Monday, August 28, 2017

“Sometimes it is good to be sad.”

I was talking to my girls about the flooding in Texas this morning. During our conversation, Audrey said to me, “Stop talking about this, it is making me sad.”

Her words struck me and I told her, “Sometimes it is good to be sad.”

I get where she’s coming from--What a completely human thing to say. It is a painful thing to look upon the suffering in the world around us; it is uncomfortable and confronting. It can accost the quiet peace of our day and force our mind to travel roads we’d rather not venture down. I used to cling firmly to a personal policy similar to her 4-year-old request, “If I don’t see it, I can’t feel for it.” And I squeezed my eyes shut, unwilling to let other’s pain into my little world.

And then I met Jesus.

I met Jesus, and everything changed. 

Everything changed because Jesus, He looks upon the suffering and He weeps with the broken-hearted; He stands before both the oppressed and the oppressor and invites them to eat at His table; He kneels down beside the sickbeds of those no one would dare to touch; He puts Himself in the dark places so that the ones who reside there could know light.

Everything changed because if I wanted to grow in likeness to my Christ, I had to entrust Him with my heart. I have to let myself feel what He feels, see what He sees, hear what He hears so that I can learn to bring His unwavering love to a world that desperately needs to feel the gentleness of His compassion, to be transformed by His burning affection and to bow beneath the astounding wonder of His delight.

And so, I look at my intensely emotional little girl and I pray that someday she would find the courage to open her eyes.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

the Kingdom of light

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to Whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; He removes kings and sets up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; He reveals deep and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him...And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end and it shall stand forever.” Daniel 2:20-22,44

the light dwells with You
©hannah mclean 4-25-17

blessed be Your name
remaining constant in the changing times and seasons
unhindered by the reign of wicked rulers
undaunted by the darkness that will not relent

blessed be Your name
the unending Source of wisdom and power
the Revealer of all that is hidden
the One with whom light dwells

no matter how my heart laments the ruling powers of my day--
kingdoms raised by hands dripping evil
exploiting
deceiving
bombarding 
destroying--
i find myself uplifted by the Kingdom that is to come
Your Kingdom that will crush all others 
in a glorious rule of
peace

blessed be Your name
may i stand within its unbreakable shelter
hemmed in by Your overcoming light
for You know all things
and if You bid me stand in the darkness
i will stand in it with You
finding delight in seeing
Your beauty, power, wisdom and light
topple kingdoms
that by any other means or authority
would not fall

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

"...for he is..."

The sermon on Sunday was from Acts 9, where the apostle Paul encountered the Lord on the road to Damascus, where he was going to gather the followers of Jesus to be brought back to Jerusalem and punished. And as we read about this confrontation and blinding by light, we read about God sending Ananias to Paul to return his sight.

ACTS 9:10–15
Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to Your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine to carry My name before the gentiles and kings and the children of Israel...”


And I just couldn’t get past those words from verse 15, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine to carry My name...”

I marvel at the Lord--the holy, mighty, merciful, righteous, perfect I AM; whose Name is great; whose authority is over all; who is unmatched in beauty, worth, glory and power. This One True Living God made Himself known to Paul, who describes himself and his way of life at the time in these ways:
ACTS 22:3-4 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women...” GAL 1:13 “For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it.” 1 TIM 1:12–13a,15b “I thank Him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because He judged me faithful, appointing me to His service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent...Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”

This One True Living God looked upon Paul and called him His “chosen instrument,” deemed him “Mine,” and spoke purpose over him, “to carry My name...” How do I get past that? Here was a man hellbent of stopping the spread of the gospel and the furthering of the kingdom of God; he was violently and zealously persecuting Christ’s Church, killing and punishing God’s people; and he was doing it from a place of pride and insolence while waving the flag of religious righteousness and declaring the name of Yahweh. THIS man...THIS man God looked upon and said, “This one is Mine. I choose him. I am going to put My name on him and he will be My instrument to lead gentiles, kings and Israelites to salvation.”

