Saturday, November 8, 2014

Not For Padded Nests

 

"...to lay down his life for a friend."  John 15:13

This is the definition of love, by God. Is there anything we love more than our own life? Not just the breathing, blood circulating, brain functioning part of life, but the desires of the eyes, the flesh and the pride of what we do, part of life. We don't just desire to be healthy and able, we long for comfort, activity and accomplishment. Freedom to live life the way we want to, at least partially, is what was bought every time a soldier fell, a wife lost her husband, a child lost his father and parents lost their son. Not a cheap gift. What are we doing with that gift? Is it cherished daily, held high and honored, motivating us to continue giving that love? Or is it given a token glance then used completely for ourselves in trinkets, pleasures and opportunities for our own enjoyment? Padding our own nest and admiring those who already have, then saluting the fallen for it. 

Some are called to give their life for love by dying, and they bravely, selflessly do, while the rest of us are called to give ours by living it...bravely and selflessly. It's a different kind of death, one that is much more intentional and self directed. It gives the best of our money, not just the crumbs that fall from the table. It gives the best of our time, even when we we so looking forward to that vacation or TV show. It gives the best of our reputation, even when people misunderstand us and lie about us. It gives the best of our relationships, even when we don't know how we'll get along without that person. It gives the best of our comfort, even when that pain seems too strong to handle. Living for love can be just as hard as dying at times, but that is what the sacrifice was made for. For continued sacrifice. To follow the example of our soldiers and our Jesus.  If we refuse, we waste the priceless gift and silently mock it.

Wear the poppy, attend the Remembrance service and thank a veteran, but go beyond that. Follow their example and don't waste the gift. Live your expensive freedom the same way they died...selflessly and brave. When the Almighty Victor laid His life down, He unleashed the power to raise up any fallen soldier who puts their trust in Him. Remember them. Remember Him and the hope He bought for us all.

...for Dan.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Diet of Worms


We watched the movie "Luther" for school yesterday. Tomorrow is Halloween or Reformation Day...whichever you prefer to call it. The timing for these things is pretty divine. 

As someone involved quite heavily with leadership in the church, or just part of the church body itself, it's interesting to see history repeat itself. In Luther's day, the church was selling "indulgences", which comforted the people. Certificates of passage into Heaven bought with money, relics to gaze upon to increase one's spirituality and prostitutes for the monks. Anything for the comfort of the people. Church people don't do those kinds of things anymore though...or do we? In his day, the people were denied having the scriptures to read for themselves. We have them, and people are not encouraged to study them...or they just don't want to. People burned at the stake in order to provide a readable Bible, we would rather burn at the stake then to have to sit down and read it.

The Word of God, the Bible, Jesus Himself at our fingertips. Something to celebrate this weekend.



"My conscience is captive to the Word of God. To go against conscience is neither right nor safe. I cannot, I will not recant. Here I stand, I can do on other...help me God."


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Check Your Crawl Space

Time to get down and dirty. Crawl in the place worm and spider dwell. Our foundation needs inspection. It's that base upon which you build, dress and show the stuff we see. Underneath our frame and style is something of eternal and critical significance. Because we don't see it much, it can go unnoticed...neglected...ignored. 

See our pretty house? Isn't it beautiful??

Little did I know it was sitting...being sustained upon...a very shaky foundation. Cracks, rot and asymmetry defined it's foundation. The house may look great, but it's walls were cracking, floors started sloping and eventually, it would have fallen completely. But it looks so fine! Just push a piece of furniture up against that wall crack to hide it. Avoid the crawl space and live in ignorance. Sometimes we avoid for fear of the truth. Sometimes because we don't know how to fix things or just because we are too tired and tormented to really care. Our hope is in fate. Roll the dice, follow your heart, que sera sera. Happy thoughts don't have that much power. Sometimes beautiful, happy people are resting on disaster waiting to happen. Don't let them fool you and don't fool yourself. Check out your own crawl space. 

When my husband told me how much it would cost us to fix replace our foundation, I admit, I had a little internal melt down. Not just that we weren't sure we had the money to do it, but that I didn't think it was going to be something fun, beautiful and life-changing for me. I would rather go an on dream vacation, buy a new car, a few thousand ice-cream cones or hire a maid. Big hunks of concrete, wood and labor aren't very exciting to me. But, I very maturely picked myself up off the floor, put on my big-girl pants and responsibly put a stroke through "beautiful jewelry" and "trip to Europe" from my wish list. All the while, looking at my pleasure addicted children with that "This is how you behave as a grown-up" demeanor. Inside, I looked just like them. Fortunately, my hidden temper tantrums are executed much more quickly than they used to be. I really hate that spoiled little girl inside of me. We finally deal with sin properly when we learn to hate it.



So then the new foundation building begins. It's not glamorous, but change, strength and obedience are actually very rewarding things. I love one of Max Lucado's book titles, "Jesus loves you just the way you are...but He doesn't want you to stay that way".  Love wants and allows pain sometimes. It's often a worthy price. Houses and people degenerate. They cannot stay static for long. Work must be done and if we wait too long to deal with things, the work is harder and more costly. Sometimes we wait a fatally long length of time, and the whole house is torn down and buried. A tragic personification. Regular deep maintenance and upkeep is a wiser course of action. No amount of surface beautification can hold your house up.

