Monthly Archives: March 2008

My Ephesians 5:25

My Ephesians 5:25

July 19, 1997
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5:25-27).

My dad was waiting for me that morning—that hot July morning nearly eleven years ago. He waited on my front porch as I laced up my shoes to head out for my morning walk. I would not walk alone this particular day. My father’s pace would accompany mine.

We walked in silence, longing for the words to benchmark this occasion. I could not find them, but my daddy did. And when he spoke, I listened for his wisdom.

“Elaine, you are giving your boys a good gift today. By marrying Billy, you are giving them the best chance of understanding just exactly how a man should love a woman.”

I know those were hard words for him to speak in that moment. True words, yet difficult because of what lie ahead on the other side of their release. For all of the slight reservations that my parents might have had about my marrying Billy, they never opposed our decision. If they had, I would have listened. But they saw something in Billy…something long and enduring and trustworthy…that allowed them to let go of their daughter for a second time.

This time, I would not walk the aisle on the arm of my father. This time, I would walk the aisle on the arms of my young sons, who adorned my simple gown with their charming smiles and handsome suits. They would give their mother away into the arms of the man who made them smile and who promised to love them and their mother as his own. With fear and trembling, I spoke my vows to Billy. I did not take them lightly this time, for in that moment, two sets of eyes desperately needed for me to mean them.

Ours has not been an “easy” love. We both carry some baggage. With divorce in my background, my bags hold some extra weight. Weight that includes…

Guilt. Insecurity. Anger. Control issues. Strong will. A caustic tongue. Unrealistic expectations. Fear. Suspicions. Condemnation. Selfish loving.

Marriage, for me, has been a difficult embrace. But Billy has always been here to shoulder my extra weight. Lovingly, and without restraints, he has patiently carried my luggage because his heart beats with the love of his Father’s heart. A love that mirrors an Ephesians 5:25 kind of love. A Christ-like, lay-down-your-life, kind of love.

His is a love that has kept my attention and has enabled me to lighten my load and to walk in the freedom of God’s magnificent grace. Billy was made for marriage, and his capacity for loving me has made me a better woman. A woman who loves deeper, clings tighter, and who more clearly understands the lavish love that Christ carries for his bride.

I have thought about my father’s words over the years. They have strengthened my resolve and given me clarity on days when I wanted to quit. Thankfully, I no longer want to quit. Somewhere between our beginning and our now, God’s grace permeated its way into my heart through my husband’s love, and my baggage has never carried lighter.

That is the way of a Christ-centered, Ephesians 5:25 kind of love. Over 2000 years ago, God released the gift of his Son to walk this earth in search of a bride. He found her in us. You and me…wrinkled and blemished and stained from sin. Our baggage was heavy, but our Groom offered his strength for the journey. Lovingly and without restraints, he shouldered our load upon his back until his steps carried him down the aisle to Calvary’s surrender.

There, he laid our sin upon the altar of sacrifice. There, he paid the bride price once and for all. There, he opened up his arms in anticipation of our arrival. His bride…dressed with the radiance of his righteousness. Spotless…without blemish or wrinkle…washed by his surrender to our sin. He tells us that we have been worth the wait…that we were made for such a marriage.

Ten years ago, I wasn’t sure if I was made for marriage. But there was something about my groom…my Billy…that anchored my hope in possibility. Indeed, my father was right. Billy was my best hope for understanding and for receiving the gracious love of a God who has named me as his bride. Love has found its home in our house, and grace has found its home in my heart.

I can never put reason behind God’s extravagant love for me. It is a profound mystery…an unreasonable portion of a second grace that is sometimes beyond my articulation, but I wanted to try. Wanted to tell you how marvelous and all-surpassing is the love of my God who specializes in second helpings. Thirds and fourths and fifths…as often as needed and always on time. God’s love doesn’t quit. He doesn’t look for the easy way out. Nothing can separate you from his pursuit of your hand in marriage.

No sin. No blemish. No wrinkle. No stain. No matter your past. No matter your present. No matter the road that lies ahead. Your God is after you, and his grace reaches deep into the darkest hour of your sin to find you and to bring you home as his bride.

God used a man named Billy to demonstrate this sacred truth to me. And just a few days ago, he took my hands in his, placed a new token of his commitment upon my ring finger, and told me that he would do it all over again. That I was worth the wait, and that, indeed, I was made for marriage. And so this day, in thankfulness I pray…

Thank you, Father, for scripting my life with a second helping of grace that breathes with an Ephesians 5:25 kind of love. I never imagined its embrace, but you did, Lord, and you called me deserving…worthy…bride of your heart. Thank you for giving me a husband who has modeled surrender, sacrifice, and unconditional love to me and to our children. Thank you for giving me your Son, who washes me clean from my sin and stands ready to receive me as his bride. A bride in life. A bride for all eternity. What wondrous love is this?! Amen.

