It Doesn’t Get Better Than This (music-wise) in Dallas

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NEEDTOBREATHE – 2013 Drive All Night Tour at the Palladium / Photo by Rachel Duke

Last night’s NEEDTOBREATHE concert at the Palladium was even more awesome than I anticipated in my earlier blog post — due mostly to the sort of random, unplanned series of events, and the fact Chris came with me, which made it THAT much more awesome.

The doors opened at 8, so we wanted to get there right around that time. By the time we left the house we realized we didn’t have enough time to sit down and have a nice, chill dinner beforehand. Pulling up to park, Chris made a crack at the fact there would have been 14-year-old fan girls in line all day. I scoffed laughingly thinking he was seriously joking. WRONG. I so ate my doubts. There they were, skinny jeans and all, in masses lined up outside the venue door. I couldn’t believe it. I had seen them last year at the House of Blues, and there wasn’t anything like this.

Chris and I laughed so hard, and as we found the back of the line (a few blocks later) I teasingly pointed out that there were 40-year-olds at the back of the line, so Chris didn’t have to feel like he was the oldest guy there. We decided we weren’t going to get near the stage anyway, and didn’t want to spend the next half hour standing in line.

As luck would have it, I had done a photo shoot with TWG (magazine) earlier that week at the NYLO Hotel, which is a few blocks down from the Palladium. Afterwards the photographer treated my team to some drinks at this charming industrial-looking restaurant called Full Circle Tavern (check them out). Chris and I decided to have a drink and eat dinner. The weather was perfect and we sat right next to one of the big doorways (which are really those garage doors with all the windows, rolled up) for the next hour. The line grew to where people were lined up outside the restaurant. When we finished we hopped right in line and it began moving. Such an awesome and convenient turn of events!

We ended up standing in the middle of the wide, yet deep room. I expected to bump into people I knew that were going, but didn’t. NEEDTOBREATHE had never played to a crowd this big at one time in Dallas. There had to be at least 2,000 people in one space. It was so fun to sing along, jump up and down and let the inner 14-year-old out a little bit, which cracked up my boyfriend.

Here’s a short clip I managed to get of one of the songs they performed last night (Drive All Night — duh)

A Double Whammy

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Okay, so I’ve now had two people nominate me for the Liebster Blog Award: My darling friend and sister of my heart, Michal and my dear friend (and soon-to-be a new mother) Hayley (who also happens to be Michal’s amazing sister-in-law). I’m telling you they don’t make sister-in-laws and friends like these two women anymore. Suffice to say, I have no choice but to participate in this wonderful opportunity after both these ladies have recommended mine; the point of all this being to direct more readers to blogs with fewer than 200 followers in a chain-mail form of nominating people. I also get to answer some questions about myself.

Eleven Random Facts about Rachel 

1. My major was journalism, but my passion lies with magazine writing. I am a advertising/marketing copywriter for two: Texas Wedding Guide and Design Guide magazines. I do everything from print writing (features) to anything online, including our social media.

2. I have a nerdy side that comes out in the form of quoting or relating most life circumstances to a movie or book quote.

3. I am ridiculously in love with all things chocolate. It’s the purest form of dessert, in my expert opinion. Also, I love wine. Especially enjoy a glass or two with my boyfriend after a long day. He actually has turned me into more of a wine snob. Interesting fact: He didn’t care for wine until he started dating me. I liked the sweeter, white wines, whereas he preferred the bite of reds. Now I prefer red wine over white because of him.

4. I love to cook or bake a new recipe at least once a week, and not just pin them on Pinterest. I mostly love it because I enjoy doing it for or with my boyfriend.

5. I’m addicted to working out, Pilates and road biking – although I don’t take any of them too seriously. I’ve done three 5Ks and Hotter ‘n Hell bike marathon last summer (53 miles).

6. I’m left-handed.

7. When it comes to being right-brained or left-brained, I’m pretty much smack dab in the middle, but tend to lean more to the left (I’ve got that artsy side).

8. If you had to compare me to a character in literature, I would be Marianne (Sense and Sensibility – passionate and a romantic) with a dose of Elizabeth (Pride and Prejudice – a love of books and extremely stubborn/opinionated) with a dash of Jane (P&P – inclined to think the best of people) and wishing I had more Elinor in me (S&S).

9. Don’t be fooled, I may appear to be an extrovert, but I feel I lean towards being more of an introvert – I like my thinking space.

