Kate's Musings

Thursday: Study Peace

‘And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; 
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, 
to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God, 
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven 
to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.’
— ‭‭Luke‬ ‭1:76-79‬ 

 

There is a path of peace in this valley, and its trail name is forgiveness. 

John the Baptist prepared the way for the Lord by preaching, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is near!” Shouting into the darkness he proclaimed the coming of the Light. I imagine a wandering prophet in my own soul, calling into the darkness, “Repent of your selfishness! Repent of your worry! Repent of your pride! For the Kingdom of Light is advancing to these places. You will be exposed, so come out of hiding!” 

That first conviction is always hard. When the thought hits you in the midst of a Netflix binge, “I should turn this off and stop avoiding God about how short-tempered I was today.”

Those “John the Baptist” moments when you know the light is coming to expose the ugly sins in its path, repentance to which may cause dramatic changes to your comfort, are unnerving. But the path of peace is found when we heed those calls, seek God’s forgiveness, and in turn, are able to extend forgiveness to others. 

Ask yourself: 

Am I listening for the coming Kingdom Advancement in my own life? 

When I pray for peace in the world, have I sought God on how I need to repent in order to be a peacemaker?
 

Wednesday: Observe Peace

...Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind 
In one the hearts of all mankind; 
Oh, bid our sad divisions cease, 
And be yourself our King of Peace. 
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel 
Shall come to you, O Israel!
— Oh, Come, Oh, Come Emmanuel: Translated by John Neal, 1818-66

There is a Holy loosening in the midst of this stanza- a relinquishing of the idols we have trusted independently in for peace. Between its lines lives a recognition that strengthening the divide will not create stability. Our seeking will only be satisfied by uniting under the rule and Lordship of Jesus. Oh, come Desire of nations… 

Jesus is the king we all desire. He grants the perfect freedom yet maintains absolute authority. In his might he protects, and in his compassion endows charitable welfare. He is the One King who can overcome the turmoil, the One King who is best for every subject. He is the one King who will never fail, never be overtaken, and never change. Jesus is our King of Peace. 

When it seems that the only option is to stand on one side of the divide, pray. The very Spirit of the Risen Lord dwells in us to empower us to do the work of Jesus right here in the midst of a chaotic world. His Kingdom has already broken in, and he has called us to give our first devotion, pledge our truest allegiance, and abandon any ties that impede on our obedience to his authority. “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Reflect:

Am I restrained from experiencing God’s peace because I am holding on to an idol? Do my actions point to one other than Jesus as the “King of Peace” I long for?

Repent:

God, may you expose the anchors I grasp at that fail me and lead to distress. I repent of placing my trust in any other source for peace. Forgive me for listening more carefully to the calamity than to your voice. You never fail, God, you never fail.

Friday: Receive Joy

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.

So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.

You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.
— The Hope of Eternal Life, from 1 Peter 1:3-9

 

Happiness comes and goes like the tide, completely dependent on our circumstances for existence. But joy? Joy is eternal because its source is the faithfulness of God, which has never, nor will it ever, change. God is faithful. 

When we choose to believe that the same God who was faithful in the past will be faithful in the future, we can experience true joy. Joy comes alive in us even when we know the Valley of the Shadow of Death to be our home address. Joy burgeons in the midst of darkness, grief, suffering and fear, because even though we do not see him now, we trust him. 

Ask Yourself:

In what ways have I forgotten the faithfulness of God? 

In what relationships, times of day, or patterns of behavior have I chosen to believe I am on my own in this struggle? 

When was the last time I considered my need for true Joy rather than happiness?
 

Thursday: Study Joy

My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
For he has looked on the 
humble estate of his servant. 
For behold, from now on all generations
Will call me blessed; 
For he who is mighty has done
Great things for me,
And holy is his name.
— Luke 1:46-49

Oh Mary and her eternal perspective. 