Designed by Kim Maitland at Creative Metalsmith March 2008

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A Weary Doing…A Worthy Return

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9).

I had to call him. Had to hold down speed dial #7 just so I could hear his voice. A voice I have been listening to for almost nineteen years now. A voice I call son. A first born named Nick.

I did not call him out of worry or out of loneliness for his presence. No, I called him because I needed a reminder. A reminder of the eventual reality that children will, in fact, emerge from their toddled state of neediness to one day embrace upon a walk of independence. It is a walk he has embraced well…with grace and with a level of maturity I never thought possible all those years ago. All those almost 6,935 days ago.

I remember the admonishment of others back then.

Cherish these moments. They’ll be gone before you know it.

Really? I suppose in the broad brushstrokes of a life lived, indeed those years seem minimal. But while we were living them…I felt every one of them. Every sleepless night…every temper tantrum. Every strong willed expression that challenged my mothering patience. Every program. Every load of laundry. Every first day of school. Every soccer and basketball game. Every report card. Every milestone. Every question. Every tear. Every bedside chat. Every joy. Simply…everything.

Nick has been with me for almost half of my life, and in many ways we have grown up alongside one another. There have been good seasons and seasons that have pushed me to the outer edges of my understanding. Through it all, faith has been my guide, and what has emerged is a bond of sacred proportion.

A good harvest at a proper time. A time like today, when I need to know that what I am doing on a daily basis really does matter. That the seeds I am currently sowing will one day bloom into a blossom called adulthood. That the motherhood mantle that boasts my shoulders is, in fact, one of the highest privileges I will ever wear.

And so I called, and I received the verbal confirmation that my faithful sowing and good training has yielded and will one day again, yield a gracious and Godly return.

It is a guiding hope for me, as I continue to shepherd and shape the minds of three others that remain under my roof. I have not always been thankful for the job, but I have always been mindful of the sacred responsibility.

Parenting has been hard for me. I am not certain as to the exact reason why, but I am pretty sure it roots back to my bent toward selfishness. Selfless living has not been my portion. Instead, I am prone to my needs…my wants…my desires. So when routine breaks (like Spring break), and my mothering skills are put to the test, I cry out to God for help. For more of him to come and to replace the more of me. For more of a “First Corinthians Chapter Thirteen” kind of agapao loving that reaches beyond self to put others ahead of self.

I deeply admire those who mirror such a love for others, especially for their children. Who parent with ease and receive its calling as the most treasured one they will ever know. I wonder if they, too, have ever felt the pull between selfish living and selfless loving. I imagine that they have, but somehow they have come to a quicker conclusion in the matter. A conclusion that hosts a peaceful rest, full of a faithful trust for the parenting process.

I want to be that parent. I want to come to some quicker conclusions of trust…of believing that God has shaped me with the sacred capacity for the shaping of my children. That the seeds I am sowing, whether in tears or in joy, will one day reap a harvest of good growth and seasoned maturity.

Perhaps that is why I picked up the phone today and speed dialed #7. He is my kindling hope. What I couldn’t have imagined 6,935 days ago, I now witness in full bloom. Dirty diapers and temper tantrums could not hold him…could not keep him from becoming the man of God I now see emerging. This season…this seeing it all come to pass…is by far the greatest joy I have known as a mother.

So when I get overwhelmed with daily parenting—with spelling lists, and sippy cups, and the ever constant “Mommy…mommy, mommy, mommy,”—I look to my first born and remember that all of my answers to my little ones’ neediness will one day emerge into a season of glorious remembrance and abiding joy. I can cherish these moments now, because I know that there is a greater moment yet to come.

A moment of reaping, when my hard years of parenting yield a harvest of young adult men and one woman who still answer the phone calls from their mother to remind her that all is well. All is good. And that all my weary doing has been worth the return. And so, this day, I pray…

Father, keep me doing. In tears and in joy, keep my feet to the path of sacred parenting. It’s not always been easy, but it’s always been right. It’s been good because you give good gifts, Father. Forgive me when I consider my children anything less than your divine abundance and grace in my life. Seed in me a 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love. Grow me toward a life of selfless loving. And when I am weary in my good doing, bring me to a quicker conclusion of trust…a peaceful rest, that reminds me of the harvest yet to come. Amen.