10. My ancestry is Greek and German. Not sure what that indicates about me….stubborn and smart? To look at me (and my nose) you’d see the Greek in me.

11. One question I’ve been wondering this whole time: Why 11 random facts? Because it’s an odd number and these are odd facts?

Eleven Random Questions Given from Michal, via Hayley, via Rachel (why not?)

If there was one place in the world you would travel to, where would it be? Italy. I’m a HUGE history (and art) buff, and there’s so much history there from Rome, with its history of the catacombs and persecution of the early church. Then there’s Venice, with great composers like Vivaldi and other great artists.

Have you yet mastered the art of parallel parking? No, and I don’t think I ever will. I can manage if I have to, but I break out in stress sweat each time, anticipating the screech of metal.

What is your favorite word? Vivacious (it pretty much changes from month to month). According to Merriam-Webster: Adjective (esp. of a woman) Attractively lively and animated; Synonyms: Lively – sprightly – spirited – brisk – anitmated – alive.

What is your favorite season of the year and why? If I lived in Northern California, I would say, hands down, Summer. But since I’m in Dallas, Texas, I would have to say Autumn. There air is electric (and cooler) and there’s so many spices in the air. The anticipation of the upcoming holidays full of delicious food and fun celebrations with friends and family. I love how colorful fall is and that I finally get to pull out my brown boots and cardigans.

What are you looking forward to doing most this summer? Spending some quality time doing activities with my boyfriend that we’ve been unable to do because he’s been consumed with homework and finals the past few months. He’ll be graduating from seminary (DTS) this month.

What is your favorite quote or words of wisdom?  Almost every quote from C.S. Lewis hits the mark. There are so many good quotes – it’s hard to decide. So, instead of agonizing, I’ll share a quote from a book I’ve been reading (Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller) that’s encouraged and punched me in the gut: 

But I can guarantee that, whoever you marry, you will fall “out of like” with them. Powerful feelings of affection and delight will not and cannot be sustained. It is quite typical to lose the head-over-heels feelings for your mate even before you get married, because our emotions are tied to so many things within our physiology, psychology, and environment. Your feelings will ebb and flow, and if you follow our culture’s definition of “love,” you may conclude that this can’t be a person you should marry. Our culture glorifies romantic passion, and so we say, “If this was the person for me to marry, my feelings wouldn’t be so up and down.” In a chapter called Christian Marriage in Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis writes:

People get from books the idea that if you have married the right person you may expect to go on “being in love” forever. As a result, when they find they are not, they think this proves they have made a mistake and are entitled to a change – not realizing that, when they have change, the glamour will presently go out of the new love just as it went out of the old one…

In any relationship, there will be frightening spells in which your feelings of love seem to dry up. And when that happens you must remember that the essence of a marriage is that is it a covenant, a commitment, a promise of future love. So what do you do? You do acts of love, despite your lack of feeling. You may not feel tender, sympathetic, and eager to please, but in your actions you must be tender, understanding, forgiving, and helpful.

Coffee or tea? Coffee. Usually one cup a day. But I love tea, too.

What is the last movie you watched? The King’s Speech (with Colin Firth). This is a must-see (and must-own) movie. The quotes and exchanges are so colorful and gripping.

If there is one person in the world (living) whom you aspire to be like, who would it be?  There really isn’t just one person, and most are peers I look up to.

What/who/where is your inspiration for writing? Two writers who most inspire me: C.S. Lewis and Jane Austen. They had such verve and incredible insight. Basically any book or blog where I love the writer’s voice and use of words, I get excited about what I do because I learn from them.

What is your favorite thing to do with your family? Movie and pizza nights or our random, but in-depth conversations on a topic.

Here are a few blogs I think deserve many more readers:

A Woman Alive by Michal Conger. I could read her blog all day because she has such a way with words. She writes with clarity and in a style that’s enjoyable to follow and easy to understand. She also possesses wisdom beyond her years.

Sweet Tooth Mama by Hayley Elseth. I have a horrible (but wonderful) sweet tooth and enjoy following her adventures in the land of delectable sweets and treats, the tips she gives and the resources she recommends. And she has fun images.

Austen’s Guide to Happiness by a mother and wife living in Australia. I recently stumbled across this blog, and if you’re a die-hard fan of Jane Austen, you may just love this blog. She ties in scenarios and characters in the books with real-life struggles and delights.