 "Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble"
2 Peter 1:10

Dare to ask yourself the hard, foundational questions: Am I really saved or just "having a form of godliness but denying its power"? Does my lifestyle prove my love for Him...reflect His love? Am I willing to make radical changes to be true to the Word of God? Do I even study the Word of God to know the truth? Who am I really living for?

I have had to ask myself these questions and make difficult changes.Your eternity and present peace depend on how these questions are answered.
It takes humility to get down low and inspect your house. It's dirty, uncomfortable and dark, but that's where the grace is found. God reveals the cracks and rot there. Then He gives the power and resources to fix things. In life maintenance do you experience the fellowship of His suffering. Once that foundation is stable, you can live peacefully, with assurance, in the light of His house.

Inglorious work leads to stability, strength and satisfaction.

I promise to write a happier, lighter...lollipop type blog post soon. It's just been one of those "in the trenches" seasons lately :)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Hug That Ugly Gift



Ever feel like God has offered you up to Satan to be tested like Job? Is that pity party turning into an all-nighter...or all-weeker...all-monther? For the life of you, you just can't figure out what you have done to deserve the series of unfortunate events lately. It's like salt being rubbed into a wound. Or maybe it's just one thing...that one thing you intentionally asked God NOT to let happen...and He did. Or that ONE thing you have asked for...and He said no. "Does He hate me?", you ignorantly ask. 

If I really knew Him...really understood His ways...that question would never be asked. The pity party might still happen on occasion, just long enough to call a cab, grab my shoes and get out of that place before I do something I regret. Even Job, a righteous man, questioned God...to repent of it later...after being reminded of His power and wisdom.

There is a gift from God we are given on occasion. A gift that no one else can give and and that benefits us in a way nothing else can. It is a grace...undeserved and valuable. It is uncomfortable grace. Unless you are the type that doesn't mind settling, that is content with good enough and has no ambition to chase Jesus and become as close to Him as possible, you really should consider embracing this gift. Gird up your loins and prepare yourself for life's harsh lessons. They are going to happen anyway, why not go into them ready, willing and able by God? Take them by surprise and turn the mourning into dancing. Resist the temptation to chase comfort and go after the treasure buried beneath the pain. I am told by those older any wiser than me, that it gets easier every time, because you get used to God grabbing your hand on the way in, sometimes even carrying you over his shoulder, covering your eyes and vital organs. You may come out with bruises or even lose a limb, but your heart is bigger. Stronger. Shared by Him whose broke for you one day.

As Paul Tripp explains this grace..."It takes you somewhere you did not intend to go in order to produce in you something you could not achieve on your own." The problem is, we don't recognize this grace because it is prickly. It's not wrapped and tied in pretty paper and a fancy bow. It appears ugly, harsh and it stinks. it is avoided and fought against. If I open my eyes and see what is really there, I may accept it, even go to it willingly. Go through it with anticipation and courage. Come out of it definitely, because He promised, with that precious gift...personalized...treasured and worth the pain.Yes, someone may be salting your wound, but salt heals and protects. 

Turn the pity party into a surprise party. Surprise yourself by reacting to trials in a grateful, humble and positive way. Let no complaint leave your mouth...why should we complain about a gift? Even if it's not what we asked for. Remember those times you gave a gift to your child and they were unappreciative? They didn't see the value. They had their heart set on something else. They didn't trust your judgement and their face and words revealed their heart's desire. Your weak and faithless heart may look up to the Father filled with question marks, but He already knows our lack of understanding. That's ok, as long as we trust and are willing to obey. Hug that ugly gift and wait for the blessing. 

God is always good, always wise and always doing what is best for you...not necessarily comfortable...but best.

Psalm 141:5 "Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it."

Job 13:15  "Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him..."

Monday, September 1, 2014

Vacation of the Will


I'm hoping that a change will be as good as a rest. This summer was anything but a restful break, so it's unique activity must serve as a break of sorts...because summer is over...school starts tomorrow...blink....start again. 

One thing, of many, that I am looking forward to, is blogging again. I tried, but simply could not find time to write this summer. From the first break of light and bird chirp, to the last washed dish of the warm evening, these fingers were otherwise occupied. Countless runs to lawn mowing sites, beaches and bon fires kept me out of trouble. Trying to figure out how make meals without the heat of  roasting and no BBQ was a challenge. Experimenting with THM meals was fun and we have lost SOME weight. Waterski camp was another great success this year...no major injuries and spiritual growth apparent. A "Hee Haw" barn dance was a long awaited dream come true of sorts too.

I would say the highlight of my summer was a still small voice. No big vacation happened. No major relaxation occurred. There were lots of disappointments this summer. That happens when you set your sights on something you want and then your own impotence or circumstance gets in the way. I am not greatly acquainted with Abandon yet. We are not close, personal friends, but I have being forced to meet her. To let go of personal desires and throw my lot in with that of the One who knows your heart better than you do yourself. To stop trying to lead everything and follow. Fear still nips at my heels and trips me up. So...when no big dreams happen or nightmares come true...you listen for the still small voice. It can consume you and even drown out the noise.

