Letter to a Disappointed Bride

Dear Disappointed Bride,

I know you wanted the sun to shine on your special day. Every bride does. We equate sunshine with joy and happiness. We feel like God is smiling down on us when the sun shines.

Of course you prayed for sun.

But instead you got rain. Or snow. (Or a tornado. Or two, like one recent Wyoming spring bride. Her pictures were epic, btw.)

So you had to go with Plan B. If you even had a Plan B.

I understand.

Friday was our eldest daughter’s wedding day. It started out sunny and bright, but by mid-afternoon the rain had arrived, uninvited. During a brief respite, we optimistically seated our guests for the outdoor ceremony, hoping to sneak it in before the next storm front rolled through.

The clouds darkened. Lightening threatened. We prayed.

And the heavens opened.

Literally.

We baptized our guests that evening. They fled for refuge into the barn where the reception–and now the ceremony–was to be held. (Some of them are even still speaking to us.)

Hello, Plan B.

Perhaps, like me, you sometimes find yourself secretly envious of those other “lucky” brides, whose plans to get hitched went off without a hitch. You might wonder why God didn’t answer your prayers in the same way. And maybe deep down you feel that He wasn’t blessing your union quite as much as He blessed theirs.

I’ve got some good news for you.

The superstitious believe that rain on a wedding day brings good luck. Some cultures view rain as a sign of fertility and cleansing. The Bible also has much to say about rain. I found this on a website explaining the symbolic meaning of biblical words:*

Rain:  Something refreshing, delightful.”

I know it didn’t feel delightful at the time. But biblically, rain, not sun, is the imagery most often used to indicate God’s blessing, favor and presence.

So let these truths from His Word disperse any clouds of disappointment still lingering after your storm…

1)  You were blessed.

I will make them and the places surrounding my hill a blessing. I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing. (Ezekiel 34:26, NIV)

2)  God was smiling on you.

When the king smiles, there is life; his favor refreshes like a spring rain. (Proverbs 16:16, NLT)

3)  He was there, right in your midst.

So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; and He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth. (Hosea 6:3, NAS)

And one final thought…

4)  Our Plan B is always God’s Plan A.

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19:21, NIV)

He planned that our daughter’s wedding ceremony would be held in a barn.

He planned that His Son would be born in a stable.

His plans are always best.

Beloved bride, you will encounter storms and disappointments in your married life as well. Your wedding day was good practice in how to handle them with faith and grace. You’re off to a great start.

I hope this helps you feel better about that darn weather.

I know it helped me.

Love,

A Mother-of-the-Bride

P.S. It rained on my wedding day, too.

11393358_934448329909059_6895897376186555008_o

(Here is our elegant Emily posing for a bridal portrait in the barn. The light streaming in from the window above was like a spotlight on them during the ceremony. And the glory of the Lord shone all around.)

*www.biblestudy.org

**Huge thank you to Liz Osban Photography for this photo and for so masterfully capturing the warmth and beauty of their special day.

Share on Facebook

When I Am Weak

The Christian life is filled with paradoxes.  Our former pastor Rick Mann used to call these apparent contradictions:  “Upside Down Kingdom Principles.”  They are those spiritual truths that are the opposite of what you might naturally think.  Teachings that make you do a double take.  Things like:  “The first shall be last.” or “To save your life you must lose it.”  Or the one I’ve been pondering recently:

“When I am weak, then I am strong.”

I must admit I’m somewhat embarrassed by my weaknesses.  I’d prefer to hide them, ignore them, deny them.  I don’t understand how weaknesses could possibly be a means of strength.  The way I see it, when I am weak, then I am…weak.

Apparently the apostle Paul felt the same way.  But after having a few heart-to-heart chats with the Lord (three, to be exact) concerning his weakness, Paul did a total turn around.  He now saw his situation in a completely different light.  And an “Upside Down Kingdom Principle” was born:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, NIV)

I wanted to try and get this principle right side up in my brain.  Because I honestly didn’t get it.  So I prayed for understanding.  I studied and meditated upon this passage.  I liked the way “The Message” translated the first part of verse 9:

“My grace is enough; it’s all you need.  My strength comes into its own in your weakness.”

I’m a big fan of grace.  It appears that weakness, like a magnet, attracts it.  Maybe our weakness really is a blessing in disguise, if it invites grace and shows off God’s strength.  Perhaps this is why Paul could not only endure, but could also exult in his weaknesses:

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:9b, NIV)

I discovered that the Greek word for “rest on” is episkenoo, which means “to fix a tent or habitation on.”* The Pulpit Commentary explained that a literal translation would be “to tabernacle over.”

