A NEW JOURNEY!
AS I TELL YOU OUR STORY,
I KNOW YOU WILL SEE THREADS OF YOUR STORY,
FOR WE BELONG TO THE SAME WEAVER,
WHO WEAVES THE FABRIC OF OUR LIVES.
AS I PONDER THE WAYS OF THIS WEAVER,
I ASK YOU TO COME ALONG, AND PONDER WITH ME,
THAT YOU MAY KNOW HIM AND LOVE HIM BETTER,
AND BECOME MORE OF WHAT HE HAS CALLED YOU TO BE, NO MATTER YOUR CALLING IN LIFE.
HE IS A WONDROUS GOD WHO HAS DONE GREAT THINGS,
EVEN AT TIMES, FILLING OUR MOUTH WITH LAUGHTER!
In the summer of 2010, all three of my daughters and my only daughter-in-law gave birth to baby girls. When the four mothers appeared together in public, each carrying a newborn snuggled in a sling, questions would fly from curious onlookers:
“No – they’re cousins. We’re sisters.”
“All four of you? You mean, four separate births in one summer?”
“Gracious! Girls? Boys?”
“Oh my! Did you plan this?”
They’d laugh and shake their heads, thinking how impossible that would have been, how surprised they each were, and how there was so much to this story that only the Lord could have orchestrated.
As we have pondered what He did, we have found ourselves plumbing the depths of the ways of our mysterious God. The sorrows and joys we face are common to man, and God urges us to seek Him every step of the way. We face the mysteries of life and death, and of marriage and family. We may face challenges of infertility or fertility. If God blesses us with children we have the God-given responsibility of naming, training, loving, and releasing them to the Lord. It is my prayer that our story will help you understand God better and respond in this journey of life in a way that brings Him great glory.
Some of you may have already guessed I’m working on a new book. My working title is The Year of the Babies. I am going to give you excerpts here, and eager to see how you respond, for you have become an important part of my writing. Some stories you will have heard before, but as part of the tapestry, I must share them again. (I will endeavor to keep them fresh!) Some Scripture passages you may have studied before, but I know God’s Word is ever new. Though this story winds around family, its center is God, and knowing and loving Him more, so I need single women here to help me keeping that focus.
Psalm 126 (which we will study in depth next week) is a psalm that shows us how important it is to remember the mercies of God, both minor and momentous, for it builds up an underground reservoir for the desert times. Here the Israelites are in a time of sorrow, but they are remembering a time that was so joyful that they were “like those who dream.”
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
3 The Lord has done great things for us;
we are glad.
When Sadie (the first of the babies to be born) turned three, she began asking her parents for a puppy, but they weren’t ready and told her she must wait. On her fourth birthday, they gave her a battery operated puppy that barked (unfortunately), rolled over, and sat up. She played with “Robo” constantly. Then, a few days before her fifth birthday, her parents surprised her with a trip to the pound to pick out a real puppy: “Honey.” (“A real live puppy, Grandma!” she told me breathlessly. “Honey will never run out of batteries.”) Sadie’s life was catapulted into joy! A few days into the exciting journey, her mother overheard her say to her three-year-old sister: “Claire – don’t you hope we aren’t dreaming?”
Have you had moments in your life of such high joy that you felt like you might be dreaming? That’s how I felt when Steve Brestin first took notice of me. Really? This man of my dreams is pursuing me? And I felt that way again when I first came to Christ. And can it be? That Jesus is really real and died to set me free? And though it is rare, there are times when an answer to prayer is so dramatic that I cannot explain it away as coincidence, and my heart is overwhelmed as I realize: Despite my sinfulness, the God who made the stars and sea has bent down and been mindful of me!
How important it is that we keep records of praise, documenting both the modest and momentous mercies of God in our lives, for we are such forgetful children when sorrows come! Here, in Psalm 126, the Israelites are facing a sorrowful time, feeling as barren as the desert of Negeb (also called Negev). This is the harsh desert that makes up sixty percent of Israel’s landmass, yet it can bloom like a garden when it rains. Why? Hidden underneath this desert is a huge underground reservoir that rises to the surface when the rains come, watering the barren land with life-giving streams, and giving life where it seemed there was no life.
How can you have an underground reservoir? By remembering, recording, and reflecting on God’s mercies. We’ll get help from Ann Voskamp this week, who has enlightened so many concerning the importance and the simplicity of building up our reservoir.