Let me tell you about my amazing summer vacation. I was blessed to go to the East to West concert for one evening in June. It was the brief big dream of the summer. All but one of my family was there as well as numerous friends. It was loud and crowded. Trying to keep track of where my two younger kids were was a challenge. They were with many friends, in a well guarded Christian venue and they are smart and careful. We had a well thought out, over practiced plan for staying safe and communication...but I still have a bit of an irrational fear of losing them. The Newsboys were going full throttle, I was walled in by strangers near the front of the stage and pretty much grounded in a foot of mud. It's funny watching people try to jump to a fast beat in heavy muck. As I contemplated pushing through the sea of praisers to just try to get a glimpse of my kids...for my maternal OCD...something made me give up. The song Mr. Tait was screaming in my face was "I Want to Live With Abandon". So...that's what I did. I abandoned my irrational and unnecessary desire and let God be God for me. A very loud voice and still small one spoke to me all at once. I felt powerless and overwhelmed. I also felt loved and well cared for. His eyes were above this little crowd. He sees my children all the time.  I wondered at the party faces all around me, if they knew THIS feeling. Were they there just for a fun time? Did they really KNOW of whom they were singing? Did they have this ability to abandon everything and float on His hope and power? Stuck in the mud and floating. It was a great moment of praise. Vacation: "the action of leaving something one previously occupied". I vacated my own desires for a brief time. I had a lovely time. It was balmy, beautiful, restful and educational. I should go there more often...maybe even get a time-share.
 My inclination to avoid tragedy and chase fun is exhausting. It rarely goes the way I want it to. It also LOOKS LIKE everyone else is having what they want most of the time. The North American Dream/Lie. Tired? Yes, but not from external work. Tired form my own internal battle. The Lord is my Shepherd, I SHALL NOT WANT. Learning to live with Abandon. She is not someone I desire to embrace, but must if I am to experience Christ to the full. Now that the summer is over, the vacation pictures on facebook will dwindle, the scent of BBQ in the air will be less frequent and we can park the van for a little longer than usual. There is something soothing and contented about a little work and routine. No more chasing summer dreams for me. I will rest and float in the divine regular. I will try to treat triumph and disaster as imposters. Let neither have a hold on me. Take a vacation from your own will and retreat to His.




Sunday, August 3, 2014

Make Me Love You

 
 
 
There is a difference between having something and wanting something...tasting something and ingesting it. My dramatic bent has pretended many times to be many things, but those things I am not and never will be. We pretend, play and try out, but rarely ever really become. Desire and work are a huge part of the "becoming" experience, but not all of it. We are limited because we are not gods. Our interdependence requires a need so that we remember our rightful place as human. Sometimes we humbly admit we need our spouse, our medication or our computer savy friend for those unattainable goals. Many times we just keep trying with futility, wasting time and energy on a dream because we believe the unlimited human power propaganda. The fact that people die should prove this, yet we still push forward or totally give up. What if there was another option? What if we asked for help? What if we allowed old Blue Eyes' mantra "I did it MY way" fall by the wayside and did it another way? 

If you are that person who has tried it all and come up empty or is just starting out in life and are too efficient to waste time and soul on experimenting, then may I make a suggestion? If you have even an inkling that God exists, then keep reading...an inkling is all that is needed.

David Livingstone, a 19th century Scottish explorer, doctor and missionary, who helped find the heart of Africa, both literally and figuratively, knew this and did it. Growing up around a family of Jesus lovers, he knew of Him, believed in His existence, but didn't really care. He tried playing the part and tasting His wares, but had the self awareness to admit his lack of authenticity. One teenage day, he started praying a spiritually deep and complicated prayer: "Jesus, make me love you." Even though the Spirit had not been given to him, he did not have the zeal, understanding, joy and peace of his Christian family and friends, he knew it could be given him and he wanted to want it. So he simply asked. Not surprisingly, it was given to him. God changed his heart and life and he changed the world...at least Africa. 

When I see my own children struggling with this same weight of becoming, I instruct them to pray the Livingstone prayer. There is no sense in pretending or killing yourself trying, just pray the prayer..."Jesus, make me love you". My oldest son did this. After admitting his lack of love and desire for Christianity in his mid-teens, and after challenging God on His ability to change his heart, the necessary blood and heartbeat was given...and accepted. His hard, dead to the Spirit heart was given the life it wanted. It became a living-stone. No more acting. No more self-made religion. Becoming. 
 
The only thing a person has to do is give it a chance, the rest is the work and power of the Almighty. Admit you don't care. Admit you can't do it. Then just humbly ask Him to make you love Him. 

"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." 2 Corinthians 5:17

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Something Amazing...I Guess



I love Wednesday night prayer meeting. I love the mid-week fellowship, the casual nature of it and the sound of the soft voices sincerely entreating the same God...together. Sometimes tears. Sometimes laughter. Sometimes nothing but hope. Many of the prayers are years old awaiting a miracle. Many are new and swiftly answered. 

My impatience and passion is being tamed. Waiting is very hard. I'm not even sure always what I am waiting for. The future is wide open and totally out of my control. Sometimes I pray for anything. Any one of the prayers to be answered...just so I can adjust my position and get feeling back in my soul. Sitting still for too long makes things fall asleep. Things need to be shaken and moved. The pins and needles aren't unbearable, but they are very annoying and uncomfortable. 

In the meantime, I am supposed to serve, worship and live life. I know that. I'm just not very good at it. Thankfulness is critical in these fidgety moments. Learning to be thankful for quiet, static, slow-cooker times of life. God is always good. 



