Musings of a Super Girl | Archives 1
1. I woke up this morning to a deep fog. The silence hung as heavily in the air as the descended clouds. I could only see a few feet away. It was beautiful and still.
Driving through the fog was a leap of faith, a prayer that those headlights ahead were in the correct lane, a petition that I had accurately judged the speed of oncoming traffic as I turned into the parking lot. I knew others could see me only because of the headlamps lighting the way.
The light in the fog reminded me of how busy we're all about to get; Halloween flows into Thanksgiving, and Thanksgiving into Christmas, and then on to New Year's Eve. It's going to get crazy out there. We're going to get crazy out there. As we race through the fog of the Holiday Season, let us remember to appreciate the beauty, the stillness of why we are doing it. Let us not lose our way, beguiled by the density of the fog, use the headlights given to us. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” - Psalm 119:105
October 25, 2012
2. The day this picture was taken started out almost like any other. My son was in a bad mood and upset that we weren't going to let him out of his school work (he was home schooled at the time), he was cranky that we weren't headed out to do something “fun” when he was done, and mostly he was irritated because I told him he couldn't get cocoa while we were out dorking about. What made it different was that we had a friend visiting from out of town and my husband managed to get the day off. We wanted our friend to see the city we live in and prove that it isn't as backwater as some believe; so off we went to show off our town.
As the day went on we found plenty of spots to engage in ridiculous activities such as “snailing” on decorative posts and planking park benches. By the time we got to the stadium the boy was happy again, forgetting all the things that irritated him. That's when he threw himself down in front of the rearing bronco pretending to be trampled.
When I look back on pictures like these I don't just remember the fun time we had taking them. I sometimes remember the bad attitude just prior. Regardless of what's happening around us, carpe diem is a good motto to live by. After all, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
November 1, 2012
3. Going through airport security, I often wonder why we don't just show up at the airport in our bathrobes and get dressed after being X-rayed, patted down, and having our belongings inspected. The long lines are obnoxious, the process intrusive, and the experience is aggravating in general. On one trip, when we finally whimpered past the final obstacle, there was a glorious sign overhead that read, “Recombobulation Area.” Oh how sweet that place was!
This past week has felt a bit like the emotional overload of airport security. All that was missing was that one TSA guy beckoning another to come over and “wand” me. Kids need rides here, there, and everywhere. The sink is full of dishes and the dishwasher won't work. Somebody tracked crumbly leaves and mud onto the freshly cleaned floors. Work is more stressful than ever. We all have days, or weeks, or even months where we feel as though we've been put through the wringer.
Sunday morning came with a fizzle and a pop, not the usual excitement of getting to go to church. That didn't change when we arrived and all went our separate ways to fulfill our different areas of service, instead the stress of the past week sunk in deeper. Then service started. The problems in the AV booth and my fear of not being able to hit the high notes just faded away. Peace settled in. Then it hit me. We were in the Recombobulation Area.
“But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” Hebrews 12:22-24
My challenge to you, to me, is to take some time everyday in the Recombobulation Area remembering that, wherever we are, we are on Mount Zion, we are in the joyful assembly of angels. We can be at peace because of Jesus the mediator.
November 15, 2012
4. Have you ever been told that some things happen because you didn't pray hard enough? Your parents got a divorce; it was because you didn't pray enough. You discovered that your son has a drug addiction; you didn't pray hard enough. Maybe your brother went to prison; it was most definitely because you didn't pray hard enough. We all know that we could have done something to stop this. It was in our hands to do something about, and we dropped the ball.
What really could we have done? How could we have changed what happened? I know! We could have loved them more, or better, or more obviously, or, or, or... There's always something we could have done, right? Sure there is, if you own a time machine and are a super hero. At least there is something you can do if you remove free will.
