Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Day that Sin was Embraced

I want to tell you a story.  A story of the day that sin was embraced all in the name of grace. 

Eric and Eli were in soccer camp in Jackson, MS.  Barbara had joyfully agreed to watch Asher and Sam so I could take Cade to his state baseball tournament in Benton.  It was going to be a hot one and I didn’t want to worry about the littles dehydrating.  Plus, I thought it would be much more fun to actually watch baseball instead of the toddler.

After mapquesting and taking a wrong turn, we made it to our baseball destination.  Travel ball isn’t so fun when it’s the directionally challenged Momma that’s navigating.  But, all looked brighter once my tent was set up and the slight breeze tempted me to believe that the projected heat index of 103 degrees wouldn’t soon be suffocating us all.
While the team was warming up, I thought I would quickly check Facebook.  It had just been announced:  The Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage would be legal in all 50 states.  I expected it.  What I hadn’t expected was the way my heart would plummet to the dirty concrete below my feet and pulse to a painfully slow cadence.

I texted those closest to me and called my Mom. We mourned with real tears and lamented the loss of our nation that had been founded on Godly principles.  In one day, five men declared themselves God as they rewrote God’s definition of marriage found in Genesis.

I have yet to get my heart back into my chest.

All day long while at the ball field, I would check my Facebook feed to see what the Godly watchmen of our nation were saying.  Franklin Graham, John Piper, Kay Arthur, Joel Rosenberg, Ken Ham, Mike Huckabee, and many others boldly declared truth and refused to back down on what this ruling was:  a slap in the face against God Himself.

All the sudden my Facebook feed became alive with the colors of the rainbow. What once was a sign of God’s promise that He would never again destroy the earth by flood was stolen by Satan and twisted into something that goes against God’s perfect plan. Since Satan can’t create, he is always stealing God’s things and turning them into something evil as he tries to snatch away God’s glory.  True allegiances came out into the open on June 26, 2015.  When the White House of the United States of America was lit up by rainbow lights, I curled into myself, trying the grasp the reality of what had just taken place on this day. The best thing I could wrap my thoughts around was that our Democracy was no longer held together by moral principles.  Sure, we had been plummeting, but this was the day that our identity had been stripped away. When I saw the picture of our United States Embassy in Israel flying the Pride Rainbow flag just below the American flag, I came undone.
Image result for us embassy israel pride flag

So, this is who we are now.

I have never been so ashamed to be a part of the United States of America.  My heart is grieving, as if I tangibly lost someone I love dearly. If I had sackcloth and ashes, I would don them and wail out to my God that we have betrayed.  Herb Stuart’s favorite verse was that “God will not be mocked.”  We think we can make up our own rules and not worry about the consequences of a Holy God.  I am sick to my stomach thinking about what kind of judgment will fall.

When Cade climbed into the van, I was torn on what to tell him.  He needed to hear it from a parent, but he still had a game to play and I didn’t want him to be distracted.  I went forward.  I couldn’t get the words out without choking up.  I told him this was a monumental day in history and that I didn’t know what the future would hold for him, now that our leaders have legally turned their backs against God’s perfect ways regarding marriage and family.  I tried to convey how there would quickly be a separation of God’s true church and those that just worship with some form of religiosity.  The dividing line would be between those that believed the Bible was the inerrant Word of God and those that didn’t.   I told him that courage and boldness and truth would be needed in the future days and that persecution might be ahead. 

In that moment, looking at my fifteen year old, I knew that he would quickly have to become a man.  Gone were the days of trying to shield him from the world. The world had come to him.  He would have to be a warrior, standing for truth and having the wisdom to see when Satan is telling lies. 

Troubling questions swirled around in my head all day.  Will my photography business be shut down if I refuse to shoot a same sex marriage?  Will our pastor lose his job if he refuses to marry a same sex couple?  Will this be the final blow that moves our nation towards the wrath of the Almighty? Will persecution come slowly or rapidly for the true Bride of Christ? Persecution is inevitable when the right to sexual orientation now trumps the right to the first amendment.  I can already see my freedom of speech and freedom of religion lying bloody and dying a slow death on Satan’s cruel battlefield of so-called equality.