 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Pursuit of Flinchless Failures


"Meaninglessness does not come from being weary of pain. Meaninglessness comes from being weary of pleasure." -G.K. Chesterton

 I had the privilege of speaking at our homeschool conference with a lovely bunch of hard working moms. I thought hard, planned well and printed off my outline and handout...both of which I left at home on my desk. Only 30 minutes before my time slot, my forgetfulness dawned on me, as I sat in on a fellow speakers impressive and confident presentation. A little heart palpitation...a little hard breathing...a little sweat...a lot of mind meltdown. It was the end of a tiring day, so my body was weak and now my mind was even weaker. Trying not to look obviously stressed, I gracefully sat my way through the end of that session and made my way to the quiet room I would speak in...feeling a bit like I was in beauty pageant swimsuit competition. Awkwardly high heeling my way across a stage, feeling bare and on the edge of disaster.

The room was solitary. The open window brought fresh air for my struggling lungs and the quiet stilled my thoughts. It was a perfect setting for recovery. I rested on my knees and laughed at the realization that the subject of my presentation was "How to Handle Failure". God was just giving me one last, real-life lesson on the topic I chose to learn and teach about. I drew a fat stick man figure on the room's whiteboard...with curly hair...upon which I jotted down the main points of the subject matter that I had studied. This four armed, faceless figure would guide my eyes through the presentation. This, along with scattered jokes, honest disclosure, the comforting and strengthening Holy Spirit and the friendly faces of kindred spirits got me through the soul stretching crisis.

A fool says everything that us in his heart. That's what Proverbs says. People like me need to find balance in how much and what to share with people. In this case, my heart needed to be wide open...but holding back so as to heed the Proverb. Vulnerability and humility were necessary to communicate the value of failure, to connect with real, live fellow failures and to give them permission to open up their hearts. Every heart has valves that open one way. Pumping oxygen craving life blood to the source of refreshment. Hearts were not meant to keep the blood inside, accumulating needy cells, until it is so stressed that it blows. Pretending that we've got it all under control and are doing GREAT all the time helps no one, including yourself. The key is finding that person or people that would be good, healthy listeners, deciding what and how much to share and letting God tell you when to speak those cathartic words of confession. Not easy. Some don't say enough and some say too much. The chosen listener must be safe in the sense that they will guide your crippled spirit to healing and not further hurt. Someone who offers a venting session, furnished with humanistic cliches, static excuses (that we often want to hear) and comfortable advise might feel good, but doesn't produce the fellowship of suffering that failure intends.

It's rather easy for us to see the value of physical exercise and to plan a regular work out routine. We can prepare ourselves for the strain it offers, accept the sweat and commit to the suffering. Knowing and seeing the health benefits of the thing make it worthwhile. It then becomes part of our lives. Something we embrace and value, even look forward to. Eventually, when we get past the early training and become acclimatized to the challenge, it doesn't seem as difficult most days. Those older and wiser than myself advise me of the truth of this. The trials don't seem so overwhelming as they age. The trust in God grows with every test, fail or pass, so the gray haired years become much less fearful. I'm not to the point of making failure appointments or scheduling trials for my soul work out, and we don't need to do that...they come quite naturally at the providence of God. What I am going for is less fear...more faith...embrace the trials...flinchless failures.

I still "kick against the goads". My flesh craves and wails for the pleasures of earthly life, but I'm afraid the bliss of ignorance is too far out of reach now. I know too much. I must be silenced. I silence myself and listen closely to that still, small, mind blowing voice of the One whose suffering we are called to share in. The fellowship with Him that can only be found in the suffering. Embrace the cross..the failures and the trials. Seriously...the victory, the strength, the laughable irony of it all and the closeness to Him are...dare I say it...worth it.



Saturday, May 3, 2014

Spiritual Diabetes



I now know why God chose not to give a me a beautiful singing voice. The older I get the less able I am to get through a hymn or worship song without tearing up and choking on His glory. There should be a pocket in my Bible holder for waterproof mascara and a package of Kleenex. Happy tears. Swaying to the joy of His music. Smiling big at the revelations in His Word. Watching my husband get excited at the pulpit. Pouring out His heart and love for the Father. Only God Almighty could induce such emotion in him. Only in the pulpit and at the birth of our children. Being wired for high emotion as I am, it's difficult to do the regular. I don't generally shout a spontaneous "Amen!" after mopping the floor or "Praise Jesus!" while pulling the hair from the tub drain. Although...things are changing in my blessed life. My desires and pleasures are cloaking themselves in the mundane and regular.
I used to think worship concerts, inspiring conference speakers, family vacations and break-through circumstances only held those pleasure gems I seek...in the face of God. If that were the case, then all the days in between would have to be survived instead of lived to the full. They would not inspire fullness of Spirit and abundant life with Jesus on a daily basis. I need that...daily joy...daily revival. Not just the occasional high that fills the tank till the next one. Joy. I think that is the best word choice. I am tempted to call it an emotional high or fun, but those words don't really fit perfectly. I want them...crave them, fun and emotion, but they are too fleeting and unstable, subject to deception. Joy stands, stays and satisfies. Emotion lends itself to instability, but the bubbles that overflow from a cup full of joy never hurt anyone and do not stain. It intoxicates with the control of the Spirit of God and His truth rather than the endorphins my body houses and cannot always master.