Her song of praise, sung in the privacy of her elderly cousin's home, sends shivers down my spine. These words are not a result of rehearsing, or camera-ready tips given her. They display a heart rejoicing in genuine praise. I have no doubt that in her life, thoughts like these came in waves. She had so much to navigate. The ridicule she received must have been overwhelming at times- seen as a disgrace, a sinner, her worth in society bankrupt.

What is true today was true then: we are much more likely to believe the lies of the powerful than the truth from the powerless. Mary was powerless in the eyes of now nameless religious men. But God made Mary’s story great. She held in her heart the truth that God saw her and chose her, even if no one believed her. He established a future for her that would long surpass the piety of those who deemed her worthless. 

Faith produces joy.

Mary experienced the joy of her promised future because she genuinely believed it. That is faith: assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1) While God’s calling in her life would bring her down a path of suffering, her spirit rejoiced in God her Savior because she had faith that he would follow through on his promises.

Do you really believe that Jesus came to save you even though the road ahead seems dangerous? Do you believe that if you follow him to the cross that you will follow him in his resurrection? In his inheritance? 

Jesus, the Light of the World, is our source of joy. We, like Mary, can choose to rejoice in God our Savior, rather than wallow in the world’s assesment of our worth. Christmas is a great time to be “bombarded” with the call to rejoice, because it is a season to remember that God looked upon our humble estate, and gave our lives meaning. For generations and generations we will be called “blessed” because God, in his great love, chose us as worthy. He came to live in our story (birth, worthlessness, death) so that we might live in his story (rebirth, importance, eternal life). Jesus changed our forecast from stormclouds of destruction, to the warmth and brightness of the sun. While that joy is not fully realized, if you have faith that he will do as he has said, you can experience the joy he offers now.

As we approach this Sunday, a day set aside to thank Jesus for turning our sorrow into joy, reflect on his promises.

Write down the promises you long for most (not a personal wishlist, but promises made by God) and repent of your unbelief.

And his mercy is for those who fear him
From generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
He has scattered the proud in the
Thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
And exalted those of humble estate;
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
In remembrance of his mercy,
As he spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and to his offspring forever.
— Luke 1:50-55

Friday: Receive Love

“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”


“Kingdom work” is a term I use to describe things that are inconvenient, but important to do in order to love someone well. Sometimes I am like Martha about it. Flustered, I start serving other people because it is all I know to do; meanwhile, my heart begs the question, “Won’t anybody help me with this?” 

My toil is in vain when my heart is in this place. We actually can’t do anything for God unless we are abiding in his Spirit. That’s the tricky thing about “serving Jesus.” The value of our actions amounts to only checked boxes unless an eternal God is at work. 

Jesus didn’t interject on Martha’s behalf. The work could wait because Mary needed to connect with Jesus and she chose to put that need first. She was just a girl who loved her teacher, and felt confident he wanted her close. 

And that is the good news: he wants us close. We don’t need to will ourselves into more godly attitudes while we “love” others. We need to take every moment of jealousy, loneliness, performance stress, and obstruction to loving others straight to Jesus. Because hidden in a jaded attitude, is a disconnection with the truth that we are fully known, loved, and wanted by God. 

Once there were two people. They stood together in brightness, but they were told they were going to be sent out into the darkness. Startled, the first person got to work building hundreds of lamps. Burying herself in in the busyness of her lamp ministry, she forgot about the light. The second person took a good long look around at the beauty of the light, then picked up a candle and walked into the darkness, carefully keeping her eye on the flame to ensure it would not be snuffed out. Everywhere she walked, the darkness would flee. Those who had been lost and afraid were forever changed by the Light of her candle. What’s more? That little flame multiplied. As she gave her light to another’s candle, torch, or kindling, she did not feel depleted; in fact, her world got brighter with every lending of her flame. 

The lamp maker tried really hard. And we want to say “her heart was in the right place.” But it wasn’t. In her lack of appreciation, both of her need and and its power, she forgot the light altogether. Lamps are pretty useless without light.  

