Radical Obedience Leads to Grace

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act accordingly to his good purpose. Philippians 2: 12-13

What does it mean to work out our salvation?

What determines faith? Or Godliness? A man or woman wholeheartedly committed to the Lord? What is the “it” factor that David possessed, a man after God’s own heart? Or Enoch, who “walked with God and then was no more?” Or Mary—supernaturally impregnated, holding the Messiah within her womb? Or Noah, who was credited with blamelessness?

The more I meditate on the actions of these heroes of faith, the more I see how everything is connected to obedience; actions intertwined with movement forward, and obedience becomes the barometer of faithfulness and even surpasses character flaws, personality quirks, and bad choices.

And this obedience is often required in the face of a seemingly ridiculous request, a request that the rest of the world might find unbelievable and absurd, a request that quite likely will require brash courage and thick skin because the naysayers will have some nay-saying for sure.

Radical obedience will often look like radical insanity; the kind of obedience that was displayed by these folks who also struggled with flaws, personality quirks, and sometimes really questionable choices such as:

David—obeyed and killed Goliath (but struggled with lying, murder, and adultery)

Joseph—obeyed and married a pregnant virgin (but grumbled about it)

Noah—obeyed and built a huge boat (and struggled with drunkenness and incest)

Rahab—obeyed and helped the spies (and made her living as a prostitute)

Ruth—obeyed and followed her mother-in-law to a foreign land (and probably was not as innocent with Boaz as we’d like to think)

Samson—obeyed and killed the Philistines (where do we start with this guy? Proud, brash, womanizer)

Esther—obeyed and saved her people (which probably had to do win the King’s favor through more than just words)

Abraham—obeyed when the Lord called him to sacrifice his son (but was also a liar)

Jesus Christ—obeyed and went to the cross (and also liked a good party and hung out with questionable folks).

Contrast these characters with a few who didn’t obey and you get…

Adam and Eve—kicked out of the garden

Moses—couldn’t enter the Promised Land

Lot’s wife—turned into stone

All the people who laughed at Noah—drowned

Jonah—eaten by a whale.

I’ve been asked to obey seemingly ridiculous requests a time or two: carry a terminal baby, and then raise him, by laying down my desire for easy every single day for 16+ years, and obey what I’ve been called to do: care for the least of these, a child who cannot care for one single need without assistance. I obeyed and married a widower less than a year after burying my husband; a man with 3 young children. I obeyed and became a voice for caregivers, and I’ve told my story—including the really hard parts, in spite of a spirit of fear. I obeyed and started a non-profit, even though it was (and is!) a ton of volunteer work.

I’ve been ridiculed, mocked, & questioned many times. Heck, I’ve questioned myself a time or two. My resolve has wavered but not faltered, and there’s been a protection of grace which I believe arises out of obedience: obedience in spite of my stubbornness, mouthiness, know-it-all attitude, grumbling and, at times, bad choices.

Sometimes I obey joyfully, and sometimes I do not. Sometimes I make good choices, and sometimes I do not. Sometimes I obey immediately and sometimes it takes weeks (or months), but I do believe that my heart is measured not by my human reactions and tendencies, but instead by the level of obedience I extend to the difficult calls that have been placed on my life.

Every action is either obedience towards His perfect will, or disobedience.

And the working out part?

That’s where (hopefully) the character flaws and personality quirks and bad choices start to iron out. Instead of grumbling, I zip it. Instead of whining and complaining, I speak kindly. Instead of zoning out on Facebook, I take Luke for a walk. Choice by choice, moment by moment, obedience towards His ultimate purpose and plan.

Just Keep Livin

Just Keep Livin

In our modern age and particularly in our American culture we avoid death; we like to pretend we can somehow outwit the grim reaper – create a magical potion or a pill or a procedure that will enable us to live forever. We’ve stuffed death into quiet convenient corners: hospice, ICU rooms and nursing homes & then we fit the dying into our schedules as they prepare to leave this earth. Not a single one of us gets out of this grand and beautiful thing called life with breath in our lungs. Not a one.

This truth is deeply embedded in my soul after learning that death was imminent for my unborn baby who had suffered a stroke, and after lying beside my 33 year old husband as cancer ravaged his body; a strong man affectionately known as Superman to those closest to him – and Superman died – the suffering of this earth & the beauty of the afterlife so translucent as he communicated with angels & those who’ve gone before.