In my mind, I saw a quick spiral that legally allowed all sexual perversions.  If homosexuality (a God ordained abomination) is celebrated and flaunted on the columns of the White House, then we will quickly see all forms of perversion such as exhibitionism, pedophilia, incest, and bestiality rise to that level as well.  Once sin is celebrated, there is no line anymore. If we are free to completely express ourselves, and hold ourselves to no standard, then we are an undone people.  Implosion is upon us.

In the book of Amos, God shows the prophet a plumb line which measured a building to see if it had tilted so far that it was beyond repair. The plumb line showed Amos that Israel was so far gone that collapse was inevitable.  I can’t help but wonder if the United States is too far gone for a great awakening and repentance.  If and when our President and country turn our backs on Israel just might be the moment of collapse.  Implosion.
Image result for ancient plumb line

The one thing that was absent from my thoughts and emotions on June 26, 2015 was anger.  I am not angry at the homosexual community.  I have homosexual friends that I have prayed for by name for many years.  To claim that I hold different beliefs, therefore I hate, would be a false assumption.  I have different beliefs, therefore I love.  I show that love through begging God for an extension of mercy towards my friends…the same mercy that was offered to me.  If I proclaim, “Live and let live or love and let love,” then it isn’t love at all because it only excuses my complacency and takes away the need for a Savior. True love never condones or celebrates sin, but points to the One who can forgive, restore, and rescue. True love says, I was just like you, dead in my transgressions, but there is a better way!”

Over the weekend, I have been washed over with the reality of God’s grace on my life. 


Amazing grace.

How sweet the sound.

That saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost, but now am found.

Was blind, but now I see.


I have such a beautiful picture of this grace that I was dipped into. Somehow, I was soaked in Christ’s blood and came out sparkling white.  The God of the Universe didn’t have to give me eyes to see, but He did.  Such love.  Who am I to be included in the plan of redemption? Who am I to be rescued from the wrath of God?

This grace is extended to all who call out on the name of Jesus to rescue them from the deep pit of sin. There is still hope.  There is still the gospel.  There is still true love.  His name is Jesus.  What will the church do with Him in these last days?

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Baseball and my Firstborn

It's his true sport-love.  Baseball has his heart above all other sports.  There is something about setting up your tent and chairs, opening up your cooler of Gatorades, singing the National Anthem, watching the boys kneel to the Almighty, cheering on a great group of guys, and smacking on Peanut M & M's.  I'll miss this four year run of travel baseball, for sure.  Cade hopes to make the high school team next year.  And this baseball loving Momma hopes so, too. We'll miss our little Fieldhouse team, though; that's for sure.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

17 years {marriage}

Happy seventeen to us!  Hand in hand we have walked.  I have only hit Eric once in seventeen years and that is while I was dreaming and deep in sleep.  ha!  He is the lighthouse pointing to truth when Satan twists things just enough for me to stop and ask, "which way?" He is my rock and shield.  My laughter.  Unlike me, He isn't afraid to get things out in the open and deal with them.  He is my discernment.  He is the one who shows me God. When I bottle everything up, he is my exhale.

I am blessed.

Marriage is hard (sin made every single relationship harder than necessary.) But, marriage is also a beautiful portrayal of Christ and His bride.  Marriage is a picture of the gospel.  In a Godly marriage, we can visually see Christ laying down His life for His beloved.  The climax of grace is when Christ loved his church so deeply that he gave himself up for her on a wooden cross. "Christ knew He would have to pay for His bride with His own blood." (Piper) Like the cross, every marriage will be marked with awe struck wonder and excruciating wounds.

Every anniversary allows us to pause and remember our vows and the grace that has enabled us to keep them. God holds our individual souls and our joint covenant bond of unity. We worship Him for bringing us together and keeping us along the way. 

