Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Love Story Week 17: save the date

Pay careful attention then, to how you walk—not as unwise people but as wise.  Make the most of the time, because the days are evil.  Don't be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is.
- Ephesians 5:15-17

The week before I married Dennis Worley, I woke up every night in a sweat.  I had the worst nightmares. In every one of them, my wedding was a disaster.

I dreamed that someone had taken pinking shears to my dress, making it tea length and wickedly uneven.

I dreamed that someone had stolen all my shoes and left only a blue pair.

I dreamed that as I came down the aisle, the groom who turned around was Not Dennis, but nobody could hear me screaming, "Not him!  Not him!"

I dreamed that I was out playing tennis (tennis?), and they came looking for me, crying, "It's time for your wedding! You have to come now!  No, come just like you are!"  I was sweaty and my hair was frizzy, but a bouquet was shoved in my hand and I was sent down the aisle in tennis whites, crying, "No, no! Let me get ready!"

Seriously, I was so relieved when I actually got to the church in the dress and the shoes with the right groom.  Everything after that is kind of a blur.

I was thinking about those dreams this week—especially the tennis one (tennis, what?)—because this is our last Wednesday Bible study, and the story is about a wedding and some girls who were not ready for it.

Life with God is like ten bridesmaids who took torches and oil and went out to greet the bridegroom. Five were foolish and five were wise.  The foolish bridesmaids took torches, but no extra oil.  The wise bridesmaids took jars of oil to feed their torches,  The bridegroom didn't show up when they expected, and they all fell asleep waiting.
-Matthew 25:1-5

What happens next?  You'll have to listen below to find out.

But here's what we know from last week's story, the end of the book, Revelation:  There is a wedding feast.  There is a Bridegroom and he is coming for us.  Soon, he says.

When is soon?

Close your eyes and try to forget everything you know about weddings today.  Try to hear what Jesus says:

I am going to prepare a place for you.

That's what bridegrooms did in Jesus' day.  They pledged themselves to a woman — actually to her family.  And then they went off to their family's compound and prepared a place for their life together. They built a little house or a room on their family compound, and they furnished it.

If I go away, I will come back for you.

When everything was ready for that life together, the bridegroom came for his bride.  Maybe even in the middle of the night, he came striding through the streets of the village, all his friends with him. And they were singing.  And the bride's friends all ran out to meet him, torches in hand.  And they sang and danced as he came to claim his bride.  And then everybody went to his house and partied 'til they dropped.

That's what's going to happen, Jesus said.


You don't get to know that part.

No one knows the day or the hour, not even the Son.  Only the Father.

The bride doesn't set the date.  We don't manage the guest list.  We don't even pick out the dress.  God does.  Life with God doesn't work like life in this world.  The wise person understands this and lives accordingly.

We don't get a "Save the Date" from Jesus.  So we save every date.  Every day is the day he could come for us.  When the Father says, "Ready."

Are you ready?

Click here to listen to the story of the Ten Bridesmaids
and download the Bible study.

Who will you tell this story to?

Friday, May 9, 2014

TGIF: The best is yet to be

Grow old along with me.  The best is yet to be—
the last of life, for which the first was made.
Our times are in His hand 
who saith, "I whole I planned."
Youth shows but half.
Trust God!  See all! Nor be afraid.
- Robert Browning

Those words by Robert Browning were part of my wedding vows to Dennis Worley.  Thirty five years ago, I thought the first of life was the best, the point.  And it is wonderful to be young and in love, to get to do life together with the person who makes the world a magical place.  But to get to see it all together, trusting God every step—that's even better.

What I'm Trusting:
Coming to mid-life, with an empty nest, I was wondering if our best days had been.  But God plans a whole, not a half.  And the past few weeks have unfolded some of God's next plans for our family.  Big things are in store for the Worleys! We don't have all the answers.  We are in that space like Abraham, where God says, "Leave the place you are and go to a place I will show you." We are just in the leaving-this-place in our hearts.  We've been saying goodbye to the picture of us raising boys and discovering what it's like to be a couple again.  What it's like to love grandchildren and get to help raise them.  What it's like to encourage and empower grown sons and their families. What it's like to serve in ministry at this point in our lives.  And in all those areas, we keep hearing God say, "I will show you."

