A (not entirely) New Understanding

This past February I went to a gathering in Taylorville coined If:Local.  It was a simulcast of an event held in Texas called If:Gathering; the brain child of author/speaker Jennie Allen and some other 30-something women in ministry. It was pretty loose and the “agenda” wasn’t always really clear from the pre-event synopsis.  But it asks women to consider “IF God is real, THEN what.”  It was a beautiful convergence of speaker’s from different denominational backgrounds coming together to motivate a generation of women.  I hope to write something a little more coherent and in depth on that event and the effect it (and Jennie’s new book, Restless and a bible study led by a wonderful woman named Kim) has had on me soon (maybe after I re-watch the digital recordings of the event!)

I explain that as an introduction to why I find myself reading and studying John:2:1-11 tonight. The “If” team has been walking through the book of John with hundreds of women (and some men) for the last 40-some days asking us to read and respond to the questions “IF God is real, THEN what do these passages mean about 1-God, 2-me, 3-the world.” Unfortunately with my other bible study things going on right now (and other life) I’ve not had the time to keep up with them daily, so I’m obviously WAAAAY behind.

But that’s okay.  Because even when I’m behind in my study, I can still see God’s hand in the timing of things.  I’m not sure that if I read this any earlier I would have had the fresh perspective on the wedding in Cana that I did tonight.  For some reason, in this place, in this time, I see God moving in me and giving me different eyes with which to see.  I’m not sure my vision was the same 40 days ago.

And frankly, timing and God’s hand in everything, even the details, is what struck me most about the wedding in Cana tonight.  I had every intention of doing a couple of days of catch up (a couple of chapters or more) but couldn’t get past these 11 verses.   While I”m absolutely certain I’m not the first person who’s ever noticed this, I was floored by a new understanding of this passage.

Let me start with the passage, so you don’t have to go look it up for a refresher :)  This is the ESV version:

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.  Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.  Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.  And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it.  When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

At the end of John 1, Jesus had just started calling his first disciples.  According to John, the next day, Jesus attends a wedding that a good number of these new disciples were also attending (which we know both by the common customs of Jewish weddings at the time as well as the statement from John that “His disciples believed in Him” at the end of vs. 11.)   At this wedding His mother asks Him to fix a problem: the host ran out of wine.  Though He reminds his mother that His “hour has not yet come” He turns the water that is nearby into wine.  This is the first opportunity Jesus has to interact with the public with His new disciples, his first “teaching” opportunity, and what does He do?  He turns water into wine.

Now I’ve heard several sermons on this event.  Ones that espouse how He was a good earthly son trying to handle things for His mother because His father was gone at this point.  Ones that espouse how He had to have these “signs” as He was beginning His ministry.  And ones that speak about the fact that the servants recognized the action of Jesus and that “common” and marginalized people whet always the ones to recognize Jesus and this being a theme throughout John.  And these lessons are all well and good.  

But I think I’ve always glanced over the actual “water” and “wine” and focused too much on the “miracle.”  Yes, changing something to something that it is not is miraculous.  Awesome Sauce.  But last night I saw this passage with fresh eyes and a fresh perspective.  My Life Application Study Bible has the following note:

The six stone water jars were normally used for ceremonial washing… According to the Jews’ ceremonial law, people became symbolically unclean by touching objects of everyday life.  Before eating the Jews would pour water over their hands to cleanse themselves of any bad influences associated with what they had touched.

Okay, guys, this seems HUGE to me!!!  Because what else is “unclean” because of the influence of sin and the world?  Hmm?  HMMM???  That’s RIGHT:  ME!  YOU!  ALL OF US!  And, as the song goes: What can wash away my sin?  Nothing but the BLOOD OF JESUS.  And what does JESUS use as a symbol of His cleansing blood in one of His last interactions with His disciples?  That’s right:  WINE!

