Wednesday, December 25, 2013

B-E-L-I-E-V-E


Believe.  This time of year, the word adorns shop windows, sits on mantles, scrolls across wall hangings.  Even atop my kitchen cabinets, the glittery red letters encourage onlookers to believe.  In what, I'm not really sure ... that Santa will come on Christmas Eve? ... that a white Christmas is possible in the Pacific NW? ... that I can keep my sanity between November 25 and December 31 with three birthdays and two holidays to prepare for? ... that 2000 years ago a baby was born in a stable to free the world …. me …. from the crippling burden of sin-guilt? Believe.  Such a punchy word, ripe with potential.  But without something to believe in, it is merely a row of seven letters, a hollow sentiment to print on Christmas decorations.

It’s hard to believe when cynicism and skepticism come naturally, when life's events more resemble a bad dream than a fairy tale ending.  This holiday has not looked like I anticipated.  My vision of excited children and festive family celebrations around the tree has been tainted by kid squabbles and fisticuffs, bruised lips and egos, sniffles and fevers. Having been awakened by a sick kiddo in the wee hours last night, I was pondering ... and admittedly whining just a bit.  After all, I thought I had heard God clearly about our holiday plans.  I thought I was walking in obedience.  But if I was, how come things kept going wrong?  Why did the Norman Rockwell Christmas I envisioned not match our reality?   

And God gently pointed out that the first Christmas likely didn't look like Mary anticipated either. As I study the account of the young mother, I see no hint of doubt or doldrums, no panic or frantic attempts to control the situation.  It's sobering to see a woman half my age respond to a task more magnificent than anything God will require of me, with a level of trust and faith far beyond what I see displayed in my own life.  Yet I still have to wonder .... was there a moment in that dusty, dirty stable, perhaps in a lull between fierce contractions, that she looked around and shook her head?  That the last nine months swept over her in a matter of seconds?  That she reviewed the angel's message and realized the fruition of his prophecy looked entirely different than she anticipated?  Or did she just take things moment by moment with the wisdom to avoid constructing preconceived notions, knowing that circumstances are poor indicators of obedience?   Did she, in a word, believe?

Simple faith seems to be the hallmark of Mary's life.  Whether to Gabriel's incredible announcement or to angelic tales delivered by uninvited smelly visitors to her stable nursery, Mary responds with quiet acceptance and unquestioning belief.  The belief that I now think of whenever I see the printed word adorning my house.  The belief that I needed to be reminded of last night.  Belief that accompanies a deep breath, a step back, a release of control, a sigh of surrender, a counting of blessings.  Belief in God's sovereignty.  Belief that when the circumstances seem entirely fantastical God is still busy, ever in control, His deep love for His creation at the center of His plans.   Belief in a magnificent God whose ways tend to the out of ordinary but laden with blessings for those who will say yes to Him.  Believe that trusts, along with Mary, that God will keep me in perfect peace when my mind is fixed on Him, trusting (Isaiah 26:3).  





Tuesday, October 8, 2013

When



When it seems there is
more laundry than kids,
more bills than funds, 
more chores than minutes,
more noise than quiet,
more chaos than peace,
more questions than answers,
more corruption than integrity,
more enemies than friends,
more hard times than glad,
more uncertainty than stability,
more frailty than strength...

there is still
an omnipotent God,
loving Father,
Kinsman Redeemer,
Prince of Peace,
Faithful Bridegroom,
compassionate Saviour

who 
hears
understands
forgives
restores
delights in
adores 

YOU!








Friday, June 14, 2013

Chasing Rainbows



I'm not sure how old I was when I started chasing rainbows.  Junior high, maybe high school.  I learned to recognize that mysterious way the sun splits through a black sky, and I could just tell:  it was a rainbow sky.  And I'd grab my camera and fly out the door on a mission.

As I drove home yesterday, the sky had that luminous glow.  Ominous clouds still threatened more than a drizzle, but somehow the sun had found a chink in the storm's armor and was letting the world know it was still there.  I searched the sky for the rainbow, that sign of hope, the promise that all is never lost, and it occurred to me that this rainbow chaser needs to apply the principle to the rest of her life.

Here I love to go on impulsive trips in search of God's colorful promise of old, yet I fail to look for the symbolic rainbows in my life.  Huh.

On a recent field trip to Mt. Saint Helens with #1's class, I was struck by the fact that wildlife survived such a cataclysmic eruption.  Whether protected beneath a layer of lake ice or in a home deep underground, after the ash settled, noses peaked out of holes and fins still wiggled back and forth.  And the narrator in the film explained, "where humans see catastrophe, nature sees opportunity."

