Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Songs From the Rain

The post title is actually the name of an album by Hothouse Flowers. They're an Irish band (if you know me at all, you know how I love the Irish bands) that hasn't gotten much play outside of WXRT in the early 90's. I had "Songs From the Rain" on a cassette tape which is long worn out from frequent play. There's a brilliant track called "Thing of Beauty" on it that always elevates my soul when I hear it, but the rest of the album is kind of melancholy and just the sort of background music you could imagine playing on a dreary, rainy day like today.

Days when it's easy to let the weather overcome you with it's wide gray showers.

It's been raining so long here we've passed mood-altering and headed straight for pity party. Everything I heard today made me more emotional. And I heard a lot of stuff that would tug at heart strings on a bright sunny day.

I spoke with a friend who has a child battling addiction. And another who is facing divorce. And still another who just learned the cancer she beat four years ago is back. All while the rain beat the rooftop and the windows offered little light.

I kept hearing this song in my head called Emotional Time. The lyrics are actually pretty encouraging but the melody is like the rain.

As I was contemplating my friends' stories I found myself running the gamut of emotions -gratitude that I'm not facing such difficult circumstances - compassion for my friends who were - hope that our God is good - frustration that I didn't offer more comfort - grief over their grief.

Galatians 6:2 tells us to carry each other's burdens. A few verses later it says not to become weary in doing good because at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we don't give up. I believe that's true.

I was in tears before my work day even started. We had a staff meeting and one of the pastors was recapping our Easter weekend activities and spun off into a little exhortation of the Gospel as he's prone to do. The words that hit me most were when he said "uncreated God condescended to sinful man." The God of the universe who has always been there - no one created Him - stooped down to rescue me when I was still His enemy. And there was nothing I had to offer Him in return. So I was emotional even before all the stories began.

I know God is good. I know the world defines "good" differently than God does. And I know His definition serves me better. I know all this. I can even communicate all this to my friends who are suffering far worse trials than a prolonged rain and heightened sensitivity level.

But it didn't change my mood.

One of my favorite children's books is Alexander and the Horrible, Terrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day. It follows a child through a particularly frustrating day in which he hopes to escape the tyranny by moving to Australia. It ends with him telling his mother it has been a "terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day." To which his mother replies, "Some days are like that. Even in Australia."

Monday, April 18, 2011

April Showers Bring....Snow?

I don't know why we are still surprised in Chicago when we wake up one April morning to see snow outside.

Even if it is halfway through the month.

Even if it was 83 degrees last Sunday.

We washed the car out front in the driveway.

The kids wore their bathing suits.

An hour north of us (by my brother's house) they got three inches. It was less than an inch by us, but still enough to make puddles in every parking lot when it melted.

Which it did, thank God.

We thought since Easter was so late this year, we might actually get the chance to wear those sleeveless dresses that look so much like Spring. And we may still be able to do that.

Underneath our parkas.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


I was listening to a radio program today on WMBI around lunchtime. I was driving back from a meeting at our church's Barrington Campus and caught a snippet of Nancy Leigh DeMoss' "Midday Connection" program. She was talking about the thief on the cross next to Jesus. The bible doesn't say much about him or his life prior to that point in time. We know he was a criminal and that unlike Christ, he had been guilty of the charges against him. We know his punishment was deserved. So he's not exactly the poster boy for entry into heaven. And yet, that's exactly what was promised to him.

Nancy asked the audience if they had ever wondered if their entry into heaven was contingent upon what they had done - how they had lived their lives (I'm paraphrasing, you understand) and then she made a very helpful statement. She said the Gospel of Jesus Christ isn't salvation based on what you have done, but believing and receiving what He has done for you.

As a kid I was taught that being a good Christian was all about following rules and keeping God happy. Or rather, not making Him angry. Trouble was you never knew how good was good enough (there's a book by that title by the way and I highly recommend it -it's by Andy Stanley).

Isn't it just like God to have the first saint joining Jesus in Paradise be a rebellious, convicted, castaway thief?

In what were literally the final hours of his life, the thief understood that his punishment was deserved, that God was to be feared and that he could ask Jesus to remember him in His kingdom. And Jesus' astonishing response? "Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." Luke 23:39-43.

