Friday, March 29, 2013

Friday Meditation: Victory in Defeat

My pastor once said, "God is looking for your obedience, not your achievement. After all, to the world, Christ's death wasn't an achievement, but rather a defeat."

And so it seems. I can't imagine a darker day than that Friday many years ago when Jesus finally and once and for all took all our sins upon Himself. The disciples' hopes were shattered. Those who believed the Messiah would come as a conquering King rather than a humble servant had become disillusioned and disgruntled. Jesus himself had been falsely accused, but barely breathed a word in his own defense. And on that day, Christ took the sorrows and the sins of the world upon Himself.

The gospels are largely silent on the death of Christ, sparing us most of the details of Christ's suffering, many perhaps too horrifying to pen. The prophet Isaiah gives us a glimpse into what Christ's sacrifice meant: "There were many who were appalled at him--his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness . . . He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering . . . Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 52&53)

For those standing at Golgotha watching the scene unfold, it could not have seemed like more of a defeat, more of an anticlimactic ending, more of a shattered hope. But yet, subtle signs of the coming victory emerge even before Christ breathed his last. In John, he cried out, "It is finished!" indicating that the work He came to do was done, that the price for sin had been paid. According to Mark's gospel, "With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last." Someone once shared with me that the Greek words used here for Jesus' "loud cry" are identical to the ones used to depict the "loud cries" of evil spirits as they were being driven out of people, which may symbolize that as Jesus breathed his last, his final cry of victory was also the demons' final cry of anguished defeat: as life overcame death, heaven overcame hell, and good overcame evil.

On the cross Christ did what we could not do. He paid a debt that we could never pay. He overcame what we could never overcome. And through Him, and only through Him, we have the sure and steadfast hope of eternal life--the greatest victory out of what seemed to be the greatest defeat.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Thursday Meditation: Let Me Be Singing When the Evening Comes

"When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives." (Matthew 26:30)

I've skipped over this verse many times in the past, never paying much attention to it, and in fact, the song is given an almost cursory treatment ("When they had sung a hymn . . . ") But this time, it caught my attention. After eating the Last Supper, after breaking the bread that represented Christ's body and drinking the wine that represented His blood spilled for humanity, Jesus and his disciples chose to sing.

On the darkest night of his life, in fact the last night of his life, hours before he would be arrested, falsely accused, beaten, mocked, tortured, and crucified, Jesus was singing and worshipping with his disciples. That is probably NOT what I'd be doing if I knew that a painful death was near at hand. Even knowing the reality of His circumstances, Jesus chose to sing as the night closed in around him.

The title of this post is taken from a beautiful line in Matt Redman's song 10,000 Reasons. Let me be singing when the evening comes, come what may. No matter what darkness and pain I may encounter, what valleys I may walk through, I hope I can choose as Christ did to still open my mouth in praise and sing despite the darkness.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Wednesday Meditation: Christ's Prayer for You

I am continually humbled and awed by the truth that Christ Himself actually intercedes at the right hand of God on behalf of all believers--that the Son of God actually prays for you and me. We're told this truth in Romans 8, and there are also some instances in the Gospels, most notably in John, when Jesus prays specifically for his disciples and for all future believers.

During the Last Supper, mere hours before his death, Jesus told his disciples of one of his prayers for them--more specifically, for Peter. As we know, Peter would deny Christ three times later that very night, and Jesus had predicted this denial, much to Peter's chagrin. But as the disciples and their Rabbi gathered together for one final meal, many of them uncertain of what was to come, Jesus told Peter (also called Simon) a beautiful thing: "I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail." (Luke 22:32).

I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.

I don't know about you, but that's a prayer that I want Jesus praying on my behalf every single day. I just find it so beautiful that Jesus knew that Peter, one of his closest disciples, would utterly deny Him that night, claiming with bitter oaths that he never even knew the man, and yet He still assured him that He had prayed for the survival of his faith. This passage is just a glimpse into the heart of a God who cares more for each of us than we could ever comprehend. In spite of the failures that He, in His omniscience, already knows we will face, He still prays for us--and they are powerful and effective prayers.

