Blog | Lindsey Smallwood

Proclaiming a Mystery

Lindsey SmallwoodComment

I'm not doing much writing these days as we get ready to move to California in 3 weeks. But I have been preaching here and there.

Last month, I got to preach in the church I grew up in which was weird and wonderful. It was Ascension Sunday and we read this exchange between Jesus and his disciples from Acts 1:6-9:

Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

Ok, so first off that question!

"Are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"

What Jesus' followers are asking is this:
Are you finally going to become the literal king on the literal throne of this little piece of land where we live?
Are you going to vanquish our enemies and make sure that
our religion is respected,
our families are safe,
our way of life is protected? 

Jesus, being Jesus, knows what they're asking, that they are hoping to become powerful, to see their status restored. But he doesn't rebuke them, he just answers a different question. 

Oh you're about to get power. 
But not power to rule this little piece of land in the Middle East.
You're going to have power to live out a life of faith,
power to proclaim the good news,
power to continue my work around the world.

Then - mic drop - and he Star Treks himself up to the sky.

After talking about that story, I shared about this power to proclaim, what it looks like to be people who are good at telling God's story. 

Audio:


The next week I was back in Ann Arbor for Pentecost Sunday. (If you're following along, I preached about evangelism to the Pentecostals and Pentecost to the evangelical Baptists ;)

The sermon invites us to live expectantly and embrace the mystery of God - including learning to worship while wrestling with doubt, honest prayer, faith and how to make sense of the phrase "body of Christ."

Video:

Audio:

Consider Your Ways

Lindsey SmallwoodComment

A couple of weeks ago, I preached on Haggai 1. It's one of those prophetic passages that almost doesn't need exposition because God's invitation to the people is so clear.

(But, like, I love to preach so yeah, for sure, I'm going to go ahead and exposit my heart out.)

After being released from captivity in Babylon, the people return home and have been there for 20 years or so when Haggai steps up to the mic with this (translation mine):

Why are you living in nice new houses when My house lies in ruins?

Have you noticed that when you eat, you're still hungry, that when you work, you never make enough money?

It's not an accident. I've interrupted your personal kingdom building because you ought to be building mine instead.

Consider your ways.

Right??

Knife to the heart.

Because building my own kingdom is my speciality. And receiving God's correction is not something I always do with joy.

For more on Haggai 1 - and a bit of Resurrection Hope as we continue in the Easter season, check out the links to the sermon below.

Video:


Audio:


New freckles

Lindsey SmallwoodComment

a poem, written on the occasion of my 35th birthday

flower-731480_1920.jpg

The flowers you got me are dying. 
Green blooms giving way to drooping orbs,
a tabletop reminder that comforts and disturbs
for I am dying too. 

Dying, yes,
but only the way every living thing is dying.
Here's something marvelous:
      every dying thing is living still.

Living through the flood waters.
Living in the face of fear.
Breathing and speaking,
learning and yearning and surprised by the ache - 
more confident and more broken hearted with each passing year.

In hope, there is rising;
fighting back darkness without compromising
or becoming the very thing I'm despising.
I want to be bold but not self-righteous, 
speaking truth without using words for violence,
knowing when to act and when to be quiet,
choosing to be last,
to name what I covet and die to it.

Most days hope is brutal,
catches in my throat
     yet somehow beautiful.
Yes,
sweet terrible hope is Light for today and Resurrection come what may.
Still I never thought that life would feel this way.

Though dying, I do not droop.
I stand taller than I ever have,
new freckles on my face from all that sunshine.
I'm learning to love them.

Hanging in to the Finish

Lindsey SmallwoodComment

By the time this post gets published, I will have likely had a baby.

Oh God, please let that be true.

But today, as I sit at my computer with my feet up on the desk, I’m 8 months along and feeling huge and uncomfortable. I have to go to the bathroom all the live-long day. Everything makes me cry. Bending over requires a fully thought out getting-back-up strategy.

Don’t get me wrong. I wanted this pregnancy, celebrated at each happy milestone as the months have progressed, can’t wait to add another little life to our family.

But today? I’m done. D to the O to the N to the E. As in get this guy outta here already.

But no. He’s tucked in tight for a little while longer. And my job is to persevere until this season is finished.

Truth be told, most of life is like this. There are seasons and jobs and sometimes even people we’d like to be done with. But often, we have to wait until the time comes, hanging in there to the finish. The thing I’m trying to remember this week, swollen ankles and all, is how God offers joy and peace in the middle of it.

I like Kay Warren’s definition from her book – Choose Joy Because Happiness is not Enough.

Joy is the settled assurance God controls all the details of my life. The quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright. The determined choice to praise God in every situation.

Paul knew this. He wrote the book of Philippians, essentially a treatise on joyful living in community, from his prison cell.  In chains and unable to make choices about his life and freedom, he nonetheless expresses deep joy in Christ and exhorts the Philippians to do the same.

We’ve all seen examples of this in our life, people who face death, disappointment, loss, uncertainty with a steady gaze toward Jesus. There can be joy, even in grief and trials, when we choose to trust a God whom Scripture tells us is immensely trustworthy. On our worst days we still have the best hope. That’s where joy comes from.

Peace is similar. It is a result of trusting God. But whereas joy comes when we trust our lives to a big God who holds the whole world in His hands, peace comes from choosing to rest in Him in the middle of the storm.

Here’s an example from my real life this week. After a long day with two busy boys, dragging around my giant belly, and trying to keep things somewhat orderly while not passing out in our not-air conditioned house, I made dinner.

While I stood at the counter chopping grapes and walnuts for chicken salad I looked up and noticed a picture on the wall. It’s a picture that’s always there, a snapshot of my little family that I’ve looked at 100 times before. But seeing it there reminded me of what all this current waiting is for – the tiredness, the mess, the dirty hair and peanut butter stained shirt, the yelling from the other room, this is an answer to prayer.

This is my family. This is what I begged God for and looking at that snapshot filled my heart with joy.

A few minutes later, Chris walked in the door. He took off his shoes, dropped his bag, hugged the boys while breaking up some kind of fight I was only vaguely aware of and then came into the kitchen where I was getting out plates and silverware.

“Hey you,” he said, (“You” is our most frequent term of endearment) and then leaned in to give me a kiss. And as he did, I felt myself relax. Because if Chris is home then my partner’s there, I can enjoy him. And my load gets lighter because not every little thing that’s going on in our house is my responsibility anymore. He shares the responsibilities with me, even taking them from me sometimes. And when he’s there, usually, life just gets better.

Joy is persevering in our circumstances, knowing that we are part of God’s bigger story – and it’s a good one. Peace is acknowledging His presence with us right in the moment where we need Him and learning to experience the rest that comes from trusting Him.

Peace is a rest that comes from being cared for. To experience peace, we have to truly believe 1 Peter 5:7 which says –

Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.

If we want to know joy, allow the Holy Spirit to remind and teach us again that God really is in control, working all things together for our good. And if we want to know peace, we have to be willing to rest from our efforts to solve our own problems, giving our cares to God and finding peace in His presence with us.

Especially when you have a while to go until you finish.