John Piper says, "The world cannot know what marriage is without learning it from God."  Marriage exists to display God to a world in need of sight.

Happy 17th, babe! I'll love ya for always.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The LORD, the God of Our Fathers

This is a new one to me:  Jehovah Elohe Abothekem

It means this:

The LORD (Yahweh)
the God (Elohiym:  Supreme God)
of your Fathers (Ab: father, forefather, ancestor)

While touring Washington, D. C. last week, I was overcome with emotion time and time again.  I could have easily blamed the tears on the sweat rolling down my face, but they were indeed, tears.  From seeing the start of the United States of America to reliving the Holocaust, I was reminded that it is all God's story and it all deserves to be remembered.

One of the most memorable parts was taking in a large reproduction of Francis Scott Key's original draft of the Star Spangled Banner.

I had never heard the last stanza:

O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation.
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the Heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "
In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Walking the streets of D.C. gives one a true sense of who the nation's founding fathers were.  As a whole, they worshiped God, putting Him on their currency, declarations, and national anthem.  They were not afraid to state that their only hope and trust was God alone.

How far we have fallen.

What has happened to the land that we love?

We have forgotten who our forefathers are.  Not just those of our nation, but those of our spiritual heritage.  Abraham. Isaac. Jacob. None of these men were perfect, but they all seemed to have mighty Jehovah etched deeply on their hearts.

Jehovah Elohe Abothekem. The LORD, the God of our Fathers.  Jehovah is the link between one generation and the string of generations before it.  We would be so wise to listen to the stories of our forefathers to understand who God is and to try to circumvent tragedies such as genocide, slavery,and apathy.

I find it striking that "abothekem" comes from the Hebrew "ab" which means father.  It is the very first Hebrew word in the lexicon and dictionary.  Numero uno.  It all seems to start with a Father.  God the Father places high emphasis on the concept of fatherhood.  God sent His only Son, in an act of courageous love, to allow a heathen world to experience the true love of a Father.

God the Father wants founding fathers of nations to point to the Ultimate Father.  God wants generation after generation to see what the founding fathers saw years and years ago as they searched for freedom.

In the Word, the context of Jehovah Elohe Abothekem is found in Joshua 18:3.  God had promised land to the patriarchs...the forefathers.  The land had been given, but the tribes had become lazy and apathetic.  They refused to go in and take over what had been entrusted to them.  Joshua asks the people of Israel, "How long will you put off going in to take possession of the land, which the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you?"

As Believers in America, I believe we have a dual inheritance.  We have the spiritual inheritance of our Lord, Jesus, as well as the inheritance of a literal free land in which to dwell. We are doubly blessed.  But, have we become lazy? 

The Message version says, "How long are you going to sit around on your hands?  The KJV says, "How long are ye slack?"  Slack here is faint, idle, lazy, slothful

We've become apathetic.  We are losing our national and spiritual identity.  We are looking sin straight in the face and on television and it isn't even bothering us anymore.  We as a church don't blush anymore.

I'm screaming this to myself:  there is sin in being too comfortable!  It creates an environment where we sit in luxury, refusing to see the glaring need that is all around.

What part of the land do we need to go in and take possession of?  The Hebrew word possession implies that we sometimes need to take BACK something that belongs to us....to drive out the previous tenants. 

We need to slough off the dead skin of apathy and put on courage.  We need to be reminded that we are a people under the God who calls himself Jehovah Tsaba:  The LORD our Warrior.  He wants us fighting alongside of Him. We must put on our armor, pray, saturate ourselves in His Truth, and stand strong against the enemy.

We must remember our fathers and all they taught us about the Father.

What land in our lives do we need to take possession of?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Amelia Love

When I was eleven, my parents went to the hospital and brought back a sweet little bundle of new sisterhood.  Her name was Schuyler Amelia and she was my new baby doll.  Old dolls got tossed aside as I fed her and changed her and inhaled her.  She quickly became my new love. 

