love & grit & glory. [grace & truth series]

[just joining us? catch up with the grace & truth: social justice series here & here]

i’ve been sitting here staring out the window eating crackers with roasted garlic hummus [to God be the glory, right?] and trying to come up with a good illustration for the point i’d like to make. nothing is coming to mind, so here’s the point, delivered in a non prettied-up, non compelling way because that’s just what’s happening today.

love works hard.

graceandtruthloveworkshard

it just. works. hard. it pours out and it may not be filled back up and it makes hard decisions and is a life without love really life at all and when love is our life sometimes it’s just painful and anyone who says differently is selling something.

i’m so overwhelmed at times by the pain in the world that all i want to do is fix it. i’m feeling this right now as i just read this and i’m rolling my eyes because my life today is coffee and friends and there’s brick on our house and my baby is napping and i’m picking out paint colors.

and now i’m rolling my eyes again because i’m reminded that love works hard and you should feel guilty because you’re having a great day are not. the. same. thing.

loved already worked hard. love took on flesh and dwelt among us and we’ve seen His glory. the only Son. from the Father. grace & truth.

so when i say love works hard, the Spirit of God works that truth out inside me, and He reminds me that love works hard as a response, a reflection and not a repayment of what has been done for me. and i’m so much more motivated than i could have been otherwise because i get to love now. i get to work hard and i get to function out of the overflow of grace & truth and joy woven deep. it’s as simple and complex and clear and foggy as we love because He first loved us. it’s a love that:

creates
comes
intervenes
provides
sacrifices
bleeds
pours out
dies on behalf of another.

that’s the love that was shown to us. it’s the love we get to respond to.

this is not a call to be a self made martyr. it is a call to marvel and wonder and invest in discovering just how deeply we are loved by Love and how the calling of our heart to love Love and love loving is where the heart of this life is found.

love works hard.

it looks like selfless service and why is she doing that? it looks like discipleship and open hands and fear not and finances not clutched but given and all we have is His so what would He have us do with it? it looks like many members but one body and it looks like a people compelled and convinced, Christ-loved and Christlike. it looks like grit and commitment and all glory, honor, power is Yours, amen.

it looks like a life that won’t make sense to the world and we hear that all the time but why do i have to repeat it to myself over and over again? it looks like people who are convinced that thy Kingdom come is motivation enough for wherever the Spirit leads, and it looks like people who are confident that God gives wisdom and empowers us to move forward into the dark places.

it looks like the family of a dear friend of mine, parents five minutes into empty-nesting and mom and sister traveling abroad and Spirit pricking and souls saying our home should not yet be empty. paperwork and conversation and prayer and waiting and two children on a plane headed toward a forever home, a forever family. two sisters greeting a new brother and sister at the airport, overwhelmed with happiness that their siblings are here and a jet-lagged, exhilarated brother head-spinning and heart trying to catch up says, “it was not easy.” this is the truth.

love works hard. we are people loved by the greatest Love of all, and this is life is but a vapor, a moment in time and we get to love in a way that reflects God and have faith in a way that moves mountains. love works through us and in us and our hearts are softened by it and stronger for it. love calls us into battle and calls us into rest and that this God we serve brings all these seeming contradictions into synthesis is a manifestation of love itself.

love works hard. if you share that belief with me, grab a friend or a journal or a space in the comments section and ponder what that means for you. it means something, i’m sure of it. He is faithful to reveal.

trinity, justice & love. [grace & truth series]

last week, i kicked off the first round of the grace & truth series which will be focused on social justice. in that post, i stated six truths of social justice that i’ve learned, the first of which i’ll discuss today.

1. Loving God leads to loving others.
(talking normative Christian life here, folks. not trying to determine whether or not somebody is going to heaven based on what i see in their life. that’s another convo for another day…one that probably falls outside of the scope of this blog. thx & gig ’em.)

Grace & Truth: Loving

Every once in a while, I learn something new, or hear something in a different way, and all of the sudden I hear it everywhere. Over time I’ve come to realize that this is a way the Spirit testifies to me – repeating a truth, typically a truth of God’s character, over and over and over again as I seek to come to grips with it.

