Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Glory and Suffering (by Matt Papa)

Two pages from Look and Live... The words of Matt Papa, and perhaps especially John Newton's words here, are crucial in the fight of life as we press hard past the dross and filth and sorrows of this world toward the finish line of His smile and welcoming arms....  (This is only one of several excellent points in Papa's chapter on suffering.)

"God hates suffering, the Bible is clear on this, and yet He ordains it.  

Okay.  Maybe you say, "I get it."  Nice doctrine, man.  But still the bitter question remains, Why?...


We will never know the specific reasons why God allows the pain He does in our lives, but we can know what is behind our suffering and find an unshakable, incomprehensible peace if we look through the cross.  The cross assures us of God's love of us, which is the greatest thing we need in times of suffering.  

We all know this.  When you experience deep hurt in your life, you don't need someone to preach to you.  You don't need someone to try to fix you.  You don't need answers.  You need a shoulder.

Well, lean in.

At the cross we see a God who not only works for our good, but who also suffers for it.  Bleeds for it.

Look at Him.

The Infinite Innocent, suffering in the place of the Barabbas race. 

If you can see Him sweating blood in Gethsemane, screaming in agony on Calvary... for YOU... then you can find peace in your deepest suffering and hope in your darkest hours.  


Because now you have a God who understands your suffering, not only by omniscience but by experience.  This shoulder you are crying on not only sympathizes with your weakness, but empathizes with them.  But not only this.  

When we look at our suffering through the cross, we see that the God who ordered the greatest tragedy ever, for the greatest good, will order our every tragedy for our good.  

Look at Him.

If He ordered a bloody cross for our eternal salvation, will He not order our every little prick and tear for our benefit?  This Romans 8:32's logic:  "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?"

Because of the cross, we can know that all trials we meet are for our good.  They have to be.

As Tim Keller says, "The cross does not tell us what our suffering means, but it does tell us what it can't mean.  It can't mean that God doesn't love us."

The cross is where we get faith.  And when faith meets a trial, it does not say "God is not good."  It says, "This is God loving me.  Indeed, it could not be anything else."

If you can see Him, totally abandoned, crying "why?" for you on the cross, then you can cry "Why?" to Him freely while knowing you are forever embraced.  
As to daily occurrences, it is best to believe that a daily portion comforts and crosses, each one the most suitable to our case, is adjusted and appointed by the hand which was once nailed to the cross for us.  Everything is needful that He sends.  Nothings is needful that He withholds.   -John Newton  (The Letters of John Newton to Mrs. Wilburforce.  London:  The Religious Tract Society, 1869.  p 75)

Selected from Matt Papa's book Look and Live:  Behold the Soul-Thrilling, Sin-Destroying Glory of Christ.    p 193-195.

Monday, April 13, 2015


There have been tears this weekend.  Life is hard and the fall is real.  And with the Lord, we trust that pruning is a privilege in preparation of future fruitfulness for His glory.  And too there's the hope of increased nearness to Him when there's some severing from the world.  May it be, Lord.   Small seeds being laid down dead, giving themselves to struggle toward the light, and then the waiting... and finally then the new life breaking through.

We planted yesterday and our tears are still fresh (and just maybe they're still falling) and there's no new life to show for it yet.  /Yet/  To be spoken with hope.

How appropriate that Piper's Solid Joys devotional for this morning, April 13, was about Psalm 126: 5-6.  "Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, brining his sheaves with him."

Piper wrote, "Sowing is simply the work that has to be done even when there are things in life that make us cry.  The crops won't wait while we finish our grief and solve all our problems.  If we are going to eat next winter, we must get out in the field and sow the seed whether we are crying or not." It is simply...."the sheer sowing (that) produces the reaping, and you need to remember this even when your tears tempt you to give up sowing."