This immediately brought to mind the image of the tabernacle, the tent where God’s presence dwelt during the Israelites’ wilderness wanderings.  Robertson’s Word Pictures seemed to agree with this imagery, describing Paul like this:

…as if the Shechinah of the Lord was overshadowing him.”

I’ve heard the word “Shechinah” tossed around here and there, but never really knew what it meant or where the term originated.  Curious, I googled it:

Shechinah:  An extra-biblical expression coined by the Jewish rabbis from a form of a Hebrew word that literally means “he caused to dwell.”**

It was all starting to come together!  I could now see how Paul was able to “glory” in his weaknesses:  Because they revealed GOD’s glory!  God comes and dwells right there.  His grace meets us in our places of weakness, embarrassment, and struggle.  We can rest in the Power that rests on us.  Rather than minimizing Paul’s effectiveness in ministry, his weaknesses were paradoxically the very things magnifying the “Shechinah” glory of God in and through him!

This summer these ceramic lanterns kept catching my eye.  I’d notice them on TV or in the Home and Garden section of a store.  They are rather plain and ordinary, but quite stunning when they’re all lit up.  The openings are where the light gets out.

We are like these lanterns.  We’re nothing fancy, but we have the light of Christ in us.  Our weaknesses are the holes, the cracks that let the Glory out!

If, along with Paul, our life’s goal is to glorify Him, then this begins to make sense:

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  (2 Corinthians 12:10a, NIV)

We can say, “Yes, Lord.”  Yes to weaknesses, challenges, and difficulties.  Yes to gaps, flaws, and cracks.  Yes to plain and ordinary.  If they invite Your grace, if they reveal Your strength, if they manifest Your glory, then we too can delight in saying YES!

For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10b, NIV)

YES!  I am weak, but HE is strong!

Lord, let YOUR glory shine!

 

*The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon

**Source: www.gotquestions.org

Share on Facebook

Glimpses of Glory

Snow glisteningA fresh blanket of pristine snow greeted me yesterday morning as I raised my bedroom blinds.  It’s not that unusual, considering it’s January, in Wyoming.  What was different about this particular snow, however, was that it was glistening.  Like so many diamonds, dancing.  It was as if someone had taken a giant bottle of iridescent glitter and sprinkled it everywhere.

I happen to know who that Someone might be.

Some people gaze upon a shimmering landscape and merely see Nature.  Science.  Frozen water molecules.  Ice crystals refracting light.

Others see a reflection of GOD.

I’ve come to call these experiences:  “Glimpses of Glory.”  They are those times when the curtain between heaven and earth seems to part, just for a bit.  Perhaps God’s glory is so overpowering that heaven’s borders just can’t quite contain it.  Or maybe God is simply enjoying an opportunity to show off, dazzling and delighting us with His breathtaking beauty.

We mortals can only absorb it in the minutest doses.  Like Moses when he prayed, “Show me Your glory,” God covers us with His hand as He passes by.  We would fall on our faces like Isaiah, upon receiving a vision of the Almighty on His throne.  No man can look directly upon His blinding radiance and live.*

Jesus came to reveal God’s glory, cloaked though it was in human flesh.  For a time, heaven and earth intersected in this One Perfect Life.  To see Jesus was to see the face of God.**  To know Him is to receive a promise of glory, like a bride-to-be wears a brilliant diamond engagement ring.

His glory can still be seen today.  It beams from a child’s glowing face.  It resonates down a rushing mountain stream.  It sparkles on specks of sunlit snow.  It shines through us when we mirror His heart.

And, for a brief moment, the veil is lifted.

One day we will see Him, face to face, in all of His glory.

But for now we can watch for and enjoy these glimpses, these glimmers of God.

*Exodus 33:18-23; Isaiah 6:1-8.  **John 1:14-18.

Share on Facebook

Earthen Vessels

earthen-vesselThis fall I have the opportunity to teach, for the third time, a class at our church called “Foundations:  Christian Living.”  I’ve known and walked with the Lord for over three decades.  I should have this Christian Life thing down by now, shouldn’t I?

Well, turns out I don’t.

It’s easy to become discouraged when the gap between Who-I-am and Who-I-am-called-to-be appears to widen instead of narrow.  Being confronted with one’s weaknesses and failures at this stage in the game can certainly intensify feelings of unworthiness and inadequacy.  The enemy of my soul knows and loves to exploit this.

Who are YOU to teach a class on the Christian life?  Look at you!  All this time, and you still don’t have it together.  What kind of example are you to these young believers?