The past ten days or so, this has been happening with the truth of the Trinity.

I’ve believed in the Trinity for a long time. The Trinity is a fundamental doctrine of Christianity – that God is, has been and will always be existent as three in one; the co-eternal, co-existent Godhead.  However, in these recent days I’ve been struck by a new depth of this truth – the relational essence of God displayed with ungraspable beauty in the Trinity.  I know I’ve learned about this before, but I’m coming to see more and more that it’s just so very human of us to need time and repetition in order for truth to burrow itself deeply within us, so I’m letting myself learn this anew.

Some of the ways the Trinity has been working its way into my thoughts recently have been:

  • We are studying Genesis at church. While describing who God is, our pastor stated that God “has always been in relationship, because He is Trinity” citing John 1:1. “Before creation,” he told us, “the Trinity glorified one another” (see John 17:5).
  • On my way home from an out of town trip today, I listened to a sermon entitled “Relaxing in Trinitarian Love” presented by Tim Chester at the 2011 Together for Adoption Conference. He stated that God’s essence is love and relationship, because He has always been Father, He has always been communicating, He has always been loving. (cue tears of joy)
  • In both of the above sermons, the preachers implored their listeners to not view God as one who created out of a need for fellowship or out of any lack within Himself. God created out of fullness, as an overflow of His perfect union and fellowship within Himself through the members of the Trinity.

Anybody else need a glass of water (or a nap)? Stay with me!

I’m so thankful for all of this truth. I’m thankful that it’s going to take me a lifetime to even scratch the surface of understanding all of it, and even more thankful that my limited understanding has, by the power of the Spirit, incredible impact on my life now.

And that’s why we’re gathered here today, my friends.

God has always existed in love. In fellowship, relationship, friendship, unity, communication. He made us from that overflow. He loved us from that overflow. We sinned. We severed the communication, we broke the fellowship. He reached out, down, toward, through, and restored us to Himself by the shed of blood of His Son and we enter the kingdom through the power of the resurrection. While there are many, many more reasons we have to love one another – this is the basis. We love because He first loved us. 

And what does love do?

It moves. It enters in and splits the curtain and overcomes the wall. It doesn’t cower to fear or submit to insecurity. It thrives in the dark places because it can always find the light. It blossoms in the tough ground because it knows how to reach out for the water.

Love. never. fails.

We love because He first loved us. This is the heart of the first premise. Loving God leads to loving others. Care for our neighbor, of the stranger, of even our enemy is motivated by perfect love. The love that we know because it was shown to us in the plan of Father, Spirit, Son to bring man to God, to bridge the gap.

And it is our joy to mirror them.

Not to seek to become them. Not to earn their approval. But to reflect them. The Spirit guides and we look to the Son and we pray to the Father and may we be one as they are one.

Loving God leads to loving others. This is a fundamental truth of social justice, because when the going gets tough and the road is dark and dangerous we are loved by the One who enables us to love. We fight for the freedom of our fellow man because our ultimate freedom was purchased on a cross and cannot be stripped away. We raise our voices for the voiceless because Jesus Christ speaks on our behalf, mediating on the basis of His blood shed for us. We stand up for those who have been oppressed because Jesus Christ stood in the gap for us and He cannot. be. held. down.

There is so much more to discuss when it comes to social justice. There are ways and means and whys and hows and hope and sadness and wherever people are involved, there is great challenge. But for today I’m choosing to rest in this – the root of all hope and change and justice for mankind, is the love found in the man Jesus Christ that we are offered the opportunity to reflect. He is good. He is just. He is love.

grace & truth: entering in – social justice.

i’m fairly certain that about 4 seconds after i hit the “publish” button on the post introducing the grace & truth series, i was stripped of all knowledge, wisdom and insight i’ve ever had on any topic at any time. i don’t know anything anymore.

ok, probably not.

it’s perhaps more likely that i was simply stripped of the confidence to engage and wrestle and think, and maybe to be wrong (gasp). i’ve thought for 10 days now about what this initial post should discuss, how to phrase things in such a way that would compel you to get involved in the discussion and not just sit back and absorb (or repel) it, how to tackle a topic with some sort of originality, and to be honest, i haven’t gotten very far. i’m not sure i can propose anything new to any of you, but maybe the newness isn’t quite as important as the opportunity to re-engage. are we ever really finished thinking through something that matters after our first encounter with it? i know i’m not. so here’s to rehashing and hoping for progression of thought and belief. 

