Thursday, May 24, 2018

Traps and Wonder

I intended to leave this post as a standalone set of warm and fuzzy photos, but the Lord didn't let these words disappear from my screen too easily after I first let them slip from my fingers, so here I am with the all too familiar abc's lettering the page of a story that goes along with these snapshots of a lovely sunset in May. 

Two weeks ago my car was broken into while parked in front of a majestic church in downtown Ostrava. My camera and gear were stolen, and my whole back window completely shattered. My roommate and my brother Tyler, quite literally, helped me pick up the broken pieces and sweep them neatly into a plastic bag. 

My camera  and the glass of my car were not the only things that were broken and stolen recently though, and not all things can be swept up and thrown into the trash. Without going into too much detail, I will say that the enemy loves to steal and deceive. It's not pretty. What's worse is when I walked into that trap and believed him that he had the power to steal truth. 

"Cast all your anxiety on him because [God] cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings." - 1 Peter 5:7-9

Last week I needed my dad's help to stand firm in faith and to walk with me as I cast my anxiety on the Lord. My dad stood with bold faith in prayer for me when I fell weakly before the threats of the enemy. The Lord picked up the pieces, and, rather than sweeping them up and throwing them away, he carefully put them back together. He brought protection by the righteousness of his Son, Jesus, and comfort by his love -- love that I can never deserve, yet gratefully receive. 

I had already planned a photoshoot with a family from my church before I found out my camera was stolen. Thankfully, my parents own the same camera I had used, so they lent it to me this past Monday. Glowing light poured forth through the trees and brought to life the inescapable joys of childhood wonder. 

I am waking up. My car window has been repaired, and my camera has yet to be recovered. The nightmares have passed. The Lord has found me yet again and restores his goodness to places of sin and fear. 

I still stand in wonder, along with this sweet girl, at how God creates beauty. He invites us into that with him. He has given us not only freedom by the name and goodness of Jesus Christ, but also a joy and gifts to partake in building his Kingdom right along with him. By this good news I praise him yet again.  

Thank you, dear Lobels, for inviting me to take your family photos, which I have not actually shared here. :) I can't wait to send you the photos soon! 

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Things Mountains and Kids Teach

What do the mountains teach? 

Today, as I walked the country roads of this little Czech village with my roommate, we both marveled at the ways God takes care of us. He's the one who brought us to this very place -- a place that is not only a safe home, but also a place of beauty that awakens worship in our hearts. 

My roommate and I have lots of burdens on our hearts these days, things we carry with us, which don't go away with a magic wand or a brisk walk through the countryside. Yet, our conversation quieted at the point when we began realizing how much God keeps under his control. He knows what our hearts need too. 

What do kids teach?

Anna and I painted cats today after she finished with school, because they're Anna's favorite animal (side note: my favorite animal is a black bear, in case you were ever curious). There's also a verse written on our cat pictures, because of the conversation we had together. The story unfolded in this way...

"Anna, do you have a favorite Bible verse?"
"No, not really."
"Well, what's something you really like about God? Why are you glad to know God?"
"Because he's nice."
"You're right. He is nice, he really is kind. You're so right."

"Nice" may not be a word I often think of using to describe God. I usually think of words like powerful, merciful, faithful, when describing God in my prayers or in conversation. But I think Anna is right. The Lord truly is "nice", among all his other attributes.

When I think of someone who is nice, I picture someone I'm drawn to, someone who is consistently self-giving and generous. Is not God this way too? It may be a simple word, but it's personal. I need more of those words that remind me that God is not only lofty and mighty, but near and real.

After this, I remembered a snippet of a verse about God's lovingkindness, so I googled it, and that's the one we chose to put on our paintings.

"But— When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit." Titus 3:4-5

Whew, I sure needed to hear that truth again this week.

The mountains taught me of God's care, and Anna taught me of his kindness, which brought us both right back to the Gospel. 

Titus 3 continues this way...

"He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life." 

Take comfort in those words of Good News today. They still count. God still pursues his people in his lovingkindness, and he still cares.