The Ark Encounter

A guest post by Don McChesney. 

In a seminal treatise, Notes Toward the Definition of Culture, TS Eliot observes, “’The term culture … includes all the characteristic activities and interests of a people; Derby Day, Henley Regatta, Cowes,… the dart board, Wensleydale cheese, boiled cabbage cut into sections, beetroot in vinegar, 19th-century Gothic churches and the music of Elgar. The reader can make his own list …” And a fellow named Ken Ham did make his own list that included a life size reproduction of Noah’s Ark. Here we have conspicuous example of what makes America great: that no matter how outlandish the dream, the only question that matters is, “Can you do it?” And they did. So on Friday, July 8th, 2017, we loaded up the minivan and went to the Ken Ham, Answers in Genesis, Ark Encounter, in Grant County, Kentucky.

For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. Genesis 6:17-18

Scale

The thing is huge: 510 feet long, 85 feet wide, 51 feet high, weighing in around 8000 tons, or similar in size to an Arleigh Burk- class destroyer. Three public decks pack in movie theaters, exhibits, explanations, history, and food. Air conditioning and Pepsi products keep you cool (no Coke ☹). From arrival in the parking lot to departure, plan 3 hours for your self-guided tour. It could be done in 2 hours if necessary and those wanting a close inspection of every exhibit will want 4.

Genesis chapter 6 specifies the dimensions to which Noah is to build the ark. However, the “cubit” is a unit of measure no longer current. Therefore, an early task in construction of Ark Encounter was to determine the proper length of a cubit. It turns out there were several different cubits in use back in the day and the final analysis can be seen here. The parking lot is fair dinkum far from the Ark so bus transportation is provided.

Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark 300 cubits, its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits. Genesis 6:14-15

Quality

The thing is beautiful inside and out (not surprising given a production cost of over 100 million dollars). Animal sounds and exotic music follow you throughout the experience. Production values are more or less at the level of a Disney theme park. The only apparent inconsistency in construction is the obvious usage of metal fasteners where Noah almost certainly would’ve used wood (building codes required steel). Exposed hull ribs and tree-trunk vertical timbers lend authenticity and beauty. The only thing missing (from the Disney veteran’s point of view) is a more liberal use of animatronics.

Uniformly beautiful and thoughtful exhibits display bright colors, interesting ideas, and creative video visualizations and explanations. Countless animal exhibits include interesting solutions to the problems of housing so many animals such as food and water provision, waste removal, air exchange, and the need for light. Living quarters, complete with kitchen and foodstuffs, demonstrate what life might’ve been like for Noah and the fam. There is both a small live-animal exhibit for the kids and a small Museum of the Bible exhibit for the adults. Gorgeous. Inside and out.

Young Earth Creationism

Of course, no review of Ark Encounter could be complete without discussion of the major controversy facing the project: the young earth creationism of Ken Ham and the Answers in Genesis organization. Yes, it is true, dinosaurs in cages on the Ark! In one small, but remarkable exhibit early in the tour, we see a colorful, pre-flood coliseum of sorts, where normal people are attacked by a giant-looking human on one side and a dinosaur on the other for the amusement of spectators. Now, full disclosure: I am a Bible-believing Christian, who is, in CS Lewis’ words, a “thorough-going supernaturalist” and someone with a lot of skepticism about the explanatory power of the theory of evolution. But I am not a Ken Ham young earth creationist. Some Christians agree with young earth creationism and some don’t. Certainly, it would seem almost all skeptics would vehemently disagree. So what to do? Is it a visit deal-breaker for someone who believes in an old earth? I hope not.

I hope that the believer in an old earth will still visit Ark Encounter, first, for the spectacle of the thing, which is undoubtedly spectacular, second, for the possibility of exploring a story that arises in many civilizations outside the Judeo-Christian influence, and third, to appreciate the fact that there are people in the world who don’t think like they do. Non-Catholics tour the Vatican all the time and thinking Christians read Thus Spake Zarathustra.

My own view is that since at least the Scopes Monkey Trial, Darwin and his theory have been the primary flash-point between Christians and the broader culture. With an obviously evangelical purpose to Ark Encounter in view (more on that in a moment), it would seem to me that it might not be advisable to be so heavy-handed about the age of the earth. Unfortunately, the effect of the whole thing is to pick a fight over science that will prevent, for many skeptics I fear, consideration of the bigger issue at hand: a God in Heaven who cares about His creation.