Third Day has a song called "Thief" that puts a melody to this event and takes some poetic license in painting a fuller picture of what the thief was thinking as he and Jesus both hung on crosses on that hill. It has brought me to tears on more than one occasion.

And it has reminded me, like Nancy Leigh DeMoss did earlier today, that my salvation is secured not by any works I have ever done, am doing or will do, but solely on the work my Savior has done for me.


I am a thief, I am a murderer
Walking up this lonely hill
What have I done? I don't remember
No one knows just how I feel
and I know that my time is coming soon.
It's been so long. Oh, such a long time
Since I've lived with peace and rest
Now I am here, my destination
guess things work for the best
and I know that my time is coming soon
Who is this man? This man beside me

They call the King of the Jews
They don't believe that He's the Messiah
But, somehow I know it's true.
And they laugh at Him in mockery,
and beat Him till he bleeds
They nail Him to the rugged cross,
and raise Him, they raise Him up next to me
My time has come, I'm slowly fading
I deserve what I receive

Jesus when You are in Your kingdom
Could You please remember me
and He looks at me still holding on
the tears fall from His eyes
He says I tell the truth
Today, you will live with Me in paradise
and I know that my time is coming soon
and I know paradise is coming soon.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Lions and Lambs

You know the old adage about March? "In like a lion, out like a lamb"? I didn't understand that phrase for the longest time.

Probably because I live in Chicago.

March rarely leaves like a lamb.

In fact, most memories I have of the season preceding Easter is catalogs and flyers selling sleeveless dresses for little girls and shorts sets for little boys and me wondering who is going to see those cute little outfits under their parkas?

I can count the number of warm Easters we've had on one hand. And I'm middle aged.

And it's not just the temperature that lacks all things mild at the end of March. The weather is generally pretty volatile with late night thunderstorms and bone chilling mornings. This year was no different.

The lion still roars at the end of March.

On Friday the DVD for the third "Chronicles of Narnia" movie (based on C.S. Lewis' books) comes out, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I can't wait to see it. We missed it in the movie theatres because it was only released in 3D which means tickets were $10 a piece and I couldn't justify spending $50 to take my three kids to see it with one bucket of popcorn and a shared pop.

I love the Aslan character and how He is a metaphor for Christ in so many ways. When he roars the power is palpable. The books and the movie often describe Aslan as being good, but not tame.

That sounds like Christ.

And then there are the lambs popping up everywhere. In the store fronts and the newspaper ads, on the children's books at the library and scattered about the church signs in people's yards...everywhere you look there are soft, wooly lambs. To some people they're just a sign of spring. A reminder to stop by Fannie Mae and get going on your Easter baskets. To me they are so much more. They are a symbol of another attribute of my Savior.

In Old Testament times there were a lot of sacrifices made to God. Many of them were lambs. They were used as offerings to atone for sin. In Exodus, Chapter 12 you can read about the first Passover. It was a lamb's blood that was spread over the doorpost of those who followed the Lord's command so that their firstborn's lives were spared. The lambs used were to be without blemish. The lionlike God was coming with judgement and a sacrifice needed to be made.

I find that one of the most fascinating things about God. He always provides the very sacrifice He requires.

Even more fascinating is when He becomes the sacrifice.

One lamb slain for all.

There's a great song we sing at church especially during lent. It's by a well known worship leader, Chris Tomlin. It's one of the few songs that captures the uniqueness of God's character. And how He simultaneously embodies what seem to be contrasting qualities.

There is only one who is both lion and lamb.

"How Great Is Our God"

The splendor of a King, clothed in majesty
Let all the earth rejoice
All the earth rejoice

He wraps himself in Light, and darkness tries to hide
And trembles at His voice
Trembles at His voice

How great is our God, sing with me
How great is our God, and all will see
How great, how great is our God

Age to age He stands
And time is in His hands
Beginning and the end
Beginning and the end

The Godhead Three in One
Father Spirit Son
The Lion and the Lamb
The Lion and the Lamb

Name above all names
Worthy of our praise
My heart will sing
How great is our God

How great is our God, sing with me
How great is our God, and all will see
How great, how great is our God