In the Garden

Our story begins in a garden. In the most perfect and beautiful garden one can imagine – the home God made for the man and woman he’d made. The man and woman enjoyed peace, all comforts, and a perfect relationship with the God who loved them and made them. They were given a charge to fill the earth and rule creation. The garden was meant to grow.

But instead, we find the woman, Eve, fell victim to the lie that God didn’t really mean what He promised. For a moment she doubted His desire for her good and did the one thing He’d told her not to do. She committed treason.

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the mad and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden

Eve understood in that moment what had been lost. In shame, she ran from His presence, though she couldn’t possibly understood fully what the effects of her actions would be.

But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”

He went looking for her in the garden. And we read next that God issued consequences for this sin and in the same breath promised one day the curse would be undone, when Eve’s offspring crushes the serpent’s head.

Then He clothes them in garments of skins. Did you catch it? God makes a sacrifice to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness and shame. The first sin offering. Right there in the garden.

Then He tells them they must leave the garden, but not out of anger. They have not been cast out. Even in this, He is protecting them from eating from the tree of life and begin eternally trapped in spiritual death.

“The expulsion from paradise, therefore, was a punishment inflicted for man’s good, intended, while exposing him to temporal death, to preserve him from eternal death” (C.F.Keil). It was merciful for God to send them out of the garden and prevent them from eating from the tree of life.

And so this story ends with a cherubim with flaming sword blocking the way in to the garden. I see Eve glancing back toward him, thinking of all she has lost.

But this is not the end of the story, or of the garden.

Years later, the Promised One arrives on the scene and one night, He walks purposefully into a garden. He surrenders to His Father’s fill in total obedience. Unlike Adam and Eve, He does not doubt the love of the Father. Here He is betrayed by one of his own — arrested and taken out of the garden to die on the hill.

He is crucified — naked, put out for open shame, and wearing a crown of thorns. He bears the full consequences of the crime committed long ago. He dies.

So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.

Another garden, another sacrifice. The Promised One surrenders in the garden. There He is buried, and for a moment, hope is lost.

But there in the garden, the Son of Man rises with healing in His wings.

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”….

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stopped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”

Here we see Mary Magdalene, one who knew as well as anyone the full impact of the curse. This daughter of Eve, from whom, Mark tells us, Jesus cast out seven demons. A woman scorned and shamed, rejected, hopeless. What she must have been feeling in this moment! Her days following Jesus had transformed her life and given her purpose and joy — what was she to do now? Was it back to brokenness, isolation and hiding in shame?

Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”

I hear the desperation in her words. Where is my Jesus? What have you done with Him? At least give me His body to mourn. Where else could she go?

Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (Which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord” — and that he had said these things to her. 

The first act of the Risen Christ was to find the broken and shamed woman in the garden. This time, though, she wasn’t hiding from Him. This time, the woman turned and beheld Him, then ran into His arms. The Risen Christ finds the woman and reconciles her to Himself. Mary Magdalene – the first to trust in the finished, complete work of Jesus Christ. She walks with the presence of God in the garden. The angels in this garden no longer prevent access. These angels usher her toward His presence and announce His finished work.

And still, this, too, is not the end of the story. He gives her a job to do. Go and tell. Tell the others Christ is risen. Tell the others the curse has been lifted and Jesus is making all things new. Everything sad will come untrue – even death.

Like Eve, Mary’s mandate is to be fruitful and multiply. Go and tell and bring the blessings of the garden to the whole earth. Go and tell that men and women from every tongue and tribe and nation will believe and one day be citizens of that great city, the New Jerusalem. For in the middle of that city is another garden, filled with the river of the water of life; “also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”

One day soon we will all be with Him in the garden.

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Abiding in Truth

A little over a month ago I came across a new podcast, Journey Women with Hunter Beless.  Several of the episodes have been so good that I’ve had to stop what I’m doing to take notes. One, however, was so profound for me that I’ve listened to it (and cried through it) more than once. [You can check it out here – Intimacy with God with Kim Vollendorf.]

One thing that Kim talks about is how she made some ABC meditations one who God is and who she is in light of salvation.  I found her lists so inspiring that I decided to make my own. It’s taken a few weeks and I’ve only done the first one – attributes/characteristics of God, but I wanted to share it here.  I will (maybe) share the other list when I’ve finished it. My list looks a bit different from hers….there are many different words that could go with each letter so I picked what resonated most with me right now in this season.

For now, though, here are the ABCs I’ll be reciting and meditating on as a way to abide in the Truth every day.