In Sunday school I learned about Jonah. The way it was always told was that Jonah was disobedient at first and then he obeyed and everything was wonderful. The Ninevites were saved. Everybody lived happily ever after. Unfortunately, the story of Jonah is left at that and some deeper elements are very rarely brought out. Jonah's free will, for example. He was told to go, he exercised his ability to say no and, in fact, to run away. We all know the part where Jonah gets on a ship heading the opposite direction, God rolls his eyes and says, “You're cute, Jonah, but you can't outrun me,” and has Jonah thrown overboard into the conveniently waiting whale's mouth. After that, Jonah went and did what he was told to do; but, if you look at the very end of the story, you see Jonah whining again.
The story of Jonah reminds me of the little boy who got sent to sit in the corner for being obstinate. After the boy had been in the corner for a bit, his mother checked on him and discovered that the contrary behavior was continuing. “Son, I told you to sit in the corner. Now put your bottom on the floor and obey me or you will stay there for 10 more minutes!” The not-precious-at-the-moment boy plops his behind on the floor, glares at his mother and announces, “I may be sitting down on the outside, but I'm standing up on the inside!”
In the end, Jonah physically did what God told him to do. Spiritually and emotionally, he was just as disobedient as the moment he stepped foot on the boat to run away. It's that way with our loved ones. We will hope, time and again, that we will pray harder next time, maybe we'll even vow to start praying harder now. We will heap the arrogant guilt of not doing/being/loving enough on our own heads. Even if we could change their behaviors, they might sit down on the outside, but they stand on the inside.
All that feels hopeless. You mean I can't pray hard enough? No, you cannot. The good news is that we were promised that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us according to God's will. That allows us to let go and know that the God who promised that we need not fear because he is with us, is in charge. It's not yours to fix.
1 Peter 5:7
New International Version (NIV)
7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
November 29, 2012
5. For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
from those whose walk is blameless.
I read that this morning and felt rather comforted. At least I did until the internal fingers started pointing. “You're not blameless,” my conscience murmured. A finger pointed at the time as a child when I shoplifted a candy bar. Another pointed at the time I called my mother a name that should never be repeated in polite company, let alone said to your mother. One of the fingers pointed to the moment in history that I not only refused to admit that I was a Christian, but blatantly denied it. Another pointed at the destruction I brought down in my darkest times on my life and the lives of those I love. There was one finger that pointed at that moment when all seemed chaos with little chance of righting itself, that I actually hated my Father for allowing it. There was a spotlight shining on that time, and my conscience shouted, “How can you be blameless, innocent, with THAT in your past?”
We can all ask that question of ourselves. How are we holy, innocent, pure? Look at everything we've done. Whether we act out privately in our own minds or out loud in a public way, none of us are unscathed by our natures. We are simply hopeless. I am hopeless. According to Psalm 84:11 God bestows favor, does good things for the blameless. What chance do any of us have? “Keep looking, I have your answer,” whispered over the shouting of my self-doubt, over the relentless reminders of the fingers pointing at my faults.
So I looked, and this is what I found:
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned... John 3:17,18
He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:8,9
These are not licenses to do whatever I want, but they are comfort for the times those fingers point at. Yes, I am guilty of those things and more. Yes, I will be guilty of them again whether or not I want to be. But, I am blameless. You are too.
December 6, 2012
6. Pierce was the most beautiful baby I ever laid eyes on. He was a fighter from the beginning, a fighter right up to the end. From the beginning, he turned his mama into a fierce warrior. We all knew, his mama knew, that we might only have Pierce for a limited time.
Mary knew. She knew that her time with her son was finite. She knew, from the beginning, what her baby was born for. As she gazed in to his eyes and melted with love for her child, she knew. She knew before he was born. Yet she loved him. She loved him with the depth only a mother can give.
The day came when Pierce could fight no more. His mother raged against it. Despite the ferocity of the last battle she waged with him, in spite of all the paramedics could do, Pierce went home. Knowing that it would happen didn't make it any easier to handle.
Mary stood at the foot of the cross, looking up in to the eyes of her son. From the accounts, it appears as though she took it calmly. She knew why. The knowing, I don't think, made it any easier. I imagine that Mary prayed that there was any other way. But in the end, her son died on that day.
All the days of their lives, Mary and Pierce's mother, they treasured every moment, every breath, every sound uttered from the lips of their babies.
