Sunday, April 5

Worthy Satisfaction

Disclaimer: I actually wrote this post shortly after my previous one and forgot to publish it! But I thought it quite fitting to post today. Happy Easter, world. May you realize your worth to the God who chose you above all else.


As I stated in my previous post, I have been reading in Isaiah for my morning devotions, and I am soaking it all in. Chapter 53, which is one of my favorite chapters, is well-known and often quoted, but reading through it this time I noticed something which I had perhaps not noticed before.

"He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 
But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.
And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors." Isaiah 53:3-5, 7, 9-12

By the people of his times (and often by us ourselves), Jesus was despised and rejected. Men, mere men, rejected the Son of God, and "esteemed him not"-- they deemed him less than themselves, unworthy of consideration. And his reaction? "Yet he opened not his mouth. . . Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied," because "when his soul makes an offering for guilt" he shall "make many to be accounted righteous." Jesus was satisfied by the way things would turn out; he was satisfied to bear our griefs, sorrows, transgressions, iniquities, and our determination of his worthlessness because he could not be satisfied allowing us to remain in sin, in separation from himself and unable to be accounted righteous. Despite our designation of his unworthiness, he deemed us worthy of all his suffering. He deemed you worthy of his crucifixion.

Also, note that verse 10 says that "it was the will of the Lord to crush him." It was God's will for Jesus to sacrifice himself in our place. Why? Because in Jesus' hands "the will of the Lord" (for Jesus to be crushed) would prosper. The result of Jesus' sacrifice (God's will) was that many would be accounted righteous. Though Jesus had no children of his own while here on earth, we who accept his sacrifice in our place become his "offspring." Jesus was satisfied for us to become his progeny-- we who deemed him unworthy of our esteem.

And here's a final note on worth from Isaiah 54:

"'For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,' says the Lord, who has compassion on you. 'O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted, behold, I will set your stones in antimony, and lay your foundations with sapphires. I will make your pinnacles of agate, your gates of carbuncles, and all your wall of precious stones. All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children.'" Isaiah 54:10-13

Oh afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted, fear not. Jesus has deemed you worthy, and he has plans to give you peace and to make you beautiful.

Wednesday, March 11

What's in a Name?

I don't know why, but for as long as I can remember, I have always been fascinated by names. I love to know what names mean, or what the story behind a name is. I very distinctly remember when I found out what my name means.

I was in Primary class in Sabbath school, and one of our teachers had decided to get plaques with each of our names and their meanings to hang in the classroom. I looked at my brothers' and my friends' names and what they meant, and I was intrigued. Rex- King; Kevin- One of Kindness; Brooke- Lives by the Stream; Stephen- Crowned One; Melissa- Honey Bee.  And then, I saw my name-- Kristin- A Christian. I was quite disappointed. My name meant practically just what it sounded like, and to me at the age of seven or eight, it sounded very boring. I wanted my name's meaning to sound elegant, or at the very least to sound interesting, like Full of Grace, or One of Harmony, or almost anything else. Christian? Really? How mediocre.

Recently for my morning devotions, I have been reading in Isaiah; it is one of my favorite books in the Bible, and as I've been reading, I have noticed that names are important to God too.

"But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: 'Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.'" Isaiah 43:1

"'Fear not, for I am with you. . . I will gather you. . . everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.'" Isaiah 43:5-7

"'For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They shall spring up among the grass like willows by flowing streams. This one will say, "I am the Lord's," another will call on the name of Jacob, and another will write on his hand, "The Lord's," and name himself by the name of Israel.'" Isaiah 44:3-5

"Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God." Isaiah 50:10

He specifically tells Isaiah to tell Israel that they have been called by name and by God's name. God points out that they are to trust in His name and pronounces a future blessing on Israel's descendants who identify themselves with God's name and the name of His chosen people, Israel. God uses names to provide an identity and a sense of belonging to Him.

God even has a special regard for the names of those who do not consider themselves His own. God prophesied through Isaiah to Cyrus, King of Persia who had yet to be born. This is what God said to him: "I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by your name. For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me." Isaiah 45:3-4

Verses like these speak to me; they speak of belonging and love. They speak of trust. They speak of promises and blessings, comfort and peace. God calls me by name. I mean something to Him. I am of worth. He desires me to be called by His name and to trust that His name means something. It means home and security. And most of all it means love.

Since my Primary Sabbath school days, I have changed my opinion about my name and have come to truly appreciate its meaning and the honor that it carries.