When Amelia was two, she wore blond pigtails and tore our hearts asunder with her cuteness.  She seemed to fit right into our family, a sweet little soul that didn’t demand her own way or throw temper tantrums.  She brought a whole new dimension of God’s love to us all. 

When I was eighteen and home for the weekend from college, Amelia would pass me notes in church, begging me to stay.  I still have a pink little letter marked with a big heart and simple words scrawled out in her elementary handwriting. 

When Amelia was seventeen and in high school, God showed me just how different we were.  She played softball, excelled in cheerleading, and donned the rhinestone crown on the Homecoming Court.  When I was seventeen in high school, I sang, showed cattle, and didn’t dare attempt a sport. 

When I was twenty-one, Amelia wore baby’s breath and lace as she threw flower petals announcing me as the bride.  A part of me was joyous that day and a whole other part was broken because I knew I wouldn’t see her as much. 

When Amelia was nineteen, my heart ripped straight out of my chest as I listened to her sob and pound the shower walls after our sister died.  I was helpless in that moment.  Even though I was her big sister, there was nothing I could offer Amelia as her primal screams reverberated through the house.  My heart landed on the wooden floor amidst the scattered pictures of a beloved no longer with us.   

When I was thirty four, I stood by her side and listened to her groom confess his love through vows and tears.  I knew in that moment he would cherish her forever. My heart was content in turning her over to be his wife.

When Amelia was twenty three, she rented a booth in a flea market.  We frequently knocked over every antique store between here and Greenbrier, in search of cheap furniture begging to be graced with chalk paint.  We always drove through Mexico Chiquito, getting our extra-large Mexican punches, cheese dips, salsa, and tacos.  Even though it was eaten in her truck, it was a meal I loved.  We hit the road searching for treasure while I peed out a little punch in every restroom we could find. 

When I was thirty five, I let her and Mom stay in the hospital room while I pushed out seven pounds of pure boy-joy.  I wanted her to experience the happiness of birthing kids but also selfishly needed her comforting presence. She was one of my very best friends in the whole wide world and I couldn’t think of anyone else I would rather share that moment with. 

When Amelia was twenty five, I started saving all of my maternity clothes, toys, and baby clothes.  I was ready to be an aunt to her children, and repay them some of the love that she has passed down to my kids.  I think I will one day behold a little blonde niece in pigtails, tearing my heart asunder as she climbs into my lap. 

When I turned thirty eight, I came to the conclusion that an eleven year age span disappears as those sisters become best friends.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Summoned by the King: A Lesson in Delight

When I first met Herb Stuart, he scared the daylights out of me.  I was an introverted freshman in college and got invited to the Stuart’s house by some girlfriends I had just met and started to adore.

Herb was sitting in his oversized forest green upholstered chair with his legs kicked up on the matching ottoman.  He was the king of the house; I knew it instantly.  Kings can be terrifying.

He didn’t say much, which made me extra nervous because I didn’t quite know what he was thinking.  Painfully shy around people I didn’t know, I probably didn’t say much either that evening.

Herb and I didn’t know it then, but we would find ourselves very related in a few years.  I married his first born and birthed his grandsons while he became my second father.

Kings can be good.

Herb was instrumental in shaping my theology.  I loved to think about God and worship God and he loved to offer me the freedom that a correct theology would provide.  I’ll never forget arguing with him that I really could lose my salvation.  He told me that if I were really dead in my transgressions then only God could call me unto life.  If I didn’t really have a choice in the salvation issue (even faith is a gift!) then I probably didn’t have much choice in maintaining my salvation (it is God who keeps us!)  He stretched his big palm out wide and told me I was right there in God’s palm, forever safe.

There is something to be said for freedom as you abide with the Father. The weight of the world started to slip away as this truth sank in. I guess the Word really is true…where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. I am the temple of the Spirit of the Living God.  I am forever free.

As the years sped past, my favorite thing to do was sit in a chair close to his as he watched golf and Fox news. Inevitably, we would start talking about eschatology.   Pretribulation, millennia, rapture…all these words encompassed our little talks.  I kept thinking surely Herb had all the end-times answers that no one else had been able to nail down.   