We know that Mary's son rose three days later. We know that shortly after that he ascended into heaven. We know that because he did these things, we are saved.
As we walk through this Christmas season, remember that. Remember why we celebrate.
Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. - Luke 2:19
December 13, 2012
7. I don't know about you, but my head is still spinning from the news last week. My heart is breaking for all of the families. Yes, it's even breaking for Lanza's family. I only have the whisperings of what it must be to lose a baby and no clue how it must be having raised the one who took them. I can't imagine the evil that wreaked havoc in the halls of that school. I just can't. So I do what I can and I pray for them all.
It seems to be standard operating procedure in the human mind to ask, “And just where was God in all this? Why wasn't he there?” The only answer I have is that He was there. He cleared the minds of the teachers so that they could act bravely. He wrapped His arms around those babies as they left us. He was there, just not in the way we wanted Him to be. That's a hard one for me take.
I can understand the confusion when Jesus proclaimed Himself the Messiah. God's son, the one they had all been waiting for, had finally arrived. And he was a carpenter's son. And he was conceived out of wedlock. And he didn't mount a rebellion and save them from tyranny. And God once again walked among man, just not in the way they wanted him to.
In John 16:33 we are promised that we will have trouble in this world. It's a promise, not a wishy-washy pondering on the human state. “In this world you will have trouble.” In the King James the word is “tribulation”, a much stronger word to describe distress and suffering. After having promised us that we would be distressed, that we would suffer, we are promised that it's all going to be all right, He has overcome the world.
Today, tomorrow, as you send your children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews out into this troubling world, hang on to the promise in John 16:33. Hold dear the promise in Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” This is my prayer for you and for the families of Sandy Hook.
December 20, 2012
8. Our Christmas celebration was fairly laid back. Like many people now, there just isn't a lot of extra for gifts. The goal is no longer to drown the floor around the tree with as many gifts as possible, but rather to make each of the sparse gifts the most thoughtful possible. As a result, fake mustaches, a whoopee cushion, duct tape, yo-yo's, and slinky were found in stockings. There were other, not-so-silly gifts aimed at each person's interest. In spite of the thought, in spite of the acknowledgment of each child's unique personality and interests, the two best gifts we received were a giant box of edible goodies and a construction paper Christmas tree.
Why were those the best? As I sat in church on Christmas morning trying to listen to the sermon above the crinkling of candy wrappers doled out from Grandma's magic candy purse, I realized why those were so much more than everything else: Those two gifts were given from innocence and purity. They were given from the heart and not the pocket book. Don't get me wrong, the gifts we gave and the gifts we received were all given from love; but, these two were not given after a long, stressful search. They were given from what each person had. Neither giver has much to share from, and they gave anyway.
So there I sat, in church, listening to the sermon on the true reason we celebrate Christmas, with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. I wasn't thinking about how our Savior gave us the best gift on the cross, although that applies too. I was thinking about the widow who gave all she had, the best that she had, and Jesus' statement that what she gave was the best. I was thinking about the joy my brother had in collecting the goodies he sent us. I was thinking about the fun Madeleine had cutting out and coloring the Christmas tree. And, for the first time, I was grateful for the financial state that made us all slow down and truly focus on what we were doing.
As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Luke 21:1-4
I pray that you all had a wonderful Christmas.
December 27, 2012
9. A few years ago, during a family reunion, the girls found a thin, fallen log that crossed a miniature water fall. The log didn't look particularly stable to my mama's eyes, but the girls saw it as a challenge. Back and forth they went, balancing on tip-toe, doing ballerina spins, jumping in long strides. It wasn't too high off the ground so I didn't panic much, but I did a little because it was slick and rocky where they would land if they fell. The girls, however, trusted that the log would hold them, the potential pain from a fall wasn't too great, and that scars are cool even if they did get scraped up. Since that time I've watched the kids see things that looked shaky to me as a challenge. Most anything they've been told they can't do is heard as a double dog dare.