Grace & Truth: Social Justice
during our time at seminary, i was invited to a bible study that, cliche as it sounds, completely changed my life. the women there were fellow seminary wives with deep passion for the things of God, community, bearing one another’s burdens and building one another up. recognizing the intensity of four years alongside our ever-studying husbands, these traits were absolutely invaluable, especially when sickness, the tumultuous nature of all things motherhood, work hardships, sin struggles and even death touched our lives. we studied the Word together, convinced that the Spirit would guide and that there was great depth to be found, and i remember so clearly one night a few years in to the study, when some had graduated and left an indelible mark on our theology and lives and some had just begun their seminary journey, we were struck by the frequency and intensity of God’s call to care for “the least of these” throughout scripture. we were so floored and convicted that we made a Kiva micro-finance loan that night and signed up to volunteer at an apartment community for previously incarcerated women who were being reunited with their children. we were gripped. all in and head first we held high the banner of on earth as it is in heaven
. “social justice” became a real, living, breathing part of our lives, and i think back on that night, as well as those leading up to and following it, as an incredibly formative moment and season.

those nights and the actions we took because of them taught me:

1. Loving God leads to loving others.
2. Love works hard.
3. We are called to seek the welfare of the city.
4. It is not enough to speak the gospel with our mouths while living lives that extend no grace toward those who need it.
5. It is not enough to offer a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name but never open our mouths and speak the gospel.
6. We can’t do it all. But, God ordained, Jesus exemplified, Spirit guiding, we can do a lot.

i hope to use these six big ideas to open up a discussion on social justice in the coming weeks. join me?

what does “social justice” make you think of? feel?
does loving God lead to loving others? (
i’m not asking this as a question of salvation. i’m asking if the normative, active Christian life naturally leads to loving others.)
what place does social justice have in the theology and life of the Christian?
how do Christians engage the humanitarian, secular social justice movement?

a new series: grace & truth

nap times and car rides and the 3 minutes in which i do my makeup have recently served as miniature mental blog planning sessions, fractions of moments claimed for praying and thinking through direction, vision, purpose. what has emerged so far is this: i love to write, i love to research, i love to be informed & inform, to be educated & educate. i love when knowledge cycles into wisdom into action into kingdom come. i’m a dreamer but intensely practical, a tentative pursuer of the gray who finds herself grasping for the black and white perhaps a little too often.

in that spirit, i’m starting another new series entitled grace & truth, which will seek to expose, inform, educate and motivate myself and readers of joy woven deep (all 9 of you) on topics that are under-discussed, always in light of God’s patience and kindness toward us as we attempt to navigate life in a broken world. some of these topics will be personal passions (orphan care, pregnancy and preparing for motherhood, engaging real food, using our finances and resources for good). others may be brought up by friends or family (or you, whoever you are!), news items or current debates. my goal will not be to lead everyone to hold the same conclusion about everything. my goal will be to engage some of the complexities of humanity with Scripture, God’s creation, Christ’s life and the Spirit’s leading in mind. some rules are hard and fast, some leave room for variance. this is a chance to explore the wild backyard of all the Truth set in stone, maybe even pitching a tent for a season.

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i’m really excited about this series. i hope any of you who read it feel invited to engage, suggest topics, discuss conclusions, etc. topics i plan to start exploring include how our culture discusses children, family and fertility, eating in a way that glorifies God with our bodies while embracing community and culture, and approaching educational decisions for our children someday. i hope you’ll join me.

[this idea was largely inspired by kristen howerton’s what i want you to know series. i’d encourage you to pop over to her site and read a few posts; they always get my mind and heart churning.]