Arraigadas: MV ’20

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March 13 and 14, 2020. Over 6000 women. As the world was literally shutting down all around us, societies were panicking, and toilet paper was becoming America’s most prized possession, the name of God was being praised and lifted high in a convention center in Monterrey, Mexico. It was such a weird time to be gathered. Here we were welcoming thousands of women from 29 countries as we read headlines of borders closing and social gatherings being banned back home. It all happened so fast and things were changing every time we looked at our phones. There were lots of conversations about who would be able to get home or who would not, who should change their flights and who was probably ok, who took three hours to get through customs and who breezed through with no problem. Our heads were spinning and at times, honestly, it was difficult to focus on the reason we were there.

Then Friday morning, someone posted a picture on our WhatsApp thread of ladies who had been lined up outside the convention center since 4:30 am, and suddenly, my focus slammed right back where it needed to be. These women had come, at great personal expense, because they were hungry. They were desperate to meet with the Lord. They were so eager to hear from His Word and worship Him that they were braving the chaos and unknown to keep this scheduled appointment with Him.

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When the doors finally opened, and the ladies started rushing in, waving flags from their countries and racing to get seats up front, at first we laughed with them in their excitement, but then the tears started to come. I was overcome at all the Lord had done to get them, and me, to that spot at that moment. Those first songs, hearing the name of the God of all the nations being praised in a language that is mostly foreign to me, hearing all the represented countries called out, seeing those white hankies of surrender being waved in the air, seeing hands lifted high all over the room and tears running down cheeks as Christ was worshipped in prayer–I will never forget those moments. My heart felt like it was overflowing and would burst. I felt so very very small, and it felt so right to feel that way.

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Too often, we in America can start to subconsciously think of the church in American hues. We picture people who look like us, songs that sound like ours, and definitely words that we can understand. I’d like to think that I’m not guilty of that, but I’m sure it creeps in subtly when I’m unaware. This conference was a wonderful opportunity to take off my star-spangled blinders and have a front row seat to another corner of the global church. Hearing the songs in Spanish, some to tunes I recognized and some to tunes I didn’t, and seeing the lyrics on the screen and not knowing all that they said, caused tears of joy to fill my eyes and a lump to fill my throat until I couldn’t have sung even if I had known what I was singing. Love is the only word I can grasp to even begin to describe it. Love for the God who created us all so gloriously different and yet still all bearing His image. Love for the Savior who knocked down all the barriers between cultures and who offers family and kinship to all races and languages. And love for my sisters (and a few brothers) in Christ who were just like me in the way that matters most.

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The speakers at MV 20 were Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, Mary Kassian, Dannah Gresh, Damaris Carbaugh, and Pastor Sujel Michelen. Because of my serving responsibilities, I wasn’t able to hear every session, but the ones I did get to hear were a balm for my soul. Nancy, Mary, and Dannah are English-speakers, so they had a translator on the stage translating line by line, and of course, that meant we were able to understand them, too. Damaris and Pastor Sujel spoke Spanish, and there were headsets available for the English-speakers to hear an English translation as they spoke. I wish that Pastor Sujel’s message from Saturday morning was available in English for me to listen to again and again. The translator summed it up well when he couldn’t help but say, “Man, he really brought it today!” as he wrapped up his translation for us. He reminded us of who we are in Christ and what is true about our past, present, and future because of Christ. But every message was timely and extremely Word-centered. The impact of Nancy’s message on being rooted in trials was magnified by the fact that she shared with us the hard news of her husband’s melanoma diagnosis, received only earlier that week. Mary’s message of what it means to be a woman beautifully designed by God was especially timely because of all the feminist protests, marches, and riots experienced throughout Mexico earlier that week to commemorate International Women’s Day and to cry out against patriarchy. I firmly believe that timing “coincidence” is at least one reason God held off the virus shutdown in Mexico long enough for this conference to take place. The message of hatred and violence was not the last one to be spread through Latin America. By His grace, over 6000 women got to go home with the truth ringing in their ears instead of hollow, empty lies disguised as answers. I still shiver to think about the video footage we saw of the riots, and how God allowed His truth to go forth immediately after them.