In this New Year, I'm following the kids' example. Last year I stepped a bit outside my comfort zone and found myself on a mountain crawling over hay bales and through mud pits. I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to do it because I was overweight, asthmatic, had shin splints, was too old... There always seem to be more reasons to not do something than there are reasons to do it. As soon as it was done, I let the nay saying in my own mind creep back in.
This year will be different. The log I'm looking at crossing isn't as unstable as the one the girls bounded across, nor is it one that is so flimsy it will break with a few negative words. The reason this year will be different is because it's built on unbreakable promises. My challenge to you, whatever your goal is for 2013, is to lean on them too.
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights. - Habakkuk 3:17-19
January 3, 2013
10. "When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
when sorrows like sea billows roll;
whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul."
The man who wrote this had just lost everything. In the span of two years, his only son died and his property burned to the ground. He sent his wife and four daughters on a ship for England where he would meet them; they needed a respite.
"Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
let this blest assurance control,
that Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
and hath shed his own blood for my soul."
Nine days after his family set sail he received a telegram from his wife that read, “Saved Alone”; the ship she and her daughters were on, sank. He left immediately to join her. During his journey, the captain called him over and pointed out the spot where his daughters had died. He went back to his cabin and wrote, “It Is Well”.
"My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!"
His wife's last memory was of her baby being torn from her arms. She was saved by a plank floating up underneath her while she hovered unconscious in the water. When she was rescued and found that her daughters were not among the survivors, despair overtook her. Can you hear her screaming, “Why God? Why? Haven't you taken enough?”
"And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
the clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
the trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
even so, it is well with my soul."
Battered and broken, nothing left but each other. Can you feel it? Can you relate? On a lesser level, I can.
"It is well with my soul,
it is well, it is well with my soul."
I can do all this through him who gives me strength. - Philippians 4:13
January 10, 2013
11. I look out my window and see the after effects of the inversion we had here in the valley. Ice crystals cling to the trees and create a scene so picturesque it belongs on a ski resort brochure. The view inspires me to curl up in front of the fireplace, read a book, and sip hot chocolate with tiny marshmallows in it. The beauty of it is astounding and I can easily get lost in it.
Storms do the same thing for me. I love the way the wind and rain scour the earth. The sent of fresh clean dirt in the backyard makes me happy. Trees seem to stand up straighter. I love it! I think they're God's “I love you” to me.
But... I'm having a hard time focusing on those things; on those moments of ice crystals or rain storms. The worries of the day fill my head. My checkbook keeps telling me “no” while the needs of the family aren't contingent on the checkbook's answer. And the stress begins its daily cycle. This kid is sick, this kid needs new shoes, we've sprung a winter leak and have flooding in the house... And just like that, the “I love you” my father showed me are gone from my mind.
Any given day, any one of us is struggling with something. And in the blink of an eye the “I love you” from our father is erased from our thoughts.
I have a challenge for you, and for me. In November we make lists of things we are grateful for. In December those lists are replaced with shopping lists. Today, let's make a list of things of that we see as our father telling us that he loves us. The first on my list is ice crystals shimmering in the trees.
January 17, 2013 ·
12. My parents have been married for 45 years. In a society that insists on constantly trading old for new (looking at the divorce rate, that includes spouses), how do they do it? Romance. But not like you're thinking.
I can tell you that, to me, romance is not a candlelight dinner, red roses, and staring sickly sweet into each other’s eyes. It's not long walks on the beach at sunset. Nor is it having a glass of wine while lolling about on a bear skin rug in front of a fire. Yeah, just writing that kicked my gag reflex into high gear.
The way I see it, romance is as individualized as our fingerprints. Sure, I like it when my husband brings me flowers, but I don't have to have them to feel loved and desired. What I do like is when we go for a wander downtown and take goofy pictures. I love it when he does the laundry because he knows how much I hate it. What absolutely makes my little heart go pitter-pat is when we're working in the yard and he takes over the shoveling so that I won't hurt myself.
Romance isn't something that can be contrived, planned, and ordered on a silver platter. It is something that must be maintained. And it is something that only happens when a couple takes the time to get to know each other. It doesn't matter if you have all your children running about and nagging for your attention or if you're on your second honeymoon; if you are truly invested in this person you chose, even picking out a new toilet can be romantic.