"So here's the lesson:  When there are simple, straightforward jobs to be done, and you are full of sadness, and tears are flowing easily, go ahead and do the jobs with tears.  Be realistic.   Say to your tears:  'Tears, I feel you.  You make me want to quit life.  But there is a field to be sown...  Then, on the basis of God's word, say "Tears, I  know that you will not stay forever.  The very fact that I just do my work (tears and all) will in the end bring a harvest of blessing.  So go ahead and flow if you must. But I believe (though I do not yet see it or feel it) - I believe that the simple work of my sowing will bring sheaves of harvest and that you tears, will be turned to joy."

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

March Birthdays... catching up!

So there's this pretty little, brand-new four year old princess who was utterly embarrassed by the cake and the singing and the friends all looking at her and yep, she hid her face for about 30 pictures in a row. Not until the candle was melting liquid, dripping fast into the cake, did she finally appointed the sweet brunette to her left to blow it out for her.    (Thanks Emily!)

Despite her odd choice of party play here.... it was a sweet and joyful celebration with dear friends and tolerable cake and grateful prayers to the God who gave her to us.   We love you Vivian Hope!

And for our nine year old young man we had a knights tournament complete with sword battle, archery competition and a bit of pure chaos in a nerf gun shoot-out.  

She wasn't the littlest bit interested in the tournament with the boys but was completely thrilled to have an audience to cook for....  (Isaiah and Marian's tutors both came to his party :) I've never seen a more devoted cook than this little sister.  Super thanks to Grandma and Grandpa for the cooking set!   

Oh Son, we love you.  Daddy and I are so grateful to the Lord that He has allowed us to know you and raise you, we pray, to love Him first and fiercely, and to watch you growing into a young man hard after the heart of God.   

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Home Again... Home Again

We are so grateful to be back in our home!  And what grace that our kids feel relieved  to call this our home.  We were in the states for almost three months and we've been back home for about ten days now.

The past three weeks or so have been hard and full-  too many hours on planes (five flights) and more luggage than we could entirely see over while pushing it through the airport (and that went remarkably smoothly- so much so that I didn't even get a picture of it!) and the flu.... that's been the low spot for me and the kids (and I'm still not all clear).... and good byes and hellos all over again.  It's been hard and good and graced in countless ways.

And though we are getting back in the swing of things, I'm still far behind on the blog front.  But I'm dreaming of getting caught up with lots of photos and thoughts and stories to share...  and then, there's this very real chance that this dream just won't come true.  I may have to pick up with April and just start there!

Suffice it to say, the Lord carried us through a busy, wonderful time in the states and He's carried us back across the planet to our little landlocked beautiful city and we know He's got good things prepared for us....

Now for the "walking in it"... the real living of all these dreams, all for His glory, all by His grace.

Come, house of Matt and Jill and all you dear friends, let us walk in the light of the LORD.  (Isa 2:5)

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Clear Winter Nights

click the book to see it on Amazon
Our last week in Bismarck.  We've had some cold winter nights and I can't say I know how clear they've been....  it's been usually too far below zero for me to be staring much at the sky at night.

We've been packing things up (Matt's getting skillful in packing these bins to exactly 50 pounds each for our flight over the Pacific) and loading in some fun friends and cousins memories (The Cousins' Party - for all the missed birthdays- is later this afternoon).  Matt's parents even treated the kids to Grandma and Grandpa Day... which was their favorite day in ND.  Heritage Center Museum to see dino bones and turtle shells and lots of coolness, Space Aliens for dinner and Wizard of Oz for viewing pleasure in the evening.

All that meant for a long date day for Matt and I!  I don't know when I've relaxed for an entire afternoon....  and I think it's been six years (we had two nights with friends watching kiddos for our 5 year anniversary)since Matt and I had time like that alone together.  Such a treat!

The two of us got to snuggle up for a long read aloud together and this book is what we deliciously feasted our hearts and ears and minds on together from lunch til dinner.  Finished it.  Loved it.  Now we're gratefully praying about who we can pass it on to....  It's oh so good.