 And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. Genesis 6:19

Evangelism

Ark Encounter is replete with evangelism and apologetics. Numerous displays highlight theism in general, Christianity in particular, and the reliability of the Bible. An extended, story-boarded comic-strip toward the end of the tour presents a case-study of life with and without God, finishing with a basket of gospel message tracts. The vast majority of the evangelism of Ark Encounter is artful, tasteful, and effective. However, there are a couple of exceptions.

In two movie theaters located in the stern on decks two and three, short films produced by Answers in Genesis lend in one case, a closer look at the life of Noah and in another, a skeptic’s view of Ark Encounter as a project. In both cases, the films suffer from the same maladies afflicting much of contemporary Christian filmmaking: Christians are invariably persecuted and skeptics invariably get saved. Worthwhile ideas motivate both films, but execution is lacking.

 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Genesis 9:12-13

Overall

In the end, I give Ark Encounter five stars out of five. Why? For its contribution to Eliot’s definition of culture. It offers visitors of all stripes the opportunity to think, engage in conversation, and talk to their children. Christians should visit in order to enjoy the scale, quality, and thought that went into an impressive representation of a larger than life story. And skeptics ought to visit – not to ridicule that with which they don’t agree, but rather to gain some understanding of a section of American culture with which they might not be familiar. Mortimer Adler would be horrified at the state of the great conversation in our day. We talk at each other but not to each other. We construct echo chambers around ourselves to interdict disparate opinion. We think we have nothing to learn. But TS Eliot would suggest to us that our worlds are greater, not lesser, and richer, not poorer, as we broaden our definition of and appreciation of a widely diverse and thus exceedingly abundant common culture. That, to me, is why Ark Encounter matters. It’s three hours of larger than life, thought-provoking pageant that could restart an important conversation – the one where we listen to each other. You should go!

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Brockway in June.

I came here to study. But this post is overdue, and my soul needs it.

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Friends, how do we live in light of eternity without raising a facade? Look me in the eye and say there is no one in your life who the thought of seeing causes your blood to chill a bit and nerves to suddenly grow tighter, and I will call you a liar. However, we are called to “live at peace with all people,” to remember that we “have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God.” But what does the reality of this look like?

Pursue peace with everyone, and holinesst — without it no one will see the Lord.Make surethat no one falls short of the grace of God and that no root of bitterness springs up, causing trouble and by it, defiling many.
Hebrews 12:14-15

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Recently a dear friend challenged me on my thought-priorities; on the level of mental space I was giving to someone. She called out its disproportion when compared with God’s room inside my mind. From there began my futile attempts to figure out how one maintains feeling and keeps fighting for truth, without slipping into a form of battle-idolatry. Having grown up in the trenches of ministry, this is my lifelong struggle. All too often I will seamlessly switch the spotlight from Jesus to the job at hand.

And make sure that there isn’t any immoral or irreverentwperson like Esau, who sold his birthright in exchange for one mealFor you know that later, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected because he didn’t find any opportunity for repentance, though he sought it with tears.
Hebrews 12:16-17

Any war strategist will tell you the dangers of this. You become either blood-weary, overly nearsighted, and hopeless, or blood hungry, farsighted to a fault, and arrogant. You have to keep the great cause in mind, and our Cause, our driving Force, the Reason behind all we do, must be Christ alone.

For you have not come to what could be touched, to a blazing fire, to darkness, gloom, andstorm, to the blast of a trumpet, and the sound of words. (Those who heard it begged that notanother word be spoken to them, for they could not bear what was commanded: And if even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stonedThe appearance was so terrifying that Moses said, I am terrified and trembling) 
Hebrews 12:18-21

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In light of Christ and His goodness, strife with anything on this earth is just a bit of dust on my Birkenstocks. When I was praying for peace, I should have been asking the Lord to wreck them with His love- and renew my comfort in His love. While I was trying to “play nice,” I should have been asking Him to give me His heart for them. As worry fought to overtake me, and I begged for courage, the plea ought to have been that I might see the issue for how small it truly is. Eternity is going to be so much more beautiful than anything we can imagine. Any question I fear accompanying me to the grave will be answered completely on the other side. Why? Because He is good. That is the only foundation secure enough to carry all the drama of life, and somehow fashion it back into the glorious adventure it is intended to be. Remembering this is the only way I have found to be both authentic and responsive, without allowing the continual warfare to consume me.

