Monday, January 30, 2012

Audacious Hope

I hope for so many things.

I hope the weather will be perfect for my child’s birthday party.
I hope NCIS will never go off the air.
I hope the cheesecake I had for dessert will go to fuel my brain instead of finding its way to my hips.

I have no reason to believe any of these things will happen the way I want them to.

But I still hope.
We have more serious hopes. We hope our parents live forever and our children make us proud. And whenever a baby is expected, whether that child is yours, your grandchild, your friend’s first or seventh, there is a universal hope for wellness. We hear it all the time. “I don’t care if it’s a boy or a girl. Just so long as they’re healthy.”

But sometimes . . . All the hoping in the world won’t change reality.

To read the rest of the post...I'm over at Encouraging Women today...please come by and say hello.


Joy Dare 2012 ~ more grace...more joy...more hope...

3 old things seen new...

  1. my van that gets me where I need to go
  2. my childhood comforter tucked around my sick toddler
  3. Isaiah 26:3-4 ~ You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock. (ESV)

You can find all my Joy Dare 2012 entries here.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Thoughtful Thursdays :: When God Weeps~Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty

I’m not a big fan of suffering.

I prefer to avoid it.


And who would blame me? We live in a culture that values ease, peace, and prosperity above all else. Our own Declaration of Independence declares that we are endowed by our Creator with the right to the pursuit of happiness.

Now I’m a big fan of the Founding Fathers, but I’m not sure there’s a Biblical foundation for the right to pursue happiness.

Why would I say that? Well, I hate to have to point this out, but the Bible doesn't promise us happiness on earth. Joy is ours, but happiness? I guess we can chase after it, and we'll experience it from time to time.

But according to the Bible the one thing we can be sure of is that we will suffer.

A lot.

Did I mention that I’m not a big fan of suffering?

So what’s a good Christian girl to do when life throws a curve ball? When parents die too young? When babies are born too soon?

When life hurts?

When suffering moves from the theoretical to the “I don’t think I’ll survive this” phase, how do we respond? How do we make sense of the sovereignty of God when that same God doesn’t fix all our problems?

Wouldn’t a loving God make life easier for us?

How can He be sovereign and tolerate the Holocaust? How can He sit back while millions of babies are aborted?

Doesn’t He care?

These questions, and many others, are asked and answered in When God Weeps: Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty by Joni Eareckson Tada and Steven Estes.

My Bible study group wrestled our way through this book a few months ago. It’s not an easy read. Not because the text is difficult or poorly written. On the contrary, some of the writing is quite beautiful and almost poetic in its description.

It’s challenging because when we start talking about suffering, we are forced to take a hard look at who God is and how God works.

As Joni says in the introduction, “When God Weeps is not so much about affliction as it is about the only One who can unlock sense out of suffering. It’s not why our afflictions matter to us (although they do), but why they matter to the Almighty.”

When God Weeps presents God as God. Not as a safe deity that never does things we don’t understand.

I asked a friend who read this book during a time of intense suffering if she would recommend it. She said yes. She also said there were times she wanted to throw it against a wall.

It’s that kind of book.

With real world examples and serious theology, Tada and Estes tackle the questions we ask when our world disintegrates and we’re left sitting in the ashes of our dreams.

If you really want to know why—as much as any of us can know this side of eternity—I would recommend When God Weeps.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Mindful Mondays :: In the Boat

As I’ve been hanging out in the gospels for the past few months in an effort to soak up what Jesus said and did, I couldn’t help but notice something.

I’m big on being out of the boat, but being in the boat isn’t as easy as it’s cracked up to be.

Do you remember the story? In Matthew 8, Jesus has delivered the Sermon on the Mount, healed a bunch of people, and cast out a slew of demons. As the crowd grew around Him, He gave orders to cross to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. He was exhausted and He crashed.

The disciples were probably okay with that.

Until they weren’t.

The storm came. The wind blew. The waves—oh the waves.

We don’t know how much noise they made hoping He would wake up on His own. We don’t know if they argued over who would be the one to disturb Him.

These guys were trying to hold the ship together and at some point, they start calling out, probably all at once to be heard over the wind. “Jesus. Jesus! Hey, Jesus!!! Help! Save us. We are going down, man.” (Lynn’s paraphrase)

Now, let’s give the disciples a little credit here. Somewhere, there was a smidgen of faith. They’d been watching Him do amazing things. And they asked Him to intervene on their behalf.

Maybe they wondered if His power extended to the weather. Sure, He could handle demons. He could heal people. But freak storms? That might be too much.

We know better. But then, we have the whole Bible and know how the story ends. It’s easy to sit in our comfortable pew and tsk-tsk the disciples for their lack of faith.

Until it isn’t.