The novel is about Chris, a young man who finds out he's been deeply deceived, who's left soul-sick, searching for truth and questioning all that he's believed up til this point.  Why and how he wrestles and what he hears and is faced with and the love that's shown to him in this trial is all so well said, so rich with depth and just rock solid logically and Biblically.     Highly recommended.  A rare gift in that it is a deep theology book presented sweet and tasty as a captivating story.

Now...  off to the cousins party and last day festivities!  Tomorrow we head to Denver to see my cousins and then off to So Cal to see my dad again and several precious friends there :)

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

return of the snowbirds


oh these friends.... such joy to be with you guys!  Thank you for this special fun time with you!  #bocagrande
ok...  we're beachies and poolies here....

So the boy that jumped on a bike and rode off with almost no practice or help at all (when he was 3.5 years old) also taught himself to swim pretty much by himself.  Pretty awesome deal considering we don't get much time (at all!) in pools for him to practice.  He wanted to jump into the deep end... and he did.  He can make it back to the side like a big brave guy- no problem at all!

There really were about a thousand takes on this, trying to get everyone mid-air together....  

He perfected "the arrow jump" which got his wiggly toes down to the bottom of the seven foot side!

We love you Burgess Fam (and Culvers!)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Dream Reads

I remember talking about book clubs once with Matt and his friend, Rob.  What great depths and heights there can be in discussing good reads with good friends, mulling over good books, words, life.  Rob chuckled at himself when he said "well, that sounds like it would mean having to actually process and apply what you read before moving on and just taking in another title."

And yea,  I really want that.   Not just the words before my eyes but the Word and even little words changing my heart, my mind, our lives together....  It is such joy to dive deep into good words with good friends!  

But book clubs are tricky.  There are some sweet ones online, its just that I can't commit to reading what others are interested in and I don't assume that anyone else would be interested in all the stuff that thrills me.

So, for the sake of good books talking to each other in my mind (like Ann Voskamp has said), and teaching me and fueling thoughts, dreams, transformation, life, and general beautiful joy, and for more of a chance to "chat" about books with you....  I'm going to try to post more about good reads here.  Maybe just a quick review or a prayer for applying it under our roof or a bit of its beauty, we'll just have to see what happens with it.  

and...  I'd absolutely love to hear what books you're enjoying or inspired by or challenged by, or maybe just filled with wisdom and beauty.   I cannot give thanks enough for book recommendations I've received from many of you friends, and if you have any chance to keep your favorite titles (and your thoughts about them!?) coming my way.... what a privilege it'd be to hear from you! 

What's on your Dream Read list for 2015?  What did you love best of reading in 2014?

My list still needs filling....  Here's what I've got so far.  (Aiming to read two books a month....  it would be a beautiful thing if it happens!)

1.  Somewhere More Holy, by Tony Woodlief.  Depth of sorrow with deep simmering grace as this man shares how Christ conquered his grief and rebellion.  I've never read a memoir from a man before....  profound and excellent beauty.  I loved it.  
2.  You and Me Forever; Marriage in Light of Eternity, by Francis and Lisa Chan.    Crucial, soul-stirring, beautiful message to married folks in the church.  
3.  Look and Live, by Matt Papa.  Nearing half way and very grateful for these simple illustrations and storytelling to reopen my eyes to the magnificent worth of the Gospel.
4.  A Gift from the Sea, by Anne Lindbergh Morrow.  
5.   Prayer, by Tim Keller.  
6.  A God-Sized Vision, Revival Stories to Stretch and Stir, by Collin Hansen and John Woodbridge.
7.  Saving Leonardo, by Nancy Pearcy.
8.  Women of the Word, by Jen Wilkin.  
9.  maybe some Mary Oliver poetry?  some Madeline L Engle literature? a Marilynne Robinson or Wendell Berry novel?  it's time for a library Kindle run.... and to gather up a few more of these dear pages to tuck into boxes heading over the Pacific with us soon!
10.  I'd like to have some more old (dead) authors here too for some time-tested wisdom....  any leads to share?  email me please or leave a comment...