Romance is in Ephesians 5:22-33. Verse 22 tells us to “...submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.” Verses 26 and 27 tell our husbands to “... make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” How romantic is that?
January 24, 2013
13. When I was 12, Grandpa had a seizure. He was taken to the hospital for all the usual tests. It wasn't long before we learned he had a tumor on his brain. I remember sitting in the waiting room with my larger-than-should-be-legal family for our turn to see Grandpa. My 12 year-old brain couldn't understand what it was seeing. My aunts and uncles and parents stood about chatting with each other, their faces a jumble of terror and laughter; regardless of the situation, there is always something to laugh about in my family. What I couldn't comprehend was why they were not screaming in the face of this horrible beast, this fabled closet dwelling monster that was attacking our family. It was coming for Grandpa and no amount of night lights could chase it back into the recesses of the darkness it crept out of.
Grandpa's tumor made its home on the motor strip in his brain. Surgery couldn't remove all of it and left half of his body paralyzed. We were told that we only had a couple of months left with him. So we all hunkered down for the last days. Just after the New Year, Grandpa was sent home. Not because he was better, but because there was nothing more to be done for him. On February 15, 1988 Grandpa opened his eyes for the first time in days. He gazed into Grandma's eyes, told her he loved her, smiled, and left us.
When I was 33 Linda bent over to put her boots on and felt a sharp pain shoot up her back. Instead of getting better, she got worse. Four months later we were told that Linda had multiple myeloma. And just like that, I was that 12 year-old girl, sitting in the waiting room, hearing the most devastating thing a person can hear. I was, once again staring the nightmare in the face, knowing that my mother-in-law's days were limited. But I saw an expression I remembered seeing on Grandpa's face from 20 years earlier on her face. No fear. She wasn't afraid for herself or for us. When she was admitted to the hospital the first time, laughter filled the room. We soon discovered that she had a fan club among the nurses and staff. Of course she did.
When Linda was admitted to the hospital for the third time, I remember saying to her, “Round three, here we go.” She smiled at me and responded, “Last round, Daughter.” Shortly after that she came home. Like Grandpa, it wasn't because she was better, but because there was no point in keeping her. Family came out to say their good byes. On August 19, 2009, while I raced down the freeway to get my husband to bring him back to his mom, and my sister-in-law and her husband sat on the back patio taking a short break from the strain, and my father-in-law held her hand, Linda left us.
Grandpa and Linda showed no fear in the face of death. They knew where they were going. They didn't scream and yell, or rail at God for ripping them from their families. They didn't just give up, though. This was the most important mission they'd been given. Grandpa did all he could to make sure that we knew, and would know for the rest of our lives, that he loved us. Linda did the same. They both showed this Grace they had been given to all who came near and took every opportunity to share it with their captive audience. One of the most horrible things we can imagine came for Grandpa and Linda, and they met its snarl with a smile, and they held our hands, and they showed us it would be all right. They showed us what Grace in fire looks like.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” - John 14:1-3
January 31, 2013
14. I'm going to tell you a little bit about my daughter today.
She insists that you call her Sam or Sammie, I call her Bug or Miss Rose or The Rose, her oldest brother calls her Samanthong and she calls him Jonathong. She'll answer to them all, even to her real name Samantha (even though she makes a face at you when you call her that).
She and I once had an entire conversation about a yellow dinosaur in her gym class. The end result was that we decided nobody else could see it because it was a ninja yellow dinosaur and The Rose has been endowed with special abilities to see ninjas.
Miss Rose has also introduced us the extreme sport snailing. She took it to an extreme by having her youngest brother plank her while she was snailing. (That's the picture today.)
These examples are just the tip of the iceberg of the silly, innocence that my Bug possesses.
Her innocence doesn't come from a lack of knowledge about the world around us. Quite the contrary. The Jr. High she attends has one of the worst reputations in the Valley. Girls her age know more about sexually explicit things than you would expect from a college senior. Talk of drugs, and sometimes their presence, is rampant in her school. She has had to become callous to the boys who will whistle and gyrate at her. We tried to transfer her to her old school but, due to overcrowding, we could not.