Until my faith runs into a storm it hasn’t faced before. And suddenly, I start to wonder. Can He handle this? Maybe this is the relationship, the job, the financial problem, the heart, the illness, or the fear that might be too much.

But I’ve seen Him do amazing things. So I take my smidgen of faith and I cry out, “Lord, save me! I’m dying here.”

And once again, He says, “Why are you afraid?”

I’m so thankful He doesn’t keep me at arm’s length because of my pitiful faith. If I let Him, He pulls me close into His Everlasting Arms and holds me until the storm is over.

Did you follow Jesus into the boat and now find yourself in the middle of a storm? The storm doesn’t mean you’ve messed up. And you don’t have to hang on in your own strength to get through.

Crawl into His arms. Stay there. Let Him hold you.

And get ready to marvel.

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” (Matthew 8:23-27 ESV)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thoughtful Thursdays :: Book Review ~ Fighting Fear - Winning the War at Home When Your Soldier Leaves for Battle

A few weeks ago, our community lost a young man in Afghanistan. He'd been there less than three weeks. I didn't know the soldier or his family, but I was so moved by the outpouring of support from our citizens. While people lined the highways and gathered to protect the grieving family from protesters, I began to read a devotional written specifically for military families.

Fighting Fear: Winning the War at Home When Your Soldier Leaves for Battle addresses the battle on the home front. How do you go about your life when your husband or child or parent is half a world away and in constant danger?

Edie Melson knows.

She watched her oldest son leave for Iraq. Twice. She spent many nights clutching her Bible and pounding the gates of heaven as only a mother can. She writes from an honest heart. Sometimes with humor and sometimes with raw emotion. There's no attempt to gloss over the challenges experienced by the families of the deployed.

But there is so much hope.

From the stories of now grown children of WWII servicemen to spouses of 20+ year career military personnel, a beautiful picture of God's faithfulness emerges. We see prayers answered, relationships restored, and challenges met.

From the hearts of mothers, wives, and daughters we see irrefutable evidence that God cares. He knows the battle is being fought on both fronts and He is the only One who can be in both places. He is the Constant. He is the Peace.

If you love a soldier, or love someone who does, Fighting Fear: Winning the War at Home When Your Soldier Leaves for Battle is a must read. It belongs on the bedside table of every spouse, parent, child, or sibling of our soldiers in harm's way.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Mindful Mondays :: A Ladder to the Moon

On a cool, clear night several months ago, I sat on the back steps with our three-year-old son. As we stared at the sky, we talked about how big the moon was and how bright the stars were. Well, I talked. He jabbered in that special just-turned-three language that is part English - part who knows what.

After a few minutes of hearing the same phrase repeated, I finally realized that he was asking me to go get a ladder.

Me: What do you need a ladder for?
James: To go to the moon.
Me: Honey, the moon is too far away. We can't reach it with a ladder.
James: Yes you can.

He had complete faith. He saw a bright, shiny object floating in the sky. And there was not a doubt in his mind that if I put a little effort into it, I could take him to the moon. I think he assumed I would be able to grant this request in the same easy way I provide milk and chicken nuggets.

Pizza - sure. Moonwalk? No problem!

Our conversation lasted several minutes, and I don't think I ever convinced him that no one had built a ladder long enough to reach the moon. Not to mention issues of oxygen and atmosphere and freezing temperatures and gravity. And yes, I mentioned all of them in my effort to convince him that I wasn't trying to be difficult, but I couldn't produce a ladder and take him to the moon.

I've been thinking about this as I've been praying for God to grant me what I desire or give me something better.

Do I really think He can? I mean . . . really?

I know - intellectually - that He is God. Omnipresent, Omniscient, All-Powerful.

He is God. He can do anything.

But do I believe it enough to ask? And not only to ask, but to ask knowing that it's not too hard for Him. That He not only can but will answer that prayer? He will either give me what I'm asking for, or give me something far better.

I'm trying to pray believing and asking God to help my unbelief.

Because when I ask for the moon, He doesn't say, "Honey, the moon is too far away."

He says, "Honey, have you thought about Jupiter?"

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Thoughtful Thursdays :: Joy Dare 2012

A few months ago I posted a review of One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I've been counting gifts ever since. I've found it's impossible to be grouchy and grateful at the same time so gift counting is something I wanted to be intentional about in 2012.

In December, I wrote about Joy. Joy in suffering. Joy in the Moment. Our real reason for Joy.

So imagine my Joy when I discovered the Joy Dare for 2012. An opportunity to count 1000 gifts in 2012, along with thousands of others, and rediscover Joy all year long.

If you look at the top of this page, you'll see a "One Thousand Gifts" tab. You can click there to see my one thousand gifts in 2012. Ann's made it as easy as imaginable with a calendar and prompts for every day.