In Peter's case, his faith certainly didn't fail. Although He did deny Jesus that night as predicted, He became the rock on which Christ built the church (Matthew 16:18) and one of the most outspoken leaders of the early church, sharing the Gospel with thousands.

Your faith will one day be proved of greater worth than gold, and Christ is interceding before the throne of God for it.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tuesday Meditation: The Anointing at Bethany

During the last week of his life, Jesus was in the town of Bethany when an unnamed woman came to him with an alabaster jar full of a very expensive perfume, worth more than a year's wages. She broke the jar and anointed Jesus, pouring the perfume on his head.

Some of the people who saw what the woman did "rebuked her harshly," criticizing her for wasting the perfume when she could have sold it and given the money to the poor. But Jesus wouldn't hear it and told the woman's critics to leave her alone: "She has done a beautiful thing to me. . . . She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial." (Mark 14:7-8)

What strikes me the most about this passage is Jesus' words quoted above: "She did what she could." And for that, he honors her, and assures her that her deeds will be remembered wherever the gospel is preached in the future (verse 9).

I think that so often, we convince ourselves that we must serve God in grandiose ways, in ways that will get noticed and respected by others, and even sometimes in ways that force us to squeeze ourselves into roles we weren't meant to play, or to take on tasks we haven't been given the skills and abilities for. In an achievement-saturated culture, it's so easy to believe that we must stretch ourselves beyond our own abilities just to accomplish more for the Lord.

If you've fallen into the trap of thinking this way, I encourage you to take some of the same comfort from this passage as I have this week. Just as Jesus said of this woman, who served him in the purest way possible, not looking for the approval or commendation of others, "She did what she could," so may He be saying to you, "You did what you could." And it honors Him.

We don't always have to be on the front lines watching miracles happen, or moving mountains with our faith, or leading other people to a closer walk with Christ. Those dramatic moments will surely happen at the right times, and we must be prepared to serve the Lord in them. But we need also, when the time is right, to forget about the approval of others, to forget trying to achieve more and more for the Lord, to stop pushing ourselves beyond what we can ever reasonably do, and to just pause, take what is already in our hands, and with it simply do what we can. And it will honor Him.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Monday Meditation: Jesus Clears the Temple

The event where Jesus "clears the temple" and drives out the merchants is thought by most people to have occurred during the last week of Jesus' life, although there's evidence that it may have actually happened more than once (for example, John tells of a temple-clearing incident occurring much earlier than the other Gospels indicate--see John 2).

In this familiar scene, Jesus became overcome by righteous indignation because the outer courtyard of the temple, meant to be a place for worship, had become a place for buying and selling, overrun by those seeking to make a profit rather than seeking God. So Jesus entered the temple and drove these people out, claiming, "It is written, 'My house will be called a house of prayer.'"

After dealing with the people who were keeping others from worship, Jesus turned his attention to the blind and the lame, healing them right there at the temple, while little children shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" (Matthew 21:14-15).

When was the last time we were consumed by this sort of passion for what takes place in our churches, the modern-day equivalent of the temple--and, for that matter, in our homes? Are we passionate about making these places houses of prayer, worship, healing, and grace, as Jesus was? Are we willing to make these places ones where people can come with real needs and receive real compassion, as the blind and the lame did in Jesus' day?  If not, why not? What's stopping us? Are their miracles that God wants to do through us in our modern-day "temples" that we won't be able to see because we're too focused on money, convenience, our own agendas, and everything else that can keep us from the Lord?