Instead, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God (the heavenly Jerusalem), to myriads of angels in festive gatheringto the assembly of the firstborn whose names have been writtenae in heaven, to God who is the Judge of all, to the spirits of righteous people made perfectto Jesus (mediatorag of a new covenant), and to the sprinkled blood, which says better things than the blood of Abel.
Hebrews 12:22-24

Written on the Subway Walls.

I had a dream the other day that I was on a riverbank with Him. Sins were patches on my sleeve sewn with black thread. Sitting beside me, He began tearing at the patches, only to find the seam had woven its way into my skin, hunting for my bloodstream. IMG_1790.JPG

Tears filled His eyes as my own dull means of sight grew watery from the pain of His knife. I was silent. There was nothing I could say – this clearly hurt Him more than me. Having removed the patch, He worked His pruning blade through my flesh until only fragments of the former parasitical cord remained.

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“They will grow into new burs,” He warned me, “and this operation will be needed again, but you will be stronger for the fresh oxygen which now can reach your veins.”

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All we could long for lies in the hands of surrender. Maybe not every answer will be explained immediately. But He is good. New doors are opening before me, and with each door comes questions and fears filling my mouth with bitterness. I feel it as it rushes from my lips in the form of self-pity, pungent as the Kolkata sewers. But He is good. Self-pity only has room when surrender is absent. If my life is truly surrendered to Him, it will uproot those burs. When their weeds rise again then, forming their way into black threads becoming another patch of sin on the arm meant to bear the seal of His love, it’s proof that something is dwelling outside the realm of surrender. Even as I write this, self-pity is fighting to worm its way in, proving there is an element of me that doesn’t trust God to use this. But He is good. And He has promised to use those who make themselves available to Him, no matter how broken we are. So I write. And I sit on the riverbank and allow Him to rip each black cord from my dying skin. Because He is good.

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“Yet I am always with You; You hold my right hand. You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will take me up into glory.” – Psalm 73:23-24 

Until next time,

XOXO

Seasick.

More times than I can recall in this past week I have abruptly changed subjects from depth to superficialities, and I’m ashamed to admit it. With oceans raging inside my own brain, any drop of water outside felt forceful enough to drown me. This morning the Lord confronted me with the simple truth that until I unloaded on Him, it would always feel that way. Salt was drying out my skin and coating my tongue till it was all I could taste. Thinking it was a way of moving on, that it would help me forgive because I wouldn’t be as focused on it, I had stopped bringing it to Him. Instead, it remained in the forefront, growing ever larger and darker outside the light of His power.

“Search for the Lord and for His strength; seek His face always.” – 1 Chronicles 16:11 


How often do we do this? We fill our minds and conversations with fluff to cover the jagged rocks our waves of consciousness don’t dare confront. Meanwhile He’s standing in the depths, longing to teach us to walk on water. It started out as a joke between friends, but the continual punch line of “Our God is an awesome God” inserted after any frustrating event or act of clumsiness has become a sweet reminder that Yaweh remains stalwart in the midst of what we’re facing; He is good in the midst of the storm.

“Though a thousand fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand, the pestilence will not reach you.” – Psalm 91:7 

This storm is wilder than any I’ve yet sailed. Looking out my window all I see is surging black tides threatening to wreck this young ship. The scent of fish ravaged by the tempest assault my senses, auguring their fate upon me. I am not much stronger than they. Seasick, I return to my bunk. Maybe I can sleep, and when I come around it will all be over. The clap of thunder wakes me from this dream. He’s teaching me to handle things I never thought I would face.

“Now to Him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless and with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now and forever.” – Jude 24-25 

The irony of it all is that, for both my husband and myself, this is the most amazing season either of us can remember. For the majority of the day we dance to the ebb and flow of the flood. When the water rises, knocking us to our knees, it is sent to strengthen these tired muscles, to train these bones from the art of running away. This is the life we were called to, and in the midst of these gales it has proven to be more fulfilling than either of us could have imagined. 

“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act, making your righteousness shine like the dawn, your justice like the noonday.” – Psalm 37:5-6 

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Our God is an awesome God.