And I realized that so often I allow the hard to distract me from the hope.  Whether it's cranky kids that occupy my thoughts or the messier stuff of life, it is too easy to dwell on the difficult.  I want to be more like nature.  No, I want to be more like God.  Yes, to acknowledge the hard stuff of life, to feel it's pain, but ultimately to focus on the rainbow.  To see in catastrophe the opportunity for God to ... be God.  To, as Kay Arthur so aptly puts it, "[grab] hold of God who already has a hold of [me] and [trust] He will keep His promises."

".... But if what makes you so very sad and miserable comes from Him, what can you say to the dear Lord?"  
Heidi had to think what ought to be done in such a case; but she was very certain that one could obtain help from the dear Lord for every sorrow.  She sought a reply from her own experience.
"Then you must wait," she said after a while with assurance, "and keep thinking; 'Surely now the dear Lord knows some joy which is to come out of this by and by, so I must be still for a little and not run away from Him.'  Then all at once it will happen so that you will see quite clearly that the dear Lord had nothing but good in His mind all the time; but because you could not see it so at first, and only had the terrible sorrow all the time before you, you thought it would always remain so."  (Johanna Spyri)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

On My Mind Today



"..... when my world falls down, not for a moment will you forsake me...."
Amen!



Wednesday, May 22, 2013

God, Gandolf, and the Privilege of Pain

I like happy endings .... and happy beginnings .... and, well, happy middles are awfully nice too!  ;-)  I don't handle suspense well.  I never have.  Wondering if Mr. Darcy will ever change his mind about Miss Elizabeth Bennet is enough suspense for me.  An Austen-lover, DH is not, so finding a movie we both appreciate is a bit tricky.   Tolkein really isn't my cup of tea but I can tolerate it, and thus found myself curled up with My Love and The Hobbit last night.

I'd be thrilled if the entire movie was set either in Rivendell or The Shire, but alas neither Tolkein nor Peter Jackson agree with me.  Off the characters feel compelled to go through trial and torment and battle.  The whole movie is suspense and orcs.  Fun.  Oh, and don't forget the most frustrating of wizards, Gandalf.  I want to like him.  I really do.  He's kind and funny and makes fireworks.  What's not to like?  I just can't get beyond the fact that here you have this powerful, wise wizard who keeps his power tucked in his pocket until circumstances couldn't get much worse.  In The Hobbit, he waits until the dwarfs are dangling from a tree suspended over the edge of a cliff before he sends his little moth friend off to tell the giant eagle birds to come to the rescue.  And as I squirm in my seat longing for a cup of tea and a glimpse at Mr. Darcy, I can't help but irritatedly wonder why he didn't just save everyone the trouble and call in the eagle birds an hour ago.  They could have swooped in and transported the dwarf party from peaceful Rivendell directly to their mountain.  Why deal with all the heartache and danger in between?  Why indeed.

Recently, God asked a good friend and me to organize a Mother/Daughter tea for our church.  This was the second year we had felt God directing us to orchestrate the event.  We work well together, carry a similar burden for women and mothers, and share a heart's desire to be surrendered to the Lord's will.  On the surface it looked like things should come together easily.  However, as we prayed and planned, the going got tough.  Opposition seemed to rise from every side to the point one night I told God to never ask me to do anything again.  Extreme?  Yes.  Dramatic?  Definitely.  But I was weary of the flinging arrows, weary of fighting, weary of struggling to keep my eyes on Him and the prize He set before me.  We begged for more prayer support and pressed on.  While God supplied brief respites from the attacks, the arrows continued to fly.  Often we found our spirits buoyed and strengthened rather than the storm quieted.

As the day of the tea grew closer, I was reflecting on the challenging journey during a conversation with my dad.  I mentioned wondering how evangelists and teachers like Billy Graham and Beth Moore, people whose audiences number in the thousands, withstand the spiritual opposition.  After all, if I was coming under such attack for a little tea, what must it be like for one preaching to filled stadiums?  Dad's reply still lingers.  "I don't know why attack comes stronger at some times than others.  Perhaps God allows it more for our benefit than anything else."  Ah.

In retrospect I can see that all the trials we went through were, in a way, God answering our prayer that He receive all the glory.  That the tea be about Him and not about us.  That He be in every detail.  I felt stripped bare.  By the day of the tea, I was exhausted to the point of feeling sick, literally emptied of everything "me," left only with a humble surrender and a hopeful expectation to see God become strength in my weakness.  

What if He had eliminated the difficult journey?  If, like I so wish Gandalf would do, He sent in the reinforcements before the battle even began?  I would have been spared the struggle, the tears, the heartache.  And I would have missed seeing God work.  My arsenal of circumstances in which God proved Himself and His faithfulness would be lacking.  Would I choose the trials?  Not exactly.  And yet through them, I am reminded of their value.  I have never experienced the intimacy with God in easy times that I've felt when things were tough.  I'm learning, slowly, that pain is a privilege.  As Ann Voskamp calls it, a hard eucharisteo.

