be in community and decided to go to church.  Maybe some need to get out of town.  Maybe some need to do something special to remember their child(ren).  Maybe some just need to stick their heads in the sand and wait for it to pass.  Maybe some are pregnant this year, but they still remember the children that came before.

None of these are wrong or selfish.  If you find this particular holiday difficult, know that you are loved.  You are valued.  I know it feels isolating, but you are not alone.  If you ever want to talk or vent, I’m here.  But more importantly, God is here.  He sees you.  He hears you.  And he is walking with you every step of this journey.

Easter and Expectation

I’m taking a small break in my Legacy study to share something a little more personal this week.

EasterandExpectation.jpg

One year ago on Good Friday, the Friday right before Easter, I found out I was pregnant. I won’t lie.  I was kinda hoping for another positive test this Good Friday as well, but that didn’t happen.

Last Sunday, I went to my old church and heard a sermon about the Saturday in between the death of Jesus and the resurrection.  All those miracles, and promises, just to have him die on the cross.  They didn’t know Sunday was coming.  I can’t imagine what those men and women who had followed Jesus throughout his ministry felt.

Then again, maybe I do.

No one had the plan of God figured out.  They thought he was a prophet.  They thought he would restore the kingdom of Israel to its former glory.  Death wasn’t supposed to be a part of it.  Peter argued this point with Jesus and Jesus rebuked him.  The plan of God was impossible for them to see.

Last year, when I found out I was pregnant, I also did the math to know when I was due. It was going to be the day before Thanksgiving, the same day of the week that my first daughter was stillborn.  When I found out I was having another girl, I thought that all of the parts of the story were lining up so neatly into this beautiful testimony.  And then just five months after that positive test, my daughter passed away.

It didn’t make sense.  But just like the people in Jesus’s time, I’m not seeing the bigger picture.  And the truth is, I will never see the bigger picture in this life.  The only reason we can read the death of Jesus without faltering in our faith is because just a chapter or two later, he has risen.  And then we have the rest of the New Testament and the history of the world to see that story continue to the far reaches of the earth.  The people hiding behind locked doors, fearing for their lives after their teacher died, would have no way to see all of that.

The control freak in me wants to see that big picture, wants to be able to step back and see everything.  See why my daughters had to die.  See why I am having to wait now.  I know I get a few glimpses.  I see in small and big ways how God has used me during these past four years.  The rest of the story will have to be built on faith.  Faith that God will see this through, that he will reveal to me my next step when it’s time to take it.

That is the hope of Easter.  That one day everything will be revealed in the glory of God.  It is a reminder to continue living in expectation.  To keep living based in faith, learning from the ones hiding in those rooms.  Learning from the women who prepared the burial incense and got up early to honor their Lord, having no idea what they would find there.  I must continue to walk in faith, doing what God calls me to do.  Frankly, Saturday sucks.  But Sunday is coming.

Legacy: Nahshon to Solomon

On Sundays this month, I am going through the Matthew 1 genealogy of Jesus.  Because I’ve been fascinated with all of the connections in the Between the Lines study in March and the Women of Infertility study in February.

NahshonToSolomon.jpg

So, last week, we left off with Nahshon.

Nahshon the father of Salmon,

So, if Nahshon was the leader of the tribe of Judah during the settlement time, then Salmon was his son.  Can you imagine how much people would be waiting to see what he would do with his life?  The pressure of being the tribe leader’s kid must have been rough.  I don’t know if he was handed that job, but I do know something even more interesting about him.

Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,

This was Rahab, the prostitute in Jericho who hid the Israelite spies from the king in exchange for her family’s protection.  I could imagine because of her occupation, and the fact that her house was along the wall of Jericho, that she heard a lot of the stories about the Israelites.  So when two spies come to her door, she takes them in and protects them, telling them what she has heard of their Lord (Joshua 2:8-13).

And then, after the Israelites conquer the city of Jericho, it says that “Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho—and she lives among the Israelites to this day.” (Joshua 6:25).  And that’s really the last we hear of her until we start looking at the genealogies.  While she was living among those Israelites, she met Salmon, the son of the leader of the tribe of Judah, and they fell in love and had Boaz.

Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,

Ruth was a Moabite, the wife one of the sons of Naomi.  When Naomi lost her husband and both of her sons, she gives her two daughter-in-law’s freedom to go back to Moab to find other husbands to marry.  But Ruth stays with Naomi.  She makes a semi-famous speech to Naomi, committing her life to her mother-in-law, saying, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” (Ruth 1: 16-17).  

Boaz enters the picture as a “man of standing” who owned fields near Bethlehem.  When I first read this story, I thought Boaz showed Ruth kindness because she was a hot tamale, but knowing now the bigger picture of who his mother was, I wonder if when he found out she was a Moabite, that she had left her family and homeland to stay with Naomi, that she was a foreigner just like his mother was a foreigner that it prompted his kindness.