My husband reminds me often that I need to have a conference. So, every day, I seek a one man revival. In the guise of a bed-headed mother, curled with coffee on the end of a worn couch, Bible on lap, kids still in bed, I am at a conference. Like Elijah  under a tree, He miraculously sends the meat and the bread. In a dry and unspectacular setting, I see God. My heart moves and feels in the security of His truth and a free and accessible place. Devotion. Earnest attachment to a cause or a person. I think we are wasting this "Person's" omnipresence. He is not only found in the stadiums of thousands or the gatherings of the greatest preachers and teachers of our day. He is found in a little white, hard pewed church. A devoted choir of 11. A stumbling but passionate preacher, devoted to the authority and clarity of scripture. Wrinkled hands raised along with the young. I'm not much of a hand raiser. I'm more of a crier. My smiling tears shed as an overflow of worship. I think it's hereditary. Two little brown cups overflowing with joy brought on by,

"Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art."

Notice the repeating word...devotion. Earnest attachment. This cannot survive on infrequent and circumstance dependent settings. This devotion to chasing after His face and joy needs to be daily and anywhere. Revival happens in a more real and lasting way in hearing His still, small voice in the frenzied crowd of one. Solitary mountaintops. That is more miraculous, takes more power than the expected high of planned, man made events. Sugar spikes from candy bars can be beneficial at times, but are unhealthy as a regular diet. The occasional Snickers is fun, but it usually precedes a crash. Emotional crashes should be avoided too. As regular, frequent feedings of healthy carbs keep the blood sugar stable, so the regular, frequent feeding upon the ordinary, modest devotional time keeps my emotions in check. It becomes a time much desired and craved. No longer a duty, but a preference and a priority. I don't see how any Christian can survive and mature without it.

Maybe that's how we become dependent on the insulin needle? Something else, man-made, ends up being introduced to our system because we lack the discipline and motivation for the natural. We worship the created rather than the Creator. Motivational speakers, music or hobbies become our insulin. I want to keep those good things in their proper place...not first place. That should be reserved for God and God alone. 

Now, the "amen"s and the "praise God"s do occasionally follow the mundane and regular! My simple life is becoming quite a pleasurable experience! Not because more "fun" is found here now, but because I am finding the most satisfaction in the most unlikely places. Life changing. I still love a good Snickers bar now and then. I'm still buying tickets to the Newsboys concert in June, but I don't NEED it anymore. It's a treat I appreciate, but cannot live on anymore. My passionate system needs the supernatural, moment by moment, joy infusion that only the humble Holy Spirit supplies. No longer insulin dependent :)






Saturday, April 12, 2014

Real Hosannas



This weekend is Palm Sunday. It's the time when we focus on the humble Servant riding into town on a donkey, and the people anticipating salvation...of some kind. He gave such hope, such power and such zeal for a cause. Then He died.

I often wonder what it must have been like for His disciples during that time. Ignoring Jesus' warnings that He would suffer and die, they continued to look for a different kind of victory. A more worldly, physical kind of victory. Hoping He would take over the world then and there, and they would be right by His side. "Hosanna" being shouted in the pep rally...save NOW! What disillusion must have been felt at His death. What doubts and fears must have invaded. When things die, or appear dead, we lose faith and give up. The impossible...miracles...don't enter our thoughts. Regret, confusion and fear seem to be our response of choice. Why can't we trust Him? Why can't we expect divinity and wait for Him to do the impossible?

We want good, righteous things...but we want them NOW...and we want them as we imagine them. This veil of humanity, our limited imagination, our carnal desires prevent us from thinking like Him. They prevent us form seeing reality...beyond this world and it's definitions of success and goodness. We are bound by time and perceptions. To see reality we have to trust and wait. When God speaks, it is as good as done. We have to learn how to press the hold button and listen to the elevator music until He delivers. Doubts are ok as long as they don't derail us from believing what God has already said.

That moment when our dream bleeds, moans and cries "It is finished", can be a defining moment for the follower of Christ. Did I hear Him wrong? Didn't He say "I have come to set the captive free"? I think that time between the crucifixion and the resurrection would have been emotional torture for me, had I been there. Sometimes I am there though. That time between the promise and the fulfillment. When we disciples often get depressed, hide and grope for direction. All we see is a grave, all we hear is silence and all we smell is mhyrr. I want the Easter story to remind me of unseen victory. To keep the invisible in sight and to learn how to walk through the lying images all around me, yanking at my faith. Palm branches make me think of a different world and a warmer climate...unlike the one I see now. Save me now Lord, from worldly perceptions and the captivity of it's lies.

God is never a liar. He cannot disappoint and will not fail you. No matter how wrong we are, how we mess up or how dead a promise may look. Shout hosanna, wave whatever party favors are in your reach and lay them at His feet. He is in town bringing victory...a kind of victory we cannot imagine.

 "Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen."
 Ephesians 3:20-21

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Cautiously Excited


I hesitate to write this post. I'm afraid it's too good to be true...that it'll stop being so wonderful as soon as I proclaim victory. I have to though. Some of you may need to know.

As many of you are already aware, my third child, now 12, took about three years to learn to read. I mean, just to be able to learn letter sounds and decode words. I think it took him a half a year just to learn his colors before that. I knew there was a problem, just didn't know exactly what that was nor how to deal with it. Having a degree in Special Education only helped be decide what it wasn't. Not having thousands of dollars to spare prevented me from going after an "official diagnosis"...plus a label wouldn't help him read better. With much prayer, determination and hard work he and I soldiered through the years and had him reading at about a grade 3 or 4 level (and not enjoying it) by the beginning of this school year. My creativity and scientific nature came in handy during these years as I attempted my own "therapies" and resources. 