I'll also be tweeting (@LynnHBlackburn) my gifts (#1KGiftsDare) several times a week.

Won't you join me in intentional joy and thankfulness this year?

Monday, January 9, 2012

All in . . . All the time

I’m a Clemson Tiger. My blood runneth Orange. And when it comes to my team, I’m all in . . . all the time.

But sweet mercy.

For those of you who don’t follow college athletics, Wednesday night the Clemson Tigers faced the West Virginia Mountaineers in the Orange Bowl.

Clemson was favored to win.

Clemson got juiced.

When the last drop of dignity had been squeezed from our orange peel, the Mountaineers were victorious in a stunning 70-33 final.

It takes a true believer to wear the colors on the day after a loss like that. To acknowledge that we blew it in every way imaginable, but still have hope for a new day, a new season, another opportunity to return to the Orange Bowl and emerge victorious.

I love the idea of being all in. It’s how I want to live my life. All in . . . all the time.

Whatever God has for me, I want to charge down the hill onto the field and face it head on. After all, if God is for us, who can be against us! I’m favored to win. All the time.

And some days, I do. I take the field full of the Holy Spirit and when children whine, I pray. When laundry mounts, I praise. When agents reject, I rejoice (ok . . . maybe not . . . but you get the idea).

Then there are days where the score swings wildly. I stumble, make poor decisions, and drop passes. Thank goodness for half-time where I regroup and end the day on high note.

But some days . . . the kids take turns getting up all night and my defense is worn out before the sun comes up. I’ve been sacked six times before breakfast, and even three cups of coffee aren’t enough to prevent me from throwing two interceptions before lunch. There are missed tackles, fumbles, and poorly executed plays.

I have to wonder if that “great cloud of witnesses” is squirming in their seats wondering what happened to their girl. Where’s the mighty warrior of yesterday? Where’s the comeback kid of last week? Why can’t she throw up a few blocks? Why won’t she use her shield of faith? Her breastplate of righteousness?

Do they watch as I collapse into bed, sick with the knowledge that not only was today a poor showing, but one I’ll regret forever? Do they wonder who will show up the next day—the star quarterback or the third string kicker?

‘Cause lets face it, in this game, no one can blame the Coach.

I’m so thankful God doesn’t watch my “Orange Bowl” performances and give up on me. When I’m in the locker room, spent and humiliated, He reminds me that I may have lost this game but the Eternal Championship is already in the bag. His Son won that battle on the cross (talk about being “all in”).

And while I sometimes embarrass myself on the field, the truth is that His Spirit lives inside me and empowers me to run the plays God calls.

Have you already blown it in 2012? Yeah. Me, too.

Let's put the “Orange Bowl” behind us.

Our Coach forgives when we ask and He never gives up on us.

Today is a new game day. We can choose to wallow in past defeat or charge the field confident we will win.

I'm all in . . . who's with me?

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:22-24)

Congratulations to Liz! She's the winner of the Tony Dungy One Year Uncommon Life Daily Challenge! Thanks to all who participated!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year - One Word

A new year.

What's a task-oriented, planner-toting, stressed-out-mom-of-three, wanna-be-writer to do?

There's a part of me that longs to open a spreadsheet and plan the next twelve months.

There's another part of me that knows just how long that spreadsheet will hold up under the steady stream of daily life.

So this year, I'm trying something new.

Well, it's not new. It's new to me.

Instead of resolutions and detailed plans of attack, I've chosen one word for 2012. One word to focus on, to filter decisions through, to pray for and about.

One word.

And let's face it. For a word-loving girl like me, narrowing anything down to one word should have been challenging. But this word floated to the surface with ease.

I tried a few other words, let them bob along in my mind for a few days, but they couldn't stay afloat. So I'm stuck with this word. For 366 days.

My word for 2012?


My prayer for 2012? That I'll use this word to remind myself that I don't want to bob along without direction. I don't want to parent by accident. I don't want to write on whims. I don't want to worship only when the mood strikes. I don't want to be so busy ordering my day that I fail to rest in His plans for me.

Ten years from now, I want to be able to look back on this time of my life and see trips to the library, the zoo, and the children's museum, sprinkled in with Bible studies, date nights, and, dare I say it, maybe a novel—or five?

Life is short. I want to live on purpose.

Not regimented. Not legalistic. Not even with a ten-page spreadsheet. But I don't want to miss the things that matter. And it would be so easy to let that happen in the whirlwind of everyday life.

So here's to a year of intentionality. I hope you'll hop Out of the Boat and walk the waves with me.

How about you? Do you have a word for 2012? I'd love to hear about your New Year's plans and possibilities!