silly peter, silly me...

so i was reading matthew 16 yesterday, a chapter i have read more than 10 times over the years, but, as the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword...(hebrews 4.12), the Lord spoke something new to me through it as i was reading. i love when that happens, by the way. your average novel won't do that for you, you know. 

anyway, Jesus is asking the disciples who they believe He, the Son of Man, is. um, Jesus, that's a trick question, right? you just gave us the answer here... but it's not so simple. sadly, we are often as dense as the poor disciples--they were the rabbinical rejects, you know--and Jesus has to give us a little help with the answers, too. but back to the story. so good 'ole peter chimes in saying that Jesus is, "the Christ, the Son of the Living God," (v 16), and Jesus, like a proud teacher says, "And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock [the greek words for peter and rock sound similar] I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (v18). super strong words coming from Jesus, and he's claiming them over peter and the disciples and over us as well. i don't know about you, but i'm pretty sure i'd have all the confidence in the world to kick satan's ass at that very moment...booyah! :).

but, as life goes, Jesus is soon talking about how He's going to have to suffer and die. peter, not wanting to hear that, rebukes Jesus and says that He can't go through that kind of [worldly] suffering, that it's just not okay. he's worried. just like me. just like a lot of us. and frankly, as ballsy as it sounds to rebuke Jesus, that's exactly what we do...all the time. He says "wait," and we say, "um, why should i have to wait?" or "why should i have to suffer?" or in this case, "why must You suffer, Lord?" but this is the clash between our worldly perspectives and Jesus' heavenly perspective. the way we see it, suffering sucks. so of course peter doesn't understand why Jesus, of ALL people, should have to go through what He's describing. 

but it's at this point that Jesus says something that i've pondered over for years and that my seminary classmates and i used to say to one another in jest (yes, you develop a very warped sense of humour in seminary...). Jesus says, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance [or stumbling block] to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (v 23). Or, as The Message puts it, "Peter, get out of my way. Satan, get lost. You have no idea how God works." 

Now at first, this modern-day translation doesn't seem to be saying the same thing as the more literal one, but actually, i think our best understanding comes from marrying the two. i do believe that Jesus is actually telling satan, and not peter, to get behind him here because it's blasted satan that puts all kinds of worrisome thoughts into our heads (like the ones peter's carrying around). and what do those thoughts do? they take our focus away from Jesus.

peter obviously doesn't have any idea how God works, which is what makes him a hindrance to Jesus and the work of building His Kingdom. instead of focusing on the actual suffering, which is exactly what most of us do, we must train ourselves to focus on how God can use our present situation/circumstances/issue/crisis to build His Kingdom and bring Him glory (leave a legacy). it's only then that our perspective will totally change, and we'll be a help to Jesus and not a hindrance.  

but how do we do this? really. honestly. practically. we are just like peter in so many ways, claiming Jesus' identity and power over our lives one minute and doubting and hindering him in His work the next. even as i write these words, my cheeks are stained with tears because yet another day has gone by with no word from swedish immigration. and, yet, there is a peace deep inside me that i know is there, that has come to the surface just because i have written out the Truth of God's Word here. 

we are in a battle, peeps, a battle against the powers of hell that wish to fill our lives with twisted lies and paralyzing fears, most of them based on our worldly reality. but the Good News, the amazing news, is that Jesus' reality is so much better and so much more, well, real, leaving us with several truths:

1) we've been given all the battle gear we need. Jesus even talks about it in this same chapter when He says in verse 19, "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” are you claiming that in your life today? (you can also check out more about spiritual battle gear in ephesians 6.10-18).

2) we go from VICTORY to VICTORY (even though it feels quite the opposite sometimes...hello broken world) because, according to romans 8.37, "we are more than conquerors through him [Christ Jesus] who loved us."

3) the ultimate victory over sin, hell, death, and all sorts of drama and crap, is Christ's, and he won that battle on the Cross. hallelujah!