The Rabbit Room by S.D. Smith. Good stuff on here if you’re a lover of literature. It has some great resources like podcasts and its own bookstore.

Ok, to be honest, most blogs I follow have a huge following and very few of my friends have blogs. I will often stumble across some delightful blogs via Pinterest. Also, I’ll take time out of my day to read the blog from The Gospel Coalition, which features multiple guest bloggers.

Why I Love NEEDTOBREATHE

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Words cannot adequately express the sheer delight, my internal state of jumping up and down or my giddiness about seeing NEEDTOBREATHE in concert, for the second time, tomorrow night at the Palladium in downtown Dallas!!!

There’s so much to love about the kind of music this band produces.

1) The depth behind the seemingly light-hearted lyrics

2) Their energy onstage – their passion for their music, style and fans is evident – they can’t help but evoke passionate fans

3) Their antics and energy never wain throughout the performance – in fact, it becomes even more wild towards song 10

4) The history behind each song and their beginnings/journey as a band

5) The fact that their fans sing along loudly – it’s awesome

They are absolutely and must-see act to put on your bucket list. This is coming from a girl who doesn’t typically enjoy concerts or have money to throw at them. Worth every penny. I’ve been waiting in eager anticipation of this moment since I saw them in concert last year. Can I just add here how excited I am that my boyfriend is coming to this concert with me? It makes this THAT much more awesome!

I even printed off and took a photo of the tickets at work:

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Tickets for Chris and I!!

Here’s an excerpt I pulled from Palladium’s site on them (my favorite parts are in bold):

“We wanted to make an important record in the way that people used to make records. Bands rarely have the time that allows them to create a game-changing album like Born to Run, Rumours, or Damn The Torpedoes. So we said, ‘Let’s set ourselves up to do that. Let’s believe in the songs enough that we’re willing to take the time they need and really push ourselves. It may sound nave, but we still have a dream that we’re going to make a record that’s going to change everything for us.”

When NEEDTOBREATHE’s Bear and Bo Rinehart set out to write the songs that appear on the band’s new album, The Reckoning, they felt something bigger awaited them. It wasn’t just commercial success either. The band’s last album The Outsiders hit No. 9 on Billboard’s Rock Albums chart, went Top 20 on the Top 200, saw the band sell out venues such as Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium and Chicago’s House of Blues, and score an impressive number of placements in blockbuster films and numerous prime time television-shows. Bear explains “There was always this creeping reminder that we needed to show what the last ten years on the road had taught us. If we couldn’t do that, everything we had worked for was meaningless.”

With their reputation as a must-see live act built from non-stop touring, the Rinehart brothers, pastor’s sons who hail from the rural South Carolina town of Possum Kingdom, along with drummer Joe Stillwell and bass player Seth Bolt, were determined to create a statement-making album that truly captured the magic behind this genuinely appealing rock band.

“We considered every note, every sound, and every lyric that went on this album,” Bo says of their fourth album The Reckoning, which was co-produced by the band with Rick Beato (who worked with the band on their records The Heat and The Outsiders), and was recorded over seven months mostly at their Plantation Studios in Charleston, SC. “Everything was put through the ‘Do we really believe in this or not,’ filter. We never settled. We were looking for a spark. Sometimes in the studio you’ve got to keep searching until something happens that feels magical. We were waiting for that moment to strike on each song before we called this album finished.” Bear adds, “At one point, we had done 10 different versions of the same song, but that process is what the record came to be about. We felt like no one could take this moment from us. I think you can feel the pressure we put on ourselves in every note of this record. The songs and the album became something much bigger than us … something we had to live up to.”

Lyrically, all roads lead from the album’s title, which Bear says has several different meanings, one of them being the justification of accounts. “I like the idea that you put in all this work and at some point it comes to a peak — that’s the reckoning time.”

What the band emerged with is a timeless-sounding album rooted in classic American rock and roll, unafraid to veer off into unexpected directions. Songs such as “Maybe They’re On To Us” address the paranoia of wondering whether people know too much about the band. “It also asks, ‘Are we still driven in the same way?’ We’re always questioning ourselves,” Bear says. Even the songs that may sound light-hearted on the surface, like “White Fences,” “Slumber,” and “Drive All Night,” explore serious themes. “‘White Fences’ is about the American dream of growing up in a big house with a white picket fence, but when the dream is broken and things don’t pan out the way you planned, asking who’s going to fix it,” Bo says. “‘Slumber’ is meant to be about how beauty is all around you but you just can’t see it because of the funk you’re in,” Bear says. “It speaks to something that we really care about which is giving yourself a chance.” And there’s “Drive All Night,” a galloping barnstormer that Bear sees as a statement on the false idea that one can run away from one’s problems. “The truth is, the more you run away, the worse it gets, whereas if you embrace the things around you, the more joy you’re going to have,” he says.