Likewise, we are pretty useless without the Light. We can love, because he first loved us. If you walk around this world, knowing you are intimately loved by God, carefully addressing any wind of insecurity or judgment that could make that flame flicker, then you will push back the darkness. You will be like the candle-bearer. The Light will make that email you sent or dinner you prepared, matter. He will bring power and value to every relationship you have and every place you frequent. You will be enough for any darkness you have to walk through, because you will have your candle. 

“Light is the first of painters. There is no object so foul that intense light will not make it beautiful.”
— RW Emerson, Nature, 1856

 

Do not fear. The love of God is enough for you and yours this Christmas, and every day thereafter. Don’t let the flame flicker because of the holiday clutter- this holiday is about this love. So put this love, first. 

Light of the world
You stepped down into darkness
Opened my eyes, let me see
Beauty that made this heart adore You
Hope of a life spent with You
Here I am to worship
Here I am to bow down
Here I am to say that You’re my God
You’re altogether lovely
Altogether worthy
Altogether wonderful to me
King of all days
Oh so highly exalted
Glorious in heaven above
Humbly You came to the earth You created
All for love’s sake became poor
Here I am to worship
Here I am to bow down
Here I am to say that You’re my God
You’re altogether lovely
Altogether worthy
Altogether wonderful to me
— Hillsong Worship, Here I am to Worship

Thursday: Study Love

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

 
— 1 John 4:7-16


Write this passage down. Single out a few of the repeated words and really re-read them in the context of each sentence. 

Jesus came to live in our world, that we might live in his. Simply thinking about “how great light is” does nothing for you if you are surrounded by darkness. Like light, love has a source, and that source is God himself. It is easy in the busyness of our daily lives and holiday expectations to try and train ourselves to “love better”, but we can’t. The need for love in the world is so great, that it can drain the life out of us if we let it. And the answer to the depletion is not just self care or pacing ourselves. It is to reconnect with the source. God has enough love for the massive void in this world, and he can fill that need through us when we abide in him. 

This mystery of abiding is one worth investigating. 

Ask yourself:

Do I know what it means to abide in God? 

What situations always leave me drained and irritable? Why? Have I been seeking the Spirit to guide me and empower me in those situations?

In what relationships do I feel unloved? What habits of prayer do I need to implement to connect with God and be secure by his great love for me?
 

Advent 2017: Let there be Light

The Christmas lights are hung with care and one by one neighborhood streets, once boring, have a bit more color and glow. It is easy to think that Christmas is just a story about the shiny things like tinsel and bells, lights and garland. But the story is also about darkness. The world was dark and needed Jesus. 

Christmas isn’t a time to be distracted from the struggle, tragedies, and evil in our world; but rather, a time to look at the fear they create in the face and say, “You have no victory here.”

The world needs something better than, jolliness. This world needs a Savior.

This Advent season as we prepare to celebrate the coming of our King, we will meditate on our need for the Light of the World. We want to carefully wade through the darkness around us and, by doing so, expose it to the Light. Will you join us? Will you walk into the darkness with us as we carry the Light that the Spirit of Jesus has birthed in us?

 


Each Sunday we will light the Advent Wreath candles together. If you would like to join us, gather your Advent Wreath supplies (simple or intricate, creative or purchased) this weekend. 

If you have kids in your life, be sure to download the children’s activity document here, as some supplies will be needed. 
 

ADVENTure KIDS

This year, we decided to provide a once-a-week activity for you to enjoy with the kids in your life. The target ages include elementary-middle school, but take a look and see if it is right for you!  Each "ADVENTure" is a hands-on activity to help you communicate the meaning of Hope, Love, Joy, or Peace. Let us know how they work for you and yours! 

Prayer Works, Just Not Like That.

Prayer gets a bad rap these days. Somewhere in the midst of “positive vibes” being “sent”, it became a bit trite to mention prayer when disaster strikes. 