4) regardless of the lies that satan (through all of sorts of things in our world) tries to feed us about our identities, our worries, and our struggles, we can fight back each one of them (using Scripture just as Jesus did when He was tempted by satan in the desert in luke 4) with the truth of romans 8.1, which says, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."  none, not one little bit. crazy little thing called grace :).

so, in light of all that heavy stuff, i'm praying a simple prayer of obedience today. Lord, teach me to trust in You completely and to take my focus off my junk and place it on YOU, the Author and Perfecter of my faith. thank you for your abundant grace. amen


finding joy in florida

lindsey often gets up at five in the morning to write. i'm not ready to enter that world, but i admire what she does, and being here with her is a reminder that i want to blog more. but, what just sent me into writing mode this morning, however, was lindsey's tip on lauren nicole love's blog. and then i read some of the 50-60 comments under the blog and thought, yes, that's what i want to do. that's how i want to inspire, love, and challenge others. so here i am again, writing.

it's 9.09 a.m, and i slept for 8.5 hours, but i'm still exhausted. i'm pretty sure i've had a headache everyday for the past month or so--could i have a brain tumor??--and i cry daily, sometimes more than others. i'm exhausted, exhausted in the sense that walking downstairs to get my Bible right now seems like way too much effort [sigh].

i arrived at lindsey's on sunday night after weeping at the charlotte airport when i said goodbye to suppe, ready to rest and relax and be. i may not have been working at any specific job since 14 december 2011, but waiting on my visa to be approved so that i can go home to stockholm and living out of a suitcase for an unlimited time is perhaps the most difficult and exhausting job i've ever had.

it's 26 C (80 F) and sunny here in vero beach, florida, and the sun's predicted to shine it's warmth on us all week. for a girl who's been living through sweden's dark, harsh, seemingly never-ending winters for the past 6.5 years, this kind of weather is an amazing blessing.
so of course i have to take advantage of it. i didn't waste any time getting myself down to the beach yesterday (okay, actually i did. i can find more small, meaningless things to do to occupy my time than anyone i know...). i determined, however, that my stark-white viking skin should not be in the close-to-the-equator florida sun for longer than two hours, so no worries; time was on my side (yes, i just caught the irony of that statement, too).

i wanted to kick myself in the arse, though, when i arrived at the beach and took in its glorious, breathtaking beauty. i quickly found a spot in the sand, plopped my things down near an elderly woman who was reading and who would surely keep hoodlums away from my precious possessions, and started walking along the expansive coastline. wow! maybe this was God's idea after all that i not go immediately back to stockholm with suppe. maybe this little holiday is what i needed after all...or maybe not.

i found myself singing david crowder's "o praise Him" as i splashed along the water's edge, but i started crying 27 seconds later because that song was the exit song at our wedding and because i now love my husband and praise God for him even more than i did on that day. my heart broke...again. how can i just be God? how can i enjoy this perfect weather in this place you've painted so beautifully for me when my heart is breaking? how can i be here? sure i love the sunshine and warmth (lagom mycket), but it's suppe who'd prefer to live in the tropics, not me, and he's stuck in below-freezing temperatures with snow on the ground that won't disappear until march and a greater percentage of darkness per day than light. why? why am i alone right now? why won't immigration let me back in the country yet? how hard can it be to approve my papers?? why am i here right now? WHHHHHHHHHHHHHHY?

God, i'm sorry. i don't want to complain. You are so good to me. You are here. You are faithful. You never leave me. You love me unconditionally. You are good...ALL the time. You have been in my past, are here in my present, and know what the future holds. You give me strength and joy and faith. You provide for me in incredible ways. so why do i feel like i do? why do cry so much? and why do i feel guilty for crying and feeling the way i do? is it wrong to feel like i do when i know how good you are to me? is it?

and when i pause from that line of thinking for a second, i see a little stone that's been tossed to and fro by the waves over time and think of my mom. she loves those stones, and we used to collect them together. we even walked on this same beach together when we visited lindsey a few years ago. so i start crying again...of course.

