Rise Up

I just finished up Kristen Wolbach’s beautiful “Rise Up” devotional from Illustrated Faith.  I was immediately drawn to the devotional kit because I’ve been a long-admirer of Kristen’s Bible journaling.  In her introduction, Kristen shares: “The past year has been one of the toughest seasons of growth I have encountered, but with it have some really beautiful face-to-face moments with Jesus.”  As I worked through the devotional, the Bible passages and her daily thoughts offered wisdom from the trenches.  God has used the devotionals prepared by Illustrated Faith to minister to me in such deeply personal ways.  I drew so much strength from Kristen’s words and also the Scripture she selected.

I thought I would share some of what God spoke in my heart as I worked through these pages.  In no particular order…

One of the passages selected was 2 Timothy 3:1-4:

In the last days there will come times of difficulty.  For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.

Sometimes I wonder when I read Paul, if there have always been people like this?  Our generation has more than our fair share of lovers of self, money, and pleasure.  But God, in His mercy through the Holy Word, has shown us a better way.  I pray that more and more people with see how good and pleasant God’s ways are and that we can move out of darkness into the light!

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One way this is happening is through the Bible Jouranling movement.  I love how people share the Bible verses that inspire them and guide them in their real lives.  When I turned to II Samual 6:16-23, I found that I had always illustrated the page with a prayer for the Journaling Bible Community.  Kristin asks:  “Do you ever feel like you want to worship or pray a certain way, but fear what others may think or feel about it?”  I don’t worry too much what others may think, but spending time in my Bible in a creative way has been one of the most freeing experiences of worshiping God ever.  (You are unlikely to find me dancing naked, but I love King David’s enthusiasm for the Lord!).  I first posted this picture in November 2014.

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Lamentations 3:21-33 is another passage that I’ve illustrated before.  As I read the following passage, I found myself wondering:  “What could possibly be good about being yoked to a heavy load while being insulted and punished?”:

It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.  Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him; let him put his mouth in the dust–there may yet be hope; let him give his cheek to the one who strikes, and let him be filled with insults.

As I wrote out the question, the song lyrics came to mind:  “What wonderous love is this that caused the Lord of Bliss to bear the heavy cross for my soul?”  Whatever we may face in life, it can’t compare to taking on the sins of the world through a death on the cross.  Jesus was lifted high on that cross so we might know the height and depth and breadth of God’s love and to move us to love God and love others.  If we know we are forgiven, how much more should we be able to forgive others?  But the story doesn’t end with death on the cross.  If we know we have the gift of eternal life in Christ, we are free to have hope in the power of the resurrection whatever this life throws at us.  As it says in this passage:  We can trust that “God does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men” and that His mercies never come to an end.  When we experience struggles, we can rest assured that there are hidden blessings:  the building of character, the discovery of hope that does not fail, and a greater awareness of just how loved we are by God.

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I added a tip-in to the following page to remind me that I visited this verse again as part of the “Rising Up” devotional.  Who am I in Jesus?  I am justified by his grace as a gift!

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The passage from Mark 2 is one of my favorite lessons about Jesus to teach preschoolers.  Most of the time when I teach the story to children, I focus on the four friends who brought the man to Jesus and their dedication.  They carried the man and dropped in through a roof to get close to Jesus!  Children love reenacting this story!

As I read the story this time, I related more to the paralyzed man; I thought of how I felt paralyzed by a situation recently.  The verse that struck me this time:  “Your sins are forgiven, rise up, pick up your mat and go home.”  The verse gave me peace that some recent anger has passed and that I just need to get back to doing what I am good at.  As I worked on the page I reflected:  for many, home can be the hardest place to go to.  I prayed for others to have the peace of mind to go home and for warm welcomes and reconciliation.

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Oh the struggle bus!  I love this phrase from Kristen’s devotional.  Sometimes we just have to get off the struggle bus and choose joy.  I couldn’t help myself from drawing the bus in my journal.

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I love the antidote:  “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as Servants of God.”  Kristen shared the Greek word for servant:  “Doulos is described as one who gives himself up to another’s will; devote to another to the disregard of one’s own interests.”  To be able to serve joyfully is a grace and a calling.

I added the verse to a tip-in.  There’s more Kristen Wolbach art in the background!  (I should form a fan club!)

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Sometimes, even when you are doing your very best to do the will of another person, you just get it wrong.  I appreciated Kristen turning to the example of Peter cutting of the high priest’s servants ear.  Peter thought he was doing the right thing by coming to Jesus’ defense.  Jesus is obviously displeased.  I always take comfort knowing that Peter, the guy who messes up often, is known as “the rock”.

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II Corinthians 4:7-12 is a passage that I’ve turned to at times of distress, but reading it again in a better frame of mine, what I see is a lot of hope and the promise of a victorious outcome.  We may face perplexing times, but through Christ, we have resurrection power!

Paul says we are to  carry in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in us.  This verse reminds me that we ourselves are to be like the body of Christ offered in communion:  taken, broken, blessed and given.

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I’ve been singing Jason Gray’s “I Will Rise Again” as I worked on the above passage.

Kristen encouraged us to write our own song of deliverance as a response to David’s song from II Samuel 22.  As I was reflecting over my life and the conflict I’ve experienced, most of it has been over relatively small and trivial things:  Does my son still need a nap?  Where to put wet towels?  How to format a spreadsheet?  (It’s weird, but much bigger challenges I’ve been able to easily navigate).   I guess its common enough to fight with those who are most like us over small differences of opinion or understanding.  With bigger problems, we tend all acknowledge the problem and find a way forward.  With small problems, we wonder how can something so small turn into such a big deal, which adds to the pain.  Just look at the schisms in the church:  Most have been about minor points of theology.   Still, we all love Jesus and are doing our best to follow him.   Somehow Jesus is the center that holds.

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I just kept journaling my way through II Samuel 22.  I added some text to a picture of a candle:

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And journaled the last part of the song…

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On speaking life, Kristen writes:  “Like the beautiful relationship between Boaz and Ruth.  I can’t help but celebrate when he speaks such lovely words over her life.  He takes the time to love her right where she is and reaffirm all the ways she has been faithful and appreciated.  It’s a wonderful example of what redeeming words look like and how they affect others.  The truth is, we rise highest when we lift up those around us.  Praise and encouragement are free gifts, but man, they are precious as diamonds to the one who receives them.”

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As I read 1 Peter 5:6-11, the words that spoke to me where:  “The God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.”  Talk about an encouraging word.  I just added these words to the page below…

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I loved Kristen’s story of working at a small town cake shop, how they would pray together and be there for each other through life’s ups and downs.  They nicknamed the cake shop the “Jesus Factory.”  I was reminded of monastic life where people worked together to make jam or soap to support themselves, while living together intentionally in Christian community.  I heard from a friend who lived in a monastery that the passage below has always been very important to monasteries, especially the phrase “Pray without ceasing.”  The passage provides a lot of wisdom for any Christian work place.

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The following image is from Day 1, but it was the last page I did.  Maybe because I’m generally more comfortable in the background.  I love Jesus and hope that God’s love for others shines in all that I do, but I’m not quite the overzealous candle that Kristen describes on day 1.  As I worked through this devotional, I felt the warmth of God’s love and the glow of His presence and a gentle encouragement to shine.

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Thanks for joining me on this journey!  May you find the blessing in all your battles, trusting that you will rise up stronger than before.