These defeating thoughts kept running through my mind last week as the start date of the class approached.  I decided to go for a walk in an effort to clear my head and pray.  So I headed down the hill that leads away from our house, pouring out my heart, confessing my sin, and acknowledging my fears and feelings of inadequacy to the Lord.  As I turned onto a side street, the following phrase entered my mind, clear and succinct, the way I’ve come to recognize God’s voice when He speaks:

We have this treasure in earthen vessels.

I caught my breath.  Tears sprang to my eyes.  I repeated this verse, which is from 2 Corinthians 4:7, over and over as I continued down the dirt road, meditating on the meaning of His words.

We have this treasure…  Jesus… the Pearl of Great Price… the One Thing that Matters… I have Him!

…in earthen vessels…  that’s me all right… weak… flawed… inadequate… unworthy.

See?  Just look at you!  That ‘other’ voice taunted again.  Only now I knew how to respond.

“If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that.” (2 Corinthians 4:7, The Message)

(That last part makes me laugh.)

What if our weaknesses actually create a better backdrop to highlight His power?  The apostle Paul certainly came to accept this as true in his life and ministry:

“Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9b, NAS)

Rather than disqualify us for ministry, what if our flaws even help to enhance our effectiveness?  After all, they keep us humble, honest, and dependent on Him.  Isn’t that the best and safest place to be?

We are earthen vessels, ordinary and imperfect.  God’s only condition for service is that a vessel be clean.  Then He delights to fill and use it to accomplish His purposes.*

He is the Treasure, extraordinary and perfect.  May our weaknesses draw attention to HIS greatness, and our imperfections serve to showcase HIS glory.

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves…” (2 Corinthians 4:7, NAS)

*See 2 Timothy 2:21.

Share on Facebook

Glory Glimpses

I had such good intentions.  Really, I did.  We were staying at a cottage on a bluff overlooking the WA coast, and my sister and I had made a date the night before to go on an early morning beach power walk.  Only she got up, and I, well, didn’t.  And if the early bird gets the worm, then in this case the early riser gets their own private showing of the beauty and magnificence of God.

The tide was out as the first act opened.  Translucent jellyfish, some with stark red streaks, dotted the beach.  Multitudes of crabs of various sizes scurried across the gray sand.  Next up were a couple dozen seals close in to shore, heads bobbing on the water like brown bowling balls (my sister’s description!).  One even made eye contact with her before disappearing beneath the surface.  The stars of Act Three were the clams, spouting bursts of water from beneath the sand as if choreographed, nature’s version of Vegas’ dancing Bellagio fountains.  And the finale?  A majestic bald eagle, swooping low, directly over her head, its massive dark wings extended.  It circled the beach as she watched and then perched, silhouetted, in a nearby tall tree.

Bravo!  Encore!

I like to call these kinds of experiences “Glimpses of Glory.”  They are those times when God’s voice is practically audible, exclaiming through His creation, “I’m here!”  He seems to custom design these glimpses with what He knows will most delight a particular child of His.  As my sister recounted the incredible display she had witnessed, I was genuinely happy that she had had such memorable moments with her Creator.

Ok, and maybe just a tad jealous that I had missed out on the show.

But it turned out God had a special surprise planned for me as well, something He knew would thrill my heart.  A couple of days later we were enroute to the famous Butchart Gardens in British Columbia, where we looked forward to enjoying High Tea and strolling through the stunning gardens.  (Tea is certainly one of my love languages and a stroll is definitely more my speed.)  As if that wasn’t enough already, God had yet another treat in store.  It caught my eye as we neared the entrance to the gardens.

A vineyard.

While a vineyard visit wasn’t on our itinerary for the afternoon, it was on His.  He knew that, as I had researched and prepared for the class I had recently taught on John 15, I had wished I could visit an actual vineyard.  I had never seen one. They must not grow well in this part of the country.  And now here was one right beside the very road we were on!  It was as if it had been gift wrapped, tied with a ribbon and presented with a bow.  Your vineyard, madame.

I was almost breathless with excitement when we pulled up alongside the neatly tended rows of grape vines.  Like a giddy schoolgirl, I took pictures of the vines on their trellises, observed the leafy branches and the little buds that would someday become fruit.  I imagined Jesus as the Vine and myself as the branch, allowing this real life illustration of our intimate connection to sink in.

I stood in a vineyard.

It was only for a few moments, but I savored every second, delighting in this God who delights in giving His children the desires of their hearts.

“Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desires and secret petitions of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4, Amplified)

Thank you Creator God, for these awesome glimpses of Your glory, these sweet snapshots of Your heart.

In a Canadian vineyard! (July 2012)

 

Share on Facebook