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OK…time to weigh in with your thoughts. Where have you struggled in your weary doing? What have you learned along the way? Teach me, friends, for my heart and my will is ripe for the learning.

Walking in Resurrection

baby Levi born 3/26/08 at Shiloh Farms

“ … ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!’” (Luke 24:5b).

Making the transition from the tomb to a walk of resurrection can be a difficult embrace. It is for me, for I am comfortable in my grave clothes. I am used to my ashes and my sorrowful surrenders. Christ’s journey to the cross is wrought with just enough human emotion and melancholy to hold my attention and limit my perspective. I understand the confines of Calvary’s tomb, for the tomb is what I am due.

Instead, what I am given is a gift that far exceeds my understanding.

A gift that includes…

A rolled away stone.
A new set of clothes.
A walk out of darkness and death into the marvelous light of real living.
A Resurrection.

Easter scripted God’s message to humanity over 2000 years ago, and yet I continue in my struggle to receive its grace. How can I…how can we…begin the walk of our resurrection?

We begin by listening for the whispered voices of the tomb. By receiving the message of the first Easter as heralded by those who stood guard to pronounce the benediction to Christ’s grave.

“ … ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!’”

Our walk of resurrection begins by our looking for the living One amongst the living…not by our eulogizing of a death that could not contain him.

We search for Christ in our today and tomorrows rather than glancing back at our yesterdays. We move beyond the graveyard to take hold of the road ahead. A living, breathing journey that requires our participation and refuses our conciliation to sit on the sidelines in surrender. In defeat. In deference of a walk that we deem to be too sacred…too holy…too consecrated for the soles of our sinful feet.

A resurrection walk means that we engage with life. We vision life through a new set of lenses that host an eternal perspective rather than a temporal focus. We perceive God’s sacred possibility rather than man’s probability. We bath our minds and hearts with the truth of God’s Word. Words that say…

~Life and death is ours to choose. A choice for life means a choice for God. (Deuteronomy 30:19-20).

~Life cannot be found in former things. God’s new thing stands on the horizon. Even now it bursts onto our stage. Resurrected living brings about its perception. (Isaiah 43:18-19).

~God’s plans for our abundant living trumps the enemy’s plans for our death and destruction. (John 10:10).

~A resurrected walk includes the unseen, unheard, and beyond conceivable preparations of God whose love reaches far and wide…long and deep. (1 Corinthians 2:9).

~Possibilities are God’s probabilities. (Genesis 18:14, Matthew 19:26, Mark 9:23).

Simply put, a walk of resurrection means leaving the grave as Christ left it.

Empty. Void. Barren and defeated.

Too often, though, I choose to linger in Friday’s embrace. I run to the tomb with my ointments and perfumes in hopes of preserving the remnants of a Jesus I once knew. My eyes remain fixed on things seen…controlled things…things I can get my mind around rather than the unseen Promise of a third day resurrection. Instead of leaving the grave as Christ left it, I begin to fill its void with my many needs.

Fears. Questions. Doubts and unbelief.

I miss the victory of Easter because my lack of faith limits the Christ of Easter. And limiting Christ is the one posture of the heart that can keep these feet–mine and yours–from our intended walk of Resurrection.

Christ didn’t go all the way to Calvary and back so that we would continue in a life that boasts tombs and grave clothes. No, Christ made the journey to the tomb so that we could bypass its confinement. So that we would start living in the new, abundant, inconceivable possibilities of his lavish grace. So that we would begin our participation in the resurrection walk that leads us from the graveyard into the spacious land of the living and that will one day soon…lead us straight to his feet.

Today is a good day to examine your location in the Easter story. Are you lingering at the tomb…looking for the living One amongst the dead, or are you walking in resurrected living with the risen Christ as your compass? Which road hosts your heart? I know which road should. It is the road that extends beyond the grave. The one-way street paved with the blood of Calvary’s surrender that reaches in only one direction.


To life eternal with the living, risen Savior of the world. A resurrection walk that breathes with the sacred possibilities of the sure and living Lord. It is the only walk I want to make, and so I pray,

Lead me, Lord, from the tomb into your glorious walk of resurrection. Dress me, Lord, for such a walk…leaving the grave clothes where they belong—in the tomb, alongside all of my fears, doubts, and unbelief. Forgive me when I am tempted to limit Calvary’s work to a cross and to a grave. Move me beyond the confines of Friday into the glorious promise and light of Sunday. It is a pilgrimage I can make…should make…because your feet first walked the road of its surrender. Let not your sacrifice be in vain, …in my life and in the lives of my friends. Lead on, O King Eternal. Full throttle. Straight ahead…until I am finally home and see you face to face. Amen.