Saying, “My prayers are with you,” to someone suffering feels much like scraping a few lent-crusted pennies from the driver’s seat car door to give to someone who hasn’t eaten in three days. Like an afterthought, a nod without inconvenience, a glance so quick so as to acknowledge the person without feeling any pain, “thoughts and prayers” feel dismissive. 

 

It isn’t that prayer doesn’t work, it just doesn’t work like that. 

Prayer doesn’t work like thoughts or vibes. 

Prayer is better than a wish list your kids write to “Santa”, mailed away to some mysterious storage place at the post office. It is more than a poem said before a meal. 

But, is it more than that in your life? When you say, “I am praying for you”, what do you mean by that? If you mean you take five seconds and write a wish list to God in your mind then send it like an intangible text, then yeah, prayer might not work. 

 

“Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done.”

Prayer connects us with God. That is the difference between prayer and a powerless thought- connecting with a powerful God. Communicating with God reminds us of who he is and who we are. The act of praying aligns us with his love for those we pray for (that includes his love toward us) and we are changed. God himself, changes things as he changes us. 

Our thoughts don’t change things- we aren’t X-men. But God, he is a change-maker. And, because he chose to dwell in a people he calls his own, he moves in and through us to reconstruct our world. What’s more? God doesn’t just “use us” to further His Kingdom in the lives of others, but in the process he pushes back the darkness within us. 

Through prayer, God invites us into the process. 

 

Naaman and The River

Do you remember the story of Naaman (Find it here: II Kings 5 )? Here is my paraphrase.

Naaman was successful in many ways as a military commander for the Kingdom of Aram, but he had Leprosy. Through the inspirational faithfulness of a servant girl, and despite the faithlessness of the King of Israel at the time, Naaman heard that there was a prophet of the God of Israel who could heal him. Long story short, God’s prophet Elisha told Naaman to do something beneath him. He instructed for Naaman to wash in the Jordan river seven times to be healed and cleansed, which enraged Naaman because there was nothing special, or even all that nice, about the Jordan river.  He was like, “HECK NO! I shouldn’t have to do that! Your method is beneath me, so your healing is beneath me.” But then, he got some sense talked into him to the tune of, “If you would do something very hard to be cured, why won’t you do something very simple?”

Convinced, Naaman waded and rinsed and was healed. He praised God, who not only healed his leprosy, but healed his heart of pride and idolatry. This former leprous idolator became a healthy God worshiper. 

The answer to his request was bigger than he had in mind, the healing more complete. But the method? Basic. 

 


What does this have to do with anything? 

God’s invitation to be a part of the healing led to a greater restoration. Prayer often works like this. It is true that God heals people, and nations, in very different ways; sometimes with a word, sometimes in a moment, sometimes in stages, or even by spitting in dirt. 

The consistency I have found in my own life and in the stories of others is this: God’s answer moves the bigger story of his Kingdom of Light. 

So, when we beg God to crumble the injustice in the world, we have to be prepared to be shown an uncomfortable path forward. We have to be ready to take up our cross, the burden of others, and let go of our valuables for the sake of His Kingdom. 

Take a moment and look at the context of the “ask and you will receive” passages:

Matthew 7
Luke 11
John 14

What do they have in common? Action. Prayer is the pathway to obedience. Why would we settle for a lesser answer, one that only fixes the problem we notice, when God offers to restore us to his likeness in areas we didn’t know were broken? Oh, God, I repent.

Can we ask God to “just do things” like heal a friend who lives miles away? Yes! Can we ask that there would be an end to the evil and hatred that results in mass shootings, domestic violence, and genocide? YES! We absolutely should bring these sorrows and injustices to God with persistence and faith. 

AND, as part of that prayer, we must be ready for his answer to involve us. Involvement that will most likely be in a way we feel uncomfortable with; because the love God will awaken in us will look like his love. The love that caused Him to give up His rights as King of Heaven and Earth, and take on suffering for our sake, will move us in similar fashion. He held back nothing, not even his breath, in response to the remnant who cried out for a Savior. 

