Archive | giving glory

who is invited?

Is the family of God exclusive or inclusive?

When I was about seventeen, I was attended a soiree. That’s right, not a party—a soiree. “Who is invited?” I had asked. My brother and sister who were sure the invitation included me, though that wasn’t completely evident. They were friends of the family hosting the event and I was an acquaintance of theirs. I put on my satin skirt and a black top, my mom gently suggested I put a little effort into my hair and we took the long drive to their secluded home.

It was Christmastime, there was wassail on the stove and horse devours on the coffee table and a shining grand piano that it would seem every guest knew how to play, but me. Everyone was very nice and I enjoyed my wassail and the live music, but I couldn’t help but wonder if I was out of place. The group seemed very exclusive and I couldn’t help but wonder if I hadn’t been invited at all.

Have you ever felt that way? It’s not the most pleasant feeling.

Now imagine receiving an invitation to a big, wonderful party (or soiree!) There is sure to be food and drink, live music and games, lots of laughing and talking and good times. Anyone is welcome, but you have to bring an invitation, and invitations are sent out at request. Would you consider this an exclusive party?

This is similar to a question a lot of people have about Christianity. If God is good, if God is love, how can He “send people to hell”? If you really loved people, you would be more tolerant, more inclusive. All people should be able to go to heaven when they die, right?

First of all, don’t take my word for this. Jesus said of Himself, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, emphasis mine.) It doesn’t take a scholar to interpret that verse. The great news is, everyone is welcome into the Kingdom of God, but there is only one road, one gate, one key that we all must use.

The Bible doesn’t just say, “God is loving,” it says “God is love.” (1 John 4:8.) That means that everything He does is love, even his “severe mercies” as Elisabeth Elliot called them.  Making only one “key” to heaven’s gate, that excludes all of the other keys we could possibly try, and that’s done out of love for us. He isn’t trying to trick us, there is no riddle. There’s just one key. And the other keys? The key we make ourselves, the key someone else presses into our hands, the key we found somewhere along the way–they won’t turn the lock.

There was a time when God spoke to people only through occasional prophets on misty, glowing hilltops. He gave us the law carved in stone, there was no “buts” about it and we were swallowed by the earth if we failed to live up to those expectations. He was already Love, but His love for had not been consummated on the cross, yet. Out of love, He showed us that we cannot work for love. Love that we have to work for is not love at all. He chose a high priest, a Jewish man of a certain line, to communicate with Him. Communication was more tense than any meet-the-parents dinner. The priest entered God’s presence only once a year, and with so many particulars, Moses wrote an entire book of instructions based on God’s words to Him. The priests wore a rope round their waist when in God’s presence so their dead body could be dragged out if God struck them down for some reason (no one else could enter The Holy of Holies to retrieve him.)

When Solomon built the temple, the people who wished to worship were segregated into several sections. The Most Holy Place was for The High Priest only. Beyond that was the Court of the Priests. Beyond that was a court where men were allowed. Then there was a court outside of that for women. Beyond that was The Court of the Gentiles were non-Jews were permitted to enter. (Here’s a little diagram.) The curtain that hung in front of the Most Holy Place was a physical and spiritual barrier between God and you and I. (Personally, I am not a priest or a man or a Jew.)

However, when Jesus died, a miracle occurred.

And then Jesus cried out once more, loudly, and then He breathed His last breath. At that instant, the temple curtain was torn in half, from top to bottom. (Matthew 27:50-51)

I can’t get over the way the author of Hebrews puts it:

So, my friends, Jesus by His blood gives us courage to enter the most holy place. He has created for us a new and living way through the curtain, that is, through His flesh. Since we have a great High Priest who presides over the house of God, let us draw near with true hearts full of faith, with hearts rinsed clean of any evil conscience, and with bodies cleansed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:19-22)

The curtain that God Himself instructed man to create, was torn in half by the power of God’s love. His message was loud and clear: all are welcome in His presence, in his family and in His unending love. Men, women, Jews, Gentiles…absolutely everyone. 