1. What stood out to you from the above and why?
2. Share a moment from your life when God’s mercy to you “made you feel like those who dream.”
Monday – Friday (Bible Study and Short Sermon)
REMEMBER, RECORD, REFLECT
Each day this week I want you to look back on the day before and record one mercy of God. Then, I also want you to take that mercy and reflect, if possible, upon the One who gave it and what it teaches you about Him. For example, instead of just being thankful for time with a friend, or a butterfly, or an answer to prayer, let it cause you to ponder Jesus. Sometimes you won’t be able to do it, and it’s fine just to record the gift, but see, if sometimes, it can cause you to see something more about Jesus. Here’s a few examples with the gift in blue and what is caused me to see in red.
1) A fairly good night’s sleep
You give your beloved sleep.
2) I woke to a pink sky as your sun rose
Your mercies are new every morning.
3) Though a door has not yet opened for my book on The Song of Songs yet, I am knocked down but not knocked out.
You are my identity, my meaning, my life.
4) Lyle brought me fresh fruit from Green Bay — plump raspberries and blueberries.
You have transformed this 75 year old man and now he longs to be a blessing.
3. Now you try it — and keep doing it all week!
We’re going to look at a familiar story on giving thanks this week, but truly, I think you will learn something new from the help of the Holy Spirit, and also Charles Baylis and Ann Voskamp! This week we will begin with the sermon, for Charles Baylis helps us see more deeply into this story. His sermon is only 17 minutes. (A little side-note on Charles Baylis, a leading professor at DTS. A dear friend who teaches BSF in Chicago came home from the conference in Dallas that prepared BSF teachers to teach Revelation this year. She was thrilled at how gifted men who knew the Lord but held a variety of perspectives were so united, and so determined to keep “the main thing the main thing.” Reformed teachers were there as well as those that hold to a dispensational viewpoint. Of Charles Baylis, Beth said, “he was worshipping while he was teaching — he couldn’t help himself.”)
4. What stood out to you from the above and why?
5. Baylis felt the other nine lepers were also thankful — but what did he think made the one different?
And I know I can’t do a blogpost about thankfulness without drawing upon Ann Voskamp. When I first heard about One Thousand Gifts I thought: So she’s keeping a list of what she’s thankful for. What’s the big deal? Why all the clamor about this book — this writer?
And then I read it and understood. God has anointed Ann with the tongue of a poet, a heart of discernment, and a remarkable transformation. And it all happened as a result of keeping a list of daily mercies. One day, as she stood in her friend’s kitchen cutting cucumbers, her friend commented:
“You’ve changed.” She turns to me, and I turn to catch the words.
“I have?” She’s caught me off guard. I’m thick-tongued and the cheeks flame and I reach for the pitcher, to pour the cups full and distract from her catching me trying to take wing.
“Yes…you’ve changed.” Shelly sets her pot on the trivet, her eyes on me, and I can feel them and I just set out the glasses.
I don’t say it, but I am thinking she may be right and I had felt it for months, the maturing, the swelling, the something different that had begun to happen. But I had thought the re-creation was still embryonic, a bud of hope. I hadn’t thought it had fully bloomed. I hadn’t thought that anyone could see the light in the eyes.
“It’s that list you’ve been writing, isn’t it?”
I concentrate on pouring the water steady into each empty cup…
”Yes…” There. A moment. And yes. “It’s the List.”
Amazingly, practicing gratitude has the power to fill our hearts with joy, even our mouth with laughter.
Ann’s story is riveting (so read it!) but she has also blessed us by her insight into Scripture, her life of obedience, and her amazing photographs, which are part of her journey of gratitude. She quotes Erasmus who says:
One nail is driven out by another. Habit replaces habit.
So Ann’s camera is her “hammer,” recording moments of gratitude, so that gratitude can replace ingratitude. If you are unfamiliar with her blog and her photographs, take a look. A Holy Experience
I also receive new insights from familiar passages from Ann on the Ten Lepers — one we may be convinced we understand. The lesson, we think, is to be thankful. But wait — there’s something more, something big. I want to see if you can find it.
7. Read Luke 17:11-19 and make observations. Do you see anything you hadn’t seen before? If so, what is it?
(Remember to keep your list of thanks, and if possible, what it teaches you about Jesus.)
8. Clue: Why did Jesus tell the thankful leper he was “made well?” Hadn’t he already been made well?
9. Watch the following and then comment.
10. What is your take-a-way and why?