Beauty in Obscurity

cropped-606d519dbb260b3d69aba92c53d83f2e.jpg
Beauty of Advent Pt 1

Part of the beauty of the Advent is the obscurity of it all. We view this story as ubiquitous, but as it was unfolding it was so obscure and the players were unknown. A young couple getting ready to begin their life together, some shepherds just doing their jobs, a group of astronomers seeking the anomaly they had been studying, and a cousin who just loved her kin. Most of the story was everyday life unfolding and humans entertaining the thought, “Is this all really happening?”

Mary and Joseph just wanted to be married; they wanted to follow the cultural norm of their day and be together. And yet when asked to unwittingly enter into the grand story of history by carrying and caring for the Savior, they obeyed. In obscurity they obeyed solely for the Lord.

This obedience did not net them any gain, it actually brought pain. Mary was basically exiled to Elizabeth’s and Joseph’s reputation was tarnished. They submitted to the Lord’s plan for His glory, not their own. Part of the frustration with obedience in obscurity is that while you are in the midst of it, no one is patting you on the back, sometimes no one is encouraging you, sometimes you know that God sent you this task and you must obey. So, you put your head down and do the work. I wonder if Joseph felt this way. His obedience was significant, and yet we know so little about him. Ironically, his obscurity and his obedience are what he is known for.

The cast of characters God used are a picture of obscure obedience. The shepherds were just a group of guys going to work the night shift. We do not even know their names, but we know they obeyed. The Wisemen saw something they could not understand, so they sought the truth. And the Truth they found would soon be more than overwhelming than the star they originally followed. Elizabeth knew that her child would make the way for the Messiah growing in the womb of her little cousin. Her knowledge of the story was minimal, but she loved Mary and obeyed the Lord.

The Advent was their lives, not a story they listen to annually. It was the obscurity that makes it beautiful.

My takeaway for the twenty-first century is this: put your head down and do the work, follow in the path of Joseph and Mary. Your labor will not be in vain; the Lord sees your obedience and He delights in your obscurity, join in song like the shepherds. The truth of Lord is why you do this, so His mysteries can be discovered, so seek like the Magi. Speak love into lives and continue to obey like Elizabeth did. Find the beauty in the obscure this Advent.

Written while listening to my Christmas 2017 playlist

Advertisements

Hills and Valleys

cropped-img_1428.jpg

I’ve walked among the shadows
You wiped my tears away
And I’ve felt the pain of heartbreak
And I’ve seen the brighter days
And I’ve prayed prayers to heaven from my lowest place
And I have held the blessings
God, you give and take away

Every year as fall begins, the colors change and there is the perpetual scent of bonfire in the air. Every year, I curl up with a coffee or hot chocolate and marvel about my year and that it is coming to an end. But this year, I cannot wait for it to end, this year has been filled with valleys.

I know that I should be anticipating the ascent, the climb up the hill to a place where the sun can be easily seen, but honestly I just want to get 2017 over with. This past year began with a tire blowing out on the highway, continued with surgery and rounded out with the loss of my grandmother. As the year progresses, the valley has only grown deeper, and the climb seems like a lot of effort just to roll down the other side to a new valley. But in the valley, I will lift my eyes to the one who sees me there.

This is why I have not written about myself lately. I have been struggling with my health since May, and after a summer of fatigue and pain, my doctor finally was able to pinpoint the cause. My gallbladder had to be removed quickly. While all that was happening, my family in Michigan was learning about a special form of dementia that my grandmother had been diagnosed with. It was rapid and tore away her mind and her physical body. It devolved quickly and she passed away a few weeks ago. But when I’m walking through the valley end, no I am not alone!

With everything going on, writing has not been a priority. Yet as I sit and type this, I am reminded that no matter how bad these things—tires and gallbladders and dementia—seem, they are all temporal. Tires can be replaced, gallbladders can be removed and dementia will eventually end. There will be pain, there will be sorrow, but there will also be healing. Because You’re God of the hills and valleys! Hills and Valleys!

I want this valley to end so the healing can come, so the joy will be obvious and the pain will be lessened. The joy and the pain of it all is what makes it life. I am constantly looking for moments of strength to begin the journey upward, because I know the valley can seem deeper than it actually is. I know that life will fade, but joy makes way for hope. And I am hoping for a mountain top experience. Because on the mountains, I will bow my life to the one who set me there.

I am not naive to believe the hills are pain free; this year has truly prepared me for just about anything. It has also caused me to put my trust in the Lord, who is not temporal but is eternal. I have had to hope in the Lord, who is not safe but is good. I have had to place my faith in the Lord who in not distant but is near. I pray, Father, you give and take away every joy and every pain, through it all you will remain over it all!

I am not looking for a way out of this year; going through it all has made me stronger, softer and an encourager, but I am looking for for this leg of the journey to come to a resting place. And, I keep singing, No matter what I have, Your grace is enough no matter where I am, I’m standing in Your love.

Lyrics from Hills and Valleys by Tauren Wells, this song has brought me to tears and reminded me to hope in the goodness of the Lord.

Representation

cropped-img_1346.jpg

When I think about the future of the church, I sometimes get overwhelmed with possibilities. As a woman who preaches and teaches the Word, I struggle with the lack of female representation in the Church. I struggle with knowing how to live out my call with very few women to watch. I struggle with my own insecurities when I hear men say that they “recognize women in leadership and pastoral positions.”  I struggle with that being enough, because I want to see how other women do it, I want to see something beyond recognition. I want to see representation.

Recognition is saying, “I acknowledge you.” Recognition is passive. Recognition is not saying you are a valued voice and member. Recognition is not an act of equality, it is an act of legality. Recognition is not enough.

Representation, on the other hand, is actively making space for a voice is that is needed and trusted and valued. Representation is not tokenism, but is a show of respect and honor. Representation is an act of equality, especially in the Church. In the Church, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

Representation is what Christ did when He rose from the grave, and gave the good news to the women! He defeated death, abolished the Law, established a new way and He gave that message to women. These women were the first people (other than Jesus Himself) to proclaim the resurrection.

Representation is the woman at the well, whose garment of shame became one of righteousness. Her dignity and voice were restored so that she could go and transform her community from the inside.

Representation is what the two twenty-year-old girls I sat with this weekend long for. They know God has called them, but they do not necessarily know to what, because of a lack of representation. They understand recognition, but they want to see the call lived out.

As I sat with these two amazing and Godly women, I knew I had to step up my game. As they shared their hearts and their minds and we fellowshipped, I thought, If this is the future of the Church in America, there is hope.

As I sat with them, I realized that the women who I looked up to have paved the way. They have toiled and shed tears and blood, and had backs turned on them so that I can stand in a pulpit. They have been talked-down to and mansplained and been “recognized” so that I can have a seat at the table.

As I sat with them, I was encouraged and challenged. I have been asking myself, “What am I willing to go through so that these two women can answer the call on their lives?” I am not sure, but I know that I am willing to walk alongside them and see what fire comes, what joy comes, what pain comes and what representation comes.

*The church leader that said this did not in any way imply anything negative. He is a dear man and a champion of women, it just got me thinking.