Kristin Michelle- A Christian, One who is Like God.

And by God's grace, each day I am striving to live up to my name.

Wednesday, July 2

Of Babies and Brick Walls

I'm going to let you all in on a little secret. But, shhh. You can't tell anyone. 

I absolutely love my job in the NICU, but... 

Occasionally I get really frustrated with the way things go at work. I know, hard to believe, but it's true. 

As a bedside nurse, I spend the most time of anyone (excepting parents sometimes) with the babies I take care of. I learn their cues, know how well or how poorly they can eat, recognize "normal" patterns for them, and see red flags when the babies have deviated from their norms. Generally the neonatologists that I work with are more than happy to hear the nurses' opinions and suggestions to help them in planning a baby's care and goals to get them home with their parents. However, this is not always the case. 

A while back there was a baby in our NICU that I had taken care of often. Very often. I knew him very well and knew that he could be quite a fussy baby. But then, it was different. He was not just fussy; it was almost as if he was in pain and was crying out anxiously for someone to do something. He was almost panicked in his cries. For about two weeks I kept on telling the practitioners and doctors that I thought something was wrong, and I persisted in asking them to check into what I thought might be the problem. And for about two weeks, I was practically ignored. The worst part about it was that the patient I was advocating for was completely helpless. He had no way to voice what was wrong or what his needs were-- that was supposed to be my job. I felt like a failure. I felt like I was shouting at a brick wall, and it was so frustrating.

Have you ever felt like that before? It is a maddeningly helpless feeling.

Can I let you in on another little secret? 

Sometimes I feel that way with God. I know, hard to believe, but it's true. 

In the past few years especially there have been things that I have prayed for so persistently. Good things. For people to make positive changes in their lives, for them to choose to let God in. I have prayed for overcoming power for personal struggles. I have prayed for answers. And sometimes, I feel like I am shouting those prayers at a brick wall. 

Have you ever felt like that before? It can be a maddeningly helpless feeling.

But you know what is comforting to me in all this helplessness? Regardless of the way that I feel when I pray to my God, I know that He hears me. I know this because history has shown it to be true.

God heard Hagar and Ishmael's cries in the desert.
God heard Isaac's pleas for Rebekah to have children.
God heard Israel's cries for relief from their slavery.
God heard David's prayers over and over again for deliverance from his enemies.
God heard Solomon's request for wisdom.
God heard the leper's entreaty for cleansing.
God heard Paul's prayers for each of the churches he planted.
God heard the Centurion's plea for healing for his servant.

And the list could go on. Forever. Even in my own life I could probably list a hundred times or more when God has heard and answered my prayers-- some even before I knew to pray for them.

So if you're feeling like your prayers are hitting a brick wall, take courage. And "know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord hears when [we] call to him." Psalm 4:3, ESV

Friday, May 9

Little Green Sprouts

Timothy and I have a very small "garden." Currently it consists of strawberry plants from last year that came back with no coaxing from us and tomato plants that grew all on their own as well. Very low maintenance. We have also planted several clusters of basil plants in pots and watermelon and pepper seeds in little planters.

For quite some time before we had any sprouts or signs of life from our planters and pots we were very faithful in watering the seeds every day. The first time we even saw the tiniest bit of a green sprout in one of the basil pots we were ecstatic! It was so exciting and fun to see something that we had planted and watered every day finally show some signs of life. In hindsight, we were probably a little bit ridiculous in our level of excitement over one little tiny shoot of green.

Tiny basil sprouts
As time went on there were more and more signs of life from the basil plants, and you could almost see the resemblance in the tiny sprouts to basil leaves. But our watermelon and pepper seeds just weren't coming up. Still we faithfully watered them every morning and sometimes in the evenings when it had been a particularly hot and sunny day.

Then-- joyous day! One of our watermelon planters had two little stalks of green with leaves! And one of the pepper planters did too. Again, the amount of excitement was probably a little excessive, but we were finally seeing our faithfulness pay off!

Little pepper plant
Watermelon shoots!
Not too long after these thrilling events life got extremely busy. I was working overtime at the hospital and Timothy was chipping away at his clinical hours while frantically spitting out papers and studying for final exams. During this time there were probably two or three days where our little garden and planters were completely forgotten.

When we had a little moment to catch our breath from life's busyness, Timothy went to water our little plants. The sight that met his eyes was rather disheartening. The basil was doing alright, but the watermelon and pepper sprouts were completely dry and withered. We were so upset! All that faithfulness and work we had put in was wasted.