Another precious moment was in Ruth 4, at the end of the chapter.  Naomi had a pretty hard life.  She lost her husband and her children.  She and Ruth had a tough time after moving back to Bethlehem, with the exception of the kindness of Boaz.  But after Boaz and Ruth have their first son, Obed, Naomi “took the child in her arms and cared for him.”  I can just imagine her holding this boy on her lap, looking for any signs of resemblance to her sons or her husband (Boaz was related to her husband after all). This boy gave her renewed hope and promise.

Obed the father of Jesse,

and Jesse the father of King David.

Jesse lived in Bethlehem like Boaz did.  David took care of sheep (1 Samuel 16:11), so we know he had livestock.  He interacted with both Samuel and Saul who were interested in David.  Samuel came to anoint him as the next king (after looking at Jesse’s seven other sons).  Saul asked for David to come play the lyre to calm his nerves.  Perhaps Jesse thought this was how David would become king.  He was very old when David went off to fight Goliath (1 Samuel 17:12), and that’s the last we hear of him directly.

David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,

I won’t really go much into David’s story or Solomon’s in this series.  Both of them are pretty well know.  I do talk a little bit about David’s relationship with Bathsheba when I wrote about Uriah the Hittite in this post.

After this point, the genealogy goes from father to son, father to son.  The only “extra” names that are mentioned are Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Uriah’s wife.  I thought, “man, Bathsheba lost her spot in the genealogy line, being boiled down to Uriah’s wife.”  But it was then that I realized something connected these four names.

They were all outsiders.  Tamar and Rahab were Canaanites (not sure which “ite” they were actually a part of, but they were definitely not Israelites).  Ruth was a Moabite.  Uriah was a Hittite.  Matthew wrote this gospel to the Jews, and this genealogy was the proof of fulfilled prophecy.  But these four names being included…means more than just Jewish ancestry.

Next week, we will celebrate the resurrection of Christ.  To me, this genealogy represents the fact that Jesus didn’t die for just the Jews, but for all peoples.  For men and women.  Shepards and kings.  Rich and poor.  Foreigners.  Insiders.  Everyone.  And for that to be represented in just half of this genealogy?

Well, that’s pretty cool.

Can’t wait to find out the rest of the story.

How Power Rangers is Like the Church

This past weekend, Michael and I saw the new Power Rangers movie.  Both of us had seen the original show, oh so many years ago.  Nostalgia brought us out to the movie theater in hopes of hearing some of the cheesy lines from our childhood, which did not disappoint.  But as an adult, I walked away from the theater realizing some correlations between this movie and the way the church operates.

Fair warning, this post will contain spoilers.

power-rangers-2017-movie-4k-4k

Picture from HDQWalls.com

Okay, so the story is basically a rag tag group of teenagers who don’t know each other but come together to defeat a big bad set on destroying the world.  They all happen to be in the same place at the same time to find these stones that would connect them to a higher calling.  But coming together and learning how to morph proved to be problematic, and without morphing into the armor they need, they will be unable to vanquish the evil.

Over the course of the movie, they all realize that the big bad, Rita Repulsa, is very real and very dangerous.  They come together under this common cause, but it doesn’t help them to morph.  They even spend time with each other, confessing their dark secrets, but still no morphing.

One of the girls, Kimberly, who hesitates to share her secret, is convinced that they can’t morph because she is an awful person.  She confesses to the leader of the group, Jason, that she shared a compromising picture of a friend, losing all of her friendships and reputation in the process.  Jason tells her that just because she did an awful thing, it doesn’t make her an awful person, giving her hope of redemption.

(anyone catching on to the correlations yet?)

And finally, it isn’t until they realize that it’s not just in confession, not just in having a common cause, but it’s in the reality that they care enough about each other to lay down their life for one another that they finally are able to morph.

In the church today, we have a common cause.  We are here to love God, love others (Mark 12: 29-31), and show people the way of Jesus through discipleship (Matthew 28:18-20).  We are called to confess our sins to one another (James 5:16).

But we are also called to love each other.  Jesus says in John 13, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  And just two chapters later, he defines love like this: Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

When I look at the characters in this nostalgia-ridden story, I see broken human beings who don’t have it all figured out.  But when they come together, they are stronger.  And they sense that strength.  They seek one another out.  When one is being tempted to betray the others, she chooses to find them and tell them what has happened.  And by the end of the movie, they seek each other out, choose to be around each other, even outside of the fight.

I thought this was a neat metaphor for the church, and it really convicted me on a deeper level.  Do I seek out my church family?  Are they the first ones I go to when I’m feeling lost or alone?  Or do I treat them like I treat everyone else, with careful walls in place? The church is not something to go to, it’s something to belong to.  It’s an extended family of people who are willing to die for you, willing to fight for you, willing to listen to you.  And if it’s not, then I need to be the first to break down my walls and listen to them, and stand up for them, and die to my own selfishness for my brothers and sisters.

So, guys, it’s morphin’ time.  Who’s with me?