Death will tap each of us on the shoulder. Maybe we’ll feel the tap, tap, tap from the devastating effects of cancer, or maybe an accident will bring life to a screeching halt, or possibly Covid will be the villain we’ve feared all along or perhaps we’ll be one of the lucky ones who passes away in our sleep – death by old age – but every single day we’re blessed with time, we also move one step closer to the clock striking midnight – with or without a magical potion. And the only way to outsmart death is to live: eating, drinking, folding laundry, sweeping floors & reading bedtime stories, because through movement, our choice to face another day, we honor the life still present in our lungs, and we honor our Creator, and we honor those who’ve already breathed their last.

Just keep livin

A Virus Manifesto – What this hot mess may be telling us about ourselves.

This Halloween picture we took a few years ago feels more & more like reality lately. The end of the world, every man for himself, protect you and yours, Armageddon.

Ryan & I thrive off a “live off the land” ideology – it makes us a bit giddy – making bread & soap & homemade wine & growing food. It’s why we lived in rural TN for 6 years. But – there is an unsettling fear when this lifestyle is forced upon us by the threat of a virus. Maybe the fear has been manufactured by the media or perhaps by our internal desire to survive at all cost but what I’ve found interesting is this – along with the fear is a bubbling of anticipation.

I’ve tentatively posed this question to a few people – barely whispering

“Do you feel it too? The tingle of expectancy?”

Afraid that maybe I was the only one who felt the silver lining, but I wasn’t. There was agreement – yes, there is a sliver of anticipation attached to the anxiety and fear.

And why? What are these emotions telling us?

I believe these feelings are screaming out our desperation. Desperate to return to the basics. Desperate for our lives to have meaning; desperate to defend our loved ones in the face of danger; to act valiently & courageously & have someone come through for us – that’s why books like The Road and Grapes of Wrath are world wide best sellers and movies like Armageddon and End of Days sell out at the box office and The Walking Dead is on its 10th season – we are achingly desperate to have something replace the never ending scrolling & online shopping & google searches & accumulating & acquiring & rushing, and, and, and…. & we detest our habits, but our addictions hold us firmly tethered to their poison & now we see this world wide catastrophe – everything everywhere shutting down & we’re being forced into our homes with our loved ones – like cattle forced to the feed lot – & we see it as an opportunity, a glimpse, of maybe stering our lives back on track & that’s exciting.

We are so ready to defend our children against illness rather than against online bullies and pornography which seems like a battle we can not win. We are so ready to have meaningful conversations with our teenagers because we’re actually home for more than 5 minutes. We’re so ready to protect our loved ones within the safe confines of home & we’re so ready to make meals together & gather for family games & educate our children & kick the ball on the front lawn. We’re so ready to have time again.

Our hearts are screaming to slow down, but we have no idea how to make it happen and this – THIS may be our ticket out of the craziness we call life.

Go home.
Exhale.
Stop scrolling.

Practice gratefulness & contentedness & patience & self control – manna for the moment – values buried in the madness of modern life. Be still & silent. Teach your children these long lost arts: reading & baking & looking one another in the eyes as we speak.

Do what matters. Be in life fully with those you love.

Whether this madness pans out to Armageddon or fizzles in a few weeks, let’s examine our lives. The busyness, the constant stress, the depression. What is our heart aching for in these troubled times. Family? Peace? Joy? Follow that thread as we collectively hunker down. Not detracting from the hardships many are enduring but perhaps these might be self induced & aren’t really serving us to begin with.

Myself included.

Just keep livin

A Resurrection Only Occurs After A Death.

When Ryan and I met in 2010 we were in a season of death with the passing of our spouses, & this death included a burial of lifelong dreams and expectations.

The next few years we enjoyed a resurrection as our lives merged and birthed new realities: our marriage & family, a simple life in rural America, the birth of a book, a teaching career, a non profit & another child. Lots of growth & beauty.

We now find ourselves back in a season of decay; broken bodies over the past year: Ryan’s, mine, and Luke’s; broken ideals and dreams as we restructure & determine how we’ll proceed, lots of unanswered questions and concerns & the burial of systems that no longer serve us emotionally or spiritually, and we wait because we know. We know because we’ve been here before – this is familiar soil, deep & dark & rich soil where we’ve been planted and now we await our reemergence into the light.

We wait for our resurrection.

And we are confident that it will arrive in due time because that’s how life works.

Everything remains in motion; a continuous movement of death and resurrection, waves upon waves washing away the brokenness and moving what remains to the shore – natural disasters and coronavirus and despair not excluded – it’s all involved, collectively and individually; ashes to beauty and back to ashes again, circular movements until the maestro sweeps his baton for the last time & bows his head in holy reverence, that moment when his beloved creation leans into the finality & releases a labored breath – bursting through the birth canal into an everlasting resurrection.

And until then?

We just keep livin.