Ravi Zacharias states, "if in a human material existence, pain is an indicator of something that is wrong and needs to be righted, isn't it possible for an infinite God to somehow have a purpose for the pain in your heart and mine so that we will ultimately turn to Him and realize that in Him alone [we] have [our] ultimate dependence and strength?"


He giveth more grace as the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as the labors increase,
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials His multiplied peace.

His love has no limit; His grace has no measure.
His power has no boundary known unto men.
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again!


When we have exhausted our store of endurance,

When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

Annie Johnson Flint

Friday, March 29, 2013

Holy Week Mingles with Life's Muck



Our Holy Week has not resembled that of past years.  Foot washing and communion have been replaced with draggy children and early bedtimes.  My goal of little-to-no screen-time this week vanished with the first fever's arrival on Monday evening.  I didn't have enough fight in me to argue with whiny kiddos.

Three o'clock Good Friday morning.  My own restless sleep is interrupted by feverish wimpers, revealing the child's health I thought, hoped was improving is actually going the other direction.  And I'm wiping a boy's burning, aching forehead, praying, and it hits me.  The events of Jesus' life at this exact time 2000 years ago give me hope beyond this moment, beyond the wimpers and fevers of this life.  How like God to meet me in the trenches.




The amazing thing about Jesus' life, crucifixion, and most importantly resurrection is that He brought the Holy to humanity, paving the path for us to approach His throne of grace with confidence  (Heb 4:16).  The trials and pain of life on this earth are not the end.  How great His love for you, me that He would willingly suffer at the hands of the very people He was dying for, to give us hope beyond the yuck of this world .... a glorious hope of eternity spend in the presence of pure Love itself.  My feeble brain cannot fathom such a gift.

No, Holy Week has not met my expectations.  We may not even make it to church this weekend.  But somehow that's ok.  God knows.  And He has made it clear that He is just as present in the bedroom of a feverish child on Good Friday morning as in a lily-adorned sanctuary on Easter Sunday.




Friday, February 22, 2013

Looking for a Rock .... or a Beach .... or Flowers?




"Too bad flowers don't like motorcycles."  I reached a new low when I texted those words.  I've never asked my husband for flowers before.  To do so robs much of the romanticism from the act.  But the thought crossed my mind that him walking in with something colorful and cheery was what I needed, and since 14 years of marriage have taught me that trying to send him mental messages doesn't work and hoping he will read my mind doesn't either, maybe I'd just ask until .... oh yeah .... flowers don't look quite the same after they ride home on the back of a bike.  Sigh.  Maybe I'll hint anyway.

Yesterday I heard the still, small voice whispering, calling me to come spend some time at His feet.  Reminding me that I hadn't really slipped away with Him for a while, hadn't soaked in His Word near enough.  I heard the urging all day.  And I assured myself that I would ... as soon as this sink of dishes was clean and after that part of dinner was prepped.  And then a doctor appointment and trip to the pharmacy plopped themselves into my morning and kids needed to be fed and dog hair needed to be vacuumed and somehow today arrived and that little communion never took place.

And now another kid is in bed crying in feverish sleep and I've lost count of what week in a row this is that someone has been sick and I'm looking for a rock to crawl under or a beach to escape to.  Surely someone else can be me for a while and I can run away.  Surely?  No?  Then maybe I can settle for flowers?  At this point I'd even take motorcycle-wind-blown ones.

And then it occurs to me.  The irony removes the lump in my throat and I shake my head and smirk.  How like God.  That He would invite me to dwell on His Rock yesterday knowing what today would hold.  That had I obeyed, I wouldn't be looking for a rock to crawl under because I would already be anchored in the Rock.

The still small voice whispers again.  The invitation is still open, the Host still waiting, offering something better than flowers.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Changing the life of a child

Nashaki



For years, I would look at the abundance in my home and the ingratitude that seemed to accompany it and wonder how to infuse an attitude of appreciation into my children, how to demonstrate just how blessed we are.  Their young ages prevented taking them on a mission trip to a less fortunate part of the world, and mom harping with comments like "starving children in Africa would be happy to have that broccoli" accomplished nothing.  

Last summer, my husband and I agreed to sponsor a child through Compassion International and the impact on our family has been exciting.  Having a name and a face for our kids to pray for, write to, and associate with someone less fortunate has helped expand their world just a little.  On their own, they started a jar for spare change to save for Christmas and birthday gifts for their "African sister" Nashaki.  When her letters arrive, they can't wait to hear how she's doing.