With their intriguing melodies and bright choruses, the songs on The Reckoning are certain to translate in the live setting, something that is crucial to the band. “The worst thing that could happen is you get done playing and people don’t think about you again. We’ll do whatever it takes to force people to make a decision about our band, whether they love us or not. It makes for more passionate fans.”

“We’ve always bought into the fact that anything worth having is going to cost you a lot, so I think we were prepared to lose everything. The Reckoning is our investigation into everything we believed to be true and a justification for everything we still do.”

Parenthood: The Importance of Being Affectionate

To all my married friends, some with little ones, those who’re wanting to be parents in the future and everyone in between, this post is dedicated to you.

“Homemaking is surely in reality the most important job in the world. What do ships, railways, mines, cars, government, etc. exist for except that people may be fed, warmed, and safe in their own homes? The homemaker’s job is one for which all others exist.” – C.S. Lewis

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Children watching mommy and daddy dancing, 1950s

A pin on Pinterest, from my best girlfriend, Michal Conger (blogger and Opinion Staff Writer for the Washington Examiner), inspired and prompted me to write this post, which had been formulating in the back of my head for a couple of day. She captioned under it: Always let your children see how much you love each other.

If I had only one piece of advice I was allowed to give on the key to good parenthood, it would be that statement.

I can’t stress the importance of this enough. You may be thinking, “Well, you’re not a parent, so how would you know?” What I DO know is I’m the child of such parents and it’s forever impacted my life. I’m not saying to have a make-out session in front of your kids. I’m talking about the little/big gestures of affection and tenderness, like a hug and kiss goodbye on your way out the door, a little flirting, picking up some flowers, opening doors for your wife (all kinds), saying “I love you” and often, and all those thoughtful gestures in between.

Your children are watching you; to see how you respond when your spouse is being moody or your expressions and tones in your conversations. Yes, you’re going to fail – face it – you’re both human. But it’s how you address those “oopsies” in front of them or in private. Just to clarify, these are “habits” that you don’t wait to start working on until you have kids.

The other afternoon, my mom was in the kitchen whipping up some brunch for my dad and her. He comes in from walking the dog, stops her in the middle of what she’s doing, grabs her tenderly, kisses her and says unashamedly in front of me, “I love you.” They’ve been married 30 years. Oh, and this includes showing love and affection to your children (just in case there was any doubt in your mind).

Let me give you 4 reasons why you should care:

1) It’s a continual benefit in your relationship with your spouse (love of your life). It’s HARD work, but the great things in life typically are. Think of the reward both on earth and in heaven for loving well. Please note, love isn’t a mere emotion or a question whether you feel passionately head over heels for them in that moment – and it’s typically not all about you (sorry to burst your bubble). But yes, keep it spicy, guys.

2) Your kids will learn how to show affection and acts of love to you and others around them.

3) When they’re grown up, they will know what to look for in their spouse, and settle for no less.

4) They will show their kids their love for each other.

I don’t know why my mind will think in movie quotes, but I’m cool with it. This post made me think of a scene from “Something Borrowed” with John Krasinski, where his character (Ethan) is trying to hail a cab. He lingers to have an exchange with another main character, and the cab driver finally yells (angrily) something like, “Are you getting in or what?!” Ethan pauses, looks at the driver, and says, “Whoa, you need a hug, buddy.” But it’s so true, if your child isn’t hugged often or reminded how much they are loved, I think it does something to them later on in life. Joe Love, CEO of JLM & Associates, says:

Lack of love whether it’s real or imagined by the child can have serious consequences. It can lead to physical, mental and emotional damage that can have long-term if not permanent negative consequences on the entire life of the child. In fact most child psychologists and therapists agree that love deprivation is the most serious problem a child can suffer during his or her formative years (source).

There are so many things that I could say and things I could expound upon, but I only have so much time in the day, and it’s back to work for me.