 

 

Ataxic Kiss.

As the music plays, I let the words wash over me like wet concrete strengthening these broken bones. I keep the playlist on because after replaying it somewhere near a hundred times (if not more) over the past four years, it’s become mindless, yet continues to say everything I can’t right now. Sometimes emotions and thoughts run so deep inside your bloodstream that vocalizing it is an impossibility, and yet their lyrics belt it out with such eloquence that I can through them gain the necessary relief. The sound of the synth helps me order my thoughts just enough to gather the week’s notes and write this post.

The mess means He’s rebuilding. In the midst of this war zone coated in blood and dust don’t let yourself become a shadow. The enemy seeks to break you through whichever method he can find. Yahweh has me in a place right now of simply watching Him fight for me from inside the hospital tent. Because of this pain of healing there are pieces of me considering the old apathy. Then, I could turn on emotion like a switch. All it took was a few drinks. They tasted like the poison they were, but they made me feel everything that was bottled up tight. But I was a shadow of a person then. After a while I began to feel the emptiness. And when He knew it was time, He restored me. Now I sit in the midst of a beauty so vibrant it’s overwhelming. This time I’m not giving up. If it takes forever, I’ll be screaming “hallelujah.”


But where will I be standing when He returns from fighting for me? Choosing apathy would be to kiss the enemy. Some things I’ll never know, and I had to let them go. But I know He’s working, and is at the door even now. Will He find me screaming “hallelujah” or with my tongue in the enemy’s mouth? His tent seems so clean, but the chaos is only hiding down below. I’d rather face the wreckage with the King holding on to me than be swallowed by it, and thus turn rancid myself. For such is the end result of all those little sins we acquiesce. I’d rather face the mess than become ataxic.


Do you hear the footsteps? The King is waiting outside the tent.

 

When I Sat down to Write, This is All That Came.

I have nothing to write today. The only note written throughout the past two weeks is the concrete reminder that without Him, I am nothing but a broken well of bitter gall. This post is a testament to that.

“He who calls you is faithful, who will also do it.”
– 1 Thessalonians 5:24 –

“This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
– Romans 5:5 –

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I was challenged by my devotional this morning to truly ponder why I have hope during different times of my life. At the moment, I am in a place where unanswered questions serve as a brutal alarm clock ringing like cymbals in my ears each morning. Daily the same queries are brought before the Lord, ones of “why,” and “when,” and “for how long, oh God?” I am so grateful He is a Father who doesn’t get frustrated with my unending need to be reminded! Today the answer was the verses above. He will take care of it. He is working on it. He will solve that which is beyond my human scope of ability.

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“The Lord guards the inexperienced; I was helpless, and He saved me.”
– Psalm 116:6 –

So I swallow my pride and I wait. With each breath I force these electric bones to be still. At twenty years old, I am growing increasingly cognoscente of my own inexperience. Things like overcooked pasta-mush for dinner faithfully remind me of this. But He promises to guard me, so I lean on that. That is the reason for the hope I have: I am capable of nothing, and so He carries me.

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I am nothing but a contentious woman seeking fame without Him. When laid at His feet, though, He takes this bumbling mess of a ragamuffin into His arms and continues on with His purpose. My questions don’t weary Him, however repetitive. My bare feet blackened from walking in the dirt and even my constant coffee breath are nothing to Him. All He sees is the creature He fashioned for His Kingdom’s glory. There is nothing left to prove.

“Arise, my darling. Come away, my beautiful one. For now the winter is past; the rain has ended and gone away. The blossoms appear in the countryside. The time of singing has come, and the turtledove’s cooing is heard in our land.”
 Song of Solomon 2:11 -12 –

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Until next time,

XOXO

Becoming Beacons

Often, I find myself craving the days when all the Christians around us knew their faith could cost their life. Many were already forced out of their homes into shacks along the feces-filled grey-watered Ganges river, forced into the lowest rungs of society and unable to move up because their beliefs were discovered by their neighbors. They had a fire to them, they were willing to do anything for Christ. Cross the Pacific, and here we are debating whether Sunday morning worship is worth trading the extra hours of slumber and pancakes for, as we pour over Instagram stories, strive after appearances, aesthetics, and vibes. As if any of it mattered… Yet I’m one of them. We idolize this life more than we realize in the West.