We decided to see if we could revive them anyway. So for the next few days we were extra attentive to the little plants; we watered them faithfully and checked their progress often. I am quite happy to report that they are finally (after probably a week or so) beginning to make a recovery. They are not quite as spry and green as they were at first, but they are getting there.

So why am I chronicling the progression of our little garden plants and sharing it with you? Why do you care?

In the weeks of growing, nearly killing, and reviving our little plants I feel like God shared with me an object lesson.

These little plants are so much like my relationship with God and my spiritual growth. Sometimes in the beginning it feels like all work and no noticeable progress. Then, slowly but surely I can see small improvements and start to feel like I'm really getting somewhere with this God business; I begin to feel like a real Christian. Maybe even other people can see the change.

Inevitably life gets busy. Sometimes so busy that I neglect my relationship with God. I spend time in prayer, but it's hurried and not as thoughtful as it should be, or I read my Bible but don't take the time to really contemplate the meaning of what I just read or search out the lesson in it. I stop drinking in that Living Water that I so desperately need to grow and flourish.

Then suddenly one day I stop and realize that I'm all dry and withered up. I notice that I've been selfish or lashed out at Timothy. Or I've not been patient with one of my coworkers or patient's families. And when I try to get down to the root of the problem I realize that it's because I've neglected my spiritual life. I haven't put priority on my time with God.

Thankfully, I serve a merciful and forgiving God; He always accepts me back. But often getting back into spending time with God and "watering" your spiritual life seems like it takes twice as much attentiveness and purpose as it did the first time around. And what you lost in two or three days of neglect seems to take two weeks to rebuild and regrow. But the beauty of God's love is that it can and will regrow.

Friday, April 18

(Un)Intentional Living

Do you ever feel like sometimes your life is just a constant barrage of information that you passively take into your mind without really stopping to think about it? Yeah, me neither.

Ok, well on occasion maybe. Actually, maybe more often than I would care to admit.

Sometimes I feel like I get so caught up in the flurry of activity that has become my life that I don't take the time to process what's happening or what I'm allowing into my mind. This whole idea recently occurred to me because of something that Andrew Peterson had posted online. He said that he hated the song, "Let it Go," from the new movie Frozen. Most of you have probably either heard this song or have heard about it; regardless, you don't need to have listened to it to understand what I'm getting at in this post.

When I read that Andrew Peterson hated "Let it Go," I must admit I was a little shocked that he would use such a strong word. It surprised me a little bit, but I didn't think too much about it. I mean, everyone has different tastes in music, and I guess everyone is entitled to their own opinion, right?

A day or two later, Andrew Peterson posted his reason for hating the song "Let it Go," apparently because he received so much negative feedback and questions on how he could hate such an innocent, catchy song aimed at an audience of young girls (mainly). His reason?

The main themes in the movie Frozen are about true love-- giving up your own desires in order to meet someone else's needs, the importance of family and being there for one another in a messed up world, and self-sacrifice. The song "Let it Go" has essentially the exact opposite theme. It's a song about shutting people out and living to yourself, with no rules, no regulations, only whatever floats your own selfish little boat.

When I read Andrew Peterson's short discourse on why "Let it Go" was a terrible song, I realized that I had heard it many times and never really thought about the message of the song. It was just a catchy little ditty from a sweet, family-centered movie. Wow, how did I miss that? And what else have I not been really thinking about?

This whole experience made me realize that we are so constantly inundated with entertainment media of all types that we begin to disengage our minds and let them soak everything in like an indifferent sponge. If my purpose in watching/reading/hearing/seeing different movies/books/songs/pictures is just for entertainment's sake-- a few moments of escape and unwinding at the end of the day-- then I don't take the time to truly process what I'm taking in and apply it to life. And I believe that in this cycle of passive digestion of information Satan has us right where he wants us. In a non-evaluative, unassuming, and unsuspecting coma of sorts. This is the sleepy state of Laodicean numbness. And I want out.

But how? Well, for starters... less is more. If I can begin by limiting the volume of media I'm taking in, I will out of necessity need to evaluate the quality and content of what I read/see/hear/watch so that I am consciously choosing what I ingest in my mind rather than passively accepting the stream of media that is constantly hurled at me.

What it really boils down to is living intentionally-- in all areas of our lives. And, by God's grace, I hope to begin living more intentionally starting today.