That doesn’t undo what Jesus said about Himself. He is still the only way into God’s presence. We must come through he new and living way, through His flesh. That’s the only way we can have “true hearts, full of faith…rinsed clean of any evil conscience.” The party I was speaking of, is still invitation only. But there’s a catch: the invitation is open to anyone. As a matter of fact, when you come to the door empty handed, Jesus opens the door and gives you His own invitation to use as passage.

All you have to do is come to the door, knock and say, “I don’t have an invitation, I can’t get one on my own. But I want to come into the party and I know you can help.”

“It will not be just the children of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob who celebrate at their heavenly banquet at the end of time. No, people will come from the East and the West—and those who recognize Me, regardless of their lineage, will sit with Me at that feast.” -Jesus Christ, Matthew 8:11

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Happy Birthday, Daddy!

I wrote a little tribute to my dad on Instagram for his birthday, and then I decided I should share it here. My dad is truly the best! So thankful to my Heavenly Father for my Daddy!

blog photo-pops

This is my dad.
It is pretty hard to catch him in front of the camera, but I found this shot from Amsterdam on my phone.
Some of you are already thinking about Father’s Day, but I’m going to get ahead by talking about my dad today, on his birthday!
My dad got married while he was in college and they had my brother Joey the next year. He finished college by taking several semesters off to work every job imaginable. He was a janitor, a pressure-washer, and a construction worker. He worked an assembly line, he went door-to-door, he mowed the alligator pen at the zoo!
My dad has not stopped working hard to provide for his family since then. By the time I was born, he was in med school, still working hard. From the moment Joey was born, he’s made sure my mom could always stay home with us.
My dad hasn’t ever had a lot of time “off,” but when he’s off, he’s at home with his family…or taking us on a “vacation” (adventure!)
He used to line us girls up on the bed with our hair hanging off to blow dry it, and then he’d brush it and sometimes even French braid it! He’s a man of many talents!
He builds houses, pins butterflies (but only those that die of natural causes, because he’s awesome,) cooks, bakes, takes beautiful photos (he taught us how to develop film in our own darkroom,) fixes All The Broken Things, and has great taste in music, coffee and cookies. smile emoticon
Now I realize that my dad was really young when he started his family, and was still a young child in the family of God at that point. Now that I’m in my twenties, I see what a remarkable man he has been to love his wife as Christ loves the church, to raise his nine children to follow Christ unapologetically and to otherwise never be a “follower.”
I still learn from him, I still sit on his knee and he still braids my hair sometimes. We definitely still go on adventures!
I love you SO much Daddy! Have a groovy birthday!
P. S. If I never get married, it’s all your fault. You’ve given me such high standards, the guys I meet just don’t usually measure up! That may have been your plan all along…

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yearning for heaven (unashamedly)

prepared a heavenly city I have been thinking about baby names. My niece or nephew inspire such topics. It’s weird to think that, if you were named after someone, you were named after an imperfect person. Even Biblical characters (except Jesus, obviously) were sinful. Name someone “David” and you’re naming them after an adulterer and liar. Name someone “Moses” and you’re naming them after a cowardly murderer. Noah and Abraham both participated in gross failures. The “heroes” of the New Testament are no better.

I used to read history books written for Christian schools, and I don’t regret those lessons because, as a little girl, I did learn a lot of good things. But as I get older and realize those mini-biographies were not complete, that the founders of our faith and our country were riddled with impurities and moral failures, it can be depressing. Like learning your pastor or your favorite teacher or your parent have let themselves slip in some crucial area. It’s disheartening. Like when my sister found out Emma Roberts is not exactly like Nancy Drew. Bubbles burst.

And yet, what good would it do to pretend someone was perfect? And what good would it do, to pretend I was perfect? Would that point anyone any closer to Jesus?

We idolize good people, strong people, brave people. We search high and low for pure things, true things, excellent things. But we so often come up empty-handed. Oh the contrast that heaven will bring! We will not miss this place, where good things were splattered with the mud of the earth. I nod along with Jeremiah who cried out, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9.)

We think of newborn babies as the most pure, unadulterated, innocent creatures. But where do they come from? The bodies of sinful parents. And how long before they make a name for themselves in this sinful world? No time at all. We dive for pearls and come up with seaweed. My heart hurts when I see babies born with maladies, children taught to hate, people used as slaves, beauty disgraced and bodies sold for service. But that’s where the hope comes into the picture, hidden and oft-passed-by like gold veins laced through the rocks. My heart hurts when I see these things. 