Last year she read the Hunger Games series. I was a little concerned because of the brutal nature of the story. When we talked to her about it, her response was, “That could happen in a world without God. Good thing that we have him.”
So how does a 13 year old girl resist the ugliness around her and hang on to her innocence? She lives in a world with God. She reads her Bible as frequently as she reads her text books. She is strong in her faith. We could learn a lot from her example.
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
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. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:7-9
February 7, 2013
15. 1 Corinthians 13. The love chapter. It fascinates me because it is a road map for every love relationship from friends to siblings to marriage.
So much is focused on the idea that anything accomplished is futile or obnoxious (clanging cymbal) if there is no love. We focus quite a bit, as well, on the verses that tell us what love is and is not. I think we're missing the point; it's not the end scenario of what love looks like.
You know the cheesy line in “Jerry Maguire” that made most men gag and most women swoon? “You complete me!” Believe me, I wasn't one of the swooners. Until today when I read this: “...but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.” Verses 8-12 talk to us about the completeness of love, of how everything else is only part of the picture, but love completes.
As I said in the beginning, 1 Corinthians is a road map for every love relationship. Today is a hard day if you're single. So I encourage you to look at all the other love relationships you have, look past the “romance” and look to those that offer completeness. Give your nephew a hug, hold your best friend's hand. Today is about love, not romance. Today is about completeness.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:8-12
February 14, 2013
16. Ever feel like you're completely lost? You know where you'll ultimately end up, but in the meantime, you're wandering aimlessly or treading water. Me too. Right now, in fact. I feel adrift and not sure where to go from here.
As I laid my head down on my pillow last night, a trail of bread crumbs was laid out in front of me:
“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters...” Psalm 23
OK. So where do I find that? How do I get around this mess of stuff and people in front of me now?
“All who rage against you
will surely be ashamed and disgraced;
those who oppose you
will be as nothing and perish.
Though you search for your enemies,
you will not find them.
Those who wage war against you
will be as nothing at all...” Isaiah 41:11-12
Awesome! So why haven't they disappeared? Why are they still hanging about causing me pain? Is there something I need to be doing?
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33
Oh. My prayer for us is that we keep following this trail of “bread crumbs”. It can lead us nowhere but up.
February 21, 2013
17. I want to quit. I want to walk away from all that I'm doing outside my family. Really and truly, in this moment, I just want to throw my hands up and say, “Forget it! I'm done!” You know, really melt down into full blown diva mode, “What's my motivation here people?”
I've been here before. This is not a new place. I'm sure you've all been here too at one point or another. But this is a new sensation: It feels as though every step forward can only be accomplished by sledge hammering a wall right in front of me. Every step brings a new wall. Every wall torn down reveals yet another behind it. Can't I please put this sledge hammer down without having to pick up a battering ram in its place?
No. I cannot. It's not a vain need to conquer or control. It's not about power or authority. It's about my Father having pushed me here, handing me a sledge hammer, and whispering in my ear, “This is what I want you to do: Knock these down.” So I bang away at the walls that are thrown up in front of me. And I let myself remember why I'm doing it. And I tearfully show my Father my blisters and splinters. And I scream at these barriers and the ones who built them. And I know that I was given the sledge hammer for a reason.
The walls have names. They are Tradition and Ceremony. They must, must, MUST come down. Too often we turn to them for comfort, as though their open embrace will somehow save us from ourselves. We hold our arms wide and wobble toward them like toddlers on unsteady legs knowing that one or the other will catch us when we fall.
Tradition and Ceremony aren't always bad. We find comfort in knowing what will happen and what is expected. They give us a sense of belonging to something bigger than we are. Here's the problem: Like a benign tumor left unchecked, Tradition and Ceremony will kill us. We become complacent in Tradition. We feel important with Ceremony. And we set aside the reason for both.
Today my arms are tired from swinging my hammer. They probably will be tomorrow too. I might even need to melt into diva mode. But I'll keep swinging because it's the job I was given. Anybody care to join me?