The absolutely most attractive quality of God/Jesus in my mind is His ability to redeem ALL things for good (see Romans 8:28).  And I see this redemptive power through this symbolism that starts with one of the first interactions Jesus has with the disciples and ends with one of the last.  It comes full circle.  Jesus takes the water that Jews had turned into a symbol of cleansing and turned it into the best wine at the party.  He didn’t think about it causing a problem later when the household was out of “cleansing” water, because HE had come to take the place of all the ceremonies, sacrifices and symbols.  And many of these ceremonies and symbols had become legalistic rituals, added over time in addition to the actual directives of God to His people.  Because when in the world, even the things that began for God can become perverted and corrupted.

But all can be redeemed… even things we’ve messed up and gotten wrong…

Because then, some time later, Jesus takes wine and uses it as a symbol of the blood He would shed to cleanse us all, once and for all, forever.  Full circle-from the beginning of His ministry to the end.  The Jews’ cleansing water turned to wine, then wine used as a symbol to remind us all that only one thing can truly cleanse us and it is the one thing we most need: Jesus.

 

Thank you, Jesus.

 

 

 

Besides thoughts on all things “If” and the positive affect getting back into a study with outer women has had on my life recently, also on deck to come soon: Gaining small victories over fear; New perspectives on God’s definition of “good” and “bad” when contemplating the question “why does God allow bad things to happen”; and Giving grace in the grey…

(of course, that pre-supposes time to write, and time is in short supply right now… so they may not come SUPER soon… but keep an eye out :) )

On the Road to Anything

I believe the Holy Trinity is one of the most mysterious truths contained in the Bible.  It is difficult as a human to conceptualize a being that is simultaneously three in one.  However, there are moments when I catch glimpses of a whisper of understanding. Or at least purpose in the design of it all.

In John 14, during the discussion Jesus has with his disciples around the Passover table, he explains how he will be leaving them, but He will be sending a helper to all those who believe in Him.  It’s something I’ve known about/heard about since becoming a Christian:  the Holy Spirit, the third member of the Trinity.  This manifestation of the one true God has always been the hardest one for me to wrap my head around; mainly because He’s always been portrayed as the aspect of God I’m supposed to feel.  And if I’m completely honest, most days I don’t FEEL much God around at all.

This week as I was finishing the Bible Study Named by God by Kasey VanNorman she directed us to read a couple of places that spoke about the Holy Spirit.   John 14: 26 (ESV) reads “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to you remembrance all that I have said to you.”  Then, when you see Paul talking in Titus we see this:  “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:4-6 (ESV)).   We are renewed by the Holy Spirit, we remember the teachings of Christ through the Holy Spirit and we are taught things by the Holy Spirit.  These are aspects of the Holy Spirit that Kasey wanted us to see.

But what I saw was a reminder that God is Big and Mysterious and Multi-faceted.  We only have the Holy Spirit in the context of the Trinity, because the God of Abraham is but One Being.  Both of these verses refer to all three aspects of the Trinity.  And while I’m not exactly certain the significance of that yet, I feel that it’s important.

Because to a frazzled, working mom wearing many hats, that seems to be a comfort to me today.  The fact that God, who is all things at all times, has these aspects of himself that are manifested for specific purposes is soothing for a woman trying to juggle multiple roles in her life.  And all of the manifestations of the Trinity are important.  God the Father as pure and holy creator, loving us too much to let us go; Christ as relatable, redeeming Savior; and Holy Spirit as the present helper and teacher.   My different roles don’t make me fractured, and it’s okay to need to set aside one role on occasion to focus on another because that’s more important to the story right at the moment.

But I also see it as challenge.  Because, even when one aspect of God seems to be taking center stage at various times throughout the story, all of the aspects of God always work for one thing, with one goal in mind: For God’s Glory.  What would life look like if all of my personas were to be able to run after that same goal together?  That no matter whether I’m wearing my mom hat, my wife hat, my daughter hat, my sister hat, my employee hat, my co-worker hat, my friend hat, etc. my goal would be to glorify God?  It’s a challenge that Jennie Allen issues in her book Anything.  A challenge to lay down our lives, everything, and be willing to do anything to follow God and fulfill his purposes for our lives, the ultimate purpose of which is to glorify God.