How I'm practicing Gratitude:
This week we made the decision to get our house ready to put on the market, to look for our next home.  We've lived in this house 24 years this July.  We'll probably be moving out about the same time we moved in all those years ago.  This decision has been percolating for a year.  When we finally felt God say, "Leave this place," I cried.  This is where we found out we were pregnant, where we raised those babies, where we grew a marriage and a family.  Every place I turn there is a memory.  At first that made me incredibly fearful and sad.  Now as I am making lists of everything that has to be packed, downsized, given away, I look at every photo, every fingerprint on the wall, every bin of old school jerseys, every tree we planted, and I thank God for getting to make those memories, getting to be here for that life.  Evidence of his blessings are all around.  As I start to make an inventory for what will go to the next part of life, I take an inventory of the blessings of the first half.

What Inspires me:
My boys, making lives for themselves and their families.  Going out bravely into the first part of their lives.  Last week Seth turned 30 and sold his house, the first little house their babies lived in.  Watching Seth and Arley go through this transition has given me a template; I'm walking in their footsteps, right behind them.  This time last year, we were helping Matt sell or give away everything he owned that could not be fit into two crates and shipped to South Africa.  This year he has followed God so closely that I've never seen him put his foot down without setting it in God's footprint.  He has shown me that your life is not where you live, but how present you are there—how you love  the people in the place God shows you.  This year Ben has lived on his own for the first time.  He'll never forget this first house he shared with a bunch of other starving musicians.  He has made his own first home.

What's Fun:
This week Matt flew back to the U.S. with a ring in his pocket and asked the girl he has loved for 7 years to marry him!  Their happiness is so golden, so huge, and it is shared by so many of us who have loved them and rooted for them to be together.  I'm so thankful they get to begin planning the first of life together!  They have so many questions to answer about the future!  But God will show them, just as he is showing us.

24 years ago, when our realtor handed me the keys to this house, could I have ever imagined that on this Friday I would be walking through it with her again, this time making a list of what to do to get ready to sell it—on the same day that my daughter-in-law-to-be is graduating from grad school with a brand new engagement ring on her finger?

Out times are in his hand
who saith, "A whole I planned."
Youth shows but half.
Trust God! See all! Nor be afraid!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Love Story Week 16: When God sings for joy

He meant us to see Him and live with Him and draw our life from His smile.
- AW Tozer, The Pursuit of God

My friend Michael Boggs has a wonderful song out called "What Would Jesus Undo?"  People have been posting their answers to that question—beautiful answers:  injustice, poverty, fear, shame, loneliness, cancer, betrayal, prejudice, grief.

I was thinking of that song this week as I learned the story for Wednesday Bible study this week.  In this week's story, John gets to see that Jesus will indeed undo all of it, and more.

In my dream, I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old one was gone forever!  
- Revelation 21:1

John hears a song being sung.  This is my favorite song in the Bible, because God is singing it! When God gets what he wants, what he set his heart on from before the creation of the world, this is what he hummed to himself as he brought light and oceans, mountains, giraffes, lilies, sparrows and stars into being.  This is what he sang as he worked the dust into a body and breathed his life into Adam.  Maybe he came humming it to himself as he walked in the garden in the cool of the evening.  Maybe he stopped humming and listened, because Adam & Eve were not waiting for him as usual.  They were hiding.  In the stillness, he could hear the heart-thumping sound of shame.  This God, the great Lover who pursued us, who kept closing the separation between us, was working all along through history for this moment: to restore it all.  To have us back.  And in John's dream, he heard God's heart swell and a soaring melody of pure joy erupt from the Throne of Heaven.  And this is the song God sings in John's dream:

Now I will be with my people!  I will live with them, 
and they will be with me, and I will be their God!
- Revelation 21:3

God will undo separation.  That is what he has done in Christ, and is doing through the church.  When God gets what he wants, he gets to be with us.  When he sings for joy, this is what he sings about.

I understand that.  Nothing makes me happier than knowing my kids are coming for dinner.  I sing while I chop and mix and bake.  Nothing is better than all of them together, laughing and enjoying each other.  As I write this, Matt is flying home from South Africa;  his girl is standing at the gate waiting for him.  My grandchildren are coming over to play this afternoon.  The best part of my day is when Dennis Worley is headed home.

We just want to be with the people we love.  And so does God.

That's why we tell these stories.  This is the assignment Jesus gave us:  Go tell everybody everywhere that God wants to be with them.  Close the gap.  Undo separation.

Everything we do is about getting everybody to that moment.  Because he is on his way.

I can't even imagine what it will be like when God starts singing for joy.

Click here to hear how the Love Story ends, when God gets what he wants
and download the homework.  

Who will you tell this story to this week?