The conference ended with possibly the most chaotic moments of all: the book signings. These ladies were bound and determined to have a minute or two with the speakers they love so much. There was talk of cancelling the signings amidst all the virus precautions, but they decided to go ahead. They met ladies and signed books for hours. Ladies were lined up in what looked like chaos but was actually fairly organized, filling the lobby of the convention center, and in Nancy’s line, outside the building and wrapping around the entryway. Most of them were patient and polite and careful to not be selfish with the time when it was their turn, but we quickly saw that a bit more security was needed to stop the breaches at the front of the line, so they recruited the only people crazy enough for the job. It felt a bit like playing Red Rover and trying to keep the other team from breaching our line.

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And of course, we built in some time in the days before and after the actual conference to play when we weren’t needed to unload about a hundred boxes of tote bags. Monterrey has a beautiful city park that backs up to the convention center and hotel and extends to the downtown district. I hadn’t been in the country 8 hours before we decided to take a walk through the park. I was admiring the mountains in the distance and the beautiful lights in the trees around the canal and then suddenly the next thing I knew I was harnessed up to a zip line and soaring into the jungle. I never knew I would cave to peer pressure so easily. It all happened very quickly. After that, I pretty much just said yes to whatever was suggested, but that was the most adventurous  moment until the bone marrow was served–in the bone–with my tacos on Sunday. And yes, I tried a bit of that, too. If I have to choose one of the two to try a second time, go on and harness me up to the zipline. My Latina friends can have my portion of the marrow.

 

 

On Sunday, after the conference was over, the crowds were headed home, and our flights still a day away, we took a boat ride to the other end of the canal and saw a section of the city besides just the convention center, hotel, and park. It was a fun day to relax, rest, experience a little more of the culture, and try not to worry about what madness might await us at the airports or home the next day.

 

 

When I left my house at 1:30 am on Tuesday, March 10 to head for Nashville to get on a plane, I could never have foreseen that upon my arrival home just six days later, I would enter an America that was far different from the one I had left. Here I sit, typing these words a full two weeks after arriving home, and the friends I was with in Mexico are still the last people I have seen and had full conversations with in person that I know personally. They are the last people I have hugged besides the people I live with. I came home to a country and a state that had screeched to a halt. So that fact makes these memories all the sweeter. We started to realize while we were there that we would be going home to literally stay in our houses, and I think we cherished each moment with friends and freedom to be out even more. And if I had known ahead of time, and were given a chance to handpick the ones with whom I wanted to spend the last few days of my social life before going into the life of a hermit, I don’t think I would have changed a thing. I will cherish the days and conversations and tears shared with these ladies in this city at this weird time in history for the rest of my life.

 

 

And then when I did come home, it was to the sweetest welcoming committee I could have imagined. I loved my time with my friends in Mexico so much, but nothing can replace this crew. I am so grateful for all that the Lord has done and all that He has given me. And most of all, I am grateful to be Arraigada (Rooted) in Him.

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Journey through John: The light

When I read through the book of John as a whole, the word “light” jumped off the page time and again. Over and over throughout the book, light is referenced.

John 1:4-5 says, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” This immediately brought to mind Isaiah 9:2: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.”

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Image by Andreas Lischka from Pixabay

Just as there are several references to light in John, there are also several references to light in Isaiah. The prophet repeatedly spoke of the Light that was to come–the light of the sun that will equal the light of seven days when the Lord binds up the brokenness of his people and heals their wounds (30:26), a light for the nations (42:6), the Lord promises to turn darkness into light (42:16), his justice will be a light for the peoples (51:4), and the glory of the Lord will arise on the darkness and draw all nations (60:1-3). These are only some of Isaiah’s light references. John surely had these in mind when he also kept using language of light.

Jesus is the Light of the World. He is a piercing, agonizing, unbearable light to those who love the darkness. But He is the light of life and freedom and glory to those who are called by His name.

Think about the light as we experience it:

Light is safety and security to those who are afraid of the dark. You have to brave a dark, creepy, or unknown room? What do you do first? Turn on a light.

Light brings healing and wholeness to that which festers in darkness. Have a private hurt from long ago that just won’t leave you alone, or a secret sin that continues to plague you no matter how hard you try to stop? Tell someone. Get it into the light. Healing and wholeness and freedom will follow.