Meanwhile, wisdom cries out in the streets…

“Wisdom calls out in the street; she raises her voice in the public squares. She cries out above the commotion; she speaks at the entrance of the city gates.”
– Proverbs 1:20-21 –

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
– Proverbs 9:10 –

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As a generation, we millennials speak as though we want wisdom, yet as a church, we fail to do those things which she calls for. We choose bagels in the cafe over sitting in service, or to watch service from the comfort of our cozy couches, coffee in hand and fuzzy socks on, over truly attending and fellowshipping. With that, we think we’re good.

“So, whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall.”
– 1 Corinthians 10:12 –

Please hear, I am one of them. Without fail, each Sunday morning as my husband gets ready for church, I have an extended debate with myself regarding if I want to go or stay home. “I could take an Uber to the 12:30 service,” I argue, telling myself I don’t really need to be there for the first two; I could do homework instead. Now, for some, this is true. They will actually get homework done, and truly have no reason to be there for the other two services my church offers. For some, this is actually the wiser, more responsible choice. Not for me, though, and I know that. I know that if I stay home, I’ll sleep until it’s time to come in for third, if I even make it for that. Chances are I’ll come in just in time to honor the commitment I’ve made which takes place each week after all the services have ended. So I pull myself out of bed, slap on some makeup and clothes in the dark, and stumble into the passenger seat of my husband’s car counting the minutes until I have a coffee in my hand.

This all has to do with the comfort factor, though. What about the cost? What I witnessed in India was just the upper crust of the surface of what goes on there, much less places like Sudan or Afghanistan. The other day, the Lord slapped me across the face with a truth I had never considered. I was spared so much- this I’ve always known. However, I never considered what it cost Him. Without diminishing the reality of what it was, I don’t only mean the Cross here. I mean the spiritual battles afterward, throughout the past twenty years of my life, and even before. The continual battles, because time is different for Him, even if I can’t fully comprehend how or what that means with my human brain. Flooded into my mind like a waterfall of flames were blood-red images of Him fighting brutally on His white horse, amidst the odious smog of sin and death; fighting Lady Babylon (Revelation 17:3-6) to shield me from her immorality, the destruction she brings, and the end she comes to. I saw the beads of sweat on His forehead, the anger in His eyes.

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If I daily saw the war going on for His church, His bride, how would I fight differently? This isn’t about legalism, this is about engaging fully in the purpose for which we were created. I’m not saying that purpose is sitting in a pew on Sunday morning, either; but rather that the fellowship and strength and respite that offers, that of sitting in community at His feet, is what prepares us for the battle we have been called to.

“Furthermore, if you call out to insight and lift your voice to understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it like hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.”
– Proverbs 2:3-6 –

“Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.”
– Philippians 3:13-14 –

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It’s not about whether or not we’re in church. It’s not about going through the motions. It’s about how much we’re willing to sacrifice for the call He has placed on our lives. Slowly I’ve been coming to the conclusion that when there’s so little we have to give up in this free country for the title of “Christian,” it’s imperative we then, even if only as an exercise, give up things as love offerings for the sake of honoring Him. Things like Sunday mornings at home to be instead at church, at His feet. Not because He needs it from us, but because we do. In these tiny acts of trading comfort for clout, we allow ourselves to be strengthened by Him into the warrior Bride He has called us to be. We grow into beacons burning bright in this world doomed for darkness.

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Until next time,

XOXO

We Are the Good-For-Nothings.

“Then the Lord spoke to Moses: ‘Tell the Israelites to turn back and camp in front of Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea; you must camp in front of Baal-zephon, facing it by the sea. Pharaoh will say of the Israelites: They are wandering around the land in confusion; the wilderness has boxed them in. I will harden Pharaoh’s heart so that he will pursue them. Then I will receive glory by means of Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am Yaweh.’ So the Israelites did this.”
– Exodus 14:1-4 – 

We had just all gone out for Starbucks, and I had finally revealed to my friends that there was a boy, and I might be in love with him. As their slightly amused faces gazed back at me, seeing as how I was always the girl who thought every crush was her future husband, I shared with them the Spark-Notes version of our story and that we were currently fasting to see if this was the Lord’s will. After finishing our coffees, we went together to Calvary Plantation for the Wednesday night service, and the study was based around this verse. My stomach so filled my lungs there was no space for oxygen to pass through. First one sister grabbed my arm, then the other. The one thing holding me back from pursuing this guy was YWAM on the horizon. I felt I was caught between the two, between Migdol and the sea. Beads of sweat forming on my forehead, the Lord told me He was going to part the Red Sea, and I was to continue talking to him, and everyone would know it was an act only of Yaweh.