God is Able. He is Better than all else. He Cares for me. He Delivers me because He Delights in me. He is Eternal, He is Faithful Forever, He’s Good and Gracious to all He has made. He is Holy. He is Infinite and still Immanent. He is Just and Kind. He Loves me and is full of Mercy. He is Near to those who call on Him. He is the Omnipotent One. He is my Portion and Peace. He Quiets my soul with His love. He is my Rock and my Refuge, my Strength, my Song, and my Salvation. He is Truth, He’s Unchanging. He has the Victory and His Ways are Wonderful. He is eXcellent in all his works. He Yearns to show compassion on his creation and His Zeal for His glory will not be denied. 

Friday Finds: 10/6/17

I hope it’s feeling like fall where you are – it’s almost 90 here, but I’m trying not to complain about it.

Here are a few links and other things for your weekend.

The National Book Award announced its nominees earlier this week. Out of 20 books nominated in non-fiction and fiction, I am both surprised and a little embarrassed to say I haven’t read a single one! I do own Sing, Unburied, Sing (it was one of my Book of the Month picks last month), so I will make reading it a priority. I haven’t even heard of most of them.

I mentioned Free of Me by Sharon H. Miller in my September reading summary.  Sharon wrote a great piece for The Gospel Coalition highlighting the themes of her book. Read this and if it resonates with you, get her book.  I think it’s great.

Melissa Kruger also had a great post on TGC’s site this week: Life in the Shadow of Death.  She’s another one of my favorite authors.

Worth a Listen

Here are a few sermons/podcasts that made me say “Amen” more than once.

Curtis Jones of Bayou City Fellowship in Houston, TX: “The Good Samaritan and Race in America”

Nancy Guthrie at TGCW16: “Three Little Words that Change Everything”

Rockbridge Church (my church!): “Church Works: The Building” and “Jonah: Part 1”

And, lastly, a couple new albums that I’ve been playing on repeat: Where His Light Was by Kristene Dimarco, and Lecrae’s latest release, All Things Work Together.

Enjoy!

Something for your Sunday

I needed this today: “Hope for the Unhappily Single”

“If we are married in this life, it will be for a brief moment, and we won’t regret that brevity ten thousand years from now. We really won’t. No one will say, ‘I really wish I had been married’ — much less, ‘I really wish I had been married for five or ten more years on earth.’ That would be absurd when those years seem like seconds compared with all the gloriously, thoroughly happy time we have when our marriages end at death.

“We need to think about that as we weigh the intensity of our desperation to have it now. We need to ask whether we have made marriage a qualification for a happy and meaningful life. Am I undone and miserable by the prospect of never being married? Do I think of myself as incomplete or insignificant as an unmarried believer? These questions might reveal red flags that warn us marriage has become an idol.

“Ultimately, we will all be single forever, and it will be gloriously good. We will all be finally married forever, joined together forever with our Savior and First Love. We’ll know well then that the marriages here on earth truly were small and short compared with all we have in Christ.”

Church of the Small Things

Does any of this matter?

This is the question that haunts me on the bad days, the days when the mundane and seemingly trivial tasks get on my last nerve.  How many times with I have the same conversations with these overly dramatic 7th graders? Why does the kitchen sink stay so full of dishes when I’m the only person living in my house?!  I thought my life was going to be more than this. And I know it is more than this, but it’s also very much just this.

The answer to the original, of course, is yes, yes it does, and that is why I am so excited for Melanie Shankle’s book, Church of the Small Things.  In this book, Shankle shares the way these small moments can be beautiful and breathtaking in their own way.

faithful

Her stories resonated with me and as I read her words I remembered many similar moments in my own life.  Like just last week when my almost two-year-old niece pulled up a chair next to me while I was watching football and put her hand on my knee.  Just an ordinary beautiful day…

The most powerful memory, however, was that of the church house group my family went to when I was young. We met every Tuesday night at a dear elderly couple’s home.  My dad played the guitar and we sang worship songs together, then the kids went into the basement while the adults did a Bible study (I mean, I guess that’s what they did) and prayed together.  We kids played outside or in the basement until we heard the host call out “Ahoy down in the engine room!” – the signal for us to come running for snack time!

That house group was my family: my honorary grandparents, my aunts and uncles, my older brothers and sisters.

I remember some Tuesdays the adults took longer than others.  As the kids got antsy, one or two of us would sneak upstairs to see what they were doing and maybe get an idea of when they would be done.  Once when it was my turn I peeked into the room and saw a woman in tears, sharing something difficult, while several others held her close and prayed.  In that moment I saw clearly what the church was called to be.

