Missing the Trees for the Forest


24 And he went with him. And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. 25 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, 26 and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” 29 And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?'” 32 And he looked around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. 34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” ~The Gospel of Mark, Chapter 5

It’s easy to miss the trees for the forest.

I know that saying is usually expressed the other way around, but when you are serving people, sometimes it’s easy to be overwhelmed with the great need surrounding us.

Overwhelmed by the number of people who seem to enjoy their lives of destructive self-indulgence.

Overwhelmed by lifelong victims of the sins of others.

Overwhelmed by the pain and need of the sick and the dying, whether it is spiritual or physical.

It is so easy to become overwhelmed, in fact, that we can become apathetic toward the individuals who are genuinely seeking truth and healing and wholeness. When the forest is dark and fearful and consuming, it’s easy to miss the beautiful trees that are found interspersed with the scariness.

I love this account of Jesus and this woman, because it reminds me that Jesus saw both the forest and the trees. Jesus was in the midst of the crowd, not up on a balcony watching as they passed. He knew their hearts and intentions and was not wearied and overwhelmed by the masses seeking to be entertained and amazed.

He was right in the center of consumeristic religion.

But he didn’t miss the one who was genuinely seeking the healing of the Great Physician.

And he didn’t send her away. He didn’t get angry about her touching him. He wasn’t concerned that stopping for her might throw off his schedule. He healed her.

He didn’t just let the power seep from his body and keep walking. The work wasn’t as important to him as the relationship. He not only healed her, he connected with her.

There is so much that grabs my heart and challenges my spirit in this account. But that last point convicts me more than anything else. As women, we can become so focused on the work that we overlook the relationships. We become like Martha in the kitchen when the Lord said that it was Mary who chose the better thing by sitting as his feet in fellowship.

As this year draws to a close, I have spent much time reflecting on the cost of investing more in the work than in the relationships. It takes a toll; on the heart, on the mind, on the body, on relationships. Focusing too much on the work eventually harms the work itself.

For 2012, it is my goal to seek first His kingdom, to minister to the trees, and let Him add the forest as He sees fit.

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Where the Storm Meets the Sun


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I bought a book for my niece and nephew for Christmas this year. Nothing shocking about this; I was buying them books before they were born.

But this year I picked up what is, I believe, the most well written, theologically rich storybook Bible I’ve ever seen.

The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones and illustrated by Jago is an exceptional storybook for both children and adults. The reason for this is that, unlike most storybook bibles that read like a collection of disjointed short stories, this storybook Bible reads like a chapter book. It is designed to teach the grand narrative of Jesus to even the youngest listener. Each story refers to previous ones and, more importantly, points to the future plan of God.

The following excerpt is from the account of Noah and the flood. It is one of my favorites so far because it shows both the quality of writing and the depth of the theology.

The first thing Noah did was to thank God for rescuing them, just as he had promised.

And the first thing God did was make another promise. “I won’t ever destroy the world again.”

And like a warrior who puts away his bow and arrow at the end of a great battle, God said, “See, I have hung up my bow in the clouds.”

And there, in the clouds– where the storm meets the sun– was a beautiful bow made of light.

It was a new beginning in God’s world…
God’s strong anger against hate and sadness and death would come down once more– but not on his people, or his world. No, God’s war bow was not pointing down at his people.

It was point up, into the heart of Heaven.

Beautiful word pictures and well crafted foreshadowing make this a story pleasing to both the heart and the head.

While the book itself is excellent, the Deluxe Edition is even better. Included is a 3-CD set of audio CDs with the entire storybook narrated by British actor David Suchet. The words come to life listening to him! We’ve spent the evening listening and following along and it has kept the attention of a 22 month old, a 21 year old and a 32 year old. Multi-generational to be sure.

What this storybook proves is that the story of Jesus does not have to be “dumbed down” for children. And adults don’t have to feel silly enjoying a children’s book.

As CS Lewis once stated, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”

The Jesus Storybook Bible is a good children’s story.

Poetic Application of Romans 12:1-2


I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2

For the last several weeks, my 9th graders have been discussing the transforming power of transformed thoughts. This idea applies to relationships; with guys, with other girls, with friends, with family… How we think should transform how we live. But how do we do that? How do we actively change our thoughts and, in turn, use our changed thoughts to change our hearts and our actions?

We watched this video in class today, and it spurred some great conversation about how the world influences our passive thoughts and attitudes and how those thoughts and attitudes influence our choices. It reminded me of The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis’ classic work which imagines an exchange of letters between an experienced demon and a less mature demon-in-training. The methods of the evil one are not obvious, but are subtle, passive, sneaky. In this poem, the author writes A Letter to Satan, telling him just what she thinks about his schemes and control in her life.

Watch the video, check out the lyrics below, and think about this: If you looked at the influence of media in your life and compared your thoughts and attitudes to the Word, what sort of letter would you write to Satan about how evil has influenced your life?

Dear Satan,

I’m writing you this letter to inform you that our relationship is officially done.

You just lost one!