I think at this point in my life I’m more like Jennie’s friend Karen who told her “Jennie, I can’t pray that [anything].  I can’t turn this life over to God.  I am scared of what may happen” (page 54 of the Kindle edition).  Jennie goes on to talk about how, especially in Karen’s situation where she had experienced tragedy, she can understand how her friend was torn.  Following completely abandoned after Jesus is costly.  For some, hugely costly.  To pray anything, to give everything, means God might just take that offering.  She goes on to make several more compelling and honest points and ask us to consider “what are you most afraid of?  What would be the worst thing that God may allow you to suffer?”

And if I’m absolutely honest, I’m still stuck in a huge place of fear.  When I consider those questions, some truly frightening possibilities come up, including ones that are likely (like the death of my parents or emergencies that cost a lot of money (home issues, car issues, health issues, accidents)) and other ones that are totally irrational (did you know that masked murderers come into my house every other Monday night when I’m home alone with Kate?  Or that any night we don’t hear a peep out of Kate the creaking of the crib indicating tossing and turning, she’s got to have stopped breathing?  At least that’s what my fear-riddled brain believes every time the house creaks when we’re home alone or my daughter has an awesome night of sleep!  Seriously, what kind of mother is more comforted by a restless child that is going to wake up cranky and tired than one who is sleeping so deeply she doesn’t move an inch?)

And, again, if I’m truly honest, I’m even scared to pray to God for help with this issue because I’m afraid of the form that “help” may take (after all we’ve all heard the anecdotal stories of those praying for patience only to be placed in stressful situations where they have to practice patience!)

BUT, I’m doing it anyway.  Because I’m to the point where I think I want to see what life would look like if I wasn’t afraid to do everything and anything to Glorify God.  A life where I’m more concerned with what God thinks of me than what people think of me; where I’m more concerned about the eternal lives of those I love than their earthly ones; where I’m more concerned with being considerate rather than correct, compassionate rather than comfortable, joyful rather than jealous, and thankful rather than trendy; where I’m more concerned with relationships than to-do lists and eternity is a constant reality present on my mind rather than a fleeting idea that can wait until tomorrow.

What would that look like?  I’m not sure right now, but I’m kind of excited to find out.  So, while I may not be ready to pray anything, I’ll continue to pray that the Holy Spirit continually reminds me that God gave me a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7 ESV) and the words of Christ after he promises to send a helper (John 14:27 (ESV))

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Kate’s photo site

Hi there. I’m going to try to limit the number of pics I put up on a public blog or on facebook (tho those are protected so only friends can see)… BUT shutterfly allows me to keep all my pics in a blog on that site and allows me to keep it private so anyone who views it has to be invited or approved first. You do have to sign up for a shutterfly account< but it’s free and easy. So if you want to follow and I haven’t invited you yet (don’t be offended; I only invited family whose email I had), go to www.katherinejeanhamilton.shutterfly.com and request access :-) If I know you I’ll approve you :-)

Be thou the rainbow in the storms of life. The evening beam that smiles the clouds away, and tints tomorrow with prophetic ray. ~Byron

I haven’t written in a very long time. For awhile, I was only writing on Nadia’s blog or Johnna’s blog… and then for a long while I didn’t write at all. Anywhere… online or not, which is not really like me at all. But, after my 2010 and my 2011, I spent most of my time just finding the energy to get up every day and plug through life as if things were normal; which of course they weren’t. There were huge, gapping holes in my life and I felt as if I was bleeding out and none could see it happening.

But eventually, you start to realize you keep getting out of bed, so you must still be alive. And you slowly start to realize that you can’t change the past and you have to learn to live with what IS… make that the “new” normal. And no matter how angry you are at God, you begin to see he patiently waited for you to get iut out of your system so He could help you navigate the other side…

A baby, born to parents of pregnancy loss or infant loss, is often called a “rainbow baby.” It symbolizes, much like the rainbow after a storm, a hope; a promise realized. It doesn’t negate the power of the storm that came before it. After all, without the rain, the rainbow couldn’t exist. And we’ve all seen it; the most beautiful and vibrant rainbows are the ones against the darkest grey backgrounds. It’s as if the contrast, when seen so starkly, increases the colors ten-fold; as if to say “look here, at ME, not the storm! Hope remains. No storm lasts forever.”