Now, over 20 years later, I am the single 30 something in a multi-generational house group.  I stay upstairs with the grownups while the kids go into the basement.  It’s come full circle for me.  My favorite part of the group, though, is the kids. Because I know full well what a beautiful thing it is they get to see each week, and I hope I am showing them the love I received.

….

All that to say — GET THIS BOOK!  Church of the Small Things doesn’t release until October 3rd, but if you preorder now (on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.) you will receive some awesome gifts just for preordering.

Once you’ve ordered, fill out the form here and receive:

  • My Favorite Things ebook by Melanie Shankle
  • Church of the Small Thing Video Study Session 1
  • 4 Downloadable prints from the cover artist
  • A book themed lock screen
  • The first 3 chapters of the book so you can start reading now!
  • Coupon codes for some discounts on Melanie’s favorite things
  • 5 recipes

(And, the book usually arrives on release day when you order it this way, so that’s an added bonus.)

churchsmallthings

Friday Finds: August 18, 2017

I’m just going to start by saying there’s nothing fun about this Friday Finds post.  I am just wrecked over the ridiculousness that is happening in our country right now (and has been happening for way too long).  I’m sick over it.

Therefore, this post is going to be a list of thought-provoking articles and podcasts I’ve found lately.  I tried to add some of the more nuanced discussions, however, there is absolutely no nuance in the issues we are facing.  There is no gray area when it comes to white supremacy.  This is just wrong. wrong. wrong.  It’s disgraceful.

Some Articles:

Let’s begin by defining some terms: What Christians Should Know About the Alt-Right

A Few Thoughts from Timothy Keller

For Our White Friends Desiring to be Allies

How Black Lives Matter Changed My Theology

The Monuments Must Go – an open letter from the descendants of Stonewall Jackson.  Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee’s descendants have made similar remarks.  In fact, both of those men worked diligently for reunification in the later years of their lives and wanted all symbols of the Confederacy to be disposed of permanently.

White Debt – and yes, we are talking about reparations.

Let’s Talk about Whiteness

And while we are talking about speaking up for the oppressed, have you heard what is happening in Iceland?  This is a tragedy, and we’d be naive to think it isn’t also happening in America.

Some Podcasts:

“White Supremacy is Spiritual Bondage” – a great message from The Gospel Coalition’s podcast.

Truth’s Table Podcast – I just started listening to this a couple weeks ago.  Here’s the description from their website: “We are Black Christian women who love truth and seek it out wherever it leads us. We have unique perspectives on race, politics, gender, current events, and pop culture that are filtered through our Christian faith. So pull up a chair and have a seat at the table with us.”  The episode entitled “Respectability Politics Reimagined” is brilliant.

Pass the Mic – Pass The Mic is the premier podcast of the Reformed African American Network. Tune in every week for engaging discussions and high profile interviews addressing the core concerns of African Americans biblically. Notable episodes: “A Biblical Theology of Race” and “Current Events: Charlottesville”.

 

Friday Finds: August 4, 2017

I’m back!!! Amy, this is for you.

I had such good intentions about actually posting this summer, but clearly failed.  I spend so much time sitting at my computer at work that I prefer to never open my laptop at home unless I need to pay bills.  That being said, every month one of my goals is to blog more and I really do want to accomplish that at some point.

Here are some “finds” I’ve enjoyed this summer.

  • Knitting – I’m not actually very good at it, probably because I only end up doing it once every few years when I make a baby blanket.  This summer gave me the opportunity to do it again (thanks, pregnant friends) and I remembered how much I love “creating” something with my hands. I’m currently working on an afghan for myself. It’s the first thing I will have made and kept!
  • The GIPHY feature on my iPhone – I’m having a blast sending GIF only texts with my sisters.
  • More podcasts – I’ve found several new good ones this summer and now I have too many in my queue.  I either need to unsubscribe from some or be at peace with not listening to every episode of every show. Some of my new favorites include The Gospel Coalition’s Word of the Week and Real Crime Profile.  I also recently started listening to Ben and Ashley’s Almost Famous Podcast (they interview other Bachelor/Bachelorette contestants and talk about the show).  Another fun one if you are nostalgic for the TV Show “Reading Rainbow” is “LeVar Burton Reads” – each episode he reads a short story.  It’s fantastic.
  • This sweet story about a couple growing their family – you have to read the last sentence – it’s hysterical!
  • This News story out of Ocean City, MD.  This is my nightmare.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Check back next week!