Monday, July 14, 2014

The Road We're Traveling On

While my amazing husband was dealing with toddler bedtime last night, I was attempting to relax and listen to music (I may have been obsessively working on the Golden Gate Bridge in a “Dot-to-Dot for Grownups” book…with a ruler). I ended up listening to the 1981 Simon & Garfunkel reunion concert, which I LOVE even though I was less than a year old when it happened. One of my favorite songs on it is Simon’s “American Tune”.

I think the melody is beautiful, and it’s one I can sing halfway decently in my limited range. But in my melancholy mood last night, it was the lyrics that really grabbed my attention. Here are the first two verses:

Many’s the time I’ve been mistaken
And many times confused
Yes, and I’ve often felt forsaken
And certainly misused
Oh, but I’m all right, I’m all right
I’m just weary to my bones
Still, you don’t expect to be
Bright and bon vivant
So far away from home, so far away from home

I don’t know a soul who’s not been battered
I don’t have a friend who feels at ease
I don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered
Or driven to its knees
Oh, but it’s all right, it’s all right
For we’ve lived so well so long
Still, when I think of the road
We’re traveling on
I wonder what went wrong
I can’t help it, I wonder what’s gone wrong

I don’t think it ever hit me before, the hopelessness of the words. As the Wikipedia author notes, “the lyrics offer a perspective on the American experience; there are references to struggle, weariness, hard work, confusion, and homesickness. The bridge conveys a dream of death and of the Statue of Liberty ‘sailing away to sea.’ The song ends with an assertion that ‘you can't be forever blessed’ before the lyrics return to the idea of work, tiredness, and resignation.”

Work. Confusion. Tiredness. Resignation. This dismal perspective makes life seem unbearable, even pointless. Yet I know so many of us feel exactly this way much of the time. Whether someone is a Christian or not, we’re all still human. We all feel at times the burden of work, the sting of an imperfect or even broken relationship, the weight of our inadequacies and failures. I struggle with mine daily.

What I need to remind myself of is that this is not how the human experience was designed, and this is not how it has to be. As I recently read in Romans 5:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

In sharp contrast to the bleak and hopeless outlook of trying to live life on our own and failing, in Jesus we know the words justified, peace, grace, rejoice, endurance and hope. At times I am mistaken and confused. God never makes mistakes, and He chose me. I’ve often felt forsaken after putting my trust and sense of worth in others and how they perceive me. God sees me as beautiful and perfect through Christ, and He will never leave me. Trying to be the perfect wife, mom and friend under my own strength makes me weary to my bones. Understanding that I don’t have to be those things in order to gain acceptance from the Creator of the universe can set me free and give me rest.

How I pray that I will be able to fully embrace the freedom and rest that come from a life under His grace. And I pray that for you too. If you don’t yet know Him, or if you do but are struggling with trying to do life on your own at the moment…I love you and I’m there with you. And more importantly, as I’ve been reminded several times lately, He loves you and wants to be with you.

No offense to Paul Simon, but he’s wrong here. We most certainly can be forever blessed. We deserve eternity in hell apart from God, but we can receive an eternity of perfect peace, joy and love with our sweet, sweet Savior. I can’t think of a greater blessing than that. I’m far from having all of the answers, but I’d love to search the depths of this perfect love together.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Love One Another Deeply

I started taking notes during the sermon one Sunday when I was in high school after we had gotten back from a trip late the night before. I did it to stay awake. I found that it really helped me to focus, so I kept taking notes for years...until I had babies and suddenly found myself with a crazy amount of stuff (and stress) that we had to take with us everywhere, and the notebook no longer made it to church. I need to start taking notes again; I have the tendency to zone in and out a lot during the sermon. Never the speaker's fault; I usually just have so much on my mind that it's hard to turn it off and pay attention.

I recently started reading 1 Peter (on the few occasions each week that I actually read my Bible), and for pretty much the first time ever, I went back to review sermon notes on the passages. Our first pastor at the Oaks, Kevin Jamison, went through the book starting in the fall of 2008. I have greatly appreciated the wisdom of our pastors over the last several years, and I've loved going back through this series. His sermon on 1 Peter 1:22-2:3 was one of the first (if not the first) I'd ever heard on gospel-centered community, and reading the notes was a great reminder for me to be more intentional in relationships, so I just thought I'd share - in case anyone else could benefit as well:

*The gospel has social implications as well as eternal implications.

1 Peter 1:22-2:3
Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for
"All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers, and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord remains forever."
And this word is the good news that was preached to you.
So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation - if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

I. Sin keeps us from community.
       -Sin has corrupted every social relationship we've had.
       -Our sins can play off of each other.
       -We are all self-centered, making it difficult to love others above ourselves.

II. The Gospel purifies us for community.
       -One of the greatest horizontal implications of the gospel is for us to love one another.
       -We are now all different as a result of God's mercy and grace - we should recognize a sense of community from mutual understanding of where we were before and who we are now in Christ.
       -We must remove malice, deceit, hypocrisy (masking evil with false righteousness), envy, slander.
       -These are community-destroying sins.

III. Our faith must be nourished for and by community.
       -We should be cross-centered: claiming worth and value in the cross and cherishing it.
       -We should be grace-driven: recognizing God's unmerited favor and seeking to direct others to Christ.
       -We should be intentionally intrusive: out of love, when we see sin destroying relationships.
       -We should be redemptive: we want to see God redeem people and relationships, to see everyone made perfect in Christ.