Just after Christmas I came upon Dr.Dianne Craft's Brain Integration Therapy. I had been reading much of her information and was sure that my son had "disnomia" or some such glitch...and I liked her philosophy of learning and approach to these learning obstacles.Without writing any fancy name on a sticky note and pasting it on his forehead, I continued to follow the bread crumbs. A generous friend "happened" to own the BIT manual and let me borrow it for awhile. With my usual skepticism, we tried it out. The immediate effectiveness must have been a coincidence...he was just having a good day...or he wanted it to work. It has been two months of trying it out and he is still having a good day...every day...for two months. 

Reading is not nearly as labored for him. He yawns less. He corrects his own mistakes and laughs at them. He is reading an actual novel. He not only can spell the words on his word lists correctly, but doesn't need me to dictate them to him...he remembers each of them in the order they appear on the list. I'm a little dumbfounded. Now if he can finally recall his Sunday School teacher's name (that he has known all of his life), I'll nominate Dr. Craft for the Nobel Peace Prize.
The really nice thing about this therapy, is that it isn't a curriculum. I can still use all of my own material and just implement her methods into it. A tasty  DHA vitamin and about 15 minutes of her exercises in the morning and we are off to a great start. I'm thinking that this method is going to be more of a lifestyle than a program...like eating wisely and exercising daily rather than dieting. I may even try it myself so I can fight the mid-life memory loss monster.

I am prepared to humble myself and recant my position on this therapy if for some reason we fall back to the old usual...but this teacher-momma is feeling a little more optimistic than ever before. Although I'm not searching for gold and I do not collect Smurf's (anymore), I feel the cautious excitement of Gargamel and share his victorious, almost mad-scientist chuckle.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Injustice of Snow in Spring : for Cindy

 

Snow white skin and hair,
pale pink lipstick and finger nails,
bows in her french braid and a big Cindy smile on her face.

 That was who greeted me on the High School bus every morning in late High School. She had been a part of our lives since we were little. Going to Sunday School with us, elementary school and visiting with my older sister many times. All they would do is laugh. Two insecure, shy little gigglers. Putting away the monumental stresses of a typical school child and just laughing. I had no idea what could be so funny for so long, but it didn't matter, now, as a mother of a little girl, can I really understand the joy that fills a home with such laughter.

My hour long bus rides every morning to school years later were met with the same subtle giggles. She looked picture perfect at 7:30am. Evidence of early morning care taken. By the end of a long High School day, her french braid was falling out, the lipstick had worn well off and the hair bow was crooked...but the smile was just as bright. The stories of the day brought more laughter, even if the events were not good. She had a way of turning everything into a giggle, a joke or a small hurdle in her life race. It was a happy hour. My half empty cup seemed a little fuller after riding home with her, or at least her presence made it seem like sparkling grape juice instead of tasteless water. 

Laughter. That's what I remember most. She was kind and gentle. If she ever raised her voice it was always punctuated with a largely dimpled smile and snicker...pretending to be mad. No negative thing ever seemed to matter much and I needed that at that time. Light-hearted laughter. Sweet Cindy. 

No words can really articulate the tragedy of her passing.The world needs more gentleness and laughter. It has a little less of that today. My prayer is that her 4 children and their children may inherit her bubbly, positive, loving ways. Injustice saturates the air and questioning reigns. I have to  trust that the Almighty knows what He is doing and has "the whole world in His hands", even a small east coast city...covered in cold, empty snow when it should be Spring. It just seems wrong in every way. There should be flowers, grass, sunshine and singing birds...but they are just not there. The past cannot be changed, the present is painful and the future is waiting for our reaction.

Cindy faced problems much bigger than her own fragile soul. She worked very hard to overcome them and did what she did best...she loved and laughed. May we muster up the energy to do the same on a bitter cold day. We all know it should look different out our window today, but there it is...cold covering everything. Where is the joy, beauty and warmth? It's coming. You can be sure it is coming. Not because I insist, but because Someone more powerful than death itself rules this universe and he will have the final say...in everything. Spring will come. Joy will come. Love, laugh, look to Him and trust in word and deed while you wait.

"Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him."
Isaiah 30:18


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Ruby Red Baby Steps


This is not an audible conversation with God. This is my imagination in overdrive, to the point of comical, but it is real. It is this morning:
 
Some mornings,
The light of day is seen.
The need to move is felt.
Feet on the floor is unwanted, too far to go.
Impossible.
A smile needs a million muscles.
Spirit living will take a miracle.
Paralized for a few more minutes.
The only action is my prayer.
Conversation with an omnipotent God in my dead state.
Easter is coming. The ressurection.
A little of that could get me out of bed.
Forgive my weakness Lord, be my strength today. Take your mighty right hand and move my feet...one in front of the other.
Your strong arms around me can squeeze a smile out.
Tell me what to do first, then next. I'll ask each step of the way.

Wake the kids. What next?
Eat something helpful. Ok...next?
Smile and speak kindly to the kids. Check. Next?
Shower and wash away yesterday. Yes. Next?
Play worship music. Ahhhh, yes. Next?
Put tea on. Absolutely. Next?
Smile and be kind to our precious offenders. Again? 
Yes again. Recite Galatians 2;20.
"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."
Listen to the scripture and song lyrics playing life into your body. 
Thank you for that Jesus.Tears, warm and relieving. 
Even dead artists still minister. I want to be like that.
STOP! Refrain from big, deep, tomorrow thoughts...just cook the oatmeal.
Right. Sorry. Focus on today...the next minute and step.
There goes another precious offender...smile...touch.
How am I doing Lord?
Awesome. Keep it up. I'm still holding you. Forever holding you. Resurrection power. I'll lead you.
I hate being so weak.
Yes, but because your are, I can be strong for you. I love being strong for you. This is kingdom living. This is submission. This is the irony of the cross. Losing your life to find it.Looking and feeling weak only to find yourself strong and victorious just because you let Me lead, hold, direct...without fear. 