Fear Looks Like Freedom

 

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Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither. – C.S. Lewis

I haven’t written on my blog for a long time (since the end of January I believe). In writer’s time, that’s a very long (nigh unacceptable) time. To be honest, I haven’t been inspired to write or if I have there’s always this whiny voice telling me that it’s already been said better or it’s not original at all. I try too hard. I do. I really do. Hi, my name is Rachel, and I’m a perfectionist. I hate admitting that. Excelling and putting your heart into something is one thing and totally okay. But for me ::running hands through hair:: I crave perfection and praise. Why? Because, I want it to be about me. I want to be “worshipped,” in essence.

Bottom-line: Pride. Fear of man. It’s poison. Fear is the opposite of love, you know, not hate. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” (1 John 4:18). Fear is selfish. Love is selfless. I’m seeking to be perfect in man’s eyes because I fear their disapproval, rejection, disappointment and anger. I’ve been scarred by my fear, because it has led me down paths in life and relationships that have tried to suck the love and joy and freedom out of my soul. I took that path because I deceived myself. Fear that looked like freedom. Is this me beating myself up? Maybe. Self pity? No. Revelation? Yes.

But looking back and beating myself up over my past sin doesn’t do any good. It’s like Christian from John Bunyan’s “The Pilgrim’s Progress” in the Slough of Despond, just wading in it until he realized he needed saving, and Help came. Jesus already covered all those detestable sins on the cross. Grace. Love. Mercy. Freedom. I was made perfect through His perfection. I should seek His perfection (holiness), not my own (Matt. 4:48)

How do I begin to seek His perfection? Stop caring what others think? No. Indifference? No. Let’s look to Jesus here. Did He care what others thought? No, He didn’t, but he still showed love, consideration, gave rebuke when needed, and above all, He was more concerned with how He represented His heavenly Father. So, it’s about setting your priorities straight and having your perspective on the eternal, not the temporary praise and love of man (you know I mean, “people” when I say “man,” right? Ok, just checking). Do I need man’s approval? No, but yeah, it’s really a wonderful thing to have, if you have your heart set to thank God for giving you that little joy.

I believe if I desire first and foremost God’s approval, and live my life accordingly, then all the rest will grow unimportant, but still be welcomed. There’s nothing wrong with approval and love.

Affection is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our lives. – C.S. Lewis

God wired us to love and to be loved; to serve and be served; to encourage and be encouraged. Some seasons may feel like you’re the only one giving it their all, which may or may not be the case. God sees and knows, and perhaps that’s Him reminding you of where you’re seeking approval, joy, love, freedom and affirmation.

Are these things wicked to desire from others? Absolutely not. But to love them more than God, is sinful indeed.

God cannot gives us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing. – C.S. Lewis

Keep examining your heart, and please, call me out if you see me fail and stumble of the path. Oh, we humans. God is awesome in the fact that He didn’t have us be alone in our struggles.

7 Tips for Better Bible Study

I came across this blog by Mark Driscoll, pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Wash., and had to repost it because all too often we make it all about the reading/gleaning knowledge aspect alone, and don’t take into consideration other key elements. Also, he talks about how bible study encourages and commands us to be the church. As Alistair Begg is fond of saying, “The plain things are the main things and the main things are the plain things.”

An important point that we often miss as believers (in whatever stage of life transformation by the gospel) and that becomes discouraging is we tend to think because we’re limited in knowledge, etc. we can’t be affective or show Christ to others. There are things that you believe in Scripture that are true, but you just don’t fully understand why you believe them, nor can you adequately defend them. Your “ignorance” does not make your beliefs wrong, does it? You may need to grow deeply in your knowledge, but your beliefs are true and remain unchanged. Your conviction of their truth deepens, but the truth is the truth. You tracking with me?

Ok, here’s Driscoll:

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When tempted by the devil to turn stones into bread after a 40-day fast in the wilderness, Jesus responded by saying simply and profoundly, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

Paul, when writing to his protégé, Timothy, writes that, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17).

David writes, “I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes” (Psalm 119:48).

The implications are clear: life and growth come from the study of God’s words through Scripture. We are not to read and study the Bible begrudgingly but rather view it as the source of life and, like David, love God’s word.

But the reality is that we all struggle at times to study faithfully or joyfully. So, it’s nice to have a few principles to help us refocus our love and study of Scripture. Below are seven principles that I’ve found beneficial.

1. Actively serve and participate in a local church to learn with and from other Christians.

Colossians 3:16 (NIV): “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.”