our relationship has been so broken for so many years, filled with much love but also with a lot of bitterness, anger, confusion, and misplaced blame. God's been working out things and answering prayers there in beautiful ways over the past year, in great part through suppe, but it was just last week when we crossed a major hurdle of misunderstanding and allowed the broken wounds to start healing. i even started seeing a new and beautiful side of my mom that i've longed to see for so long. amazing...

so, as i found more and more of these little stones, i cried harder. God, why has it taken so long for us to get to this point, and why now? why is all this happening when i live on the other side of the atlantic and when my mom is suffering from a fatal skin disease and other major medical issues? i screamed out in my heart. i wept. i was angry. satan, bloody bastard satan has robbed us of so much, and i hate him. and at that moment i wanted my mom to be there with me. i wanted to hold her and to tell her how sorry i am that we've missed out on so much beauty together, and i wanted to pray God's incredible healing powers over her broken body and spirit. He can heal her and free her from all the pain and sickness. i know He can. all he needs to do is speak the words. so why don't you God? why don't you heal her? what if we don't have so much more time together, good time together, before she dies? please heal her...

but who am i? who am i to question God and His ways? He created the world and controls the future and knows each hair on our heads and how many breaths we're going to breathe. He gives us mercy and grace and forgiveness everyday that we don't deserve, so who am i to question Him when He has been so incredibly faithful to me?  those questions, of course, led me to think about job (not a thing you to do make money; i'm talking about the man here) and his stupid, well-meaning friends...

and then i thought about the paralytic whom Jesus heals but first asks, "do you want to be healed?". i once thought it was a stupid question, but it's not. Jesus asked it, so it must be smart. sometimes we're so sickly content with the normalcy of our circumstances that anything else, change for the better even, is too difficult and painful for us. now, i'm not saying that that's the case for my mom or me or anyone in particular...but it might be.

so that's where i am...sitting in the florida sun with my thoughts spinning, mind racing, and emotions riding the rollercoaster SCREAM! in stockholm. i'm filled with questions, but, honestly, i know that Jesus is the answer to all of them...if i'll let Him be. cliche, yes, but it's true, and i know that. and when i truly let the truth of who God is, who Jesus is, who the Holy Spirit is, sink into and still my heart and fill it with holy love, i find that His everlasting peace was there all along. i just covered it up with a bunch of worldly worries. i'll probably do it again tomorrow, too. but as long as i come back to His truth, it's okay. because it's there that others can see His glory in me. it's there, in that state of trustful resting, that he is free to do His mighty work in and through me. and it's there that i believe i just found a little joy hiding as well :). God is good...ALL the time.


here we are...

...on the sofa in mom and randy's sunroom, seeking God and his will in the midst of the calm chaos. i'd actually like to be at work in stockholm today. i'd like to be running errands around town and coming home to eat dinner with suppe. at least i think that's what i'd like.

but here i am. here we are. and we're making the best of our married life as it is right now...enjoying the amazing southern sunshine, blogging, catching up with friends near and far, resting, praying, reading, working out, eating good food, and trying to look at things from above.

God's perspective, i was reminded as i read steven furtick's blog the other day, is not mine. i've got to start looking at the situation we're in now from above, from his aerial view, in order to put things into perspective. and, honestly speaking, as tough as putting that way of thinking into practice is, it's worth it. looking down into my i-need-to-get-my-visa-approved-lightning-fast-so-that i'm-not-stuck-here-without-suppe situation, i realise that this stuff, you know, the stuff we think to be semi-impossible, is peanuts for God. he knew that it was going to happen long before we did, and, although he didn't create the situation, he certainly can use it for his glory and honour, right here and right now.

so today, suppe and i are asking God and ourselves how we can leave a legacy in the little things we do today that points the people within our ever-changing circle of influence closer to him. we're starting with this blog, and we hope and pray that it encourages and inspires you to seek and to trust God in your life and circumstances, whatever they may be right now...