Similarly, when a mother who’s experienced the loss of her baby or babies, finally gets to bring home and keep a child, there is, I imagine, a joy that is just a bit different than the joy of new new parents who haven’t passed through the storm first. I can’t speak from experience on both sides and I’m not trying to say it’s better, or more; I am in no way trying to negate the bond or feeling of connection a mother who’s not experienced loss has with her child. Because even moms who’ve expereienced loss have experienced it differently; whether because they had an early loss, or a late loss, or an infant loss, or simply “loss” from infertility…

But like the rainbow against the dark storm cloud, there’s a sort of reverence for her life that comes from understanding how very fragile and precious it actually. When you’ve had a loss or are part of the club of women who’ve experienced any sort of difficulty there is a sort of awe that your heart is no longer in agony through its deep longing. And a DEEP seeded thankfulness towards God for allowing your hearts desire to be realized.

And, as hard as it seems to imagine, there can even be a thankfulness for the storm before the rainbow that allowed the vibrant colors to shine their brightest.

God’s timing and faithfulness continue to amaze me. Even when I have been the most ungrateful, angry, resentful child he’s probably ever known, He still continues to provide crystal clear glimpses into his bigger plan, exhibit his mighty provisions, and reveal his steadfast and unfailing grace and love. It was easy to see, even in the midst of the tragedy, that losing Nadia was a kindness in light of the struggle the next nine months with Johnna would bring. And even in the midst of getting over my anger at that pain, he builds bridges pursuing me. Rainbow bridges…we walked out of the hospital with out rainbow in arms exactly one year after walking out without Johnna…

Kate; age 3 weeks

Beautiful Dreamer; Kate 3 weeks old

This song got me through the suck that was 2011… Thankful for my “rainbow” of 2012…

“Blessings”
Laura Story

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things

‘Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not our home

What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise

Time and Reflection

I’ve liked having an hour+ drive each way each day the last week or so (except for the snow).  It’s given me some good reflection and me and God time… I wish I had more time to write regarding reflections :)  So I’ll leave you with a song I’ve been enjoying this week.

God Believes In You lyrics

CD Title: God And Money

Jill Phillips

 

Added by Staff

Lyrics:
When you start to doubt if you exist
God believes in you
Confounded by the evidence
God believes in you
When your light burns so dim
When your chances seem so slim
And you swear you don’t believe in Him
God believes in you

When you rise up just to fall again
God believes in you
Deserted by your closest friends
God believes in you
When you’re betrayed with a kiss
And you turn your cheek to another fist
It doesn’t have to end like this
God believes in you

Everything matters if anything matters at all
Everything matters no matter how big
No matter how small
God believes in you
Oh God believes in you

When you’re so ashamed that you could die
God believes in you
And you can’t do right even though you try
God believes in you
Blessed are the ones who grieve
The ones who mourn and the ones who bleed
In sorrow you sow but in joy you’ll reap
God believes in you
Oh blessed are the ones who grieve
The ones who mourn and the ones who bleed
In sorrow you sow but in joy you’ll reap
God believes in you
Oh God believes in you

Tradition

I told myself I wasn’t going to do this this year, but I’ll probably want to look back on it at some point, so I’m doing yet another thing I don’t really want to do for posterities sake…  And I’m going to try REALLY hard to not make them all baby related… but it’s on my mind right now, people.  At least I didn’t proliferate this blog with baby lament like I did at Nadia’s Blog…

