No one ever said Death was pretty…and how to work through it.

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. ” John 12:24

I face death every day.  I Corinthians 15:31

And we talk about “dying to self”.

But no one ever said Death was pretty.

Somehow, I seemed to have forgotten that. And when we found out we were having our sixth child and I prepared to endure the nine months of a thousand little deaths to myself so that new life could emerge, I boldly claimed and expected that God would meet us in the struggle.

He has. He is. and He will.

But there is some bloody, stinky death going on here. And  I forgot that death is never pretty. Even when God is in it.

There’s the death to my self-sufficiency, which I can so easily rely on when I have my normal amount of strength and energy.

There’s the death of my pride, as debilitating fatigue has landed me on my bed, at the mercy of people making meals for us and randomly being willing to watch a kid or two.

There’s the death of my banking on my ability to stand on the promises of God’s Word, and all my emotional and mental mess comes oozing out and I’m not “strong in my faith” or “able to keep it together (with the help of Jesus)”.

And then there’s the death of the logistics, like my kids showing up to church with mismatched socks, and a husband who reminded me again that he doesn’t have any clean boxers, and the incredible number of crumbs all over my kitchen floor (when you are lying down ON the floor, you get a great view of it all…I mean, of course I wasn’t sprawled out on the kitchen floor while I waited for the casserole to finish cooking), and the peanut butter smeared all over my black shirt when I showed up for the school meeting because I was too tired to change and too tired to care.

Over here, death just isn’t pretty.

And when life spins out of control, and you face the actual death of a loved one and all the despairing grief that comes with it, or you’re faced with cancer or a chronic illness, or you’re called into ministry in an intensely hard place where loneliness and fear can suck the life out of you, and whatever it might be, you, in faith (and fear) move into that place of personal death, over and over again,  and then you find yourself in a muddled and messy mix of emotions, doubts, strivings, and dimmed hope.  “Where did my faith go?” you might ask.

Maybe you, too, have forgotten that Death is never pretty.

So stop expecting it to be.

But as I recall, it wasn’t very pretty 2,000 years ago either.

There was blood spilled when Jesus was scourged, and there were probably bruises and disjoined limbs, and drool coming out of that busted lip from being beaten by the mocking soldiers, and there was an inability to even carry his own cross up the hill of Golgotha, and there was heavy panting and a desperate crying out, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?!?!”

Its OK to have a bloody mess of emotions dripping down your face. Its OK to cry out in agonizing pain. Its OK to whimper there, try to catch your bearings and suck in your next breath. Its OK to ask those questions, “God, where are you?”.

Death isn’t pretty, and it isn’t naturally desired. But if we are a people called out, made different, made new by the very Presence of God within us, then our minds about death will change.  Our minds will change, because our hearts are changed by the One who was the Forerunner into ultimate death, so that all the deaths we die are just a folding of ourselves up under Him bearing it all for us. Our hearts and minds will be willing to embrace death, in all its messiness and agony, and declare in hope and faith “There is resurrection to come!” even when heart is hurting, and tears are flowing and mind is reeling.

For as we gaze on the face of the Forsaken One, with all blood dripping down and heart bursting, we remember what came three days later.  Resurrection. Yes. Resurrection. There is a joy, a glory, a resurrection on the other side of all the messy death we suffer through. And just like Jesus did, we will set our hearts on the joy set before us, enduring the cross, scorning its shame that we might sit with God on the other side.  (Hebrews 12:2)

For as Christians,

there IS another side.

to this messy, ugly death we face.

Moving Up in order to Move Down: The role of a personal quiet time in a mother’s life

Achy, tired pregnant body…groggy mind…the alarm is blaring in my ear, but the whispers blur reason away…

“You need your rest- you are pregnant”

“If you get up now, you won’t make it through the morning”

“Its waaay to early…the kids woke you up alot last night”

And that carved out time, the very time when thirsty soul can drink from the Stream of Living Water, where hungry heart can feast at the Table, where Life can be breathed in and strength can fill a too-weak-for-the-job mamma of five six, it gets blurred away by those whispers.

No wonder everything has been so topsy turvey.  Every blurred thought, every outburst of anger, every running after comforts and crutches that can never truly uphold.  It is all traced back to this lack of feasting.