When I read Paul’s words in 1 Timothy, I can hear the wonder and resinate with the magnitude of his gratitude as it drips from his testimony, “...He judged me faithful, appointing me to His service, though formerly I was...” There is much to marvel at here, and our marveling shouldn’t end with Paul. It should cause us to look beyond the pages of scripture and at ourselves--our failing, faltering, fallible selves; and it should cause us to wonder at the Lord who says to us, “You are Mine. Before you chose Me, I chose you; before you were a saint, you were a sinner, and it was THEN that I died for you. I will set My name upon you and My Spirit inside of you. You are My instrument to bring My Gospel, My light, My love to the world.” He deserves so much better; He deserves pristine, untarnished, whole, holy, beautiful vessels, and yet, He picks through the ashes and He takes us as His own.

And I can’t get past that...and neither should you.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Perfect Love Casts Out Fear: Part 3

I have found that pregnancy after a miscarriage has some unexpected twists; for example, my heart cringes every time this child is referred to as Baby #4. It took me a month longer to realize that I was pregnant with this child than with the others; it never dawned on me because I’ve been praying for another baby for two years and my body had failed in many ways that made it impossible. When I found out I was pregnant, I freaked out. Not because I wasn’t overjoyed (I was and AM), but because after I lost my last baby, I distinctly declared this statement as true about myself, “A baby put in this body will die.” My pregnancy with Evelyn scared me; it was a day-to-day assessment to determine if it was more dangerous for me to remain pregnant or to deliver a premature child into the world. And when she was finally born, the tiniest thing I’d ever held, I wept with relief that she was ok in spite of the fact that my blood pressure was slowly killing the placenta that was suppose to be sustaining and nurturing her.

I don’t think it was unreasonable to freak out. I have been waiting for 2 years for the Lord to heal my body, and I had assumed He would heal it before He put a baby in it. But He didn’t...so the same body that put Evelyn’s life in the balance and was unable to carry Theo, that body now houses a new child.

So I went and stood before the Lord and I told Him all my fears. I praised Him because I was excited, and I wondered at His curious ways, and I told Him I was confused and afraid and I didn’t know what to do about my medication or my emotions. And He listened.

He didn’t tell me what to do, or why He did things the way He did, or when He was going to heal my body...nor did He rebuke my fear. Instead He told me two things: He told me WHO He is and He gave me a hope to hang onto. He said something along these lines (this I will paraphrase), “I am the Creator and Sustainer of Life. This child’s wellbeing does not depend on your body’s performance, it depends entirely on Me.” And He also said (and this is not a paraphrase), “This child is for your joy, not your sorrow.”

And that has proven to be enough.

All the fears I walked into this pregnancy with flee before this truth--God is the creator and sustainer of life--and this promise--this child is for my joy, not my sorrow. The fear that my body could not sustain this baby fled at His words to me; the fear that my body had failed again when I started bleeding at 9 weeks--and again at 17 weeks--fled when I reminded myself of this truth and promise; the fear of heartbreaking disappointment fled with this permission to be excited; the fear that should have swelled up in me when my doctor listed off all the dangerous things she was anticipating could happen during this pregnancy could not take root in my mind; the fears that should understandably roll through my mind cannot gain momentum...and the whole things leaves me marveling at the work God has done in me over this season I am leaving. He has opened up new depth and understanding of His perfect love for me, and the result is shown in the fruit my life now bears: I have been fearless in this pregnancy. And any of you who know me well know this is no small miraculous work of God.


-------
1 John 4:10,16,18,19
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His son to be the propitiation for our sins...So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him...There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear...We love because He first loved us.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Perfect Love Casts Out Fear: Part 2

1 John 4:10,16,18,19
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His son to be the propitiation for our sins...So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him...There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear...We love because He first loved us.