  • What did you do in 2010 that you’d never done before?  lost a baby
  • Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?  - nope… don’t really do them… I figure if I want to change something, why wait for only once a year 
  • Did anyone close to you give birth?  Amanda
  • Did anyone close to you die? seriously, I don’t like some of these questions
  • What countries did you visit?  none
  • What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?  a baby, not going to happen
  • What date(s) from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? January 25th, September 27th… and July 1st… that was actually a great day spent with Mom and Jo in St. Louis.
  • What was your biggest achievement of the year?  Passing my commissioning test!
  • Did you suffer illness or injury?  Okay, not answering this one either…
  • What was the best thing you bought? new loveseat…
  • Whose behavior merited celebration?  ???
  • Whose behavior made you appalled and/or depressed?  A doctor who will remain nameless…
  • Where did most of your money go?  rent and other bills
  • What did you get really, really, really excited about? unfortunately that which I lost, which made the losses suck even more…
  • What song will always remind you of 2010?    
  • Compared to this time last year, are you:
    Wiser? - someways, yes… others, prob. not
    Healthier? – someways, yes… others, prob. not
    Richer? – someways, yes… others no
  • What do you wish you’d done more of? rejoicing in being pregnant
  • What do you wish you’d done less of?  complained about being pregnant
  •  How did you spend Christmas?  Christmas Eve at Dad’s house, Christmas with Donnie, mom, jo, dan and chas and the kids
  • Did you fall in love in 2009?  I fall in love again every day 
  • What were your favorite TV programs?  – GLEE, office, bones, How I Met your mother…NCIS
  • Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?  - Umm…I can’t think of anyone I’ve ever said I hate, but the one doctor comes close. 
  • What did you want and get?  
  • What did you want and not get?  a baby
  • What was your favorite film of this year?  A-team
  • What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? - I turned 30 in october.  went and got my license renewed in the morning and spent the rest of the day in bed mourning and recovering from giving birth to Nadia
  • Which celebrity/public figure did you like the most?  Taylor Swift
  • How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?  Professional
  • What kept you sane?  Donn
  • Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010.  life is short… very short
  • What did you gain this year?  perspective
  • What did you lose this year?  seriously…
  • Who was the best new person you met?  SHARE people
  • Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.  Same as last yearYou can’t always get what you want…  You get what you need.
  • Yep, sorry, couldn’t keep the kids out of it…

    Advent

    So I wrote this before Christmas.  Don’t know why I didn’t post it, but…

    I’ve been wanting to do a post on Advent, well since Advent started.  So while I’m in DC I’m taking some time to articulate some thoughts…

    It’s impossible to fully appreciate and realize how big God is.  Impossible.  We can get closer to that understanding, but I truly think that our ability as finite beings (both in time and space) limits our ability to understand the infinate.  For instance, an infinate being like God knew how the story was to end.  Before it began.  And yet He chose to let that story play out.  (That’s part of what makes reconciling free will and predestination difficult).  He knew that we would need Jesus to rescue us.  And He knew how that would have to happen.  And yet, He kept that story line… He allows us to continue on the trajectories we choose even though they may lead to sucky stops along the way.  Just like a loving Father who knows that some lessons are best learned through experience, God allows us to make the choices and reap the consequences or rewards of those choices.  Even though the choices lead to the need to sacrifice His only Son.  To safe us from those choices.  Wow.

    God is not only infinate, but perfect and holy.  Which means that His plan of sticking to the story, even though there are sad stops in the road, really was the best plan.  And it also means that all aspects of the plan were best.  Including the waiting.  And waiting… And waiting.  Really if you think about it, God creates “wait” time in a lof of important things in life:  Wait time before reaping after sowing; gestation periods in pregnancy; years of development before becoming a “grown-up”… It makes me think that there must be spiritual truths present in times of waiting and that the act of waiting, in itself, can be a sacred practice.

    And focusing on and rejoicing in that sacredness is a very hard thing to do while in the waiting.

    So I am glad that the annual advent period serves as a reminder that periods of waiting can be, in themselves, sacred moments.

    And here are some fun articles I’ve read…

    http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/deeper-walk/features/23640-why-advent

    http://genvessel.wordpress.com/2010/12/05/advent-thoughts-suzanne/