Trying to run a day with many young children without having feasted on the Word of God and the Presence of His Son, is like trying to run a marathon (at top speed) without having eaten anything for the past week.

And I wonder why I’m running on fumes…the fumes of my anger and frustration.

So, this snow day, with all children homebound ALL day long, warrants a movie watching, and while they watch the film I watch God’s Word awaken deaden heart.

As I persever in my commitment to read through the whole Bible in a year, I find myself at Exodus 34. Yawn. “Lord, your Word is Living and Active. Make it alive to me today” was the initial heart cry.

The Lord said to Moses, Cut for yourself two tablets of stone like the first and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke.” Exodus 34:1

Stone.Writing laws. And verses penned several centuries later rings through my mind and becomes my heart cry. May it be so, Lord: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26) and “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.” (Jeremiah 31:33)

And then, the words of Exodus 34 unfold how one moves into a place where this can happen.

“The Lord said to Moses,…..’Be read by the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself there to me on the top of the mountain.

And Moses doesn’t roll over and hit the snooze button and tell the Lord he’s too tired from leading all these people (Moses had over a million….I have a mere five).

No.

And he rose early in the morning and went up on Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him, and took in his hand two tablets of stone. The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there and proclaimed the name of the Lord. 

The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” 

And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped. And he said, “If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff-necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.” 

…When Moses came down from Mount Sinai…the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.” Exodus 34: 2-9, 29

Moses, he was called to be ready by the morning. Like there was preparation to be made for the intent purpose of getting up to go meet with God.  And if we value that meeting time with God, we too will make preparations to be there. I will get dinner made on time. I will get kids in bed on time. I will not wander through facebook or blogs or instagram pictures when I should be going to bed so that I can get up, to go up…..in order to come back down with God-brilliant face for my family.

So Moses’ early morning meeting with God teaches me a thing or two on how I can meet with God.

1.He made preparations to be ready in the morning (Ex.34:4)

2. He rose early (Ex.34:4)

3. He went up to meet with God (Ex.34:4)

4. He presented himself  (Ex. 34:2)

and he did it all so that he could be dozing through the “meeting with God” and  miserably tired the rest of the day, and grumpy with the people because of his lack of sleep.

No.

The rewards of rising early, moving up the mountain, and simply showing up were beyond comprehension.

For in Moses’ moving up, God came down.

The Lord descended in the cloud and stood there with him.

And the Lord filled Moses with hope, for He filled him with His Very Promises.

And Moses was given the opportunity to invite the Lord into every messy component of his task at hand…

O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff-necked people…” (Ex.34:9)

{ if you could hear the bickering of some stiff-knecked children and mama that goes on at our house, you would realize why I need to extend the same invitation every.single.morning}

And Moses went up, not to stay there and shirk his responsibility, but he went up, to be so awed by the Presence of God, that He could faithfully go down.

Go down into the sin ridden mess of a people he was to lead.

Go down into carrying a responsibility far to big for one person.

Go down into the nitty gritty of real life and struggle and problems.

But, once down there, he was never the same,

for “the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God”. Exodus 34:29

And this family of mine, it needs some God shine in it. And this wayward heart of mine, it needs some Holy God filling it. And this easily discouraged mind, it needs steadfast Promises of a Steadfast God to cling to, when the circumstances seem too overwhelming stacked against me.  This day of mine, needs some God going in the midst of it.

And the place to find all that, the power to go down into the many mundane tasks and demands, is in the going up…the getting up, and going up into the presence of the Promises and the Presence of the Promiser.

Will you join me?

Need some help in how to enter in? How to move up the mountain into the Presence of the Promises and the Promiser?

This is the app I have downloaded on my phone. It sends the One Year Bible Reading Plan’s daily reading right to my email inbox. You can even switch the dates around if you are getting a late start.  And get this. It will even READ IT TO YOU. That means God’s word while we fold laundry, do dishes,  get ready in the morning, or drive to work . (although nothing can replace sitting still before the Lord to hear Him speak….the read aloud is simply supplemental)

Is that too daunting?

Try:

A Two Week Guided Tour of the Bible

Thirty days with Jesus

Thirty days for When You’re New to the Bible

Sixty days for the whole New Testament

Custom build your reading plan!