I think there may have been another reason that Jesus specifically chose to clear the temple at this time and to restore an attitude of prayerful worship there: because a miraculous event was soon to take place there. Just days later, at the moment Jesus breathed his last on the cross, the curtain inside the temple, surrounding the Most Holy Place, was torn in two from top to bottom--symbolizing that through Christ, people would have free access to God at any time, without needing a priest or any other mediator to go on their behalf. It seems that Jesus may well have wanted the temple cleared of distraction, of needless noise and commotion and activities that had nothing to do with worship, so that everyone there could bear witness to the ushering in of the new covenant, in which "we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus." (Hebrews 10:19) And this is an ongoing miracle that we can still bear witness to today--through Christ, all the barriers that keep us from a right relationship with God have been shattered, and we can step into the temple, even the Most Holy Place, with boldness.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Holy Week Meditation: The Triumphal Entry

One of my readers asked me if I'd consider writing some Holy Week meditations, as we enter into this last week of Lent before we celebrate Easter Sunday. So I'm going to try to do that, and I hope to post one per day for the week, a different meditation, devotional, or brief thought on some of the most poignant scenes at the end of Jesus' life. Today is Palm Sunday, so I'm going to start off by writing some thoughts about Jesus' triumphal entry, which is what we celebrate today. Many of us are probably familiar with the story . . . The week before his death, Jesus entered Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, and huge crowds of people spread palm branches in the path before him and shouted praises to him.

The gospel of Luke describes the scene: "When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples!" "I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." (Luke 19:37-40)

All of the other gospels, except Luke, also report that the crowds shouted, "Hosanna!" which means "Save us!" Only Luke's gospel tells us that the crowds proclaimed, "Glory in the highest!" Interestingly, it is also only in Luke's gospel that this same phrase was proclaimed by angels the night Christ was born . . . "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men!" (Luke 2:14) In Luke's portrayal, the glory of God framed Jesus' entire life, from the night of his birth all the way until the week of his death. This was Luke's theme, all the way through . . . the glory of God embodied in humanity, humbled, brought to earth to save our fallen race. Humbled so much that even in one of the most triumphant scenes of His life, Jesus chose to ride on a simple donkey, unadorned, unassuming, a King in the very unexpected garb of a commoner.

Luke also reports that the crowd cried out, "Peace in heaven!" during Jesus' triumphal entry (check out verse 38). This seems an unusual contrast to the proclamation of the angels at Christ's birth: "Peace on earth!" I have never noticed this before today and am not quite sure what to make of it. But could it be that at his birth, the angels proclaimed peace on earth because the planet was sin-stricken and grieving, but about to receive its long-awaited King, the one who would tear down the barriers and bring true peace to men? And at Jesus' triumphal entry, just days before he suffered and died, could it be that the crowds who adored him were symbolically, prophetically, claiming peace in heaven because heaven grieved--as a Father grieved over the impending death of His only Son for the world He loved?

We don't know for sure, but we do know that Christ perfectly fulfilled Zechariah's prophecy: "Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the warhorses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth." (Zechariah 9:9-10)

And if His people hadn't cried out in praise, the rocks would have broken their silence and burst into song.

So His praise will always be on my lips.

And a song for the occasion: Hosanna

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Word I Need to Say More

No. That's what I need to say more.

I am a people pleaser. I always have been, I probably always will be, and although there are those rare free-spirited people who truly don't seem to care at all what others think of their choices, I think that deep down, most of us are people pleasers, at least to an extent. This isn't wrong exactly, but it can definitely be unhealthy as we spread ourselves thinner and thinner and neglect our own needs and feelings just to do what we think others want us to do. And you know, a lot of the time, trying to make everybody happy will make nobody happy--least of all you.

But so often I hear myself saying: Sure, I'll do that. Yes, I'd love to. Absolutely, I have time for that. I totally agree with you.

Even while I'm thinking: But I totally don't want to do that. There's no way I have time. But I already had plans . . . even though those plans may have simply been to relax and recharge for the evening. I really don't like that idea.

Of course, it's not like every time you or I say yes, that we'd really rather say no. Most of the time, I want to do the things I say I'll do. And there are absolutely times when we need to make sacrifices of our time, our energy, and our wants to serve others. But you also can't serve others effectively at all if you're too burned out to do so . . . and I think a large part of the reason so many of us are so burned out is because we've been led to believe that we always need to be available to others, that we always need to immediately respond to every text, phone call, and email, that we always need to go to everything we're invited to and volunteer for every committee.