Light brings clarity to that which has been shadowed. Have you ever been outside wearing sunglasses on a bright sunny day? You get accustomed to seeing everything through your darkened lenses and it can start to seem real. At the pool the other day, that was the case for me. Suddenly, one of my kids said, “Wow! It’s going to storm!” I peeked over my sunglasses and realized that what had looked like normal cloud cover through my lens was actually a very dark, menacing storm. I gathered my kiddos and we made it to the van and out of the parking lot just before the wind picked up and the rain began to fall. My view was distorted and I needed light to clarify. This is true when we are influenced by false teaching or wrong thinking, or just confused on a particular issue. We need the light of truth to bring correct understanding.

On the flip side, in some situations, light is not a positive thing.

Light brings terror to that which feels secure in darkness. Think of an exterminator shining his flashlight in a dark corner: the bugs scurry and flee to get away from that light. That’s why the term exposé has a negative connotation to it. This term is usually used to refer to some sort of wrongdoing that has been covered up and is now exposed, or brought to light, and the culprits are almost always scurrying around frantically to flee or cover their tracks. That which loves darkness is terrified of the light.

Light also brings agony to that which is cursed. The most practical picture I can think of here is a migraine. I had always heard of migraines, seen my dad suffer with them and my husband on a few occasions, but until the past year or so had never experienced one myself. Then one day I had a headache that built and built until the light of even a dim room was too painful for my eyes brought tears. I craved the darkness because the light was excruciating. Well, what are migraines besides evidence of the curse of sin? Anything embodiment of the curse, whether that’s a migraine or some form of evil sin, will experience agony in the light.

And finally, light is dazzling and overwhelming for those who are accustomed to darkness or shadow. When we have been in a dark building, or even a lighted building, and walk outside into the true light of a sunny day, we instinctively squint or put our hand up or put our sunglasses on. We aren’t used to such brightness. The good news here is that we can slowly adjust. The light does draw us. The world is exponentially more beautiful in true light than it is behind shades. We know that. So we endure the discomfort until our eyes adjust and can handle the light.

Christ is the true Light. In the here and now, His light is still shadowed. We see as through a glass darkly. Our eyes, even when as wide open as we can get them, still have shutters on them. Even so, even through our shuttered eyes and with His light shadowed, we still can’t bear to look on Him here without His mercy and grace to give us eyes to see. And we certainly will never be able to stand in the presence of His unfiltered, dazzling, Glory and Light without the protection He offers us through His blood.

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Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Oh, Jesus, be my Light. Illuminate the dark corners of my heart, and help me to bear up under your Light as it exposes what needs removed. Draw my eyes toward your Light and help me keep them focused there, and continue to help me see You with brighter and brighter clarity. Thank You, thank You, for shining Your light into my darkness.

What thoughts and insights do you have as you think about Jesus being the Light of the World, being the Light that shined on a world of darkness? I’d love to see your comments!

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Journey through John: Believing is seeing

One of the main themes of the book of John is that it was made obvious over and over again that Jesus was the promised Messiah, yet many still did not believe. It’s so easy for us to read these accounts of all that Jesus did, and be incredulous that anyone could have been right there among all His signs and miracles, and yet still refuse to acknowledge who He was. If we had seen all of that, we think, we definitely would not have been so obtuse.

However, although we are conditioned to think that seeing is believing, that is not always the case, especially when we’re talking about spiritual sight.

Have you seen the movie “The Santa Clause” with Tim Allen? It was a favorite of mine as a child, and my kids now love it, too. In that movie, a detached, workaholic father ends up at the North Pole being told that he is now the new Santa Claus. Although his son is ecstatic, he just cannot wrap his brain around all that is surrounding him. At one point, he says to the sweet elf who is trying to help him, “I see it, but I don’t believe it.”

He is exactly like those who walked the streets with Christ, seeing all His mighty works, hearing His wisdom and teaching, hearing Him claim deity with authority time and time again, and yet refusing to believe He was who He said He was. They saw it, but they didn’t believe it. Some did, of course, but many didn’t. So what made the difference? How could two people see the exact same thing, and one believe what they were seeing while the other doesn’t?

I think the answer Judy the elf gave Tim Allen’s character is the key: “Seeing isn’t believing. Believing is seeing.” When we are talking about spiritual realities, oftentimes we have to believe it in order to see it. The Jews and Pharisees of Jesus’ day adamantly refused to believe that He was the Messiah. They hardened their hearts just like Pharaoh did with Moses. They didn’t want to believe, and so they couldn’t see.