When I came back from YWAM, it was like walking into a desert storm. Everything was changing and had changed in those six months I was away, and because of the effect the illness in India had on my hormones, I felt trapped inside my own body. A voice would be hurling insults at the man I loved, but it didn’t feel like my own. I was just as outraged as he at this voice hurling insults like bullets towards him, but it was coming from my lips and I didn’t know how to stop it. Daily I would return to this verse, begging for the reassurance that He would carry us through to the Promised Land. After seeing a hormone specialist to get my body back to normal and working through the fears hiding behind the outbursts, I began to see the trees in the distance, and know they weren’t the mirage I had so often envisioned.

We’re walking through life in our Promised Land now, and each step is a testimony to God’s grace.

“But Moses said to the people, ‘Don’t be afraid. Stand firm and see the Lord’s salvation He will provide for you today; for the Egyptians you see today, you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you must be quiet.'”
– Exodus 14:13-14 –


With all the disapprovals and continual concerns regarding at a nineteen year old girl marrying a twenty two year old rocker she met on a phone call being voiced, not always so lovingly, the last part of that verse was something I had to learn over and over again, as much as I understood where they were coming from. Now I can say with confidence that the concerns of those who matter were quieted, and the curious commentators have at least grown silent. But issues always arise. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. Through it all, I have to remember that I’ve no stones to throw. The courtship between Jonny and I is simply one example, but as I prayed over this blog post what I felt the Lord most pressing on my heart to share is that He who promised is faithful. When we’re caught between Migdol and the sea, that is when He will part the waters for us just to use the same waves to crush the Egyptians.

“He said to His disciples, ‘Offenses will certainly come, but woe to the one they come through! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to stumble.'”
– Luke 17: 1-2 –

“Whoever tries to make his life secure will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.”
– Luke 17:33 –


We cannot waste our time worrying about where the next attack will come from. Time is running out, and we have a job to do. Sometimes choosing heaven over earth as a priority will reek like sweat and blood, and sometimes it will be as serene and comforting as eucalyptus’s ever-potent perfume. Fighting is never pretty, but the joy and glory of reaching Home is worth it. With the passion of Odysseus, we are called to wage war on this world’s brokenness for the sake of saving all we can for love. One day the brutalities we’ve felt here will be just a distant memory, like the days I spent in a fever-dream longing to be back safe with Jonny.

“But thanks be to God, who always puts us on display in Christ and through us spreads the aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For to God we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To some we are an aroma of death leading to death, but to others, an aroma of life leading to life. And who is competent for this? For we are not like the many who market God’s message for profit. On the contrary, we speak with sincerity in Christ, as from God and before God.”
– 2 Corinthians 2:14-17 – 

“In the same way, when you have done all that you were commanded, you should say, ‘We are good-for-nothing slaves; we’ve only done our duty.”
– Luke 17:10 –


Until next time,

XOXO

Remembering in the Light.

“Your soul finds rest in Me alone.” After pouring out my soul to the Lord this morning on everything I was thinking and feeling, from friendships to constipation, these words refilled me.

“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
– Matthew 11:28 –

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He doesn’t say rest for your back in this verse. The work on this earth will never fully stop. He’s referring, I firmly believe, to rest for the soul. When I first realized this, spoken by my surrogate uncle and high school math teacher, I almost wept. At this point in my life, my back was sore, my spirit near breaking. Perhaps it was already cracking. Death was at every corner, to the point that each time my mother got a phone call the first response in my mind was “Who now have we lost?” Coupled with this was the natural senior year stresses and the weight of being a ministry kid, which began to feel a heavier and heavier burden as I grew more and more aware of it and the difference between my life and those of my classmates’. When I heard these words, then, I was done, and I knew the load on my back was nowhere near letting up. But now, spoken from the voice of one outside the situation, someone I loved dearly, looked up to, and knew I could trust wholeheartedly, I had the assurance that in the midst of this chaos there would be rest.