Cause for too long I’ve battled in my mind

Your voice v. God’s v. mine

For too long I’ve entertained the same thoughts as Cain

Like how truthfully my flesh loves to be first

How my pride tries to cover and hide so I can’t see the extent of this curse

So I’m returning all your gifts

Rejecting all your myths

See all this time I thought that I had control, but you were controlling this

Despite me doing good works in the church

Thinking I was a Christian

All the while allowed your spirit to lurk

What a deception

You went to church with me

A thwarted perception

Saying that I love God louder and louder

But had a spiritual infection

I see you’re a deceiver; you take advantage of every weak part

I could come to church every week

As long as I don’t apply the word to my heart

We were friends because I did what you wanted me to

I thought a little sin wouldn’t hurt

I mean I didn’t want to sleep with you

I just thought it would be cool to flirt

But I see you play for keeps

Now I know that the Word is true

What you sow is what you reap

I keep saying I’m so blessed, I’m so blessed

All the while secretly giving you a kiss

I remember all the places we used to go

Now inwardly it makes me sick

Like how you talked me into going to the club

At first I really didn’t want to go

I thought it wouldn’t affect me

But while I was there my lust began to flare and I got hot and heavy

Started thinking about the dudes in the room

Wanting to ride off in their Chevy

Or the comedy spots where we sat and laughed enjoying ourselves all night

When they were joking and mocking the church like that situation is light

And explicit sexual content echoed through that mic

And I laughed like it was alright

Now I know God wasn’t laughing

Even though you and I was on a roll

I see it was because my heart was so numb and cold

In the back of my mind

I thought I’d really give God 100% when I’m old

Once I’m done having my fun

Then I thought what if I don’t make it past 25, then what?

What did I live for?

I just can’t ignore anymore this proposal from the Lord

So I changed my number so you would no longer call

And I would no longer fall

But even though I did all that you still controlled me from afar

Because I was just trying to be a better person

Stopped clubbing, stopped sex, stopped cursing

Dropped friends, cause of greed stopped working

But stopping things don’t rid the seed of the serpent

It was all self-righteousness

A righteousness I created

It’s like using filthy rags to take a bath

When the truth is my entire sin nature is bad

And me stopping those things never dealt with the wickedness of my heart

If I thought someone did me wrong

I was so quick to lash back, all the while singing a praise song

Even though the Bible says repay not evil for evil, I refused to believe

And your strings got me doing things that I can’t even help

Trying to love my brother but always thinking about myself

What a curse

Like I could run up and hug someone at church

But because inwardly I wanted to be first

Didn’t realize it but I was wishing them the worst

Although the outside was clean

The inside of the cup was filthy and mean

So I wrestled with the conclusion

Maybe I’ve been excluded from being able to live this Christian life

But then that sounds like your voice

You’ve influenced so much of my life

Those events help me see how powerless I am

And the reality is there is only one way

And before I was set free, I had to realize I was a slave

I have no merit, virtue or favor with God

It’s Christ’ poured out lifeblood that saves

And I’m sick of it, my sin

I’ve defended it, time and time again

Dead in my transgression but now I’ve come on out of the grave

Because this new relationship is based solely by grace through faith

And my life is a result of what I believe

Since you shall know a tree by the root and the fruit

So rather than just dress modestly, I’m checking my heart too

Making sure there is no vanity

Or that I’m dressing to grab the attention of humanity

Because I know what I can do, if I remain in a relationship with you

My potential outside of Christ is extremely detrimental

So I’m clinging on with all I’ve got

So now when I think of all the movies we went to

Man I get so hot

Cause Christ has won my heart

I can’t sit there and glory in the violence on that screen

And even though I used to justify by saying I never hurt anyone

I was being entertained by the very thing

God choose to destroy the world for in Genesis 6

He said the earth was corrupt and filled with violence

So the only reason I wasn’t destroyed

Was God’s kindness

You see you helped me build a tower like you did with Nimrod

But I’m tearing it down for my God

By the way I’m clearing out my ipod

I’m giving you back all your music

Couldn’t see it before

This tool you were using

Different song

Different score

Brought the same conclusion

All about lust, money, self and sex

Yet those things are the reason Christ was out to death

Who you using next

Chris Brown, T-pain, souljah boy, ne-yo, Beyonce or Game?

Every artist motivation is the same

To take my heart away from the reason Christ came

I could say I’m saved all the while exalting men

Not a fanatic for Christ cause I’m a TI fan

No-one no-one, not even Alicia keys supersedes the reason Christ bleeds

No-one no-one has even ever heard Alicia sing about why Christ is grieved

And I thought her music was positive

But when I look into the word, Christ and Alicia are opposites

Christ is on my mind

So you won’t see me bobbing it

Because He’s all I need

He is all I need

Cause all that music was to glorify me

Yet the reason Christ came was to mortify me

To crucify my flesh

Not to be the Christian in Christian-Dior up in the video with Kanye West

Now I see

How he’s saying he’s Christian yet he’s exalting women, sex, and greed

And I said I was just listening to the beats

You had me so blind to the content

I was so deceived

Didn’t realized Satan disguised as I was hitting repeat

At the same time they were pushing repeat when my savior was beat

Pierced in His wrist and feet

To take away these worldly lusts these songs stir within me

So I confess

I’m no longer impressed with you whack lines

You’ll give me all your kingdoms if I bow and worship at your shrine

And I used to

But now I’m adopted into the vine

So every lie you told me

Like you being my homie

That I could rep Christ as long as we kicked it on the low key

I’m done with you and all the excuses you gave

Like living holy is a long process

But the truth is, you didn’t want me to change

I used to be a daughter of lies

You used to be my master

But now I’m at the feet of Christ with me box of alabaster

Because He redeemed me, set me free

And I will spend my time, all of eternity

Learning Him

Wiping His feet with my tears

Oh well, there will be no tears in heaven

But I will sit and give Him reverence

Because I know I’m undeserving of His love

See I’m now covered in the blood of the Son

So in case you forgot

I’m writing this letter to inform you that our relationship is officially done,

You just lost one!