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Once Upon a Time…

Once Upon a Time…

Today I offer you one of my favorite penned remembrances from 2004.

Once upon a time…there was Jesus.

“The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14).

Last evening, my husband and I went to view The Passion. The journey was wrought with emotions…raw and unsuspecting…vivid and poignant…horrific and compelling…lonely and hopeful…varied emotions all wrapped up within the span of two hours. Needless to say, I left the theatre in tangles…wanting desperately for a time of unraveling…a time of release to compartmentalize all that was swirling within.

After a brief time of dining, we made our journey home, only to find that our babysitter had been locked in the pantry for over an hour. Jadon and Amelia were fine…just a little curious as to how to release their friend from her captivity. After she was amply paid, I made my way to the couch and collapsed. With emotions at their peak, I began to fret over what “might have happened” to my little ones in the span of an unsupervised hour. My distress was apparent to my little boy, and in his need to make things OK, he told me he would read me a book. He toddled to his room and returned with his Early Reader’s Bible…just one of the dozens of books lining his bedroom bookcase. He settled in beside me and began thumbing through the pages until he came upon the picture he wanted. In his best, most convincing little boy voice he said,

“Once upon a time there was…Jesus. Do you feel better, Mommy?”

The tears flowed. I hugged my son and assured him that indeed, I did feel better. There’s just something about Jesus…about hearing that name…about seeing that face…about believing the faith of a three-year-old boy who’s already got a pretty good handle on who Jesus really is—the One who makes us feel better in times of despair. He could have picked out The Very Hungry Caterpillar or Goodnight Moon. He could have reached for his Little Critter books or his books about sea animals. He could have picked the familiar. But instead, his search took him to the extraordinary. A book with the face of a Friend.

Tell me…how does a three-year-old know the difference between heaven and earth? Where did that encounter begin? When does faith take hold of a heart? Can a child as young as three really reach beyond the natural and take hold of the supernatural? If you had been with me on the couch last night…your answer would have been a resounding “yes.”

Faith becomes real with the Story. Whether you read in a book or see it on the big screen. Whether you hear it from the pulpit or witness it in a friend. Whether you have walked the roads of adversity or whether you have walked the roads of Jerusalem. It all begins with the Story. I witnessed in the theater last night. The Story. Sometimes, a road familiar for those of us who have walked its path throughout the course of our faith. Sometimes, a road seemingly new to those who have never made it past the Angels, the Wiseman, and the Manger. Many times, totally foreign pilgrimage for those who have never held the Word in their hands.

There’s just something about Jesus, and all who encountered him knew this to be true.

Mary knew. She birthed him. She taught him. She groomed him for the role he would one day play. She grieved with him through each agonizing step toward the cross. She knew.

His friends knew. Peter, John, and the rest. They knew the power of the One they had encountered. The One who had washed their feet and fed them bread. The One who had drawn them close in the Garden. The One who had calmed their storms and drew them out from a life of obscurity into a life of authenticity. They knew.

Pilate knew. Knew there was just something about this Jesus. This One called Messiah. While history does not record the entire “artistic license” that was shown in The Passion, I believe that Pilate knew. For that matter, I believe the Pharisees and the Romans knew. Knew that there was something extraordinarily different about this Jesus.

Jesus…the Word…came and lived among us for a while. And with him, he brought the grace and truth that would penetrate the darkness of our souls. The road to Calvary was lined with eyes that witnessed this Mystery…this Jesus…this Flesh among us. They had the rare privilege of seeing, face to face, the Lover of their souls. And I believe their encounter with their Savior, left every last one of them saying… “There’s something about that Jesus.” While all did not believe in his truth…his grace…his mystery…all had the opportunity to respond.

And so it is today. Many have heard the Story. Many have embraced it as their own. Many have walked away. Many have yet to hear. One cannot hear the Truth…one cannot witness the Story…one cannot encounter the marvelous and loving grace of Jesus…and walk away the same. There is something about the Story. Something so compelling…so absolutely mysterious and divine…something so necessary, that it calls for decision. Acceptance or rejection.

Perhaps, today, you need to hear the Story once again. Pick up the Word and read about it. Go and see it on the big screen. Visit a church and find it in the people. And if it is still not clear, come on over to my house. Settle in on a big couch with a little boy whose perspective clears the way of any indifference, and hear the words again…

“Once upon a time there was…Jesus.”