The little girl with deep chocolate skin has expanded my vision as well as my kids'.  It  reminds me that while serious troubles may come my way, there are little ones out there in much more dire straits.  It reminds me to be open to opportunities where God may call me to reach beyond my borders to touch lives of His precious ones.   

It has struck me just how little it takes to change someone's life.  It is so easy, in our affluent North American culture, to spend the cost of sponsorship, $38, without batting an eye.  It's probably a fair guess that most people's monthly latte fund is more than that.  God clearly commands us to look out for the widow and orphan, for those less fortunate.  Most are familiar with the verses (see James 1:27, Matt 25:31-46) and would agree, but life creeps in, schedules fill, another week passes and we have done little to impact anyone outside our circles, let alone put food in the mouth of someone who is hungry.  April 21 is Compassion Sunday.  I know that God hasn't called everyone to reach out through child sponsorship.  But, I would encourage all to at least ask Him if sponsoring a child is something He would have you do. 




video



Friday, February 8, 2013

Masterpiece, part 2

God uses the foolish things to confound the wise (1 Cor 1:27) ... and perhaps the simple things to relay the profound.  Such was the case this morning as I again reflected on Ephesians 1 and 2 and the fact that I am God's masterpiece.  Ephesians 2:8-10 says, "God saved you by his grace when you believed.  And you can't take credit for this it is a gift of God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.  For we are God's masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago" (NLT).  So that list of things that makes me feel like a masterpiece?  Rubbish.  God's fingerprints on me have nothing to do with the sparkliness of my bathrooms or the obedience of my children.  I can take no credit.


I have these little clay ornaments. *  I've spent hours mixing clay colors to find just the right hue, pressing and squeezing and shaping, pricking and cutting, all the while praying that God will use them for His purposes. When they are ready for the oven, they appear nothing like the original lump of clay. I considered my little masterpieces this morning and it struck me:  my little ornaments did nothing to become what they are.  It was by my hands (and God's equipping because I am not an artist by any means) that they have taken their shape.  And I love them because they are mine; I thought of them, and planned them, and finally I created them.

Perhaps the one disadvantage to being raised in a Bible-teaching home is that the amazing truths of God  can become commonplace.  That you've heard it so many times, it's easy for the living words to become as rote as knowing your own phone number.  And when it does, God ever so gently takes something simple, tangible to breathe new life into the unhearing ears, awakening the dulled senses to the humbling truth that He adores His masterpiece.






* for more information about these ornaments, please contact me though the link in my profile. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

You are a Masterpiece



Do you feel like one?  I don't know about you, but some days I feel much more masterpiece-ish than others.  Usually it's a good hair day, I'm feeling patient, the house is clean, the kids are diligent and cooperative, dinner is ready on time, and everyone sleeps soundly all night.  I give myself a little mental pat on the back and congratulate myself for a job well-done.  Looking at that list of requirements, however, it shouldn't surprise me when a not so masterpiece-ish day crashes in on me a few days later.

For several months, I've been pondering the idea of what God thinks of me.   I'm discovering my perspective is a little skewed.  In some odd way, I think I require more of myself (which is pride) than God does, in that He doesn't beat me up when I fail.  He knows it will happen, offers forgiveness and a fresh start, and moves on.  Meanwhile, I'm still wallowing in frustration and self-loathing, annoyed that I made the same mistake again.  Somehow I transfer that disgust to God.  If I feel impatient with myself, He must even more so.  Either I overlook the grace He is freely offering because I am busy condemning myself, or I accept the grace feeling so guilty that I miss the joy that should accompany the grace-gift.

In the first two chapters of Ephesians, Paul points out just how twisted my thinking is.  Look at how God really feels about us:

We are:
  • blessed with every spiritual blessing in the Heavenly realms (1:3 NLT)
  • loved before the creation of the world (1:4)
  • chosen (in Christ) to be holy (1:4)
  • adopted into His family.  (1:5).  He enacted a plan, Jesus Christ, to be able to do this, and even more it gave him GREAT PLEASURE to do so.  Paul says that "great pleasure".  How cool is that!
  • purchased by the blood of His dearly loved Son (1:7)
  • forgiven (1:7)
  • showered with His kindness, wisdom, and understanding (1:8)
  • heirs to an inheritance (1:11)
  • given a purpose (to praise Him) (1:12)
  • saved (1:13)
  • identified as His own (1:13)
  • recipients of His great mercy and life through Christ (2:4)
  • loved so very much (2:4)
  • recipients of His special favor (2:5)
  • raised from the dead with Christ (2:6)
  • seated with Him in the heavenly realm (2:6)
  • one with Christ Jesus (2:6)
  • examples of His favor and kindness (2:7)

a Masterpiece 
(2:10)