As long as we care, as long as we feel the pain, as long as we lie awake at night thinking this is not the way things should be, we have hope. Because that means that this is not our home. That means that Heaven is right around the corner. That means that the things we thought were good and pure and holy are going to pale in comparison to the things we see next. That means that, though parents and pastors and teachers and leaders will fail us and break our hearts, our hearts will be mended and we will never be disappointed by treachery of hellish schemes again. We will never receive bad news again. We will never bury children again. Children will never have to “be the grown up” again. We won’t have to wonder if war and violence are ever permitted. We won’t have to debate women’s choices. We won’t have to feel guilty for the things we have. We won’t have to look away when we feel someone is peering into our own soul.

We’ll hug each other’s souls. 

There will be no cowardice and no slavery and no violence and no disgrace. Just this grace: “But such saints as these look forward to a far better place, a heavenly country. So God is not ashamed to be called their God because He has prepared a heavenly city for them.” Hebrews 11:16

Sometimes it sounds negative or grim or even suicidal to long for heaven, as if we cannot bear another moment on earth. But when I hear little children talk about heaven, their eagerness is truly pure. They are not embarrassed to say they are excited to walk on streets of gold and see those saints they had to say goodbye to. It’s real to them, and God is not ashamed of them.

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choosing to love {already}

ultrasound picture

Last Wednesday, my sister and her husband took my family and I completely by surprise and announced that they’re expecting their first child this summer! I was astonished that I hadn’t already caught on, seeing as they currently live with us and “sister vibes” are totally scientific. The family erupted in tears of joy, shouts of excitement, hugs and questions. It was a truly wonderful day.

I can hardly express how excited I am! For one thing, I get to become an aunt. It’s not every day you get a new title. I can’t wait to dote on a baby in our own family! I don’t remember any of  my siblings’ births (weird, right?) so I’m still intrigued by the process. I am also thrilled for the expectant parents who have wanted to start a family for a while now. When the baby is born, four people will become grandparents. Three people will become uncles and five people will become aunts. Two people will become parents. Wow.

It feels kind of crazy to already love the baby so much. I mean, Caitlin’s not even showing yet. Though I know the baby’s DNA is already determined, we don’t yet know it’s sex. We don’t know if he or she will have brown hair or blond…or red! We don’t know much about the baby at all. And yet I love it.

Funny thing is, there’s only one thing we can really know about Wee One: we will all love it and we will love it until it hurts. And he or she will hurt us. Will will call him or her “perfect,” but they will make mistakes. We talk about spoiling and coddling the baby-and we will!-but the baby will at some point fall and scrape a knee or bust a lip or make a choice that makes us cringe. We know that, and yet we choose to love. Already.

This morning while I read in The Book of James, something triggered a thought about an old friend. It hurts my heart to remember her because I thought I’d have her forever, but I don’t. I sometimes wonder if there a lot of people I was supposed to grieve for a long time ago, but moved on instead. Why do we have to lose people? Why do we all hurt each other so much? I ask God. For a moment, I don’t ever want to introduce myself to someone again. That could lead to a relationship and a relationship could lead to more pain.

There was the baby who was meant to be my sister and was taken way too early. My friend’s little one who never left the hospital. The painful memories and awful possibilities are endless. However, there is no doubt in my mind that love is worth it. That’s all I came here to say today. Whether your loving a person who hasn’t even been born or a child who was born to someone else and now needs you to parent them, LOVE. Whether it’s your spouse who isn’t quite as charming as the day you wed or the sister whose words sting worse than the words of an enemy ever could, LOVE. Whether they’re in a womb at 8 weeks old or on their deathbed at 104, today is a great day to start loving and never stopping.

That’s what God does for us, right? Loves us starting before time, knowing how much we will hurt Him, and prepares a place in eternity to continue loving, loving, loving us.

Come on, Wee One! We’re all ready to welcome you with open arms, no matter what you look like, no matter what you do. See you this summer!

-Aunt Everly

 

 

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