Emotions and thoughts will not have me.
 I am being held up, fed and loved today by the Almighty Beautiful.
His perfection, power and sovereignty is the only peace pill that works. I just have to make a conscious effort to take it every moment of the dead days. No fear of overdose and the side effects are helpful. It's a little addictive, but dependance on Him is encouraged. 

I might not trust circumstances, people, even myself some days, but my life, my breath, my everything is given into your hands. Oh my God, I need you, I love you. Stay close today. Keep moving my feet and whispering truth in my ear. No Amen to this prayer because it continues...
Taking the next step. Waiting for God to tell me what to make for supper ;)

Monday, March 3, 2014

Choose Your View

Happy Trails.


We live next to a highway. It's a secondary highway, but busy enough to make some noise and keep one from wearing pj's outside. I rarely visit the front part of the yard for this very reason. If the window boxes on the front deck didn't need watering in the summer, I'd likely never be out front. 

Our back yard however, is a dream. It's huge. Spacious. beautiful. Calming. It smells nice...once you get past the chicken coup. Every morning, when I let the dog out the back door, I take a moment, no matter the weather, and take a peek at it. Breath in the merciful country air and allow the sounds of the season to sing me a quick chorus. It's a good way to start the day and reminds me to take some time that day to get outside awhile, away from the business and stresses of life.

Whether I just swing in my hammock chair or walk with the dog around the field-bush trail, I need to get outside. Senses need the therapy. The brain needs the pure Canadian oxygen. The Spirit needs the closeness with the Creator felt by touring His gallery. I could stay in the house and get stuff done, which is always a strong temptation, but I have to set my gaze on something else once in awhile.

 Even though life does not always allow you to choose what happens or what you must do, we always have the choice of how we will look at it. How much time we invest in giving attention to things. What we will fix our gaze upon. There is a time and place for everything under the sun, and when given the chance, look at the bright side...the back yard...the majestic mountain in your life...the wide-open field...the flowers...the big blue sky with it's clouds and mysteries. Yes, the indoor business and the front yard are still there, and you must return, but for the moment, let the Beautiful fill your cells to the inmost part...then go back for more when you get the chance. 

Ostriches stick their heads in the sand. Ignorance in never bliss in the long run...it leaves your vital organs unprotected.

Hanging your head to naval gaze never builds a strong neck. Pity parties bring eternal hangovers.

Looking back over the shoulder at the past will most definitely cause a head on collision in the future.

Fix your gaze on that which God has graciously put in your life for your pleasure and benefit, and when it's time, let His filling strengthen you to do what needs to be done. When Jesus lived here, He spent most of His time with His like-minded disciples, looking to teach and to heal the wounded and dead souls. When it was time to love like no one has loved before, He set His face toward Jerusalem and didn't look back. When it was the most torturous moment of His life, He gazed to Heaven looking for the Father.

Now, the eyes of the Lord, "...move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His."
 2 Chronicles 16:9

If we cannot see Him, it's because we aren't looking in the right places. 

God's sovereignty is for sure. How much control, influence, choice we have in this life is debatable. God has told us in His Word that we are to set our minds on "things above"...that is something we must choose to do.

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."
Philippians 4:8

That sounds a lot like my back yard.

 Harvest Beauty


 When letting Nature take it's course is a good thing.


 Another hammock perspective.


 Only those who are consistently happy and loyal may join me.


 I wish you could feel the warm sun in this shot.





Saturday, January 25, 2014

Overdressed for Work

Antagonist:
A person who is opposed to, struggles against, or competes with another; opponent; adversary.
Heavy thinking going on theses days. Mostly about educational issues. It's that time of year when I assess our home education goals and progress. It can get pretty stressful. Coffee in my new red mug and many outdoor walks help keep my poor little mind from having a total meltdown. The task, the progress and the actual implementation just seem insurmountable sometimes. After 14 years of doing this and one kid graduated and in college, I still can feel incapable and unsure. I see the goals. I have a grand new plan. My muscles are warmed up and ready to dive into my creative learning adventure...then the road blocks appear. The flu, the computer won't work, can't find that book anywhere, resistance from the student, interruptions of any and every kind. This is no fun anymore. The towel is in hand and ready to be thrown in. Who is this antagonist?? What is this nasty force that is bound and determined to frustrate and stop our good intentions?? Where does he come from and what is the motive behind his silent war??

I often am more motivated to hunt him down and neutralize the enemy than I am in ignoring him and pressing on with my eyes on the prize. His efforts work on me. Anger, hopelessness and surrender take over and, for a moment...or two or three...I give in. On goes the movie, off goes the alarm clock and I am down for service. Knowing full well that my giving up is futile. As much as I act like "I'm done", it's really just an act I put on for myself. I'm just trying out what it would feel like if I gave up. Giving up stinks. 

