Stephanie Rische

Stubbing My Toe on Grace

Big Promises September 14, 2012

Filed under: Jeremiah — Stephanie Rische @ 12:21 pm
Tags: , ,

The night before our wedding reception, Daniel and I had a “toast time,” when everyone in attendance was invited to share a memory or a toast. Why have just a couple of toasts, we figured, when you can have twenty? (I should insert here that the champagne wasn’t proportional to the number of toasts. Just in case you were worried.)

Daniel and I took a turn too, seizing the opportunity to thank the people who had brought us to this place on the eve of saying our vows. I’m not sure I communicated everything I wanted to on account of all the blubbering and sniffling, but what I tried to say was thank you. Thanks, Mom and Dad. Thanks, Grandma and Grandpa. Thanks Papa Jack and Gramma Lo. For many things over the years, but right now, on this night especially, thank you for showing us what it looks like to make a big promise. And then keep it.

That summer of our wedding, both my parents and Daniel’s parents celebrated 35 years of marriage. We had seven of our eight grandparents still with us, still married to the same person they’d said “I do” to 50-plus years ago, just as we would the next day.

As I looked at the faces around me and started doing some mental calculations, I realized that between both our sets of parents and grandparents, we had almost 300 years of marriage represented in that room.

In that moment Daniel and I had no idea what the next 50 years would hold for us, what it would look like when we came face-to-face with “for worse,” “for poorer,” “in sickness.” But one thing we knew: by God’s grace, we came from a line of people who kept their promises.

And better yet, we had a God would never retract his promise from us, a God who would never renege on his covenant.

Just after the prophet Jeremiah received a message from the Lord that his beloved Jerusalem would fall, God followed up with another promise to his people—a promise of restoration.

I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good for them. I will put a desire in their hearts to worship me, and they will never leave me. I will find joy doing good for them and will faithfully and wholeheartedly replant them in this land. This is what the Lord says: Just as I have brought all these calamities on them, so I will do all the good I have promised them.

—Jeremiah 32:40-42

 

As thankful as I am for our family legacy of kept promises, I’m even more thankful for God’s bigger vow. His everlasting vow.

He goes beyond “Till death do us part” and gives us a forever promise: I will never stop doing good for them. They will never leave me. He stands before us at an altar of sorts, assuring us that nothing will part us from him. Not even death.

 

{Note: I wore my mom’s wedding dress for the toast time, and Daniel wore his dad’s wedding suit.}

I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.

 

On Priests and Awkward Moments September 4, 2012

Filed under: Jeremiah — Stephanie Rische @ 12:06 pm
Tags: , ,

Last weekend my husband and I attended the baptism of our friend’s son. The service was held at a beautiful Catholic church surrounded by lush gardens and buildings with high-vaulted ceilings. Daniel and I arrived early (a phenomenon that is new to me since getting married), and we decided to explore the grounds a bit before the service started.

At one point I looked over my shoulder and noticed that the priest was following us and discreetly trying to get my attention. He was offering pointed looks in Daniel’s direction, but I couldn’t seem to catch his meaning. Finally he got bolder and motioned right toward Daniel’s derriere.

My first thought was, Yes, he does have a nice butt. But that just didn’t seem like the kind of thing you say to a priest.

Finally he came closer and whispered to me, “Um, I think you should take that off his pants.”

I looked down, and sure enough, there was the fresh-from-the-store sticker running right down the backside of Daniel’s corduroys. Awkwardness abounded.

Once I stopped giggling long enough to remove said sticker, it hit me that sometimes awkward is the best thing that can happen to us. Isn’t it better to have someone correct you gently—and early on—than to keep going through the day with a sticker on your behind? Whoever said that ignorance is bliss obviously never looked in the mirror to find spinach lodged between their teeth or their skirt tucked into their tights.

On a spiritual level, the same is true. We desperately need the very thing we dread most—the moment of correction.

When God holds up the mirror to us and shows us where we’re falling short, it immediately brings a flush of shame to our cheeks. But wouldn’t we rather have it that way? Better for God to point us in the right direction now, while we can still peel off the sticker. Before we do any more permanent damage.

Jeremiah voiced a similar sentiment about God’s correction:

I know, Lord, that our lives are not our own.

We are not able to plan our own course.

So correct me, Lord, but please be gentle.

Do not correct me in anger, for I would die.

—Jeremiah 10:23-24

What I love about the prophet’s description here is the way he describes God’s correction as coming from a place of gentleness, not anger. Not unlike that kindhearted priest, perhaps.

Whether you find yourself on the giving end or the receiving end of correction at the moment, don’t be scared to walk straight into the gentle awkwardness. It’s the only way for us to get right again.

But the next time you leave the house, it wouldn’t hurt to have someone check your backside, just in case.

 

I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.

 

The Ultimate Book Burning August 28, 2012

Filed under: Jeremiah — Stephanie Rische @ 1:37 pm
Tags: , ,

The images looked like scenes from an apocalyptic movie: the smoke looming dark and angry on the horizon, marching onward like an unstoppable army. Hungry flames devouring everything in their path, from the most modest of homes to the most palatial, form pricey furnishings to irreplaceable keepsakes.

As tragic as those images from the Colorado fires were earlier this summer, I found the recent Oklahoma fire even more devastating in a certain respect. It’s one thing for natural disaster to strike thorough the fault of no one in particular. But to see such a savage wake of destruction because someone intentionally threw a burning newspaper out of a car seems not only heartbreaking but utterly senseless.

When I read the story of King Jehoiakim of Judah in the book of Jeremiah, I had a similar reaction. The king received a special message from the Lord, intended just for him. The prophet Jeremiah had compiled all of God’s messages since the days of King Josiah and sent them directly to Jehoiakim, warning him to repent before God’s judgment came upon him and his country.

But instead of receiving this as a wakeup call and humbling himself before God, King Jehoiakim did something rather shocking. He had one of his officers read the scroll to him piece by piece, and each time he finished a section, the king took out his knife and burned up the very words of God.

Each time Jehudi finished reading three or four columns, the king took a knife and cut off that section of the scroll. He then threw it into the fire, section by section, until the whole scroll was burned up. Neither the king nor his attendants showed any signs of fear or repentance at what they heard.

—Jeremiah 36:23-24

He heard the truth, and he threw it in the fireplace.

When I talk to people who don’t know God and his Word, I ache for them, knowing what they’re missing out on. But it’s also understandable. After all, they don’t know anything different. But perhaps the more purposeless tragedy is when someone like me, who has direct access to God’s Word, cuts it apart, piece by piece, and sets it aflame.

Oh, I’d never burn the pages of my Bible, of course. But each time I decide that one little lie won’t hurt, I take a knife to what God says about truth. Whenever I deem his laws about gossip irrelevant for my particular situation, I might as well be tossing that part of Scripture into the fire. Every time I rationalize my worry, turn a blind eye to the poor, or act out of selfishness, I’m destroying God’s Word in my life, piece by piece.

Sometimes it seems inexplicable that any of us would choose God’s judgment instead of embracing grace. But as King Jehoiakim realized, grace, by its very nature, means that we have to change. We can’t stay where we are; we can’t stay who we are.

No matter how you look at it, Scripture must involve a knife and a fire. The question is, will I cut away and burn the parts I don’t like? Or will I allow the Word to cut away and burn the ugly parts of me?

 

I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.