Where does this belief come from? It comes from God. No one is able to muster up belief on their own. Some believed and some didn’t because God. God must open the eyes of our hearts (please forgive me for getting that overdone song in your head) to believe, or we will never see.

There is honestly not much more that can be said. As I read this, studied it, thought about it, heard it preached a few weeks ago, and have been mulling on it since, I am just so thankful for the work of God to enable me to believe. And this drives–or should drive–me to pray more faithfully and fervently for those around me who do not believe and do not see. Sometimes we want to keep showing them evidence or Scripture over and over, getting frustrated that they still can’t seem to see it, when until they believe, they won’t be able to. Not even if we put it up in neon lights. May this drive us to our knees to intercede on their behalf that they may believe, and then finally see.

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Photo by Jason Betz on Unsplash

 

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Journey through John: Intro

I recently embarked on a journey through the book of John. I had finished up a Bible study and really wanted to learn more about diving deeper into a book of the Bible on my own, so I asked my husband for tips. Since he was just preparing to start preaching through the book of John, he invited me to join him in study. Invitation accepted.

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The first thing he told me to do was to read the whole book and try to outline it. I immediately started feeling twitchy. I like definite right or wrong answers. Outlines are relatively subjective. But, I HAD asked for his input, so I got brave and went for it.

It’s amazing how much it made me think differently to do an outline like this. I had to step back and look at the book as a whole, seeing how different sections worked together instead of just reading it one event at a time like we typically read the Gospels. Now I’m really looking forward to progressing through the book studying each passage on its own, in light of the bird’s-eye view the outline gave me. So I’ll share my outline here, but remember, 10 people could outline the book of John and have 10 different outlines. Case in point: I didn’t look at the outline in my study Bible until after I finished mine, and the two are very different. There’s not a teacher’s manual for the Bible that has the ultimately correct outline for the book of John. This is the way things clicked in my head as I studied the pieces, and I had it husband-reviewed before sharing it here, and he said it’s biblically sound. 🙂

I’m excited to share more insights from John as I dig deeper into this beautiful eyewitness look at the life of Christ on Earth. And please share your thoughts on each passage with me, as well. Let’s journey through John together!

Outline of John:

I. Preparation for Active Ministry (1:1-51)
A. Jesus’ Intro to the World (1:1-18)
B. Transition from John to Jesus (1:19-34)
C. Calls disciples (1:35-51)

II. Firsts (2:1-4:54)
A. First miracle (2:1-12)
B. First open challenge (2:13-25)
C. First open statement of purpose (3:1-36)
D. First offer of Gospel to non-Jew (4:1-45)
E. First healing (4:46-54)

III. Challenges (5:1-8:59)
A. Challenges old Law by healing on Sabbath (5:1-18)
B. Challenges Jews and claims deity (5:19-47)
C. Challenges crowds (6:1-59)
D. Challenges disciples (6:60-71)
E. Challenges family (7:1-9)
F. Challenges Pharisees (7:10-8:59)

IV. The Last Straw (9:1-11:57)
A. Healing blind man, angers leaders (9:1-10:21)
B. Claims equality with the Father, escaped stoning and arrest (10:23-42)
C. Raises Lazarus, organized plot to finally kill Him (11:1-57)

V. Lasts (12:1-17:26)
A. Last days before Jerusalem (12:1-11)
B. Last entry into Jerusalem (12:12-19)
C. Last plea to crowds (12:20-50)
D. Last supper/last time with disciples/last teaching (13:1-16:33)
E. Last recorded extended prayer (17:1-26)

VI. Promises Fulfilled (18:1-21:25)
A. Betrayal, arrest, trial, crucifixion, burial (18:1-19:42)
B. Resurrection (20:1-18)
C. Post-resurrection appearances (20:19-21:25)

 

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Throwback Thursday: I’d follow you anywhere 

In honor of our 2-month-late anniversary celebration today, I’m posting an anniversary throwback. Loving those Wrigley Field pics, and wishing a new one would be added today, but we’ll have to settle for cheering on the Cubs from Saint Louis this time.

So grateful for this man, our marriage, all these memories, and the opportunity to make some new ones today. Go Cubbies!

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See more of our journey at I’d follow you anywhere 

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