Get that perspective, and you hold the keys to the Kingdom.

Happy Easter from my life to yours!

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A Mary Weeping

“Don’t cry mom. Jesus died a long time ago. You weep like Jesus’ mother, Mary, weeped.”

These were the words spoken from a seven-year-old boy to his mother upon witnessing her tears this morning. My tears. A steady stream of salty, pouring down my cheeks as I watched a portion of The Passion of the Christ via YouTube.

It caught me off guard. Sandwiched between an Easter egg hunt and a three mile run, I had a few moments to peruse some of my favorite blogs, one of which featured a snippet of Mel Gibson’s masterful adaptation of Jesus’ final hours. I first saw the film upon its release four years ago. I have never allowed myself to revisit its witness until today.

I remember the tears that I wept as I sat in a packed theatre with others offering their own audible sounds of grief. The movie mediated its way into my soul and profoundly altered my thoughts regarding Christ and his cross. A few hours later, I would put pen to paper and write, what has become, one of my favorite reflections. It includes the movie coupled with words from my then, three-year-old son. The same son who spoke to my tears this morning. I want to share it with you, but not today; perhaps tomorrow. Today belongs to today. To the tears and the words of today.

“Don’t cry mom. Jesus died a long time ago. You weep like Jesus’ mother, Mary, weeped.”

You could birth a theology from those words. But there is no need. One already exists. One that says…

The tomb stands empty, and only the depth of a mother’s tears are worthy of its remembrance.

I cried those tears today. A Mary “weeping.” A weeping that issues forth because of a shared intimacy with a Son. A weeping that acknowledges the painful surrender of a Son. A weeping that willingly embraces the death of a Son, knowing that life will emerge on the other side of such consecrated submission.

Life does emerge on the other side of the tomb. Tomorrow, I will remember and celebrate my resurrected life in Christ. But tomorrow belongs to tomorrow. Today…I will remember Jesus with my tears. I ask for them to come like Mary’s, for a mother’s tears are sacred and are meant for lavish expression.

If I am going to weep over Jesus, I want to weep deeply…like Mary. I never want to get over what Christ has done for me. If it takes a movie to move me to such a place of thankfulness, then these eyes are ready for the viewing. If it takes the tender words of a child, then these ears are ready for the hearing. If it takes the tortured cross of the Son, then this mind is ready to conceive and to receive the promise of such an extravagant grace.

I pray for you a moment of tears this day. Maybe tears aren’t your thing. For whatever reason, they have stopped their flow in your life and in your heart. There is a hardness on the surface that breaks for no one—a calloused thinking that has little time for remembrance, much less a Mary kind of weeping.

If this is you, then this is the day for you to revisit the cross. Over 2000 years ago, Christ came to his knees in surrender for your heart. It wasn’t a simple thing. It was everything…the one thing that stood between heaven and hell. An obedient surrender.

Today, I come to my knees on your behalf for a surrendered heart. Right now in this little sanctuary I call my bedroom…for those of you reading and those who will read somewhere down the road. These knees were made for prayers, and as God’s fellow worker and privileged servant, I receive his grace not in vain. Rather, I fall to my knees for you and pray that the words of the Apostle Paul transcend the pages of scripture to become a “now” word for your needy estate.

“Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor. 6:2).

Today. Not tomorrow, for tomorrow belongs to tomorrow. And we are not promised one moment beyond this one. There is no better time than today to surrender to your tears and to receive the unfathomable surrender of the Son who hung on your behalf. It is the one surrender that stands between your heaven and hell. And so I pray for you…

Father, right now as I am on my knees and typing these words, I pray that the gift of your cross makes its way into the hearts of my friends. They maybe strangers to me, but they are not strangers to you. As you hung upon the tree, you knew their names. You knew this moment would come…this day when they would read these words and be forced to grapple with your Truth. Release the hardness that surrounds the heart. Tender their soil for the seed of your Word. Let today be the day when their tears begin to water the soil of their need. Write your love upon their lives and surround them with the unshakable reality of Who you are and exactly why you made the pilgrimage to Calvary on their behalf. Where there is unbelief, replace it with sure belief. Where there is hopelessness, replace it with heaven’s hope. And where there is the darkness of a tomb, shatter it with the illuminating light of Easter. Today is the day of salvation. You, alone, are worthy of a Mary weeping. And so, I remember your grace…I cry a mother’s tears…and I ask that you fill the eyes of my friends with a similar portion.

You are everything to me. Today. Tomorrow and the next. Let it be so for us all! Amen.

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