“To know and to believe the love that God has for us.”
This phrase struck me pretty hard when I read it today. I had ventured into 1 John 4 to see the passage that contained the phrase, “Perfect love casts out fear,” and found this sentence to be vitally descriptive of how I was brought to the place where I allowed Perfect Love to cast out my fear.

It is one thing to know the love of God...it is another thing all-together to BELIEVE that love for ourselves. I can pray 10,000 prayers for any person with utter confidence of the Lord’s heart for them (no matter where they stand or what they have/haven’t done), I can believe with full assurance for others with ease (no matter the impossibility of the situation). But the Lord brought to my attention a good 8 years ago my hesitation to trust His heart for me.

I’ve been on a strange healing journey over the last 2 years...arguably, it probably started with this moment with the Lord eight years ago: I was reading in John 5 the story of the man at the Pool of Bethesda. I had read it many times before, I had marveled at the interaction the Lord had with him: He had been sick for 38 years, and Jesus walked up to him and asked him, “Do you want to be healed?” Before this time, I had always thought, “What a weird question; OF COURSE he wants to be healed.” But the man doesn’t say, “Yes.” Instead he tells Jesus why it isn’t possible. As I read this story on this particular day, I felt like Jesus stood in front of me, looked me in the eye and said, “Do you want to be healed?”

And I did not say, “Yes.” Even though I wanted to be healed, I hesitated. And as I considered why this was, I had to own up to this fact: While I did not doubt God’s ability to heal me, I doubted His heart for me. An ugly reality I had to face. And folks, I am clearly not a fast learner...it took me SIX years to trust the Lord enough to ask Him to heal me.

I was considering how I got there. What brought me to a place where I knew AND believed the love God has for me? While there are probably a zillion factors that play into this, I am going to tell you what happened to me in this season I am leaving.

My brother Noah died in August of 2012. It was a startling and costly blow to my family and my heart. It cast me into a valley that I trudged through for two long years; many days were spent simply curled up in a heap of sorrow because I had no strength to stand. From the moment of the phone call, I wrapped my arms around the Lord and dug my fingers into His sides; clinging lest I lose my grip on the One thing that I was certain of.

Grief is a complicated beast: You can’t speed it up or slow it down, it just comes as it will and you deal with the waves as they crash into you, wading through the aftermath of your losses. But the Lord was with me, and His gentleness surprised me and overwhelmed me as I encountered it again and again. Because that grip I had when I was thrust onto the path of grief, the embrace that allowed me to feel secure with the Lord, it failed; my fingers were not strong enough and my arms atrophied.

But in a place of utter weakness, where I had nothing within myself to keep me, no strength to hold myself up; no zeal to remain...in THAT place I was kept, I was upheld, I was encompassed in the holistic embrace of the Lord. He was so gentle in my failings, utterly compassionate in the place I lay; He did not condemn me that I had nothing to offer Him, no courage to reach out. Instead, He seized the opportunity of my stillness and chose to display His love for me in a way that I had never known. I simply received it; unmerited, indescribable, surprising and precise affection. And it changed me forever.

And while I am sure it was not the only thing that swayed me in the direction of trust, it is the most vibrant one I see as I ponder my season, and I am overwhelmingly thankful.

“To know and to believe the love that God has for us.” There is such security there. I wish I had the words to tell you.

Perfect Love Casts Out Fear: Part 1

Changes of seasons lead me to places of introspection; of consideration of the season that is passing to understand what I bring with me into the one I will enter. I really do believe that some of the sweetest times I have with the Lord are as seasons close--no matter how sweet or how bitter--because inevitably when I look, I see His hand, His wisdom, His kindness, His love, His care for me; I see the ways He has honed and shaped and sifted and faithfully worked so meticulously to sanctify and grow me; I see what He has done. And all of this pondering inevitably leads me to sit down and write...the completion of understanding and the springboard to testifying.

So here I am. Sitting in front of a keyboard finally, prepared to put into words why this phrase sums up the last 4 years: “Perfect love casts out fear.”