So, I need to practice saying no when it's appropriate and when it's honest. Not being mean about it, but being firm about my boundaries.

No, I just don't want to.
No, I don't have time.
No, I already have plans.
No, I don't agree.
No, I don't like ____.

And some of the really hard ones: No, that wasn't ok with me. No, that actually really hurt me. No, I can't support that. No, that's not what I believe in. No.

Are there people or situations in your life that you need to just say no to today?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Spring is Finally Here . . .

Yesterday I had to do a little "spring photo tour" of all the blooming trees, flowers, and other spring-like things. Here are some pictures:



Last night, some friends and I went down to one of the local colleges to see all the hot air balloons they had set up. It had the atmosphere of a city-wide picnic on the hill, as tons of people came out and spread out the blankets and lawn chairs, ate dinner, and watched the sun set, and then the balloons glowed in the dark.

Then today, it was church and spending the afternoon at a friend's baby shower. I went to Barnes and Noble to the children's book section to get her some books for when her little girl gets here, and was so excited to see that some of my all-time childhood favorites are still popular today: like the Frog and Toad series, the Berenstain Bears, Amelia Bedelia, Clifford the Big Red Dog, and Dr. Seuss. I may have gone a little crazy picking out books, but I was just so excited that the next generation is still going to have quality children's books.
Not sure I'm ready to deal with Monday just yet, but tomorrow won't be so bad because I am really excited about 1) finally getting back to my favorite Monday boot camp workout class that I haven't been able to go to for two months because of scheduling issues, and 2) the Biggest Loser finale!! It's going to be great.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

I Want to Go to the Beach.

So I woke up this morning with a huge beach craving/ a craving for all things spring break-related! Like this beach:

You can't see it too well, but my friends and I had written "Spring Break '09" in the sand. Ah, the memories. Our law school break is the week after next, but I don't think any beach trip is in the cards this year because our Moot Court team will be here practicing for most of the week (since our competition is the week after that). But maybe we can take a day trip to Tybee Island or somewhere fun. In the meantime, I guess I'll just need to listen to my best spring break playlist and power through the rest of the work that I need to finish up in the next couple weeks. The end of the semester crunch time is already upon us, even though exams don't actually start till the end of April. But with only 4 and a half actual weeks of classes left and the fact that it takes about 6 weeks to prepare for a batch of law exams . . . well, you do the math, since that's not my strong suit!

So, getting ready to go do some outlining for wills, trusts, and estates, find a gift for my friend Bethany's baby shower, hone my Moot Court arguments, work on domestic relations, and prepare for some meetings next week. Tonight I'm going with some people to this festival with hot air balloon rides, live music, and other entertainment, so that will have to be my motivation to be very productive today. Have a wonderful Saturday!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Thought for the Day

This morning my pastor said something that really struck me: "God has already invested far too much in you to ever give up on you or fail you now."

I know that this is so true, but how often we forget that it is true. How often we forget that if God has already given us life in Christ, and made the ultimate investment in us, than He can and will provide for all of our other needs as well. He can and will carry on with the good work He has started in us until it's totally finished. He can and will allow His grace to meet us in our place of greatest need, greatest loss, greatest desire. We know that God can do all these things and more, but so often we act as though He can't, or that He won't.

But He has already given us Himself. The power of the risen Christ already dwells within us. He will do all these things and more.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

New Recipes to Try

Sometimes I just need a quiet night to relax at home, and tonight is one of those nights. So I'm firing up my oven and having a major cooking session, interspersed with worship music and some episodes of Friends. I'm making most of my meals for the week right now so that's one less thing I have to worry about. Here's what I'm whipping up in my kitchen for the next few days:
  • Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai with Chicken
  • Lemon-butter salmon with mashed sweet potatoes, brown rice, and broccoli (this one's really easy: wrap fresh salmon up in tinfoil with lemon juice, some butter, and salt and pepper to taste, and cook at 350 for 20-25 minutes. This is so healthy and so easy to make, it's on my rotation almost every week).
  • the filling for some chicken wraps: shredded chicken, kale, onions, dried cranberries, and feta, wrapped in a whole-wheat tortilla and dipped in salsa
  • some roasted corn and homemade guacamole to put into burritos
  • Brie cheese was on special today, so I'm making some single-serving desserts of brie with honey and brown sugar wrapped up in phyllo dough. So good!
I'm on a kick with eating more "superfoods" like the ones on this list. Not every list is the same, but most of them include the same nutritional superstars like blueberries, salmon, oatmeal, green tea, spinach, Greek yogurt, etc. These foods can help lower cholesterol and blood pressure, protect your heart, supply much-needed vitamins, prevent cancer, etc., so I'm trying to eat at least one at every single meal.