Herb was easy to be around, never judging or condemning.  He loved taking our boys to sports and helping grab them after school.  He was my guard dog, making sure I was safe when Eric traveled. He treated us to dinner, often a greasy burger, which was just fine by me. He almost always called me “Beck.”

I cry now, trying to type this out because I miss him terribly.

Cancer stole him away, his diagnosis being exactly one year ago. We had seven months and two days with him after we heard the words stage four lung cancer.  I am grateful for those days, time helping prepare our hearts for God’s sovereignty. Sometimes our human definitions of good simply don’t match those of the All-Knowing One.  Surrender leads to peace, though.  I was blessed to have already learned this excruciating lesson.

It seems that Herb was always in a state of teaching, even when his lips weren’t moving.  It was one of God’s callings on his life and he was one of the best.  If he wasn’t teaching the Word, then he was teaching us how to serve. If he wasn’t teaching husbands how to lead then he was teaching dads how to love.  If he wasn’t teaching my boys baseball mechanics, then he was teaching us how to see in this wayward culture. We are a people in desperate need of sight.

Even in Herb’s last days, he was teaching. In Herb’s last days, he taught us how to die with delight.

Two days before he passed away, I asked Herb if God had been teaching him anything new on his 7 month journey of battling cancer. (Yes, it was a selfish question but I needed to soak up everything that Jesus had been to him these last months.)  I guess I was expecting some long sermon or some Greek or Hebrew word, but he shocked me. It went something like this...

Yes, I have been thinking about God a lot lately.  But, more than that, I know God has been thinking about me.  You know, I just can't conceive how much the Father loves me.  It is just inconceivable to me.  I know He loves me and I am so thankful, but goodness, I just can't grasp the depth of it!

Despite the pain and shortness of breath, Herb was grinning from ear to ear as he said these words.  I knew at once he had not just accepted that he might die soon but that he was quite possibly excited about it.  If he had to die, he was going to do it with delight.

How beautiful that in Herb's last days, the Father's affection towards him is what stayed in his every thought.  A wise man's theology and deepest ponderings all the sudden boiled down to one thing:  a Father’s delight in His son.

I was sitting in church with Eric and Zach a couple of days later when we got the text.  Herb was ready to go home and wanted us to pray over him.  We sped there, my heart in my throat.  How on earth would I find the grace to tell this patriarch goodbye? Was he the thread that held the Stuart family together?  Would we unravel string by string once he left?

I want you to know there was a smile on Herb’s face on January 4, 2015.  The amount of pain he was enduring ripped my insides apart.  His cough was unbearable and his voice could hardly speak, due to the accumulation of fluid in his lungs.  What got to me the most was his inability to get a good breath.  I felt like he was suffocating.  I wanted the God of breath to come and breathe fresh into him. I have never witnessed such pain in my life.  At one point, I crucified my own selfish desires and starting begging God to take him home because it was simply too much.

Through all of this, Herb smiled anyway.

Herb laughed and cut up and made jokes in between gasps for air.  Eventually, the amount of morphine knocked him out, allowing some measure of rest.  But while coherent, he was trying to lighten the heavy load for us all.  He refused to complain or tell us how miserable he was.  There wasn’t a single ounce of fear in his countenance.

Every family member and friend that respectfully went to his bed side that day was offered a final word of blessing by Herb.  A whole group of men showed up to pray over him and were blindsided as Herb took over the prayer and blessed them instead. Giving was his way; it was in his very marrow.

Herb knew he was about to lay eyes on the Father who loved him with a depth he couldn’t fully grasp.  He told us he was excited and that we would all be ok.  He pulled me close and told me how blessed he was that I had joined our family.  He whispered a father’s love over me.

I’ll never forget the last lesson that Herb Stuart imparted to us all:  When the One True King summons you home, you go with delight.

{Last two photos by Todd Owens Photography}