It takes awhile before I drag myself off the battle field and into the shelter of recovery. Bloody and aching, I regroup. That feeling of failure is the enemy. One glimpse of his smirking face looming over my wounded schoolhouse is enough to get my dander up. Without any idea of which direction to limp, I just get up. Trying not to think too much about the obstacles, I focus my attention on survival. Food, water and shelter. Math, reading and writing. Nothing more, nothing less. Nothing fancy. Sometimes raw. 
I know better and yet I continue to repeat my error. In spiritual battles I need to be aware of the enemy's schemes and my own weaknesses. He knows my addiction to things being pleasurable and home educating isn't always that (sorry if that bit of news already hit the headlines). Home educating can be a spiritual battle. If I try to get too fancy, tempted to go forward doing pirouettes rather than just walking straight and grounded, he'll trip me up. I'll fall full onto a land mine, wishing I had worn my dungarees rather than my tutu. I don't actually own a tutu. It just worked well for the metaphor.

As much as I'd like to home educate with more creativity, flare and fun, sometimes those things get in the way. Sometimes our kids can't handle the frills and just need bare bones teaching. The last think my struggling learner needs right now is for me to impose my twirly educational methods on his struggling brain. It's time to get messy and do hard things. Do the unglamorous work of figuring out his unseen obstacle and help him around it. The Antagonist hates that. He wants me dancing around the battle field thinking it's a stage or playground. What I really desire is victory not pleasure...although there is great pleasure in victory...it just has to be paid for first. 

" All pleasure must be bought at a price. For true pleasure, the price is paid before you enjoy it. For false pleasure, the price is paid after."-Ravi Zacharias


I've changed my clothes and remembered my directive. It's time to jump back into the invisible battle, this time, leaving the Antagonist to fight alone...without help from me.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

D is for the Vitamin, Doors and Do Something

 
Most people dread January. The let down from Christmas is tough, the weather is controlling and the sun is strictly rationed...the Christmas bills hang over us in it's place.The flu makes it's grand entrance and restricts our social interaction. We forget that Spring, Summer and Fall exist and will return.

Tough month. 

There is a Bible verse for January:
 "Making the most of your time, because the days are evil." Ephesians 5:16

January. Evil days :) How do we make the most of them? 

I have come to appreciate this month as a month of rest. If bad roads, little money and the flu are going to make me house bound, then take the forced break. There are so many things the busy months restrict me from doing. January is the time to do them. Seize the month! There is plenty of snow for snowshoeing, plenty of time to think about and re-organize my school year and many nooks and crannies that call for cleaning. Soup and chowder recipes waiting to be tried and movies and books I've wanted to cuddle with the kids and experience. That sewing machine has been waiting to be discovered. Blank white canvases crying for color. Fill the house with music and do something different. Make January special because it is a gift from God. Don't join the ranks in complaints and grumblings about when we are. As my Dad always says, "We are here because we are here." Profound in a simple way. 

There are things we can do to help ourselves...that we don't...because we like to be miserable. And things we should stop doing...that we don't...because we like to be miserable. I have made a checklist. A deeply profound, researched and revolutionary list. Never before heard of.
play music
don't eat junk food
 exercise
get up early
don't stay up late
keep your mind busy learning
get outside often...even if it's nasty out
take vitamin D
help someone other than yourself
read your Bible...every day...a couple of times

Ok, you may have heard of these things before, but sometimes we forget and need a little reminder. The word "January" comes from the Greek god Janus and is a Latin word meaning "doorway". Doors are meant to be opened and entered through, discovering something on the other side. Make your own list of specific things you can discover, accomplish and enjoy this winter, because yours may have things like study math, read Shakespeare, build a ship-in-a-bottle or go vegan...things I would never dream of doing by choice.

You don't have to go out or spend money to enjoy life. Remember where and when you are and who gave you January...be grateful and do something wonderful with it.


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Fresh Serenity

 

I'm going to try to wash the bedsheets more often. That's my new years resolution.

Not that they really need it, it just occurred to me that other people wash them like, every month. All of them...every month. I must confess, I missed that rule when I set up our domestic situation 23 years ago. Are my kids just less dirty than others? I dunno. For some reason though, I feel like it has been a burden...this little secret of mine.  So, I am coming out of the linen closet and telling the world. I change all the bed sheets maybe 3 or 4 times a year. Please don't think less of me. Maybe it's because we don't eat in bed? I can't figure it out. I think I'll feel more...acceptable, if I up the ante this year. I'll let you know how my life changes in 2014, with this new, nocturnally pristine me.

I also chose this resolution because it's doable. This is something I can put my everything into and tackle with great determination. I may need someone to remind me though. I have a very short attention span, so unless coffee gets spilled on the bed or something, it could get overlooked again. There are just some things in life that unintentionally slip down the priority list. Finding things to improve your life, then unsuccessfully pursuing them is disappointing to say the least. Even being the optimist that I am, I have come to realize that the slogan "you can do anything if you just set your mind to it" is bologna.  Life has limits, our resources are rationed and roadblocks are immoveable sometimes. People get sick, lose things and are often compelled to live a life they might never have chosen. So...true resolve and character identifies what can be changed and sets the mind on those things...forgetting previous dreams.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Amen.

--Reinhold Niebuhr

 Wow. That's what I'm going for. To be able to pray this sincerely.

Even if the furniture and bed sheets are the only things I can change at the moment, then I shall change them. What happens in this new year is out of my control, but how I ride the wave is up to me. God is always good, He loves me perfectly and eternally. Trust. Obey. Peace.

To be strong and humble enough to stop chasing the ideal life and accept what is given. To find my joy in Him alone is my goal for today, tomorrow and this year. And to change the bed sheets more often.