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Fast forward a few years, and that storm is a mere memory and testimony. Whenever I read that verse now, I hear it in Uncle Don’s voice in an 8:00 AM math class, but now pertaining to less back-breaking worries. With it I sense His whisper:

“I will take care of the one you are praying for.”
“I created time- don’t you think I can stop it long enough for you to be with Me this morning?”
“Have I ever not taken care of one of your needs?”

Our peace ought never be in the circumstance around us, but only in who He is.

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“The God of old is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He drives out the enemy before you and commands, ‘Destroy!'”
– Deuteronomy 33:27 –

In this season of simplicity, painful memories remember to arise. Our minds are often so brutal to wander exactly where we wish they wouldn’t when we forget to purposefully occupy them elsewhere. But that is when He commands, “Destroy!”

“He lets me lie down beside green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.”
– Psalm 23:2 –

“I am at rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him.”
– Psalm 62:1 –

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Before, and in the beginning of, that awful storm I often refer to on here, I would tend to invalidate my own feelings because my situation was still so much better than those of the ones my parents would counsel. In the middle of the season, I realized that no, mine are just as valid. A broken heart is a broken heart, whether it was a twig or a sledgehammer that broke it. However, now that I’m past that season, I’ll catch myself being so relaxed in this time of rest that I will forget to bring my little cares to the Lord and watch as He deals with them. Instead they pile inside, only to spew out all over Jonny at one wrong word, and I miss the blessing of watching my God work. This morning, I finally let the ink flow with every care, no matter how petty they feel. Within fifteen minutes, He met one of the requests. My challenge to you then, dear reader, is to remember in the light what you learned in the dark. The lesson which was total openness and dependance on the Lord for me is likely something different for you. Hold onto it, remember it. And should you still be in the midst of your storm, take heart. Rest is waiting for your soul to take hold of.

“But let all who take refuge in You rejoice; let them shout for joy forever. May You shelter them, and may those who love Your name boast about You. For You, Lord, bless the righteous one; You surround him with favor like a shield.”
– Psalm 5:11-12 –

Adjusting to a Life of Simplicity.

I’ve begun to realize I have been so focused on running the race that I have lost sight of the destination. Now He has me in a season of simply being; no more running, no more time-crunching, simply being. Days spent altering clothes, doing dishes, running simple errands. In this I’m sort of rediscovering Serenity, this time as a wife.
 

“He brought me out to a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me.” – Psalm 18:19 –


For years I have subconsciously believed that if I wasn’t so busy it was almost overwhelming (or completely overwhelming), I was unproductive. I had to be performing as a good Christian- namely, a good pastor’s daughter- 24/7 or I felt I was becoming a sluggard. While asserting that it’s not about how much we serve, but rather our hearts, I lived as though that wasn’t the case. 


I wonder for how many ministry kids this is the case, ever trying to live lives bigger and brighter than the pedastal we tend to be put on, or choosing instead to run in the exact opposite direction. 

Either way, lately in my life He has been slowly drawing me back to the beginning. Verses about “forgetting your first love” showing up repeatedly in my quiet time had me praying “Thank You so much, Jesus, that that isn’t me.” After the seventh time it showed up in two months, He hit me over the head with it, and it smelled like the crushed roses it was. “Stop. This is you. You watch the women down in Oasis from your sound booth thinking of who you’re going to pray with, who you’re going to talk to, how to better be that good little Christian girl; you sign up for altar team because you’re so loving and sweet and evangelistic, but you’ve lost sight on the Garden because you’re too busy working to get back there.” 

I resigned from the altar team. 


“Be still and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10 –

It’s not that these pursuits aren’t worthwhile. It’s that the motives weren’t always in check. Altar team was to fill my time, get back to this place of running I’m so comfortable in so I can be just frazzled enough to feel like Wonder Woman in a winning battle. 


But that’s not where He wants me right now. He wants me focusing on school, even when it’s easy. He wants me taking care of the house, even when it leaves me with more extra time on my hands than I’m used to. The habits I set now, when it’s easy, are what will carry me through when busyness returns. 


Even as I write this I’m aware of how often I’ve mentioned this before, that of “returning to the Garden.” It’s a perpetual lesson for me. But I’m so grateful He’s a patient teacher, who will bring me back to the place of crystal rivers and dancing trees where I first met Him.