2. Be under the authority of Scripture to be interpreted by it, not over the Scripture to be interpreted by you.

Hebrews 4:12–13 (NIV): “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-­edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

3. Pick up the Bible for life transformation, not just mental information.

John 5:39–40 (NIV): “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”

4. Pick up the Bible for relational purposes—not functional ones—so that you will love God and not just know or use him.

Matthew 7:21–23 (NIV): “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’“

5. Don’t just get into the Word; get the Word into you.

Memorization, Psalm 119:11: “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”

Meditation, Ezra 7:10: “For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.”

6. Take advantage of godly Bible commentators, your pastor, respected theologians in church history, and wise Christian friends to better understand Scripture.

Romans 12:7 (NIV): “If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach . . .”

7. Don’t think you need more knowledge. Often you need more obedience to the knowledge you already have.

James 1:22 (NIV): “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

What Does God’s Sovereignty Mean to You?

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“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” – Romans 8:32

As some of you know, the post before this one was about Christmas, a poem, and how do we deal with the loss of the children and teachers in the Connecticut elementary school shooting.

My dad read my post, and replied. It felt very much like a “letter to the editor” and complemented and shed further light to what I said in my previous post. He talks about the hope we have in Christ and how this enables us to comfort others. The only thing I’d like to help clarify is that when he says “not by speaking theology or doctrine to them,” and then goes on in the next graph to say how we still proclaim Christ, is not a contradiction. I think he’s touching on the importance of not sounding trite or doing as James 2:15-17 says about just sounding spiritual, but not meeting the person’s needs.

The reply

Thank you for your timely and sensitive post. There is so much pain and suffering in our world, some obvious, some concealed behind a smile. God is sovereign, but this is only good news because of the gospel of Jesus Christ. God’s sovereignty is not good news to those who do not believe, nor, does it necessarily or immediately sound like good news to someone who has suffered a tragic loss. It may. It may not.

God did not make us human (originally) so that we might experience grief, but that we might know joy forever in His presence. Comforting those who are sorrowing – I mean really comforting them, not by speaking theology or doctrine to them and wishing them well – requires great love and great wisdom and great compassion, at least. I think this is true whether it is a believer or non-believer.

Please, please let us tell them again and again about Jesus, the one who suffered and died and was raised from the dead. Let us speak incessantly of the Savior who is seated at God’s right hand, who is able to save to the uttermost, who ever lives to make intercession for us. Let us speak of Him who ordained all our days before there was one of them, in whose hand we are kept until that great day when He returns to judge the living and the dead. Let us speak of Him who loves us with such blazing, unquenchable intensity that He will not rest until we stand before Him holy and blameless. Let us take heed to His word that in this world we have tribulation – death, violence, perversity, greed, corruption, injustice, war and much more – so that we cease trying to make this world a private heaven. Finally, let us point always to the glory that shall be, that is laid up for those who love God and are called by Him. Paul says, “For I consider that the suffering of this present time is not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed to us. This is being “spiritually minded.” So must we strive to be while we point others to the same hope that nourishes and sustains our own soul.

How my heart breaks for the parents and grandparents of the slain little ones! But, there is no fixing it with words or otherwise. There is Christ. There is grace, mercy, peace, forgiveness and hope, a living hope in Him. There is incomprehensible love, unknowable apart from grace because of its unsearchable magnitude. There is the promise of eternally satisfying, joy-producing good from all manner of evil. There is resurrection, glory and immortality promised to all who believe in Jesus. But, the fullness awaits His return. Until then, how utterly crucial it is that we strive to display the truth of our profession of Christ in lives of sacrificial, unfeigned love for each other and our neighbor, so that when the next tragedy comes those who are impacted will be more willing perhaps to hear about our Jesus in whom we have hoped.

The truth we celebrate during Christmas – God was manifested in the flesh – is for innumerable reasons the inexhaustible, unshakable, unchanging ground of our rejoicing right now, even in a world like ours filled with such heart-rending sorrow, brokenness and death, so much death. Against this black background the glory of God’s grace in Jesus Christ shines more magnificently bright. Wouldn’t you agree?

So, we grieve and it is right to do so. But, we also rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Merry Christmas! Not the superficial merriment of the profane secular Christmas, but that deep, soul-satisfying, heart-consoling, impregnable-to-tragedy merriment that comes from knowing Him who loved us and gave Himself for us.