He loved us first. He has more in store for us than we anticipate when we get on our knees. 

He loves you so completely, he is willing to transform your dirty-rag-priorities into the sterile bandages that save the sick and dying. 


Do you dare ask the questions: 

God, would you give me something I can do out of your love for those that are suffering? 

What have I made more valuable than your love for my neighbor? 

How might I take up my cross to more fully understand your love?

Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God,
    he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
    he took the humble position of a slave
    and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
  he humbled himself in obedience to God
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
    and gave him the name above all other names,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.
— Philippians 2:1-11

What do they see?

When those who don't know about the Kingdom of God see Christians, what do they see? 

This question has been sitting in our house for a while, about three years, actually. 

At first, you might respond:

1) We need to please God, not man, right?

2) We need to be "above reproach" by abstaining from anything questionable. Shouldn't we show them that there is a very different way? 

If those questions settle okay with you, I would like to counter with two more questions:

1) What did those far from God think of Jesus (the one and only man whose life was pleasing to God)?

2) Whose reproach? Have you received criticism from people far from God about the way Christians dress, what we eat or drink, our use of four letter words, or what establishments we hang out in?

For us, these questions became crucial to answer. Somehow, amidst sincere desire to live our lives for Jesus and his Kingdom, we could no longer keep up with trying to please God AND other Christians. 

Jesus threw caution to the wind when it came to pleasing everyone. And who did he disappoint? Two groups for sure: the religious folk and those who called for unquestioned allegiance. 

So we decided to do the same. As it turns out, the narrow path feels a lot more like a rickety rope bridge hanging over the cliffs of arrogance, heresy, and loneliness. Without the Spirit of God himself, it is impossibly dangerous. But he is faithful. We can trust that he will not allow us to wander past the fences of his love, and even more so, find that this way is actually better. 

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley
of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.
— Psalm 23, ESV

I used to think this Psalm was for those darn valleys that I sometimes found myself in. Ol' David was going through a hard time. Sometimes life sucks. People die. We get sick. We get stressed. 

Lately though, my worldview has changed.

Our whole life on earth is in the valley of the shadow of death. Our enemy is always pursuing. We can invest our best effort to making life pleasant, but that is only a mirage because in this world, the pain doesn't stop. Even with our headphones in and the Contemporary Christian Pandora station blaring, no amount of distraction will stop the suffering in and around us. Thankfully, there is hope. In the midst of this bleak life, God has chosen to BE WITH his people. And in His presence, peace is found. 

Right here. In the same body that is shaking with anger, grief, or stress, God can grow a green pasture. He can guide us to the still water.

"But how?" we ask.

Pointing, "Look there, my enemy is rushing toward me!"

He knows.

But He does not fear.

"Sit." God says, commanding, "Eat." 

"Let me comfort you with oil and quench your thirst, for I am not afraid of your enemy, and I am not leaving you. I know the way through this valley, and I will guide you to the other side. See that mountain top? I have prepared a place for you. Trust me."

But the story is not over with that. 

"Go get the others." He calls out. 

"Teach them to follow me."

If suffering pursues us, than establishing our own houses and neighborhoods of propriety is foolishness. When an assailant has targeted you, there are two good options: fight, or flight. Throughout history, God's people have been set apart by The God Who Fights For Us. He has led his people to do seemingly moronic things, with only one explanation for victory: God himself. Are we seen that way now? People who do daring, crazy, radical acts: pushing back the darkness in a way that leaves God Himself as the only explanation for our success?

 

The life that matters

This broken-turned-beautiful life matters. So what should those far from God see and hear from us?

Our life should tell the story:

I see the brokenness and feel the pain.

But God has shown me the way to peace.

Turmoil may be around every corner, but I know my future is secure.

I am not afraid to meet you wherever you are.

Your mess isn't too messy for me, because the King of all Kings is with me and his holiness and forgiveness are cleansing.

He will be with you too, if you want him. Would you follow him with me?