The Lord brought me a mentor and she has been a great gift to me. One of the things that stands out to me in our conversations is that as she sees me from the outside, she points out things I can’t see...to her, it is vibrantly miraculous when and where I stand without fear.

I was raised in fear; it was pounded into me from the pulpit, it was used to manipulate and control me. I was an easy target, as I wore my emotions on my sleeve and my little heart desired to please. To find and to feed my fears wasn’t difficult, it resulted in me seeking to regain control: Before I knew Jesus, one of the few things I found was able to subdue my fears was to control my environment and do things on your own terms. Fear caused me to control and to distrust.

Then I met Jesus, and I found verses in scripture that told me things like, “Cast my fears upon the Lord for He cares for you,” and “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” And my life changed. I gave up my need to control my fears and simply threw them at the cross.

And then I walked with Jesus for years, and I found verses in scripture that told me more things like, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me,” and “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?...Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.” And my life changed again. I found that I didn’t need to pick of my fears to cast them, that instead they simply dispelled in the presence of the Lord.

And then I kept walking with Jesus for more years; I walked with Him through season after season; through the losses, the joys, the failures, the triumphs, the pains, the afflictions, the trials, the glories of my life. Day in and day out, He has been with me in my moments and He showed me verses in scripture that said things like, “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent,” “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness,” and “I will protect him, because he knows My name.” And my life changed again. I found that there is peace that transcends life’s circumstances, peace that does not give way to the things that should cause me to fear because it stems from a source that is unchanging and unhindered and unswayed by the enormity of my need, the limitations I hold and weaknesses I carry. I have found myself in such a place of security in the hands of the Lord that fear doesn’t arise where it has a thousand times before even if there are a thousand very real reasons to. And though I have always said that I am fearful by nature, I find myself now trying to wrap my mind around the fact that the Lord can change a person’s nature.

I keep finding myself wondering, “Where is my fear?”
I am standing on unfamiliar ground, marveling at what has happened to my heart.
I do not know where my fear has gone, but I DO know that it is the perfect love of the Lord that has cast it out.


-------

1 John 4:10,16,18,19
"In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His son to be the propitiation for our sins...So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him...There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear...We love because He first loved us."

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

“Do I need to be on blood pressure medication?”

I’m sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office; the doctor is running an hour behind, so I ran home to get my computer and do some much needed writing.

I’m here to get an answer to this question: “Do I need to be on blood pressure medication?” If you consider the events leading up to this appointment, this is sort of an interesting place to find myself in. Tomorrow is December 1, which means it has been 2 years exactly since I have asked, and waited, for the Lord to heal my body. There are several specific things I asked Him for, one of which was to fix my blood pressure so I don’t have to be on medication anymore. It feels a bit surreal that I was sent in to have a doctor answer this question for me.

After this appointment was set up, I found myself before the Lord laying down my hopes and desires, and acknowledging His superior wisdom and knowledge. The fact is, to be off medication is MY desire, but it may not be the time. To find myself able and willing to acknowledge this before my Jehovah-Rapha was important in removing the power the outcome of this appointment could have had over my heart, mind and hope. I am not sure if I can adequately explain to you how strange it is for me
in a place of peace while sitting in the waiting room about to walk into an appointment to have THIS particular question answered. If the answer is “No,” I am ready to praise Him. If the answer is “Yes,” I am ready to keep waiting (with a heart honestly grateful there is something to help). But whatever the answer, I honestly feel it will have no baring on my peace. There is no pressure for things to swing a certain way; there is no insistence that my desire be answered at this time. My peace rests in the wisdom of the Peace Giver; the One who sees and ordained my days from beginning to end.

Because here is the truth. The Lord's power to sustain the life of this baby He has created is not limited by the failings of my body.

So here I sit; at peace. Awaiting the answer to this question; hoping that I will be able to give a good report to the ones who have prayed for and with me, yet knowing there is good testimony of the Lord’s faithfulness either way.