Here's how my pad thai turned out:

Friday, March 8, 2013

Ten Reasons . . .

. . . why this week was great:
1) law school charity auction last night! The theme was "decadent white party." So fun, AND we raised a lot of money for two children's charities.

2) Both of my classes were canceled this afternoon. So, after several failed plans to see this movie, I finally got to see Safe Haven this afternoon (and it was really good. I'd definitely recommend it).
3) I got to have spicy curry and catch up on all the law school gossip at the best Thai restaurant in town tonight with one of my funniest friends.
4) I found some great new blogs that are inspiring me to write more . . . like, the kind that are so interesting that you dig way back into the archives to read everything this person has ever written.
5) Moot Court practice is going well. And I think my team is going to manage to be ready for our competition in a month.
6) I discovered the art of the 20-minute dance workout in my living room when I really don't feel like driving over to the gym.
7) I had some rare free time to lay on my couch and read a book.
8) Spring is in the air. Finally.
9) I got a card from the child I sponsor in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Definitely going on my fridge.
10) I got both my ABA Journal and Student Lawyer magazines today (nerdy reading material for the weekend!)
Happy Friday, y'all!


Wednesday, March 6, 2013


"In Him it has always been “Yes.” For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through Him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." ~2 Corinthians 1:19-22

I have found this passage to be deeply encouraging lately as I sometimes find myself contemplating the fact that there's not a lot of guarantees for our future. No guarantees that we will be healthy. No guarantees that we'll find a job we love and have enough money to live the life we want to live. No guarantees that we won't face heartache in relationships, loss of loved ones, uncertainty, and pain.

But somehow I find that what is guaranteed to us as God's children definitely trumps everything that isn't. We are guaranteed that nothing can ever separate us from God's love, and that with His unfailing love, He continually draws us to Himself. We have a guaranteed hope in Christ. We're guaranteed that nothing can ever pluck us from His hand, and that Jesus commands our destiny. Guaranteed that the Lord will be the sure foundation for our times, and that He will keep us always in perfect peace as we learn to trust in Him ever more deeply. His everlasting arms support us and he will give us strength in proportion to whatever we face. In Christ, God's promises are guaranteed. They always stand firm--and because of that, so can we.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Weekend Bargains

It's been a pretty productive weekend: lots of much-needed cleaning, scrubbing, scouring, and organizing in the apartment, going to thrift stores, watching a movie or two, church, and getting ready for the week ahead. I probably should have studied and worked on outlines this weekend, but you can only get so much done at once!
I love getting a good bargain, and I found several this weekend: a glass Black and Decker blender at Kmart for $19.99 (I've been needing one of these so I can make fruit smoothies and soups), gas for $3.42/ gallon (thank you, Kroger rewards card), and these beautiful flowers for just $4.99:


These were my present to myself, and they look so good in my now spotless kitchen! Getting ready to go enjoy some hibachi chicken and a heart-to-heart with Catherine now. Life is good :)

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Great Way to End the Week

Last night was a fun night of wine tasting and spending time with lovely friends celebrating Stephanie's birthday! I am so blessed to be surrounded by amazing friends here.


Love this girl!

Yes, I had to play around with the sepia and black and white color effects. 

A variety of wines, cheeses, fruits . . . and this delicious dark chocolate fudge cake . . . yum!

Our wonderful host Amanda!

I hope you all are enjoying your Saturday!