“I know that you can do all things;
no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.” - Job 42:2-3 (Job speaking to God)
February 28, 2013
18. I was fine and then I was in agony. My husband thought I was having a stroke. The CT scan and the spinal tap done in the ER said that I wasn't. So, I was sent home, doped up on pain killers, and told to rest. The next day I was back in the ER; the pain killers had worn off and Ibuprofen wasn't working. I was given the standard migraine cocktail and sent home.
After that the pain largely went away and stayed away, but other symptoms arose. My doctor sent me for MRI's in an attempt to rule out some big, bad illnesses. They came back normal.
So what's going on? Why is this happening? Because I worry too much. Honest. That is the plain and simple diagnosis. I had too much going on, I was trying to juggle too much. I was worrying about my children (don't we all?). I was anxious about one of the ministries I was involved in. I was confused over what had caused some friends to behave as less than friends. Bills, mortgage, gas, insurance, sending my babies into the big, bad world... The list is long of the things that worried me.
Our lists of worry make us sick. Quite literally. But, as always, there is a solution to be found. Matthew 6:25-27 reminds us that our Father has it all under control. If he cares enough about the birds to make sure that they are fed and taken care of, what in the world makes us think that he won't take care of us?
My prayer for us, dear ladies, is that we learn to rely on the promise that we will be cared for. He never promised us that the road wouldn't be rough, but that we would be OK.
“So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” - Isaiah 41:10
March 7, 2013
19. You know the song “I've Got Peace Like a River”? To me, it was just another song we sang. And then, as I told you last week, my worrying made me sick. Literally. Since then that song has been playing over and over in mind. The problem was that I didn't have peace like a river or any other body of water.
I imagine that I'm not the only one out there. We know we're supposed to trust in God. We know that all things are supposed to work for the good of those who believe (yes, even the seemingly bad things). We know that we're not supposed to worry about anything. So why do we do it? Honestly, I don't have an answer other than the simple, “Because we are sinners”.
We know this. We know it and we keep falling it into it anyway. I don't know any way out of it except to ponder the promises. Think about it, in Isaiah's time the people had angered the Lord constantly, to the point where he sent them into captivity. Yet he said this to them:
“I will extend peace to her like a river,
and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream;
you will nurse and be carried on her arm
and dandled on her knees.
As a mother comforts her child,
so will I comfort you;
and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.” - Isaiah 66:12-13
If he promised that to a people who he called his Chosen Ones, yet persistently disobeyed, do we think that promise does not apply to us? Make a list today of all that you see around you that is good, that is God. You might be surprised at how long the list is. You might also be surprised by the peace that flows like a river. I know it does for me.
March 14, 2013
20. Today I've been mulling over Matthew 12:20 “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory.” While I was thinking about that verse and how to apply it, something I wrote a year ago popped into my head. It's about my son, The Pancake Man. It's about how he was bruised, but now he is victorious and those that sought to bring him low have been silenced.
Spring is in the air. Flowers aren't yet blooming, but the plants they're attached to are turning green. Parts of the lawn are stretching out and turning a lovely shade of not-brown-anymore. Birds are flitting wildly from budding tree to budding tree, building their nests in anticipation.
That's not what excites me about Spring, though. At our house, Spring means football. The Pancake Man gets all padded up, psyched up, and in the mood to smash things. He works out all winter between regular Fall season and Spring season and he's ready to go. Every Saturday brings with it the anticipation of watching him crush his competition, the readiness to hear the crunch of pads on pads, the thrill of seeing our boy dominate tempered by the breath stopping search for number 78 when a black uniform goes down.
I love this sport. Not just for the violent crash of wills; although it is fascinating to watch this dance of structured chaos. I love this sport because it highlights how amazing we are. What we can withstand, what we can push ourselves to do. It makes those who play the game recognize their limits and push beyond. It makes my son, the Pancake Man, push himself harder than an old school drill sergeant ever could.
This boy has been through so much, seen too much. He's been told that he's dumb and fat by those who should have lifted him up and protected him. He's been pushed down and set aside far too often. Because of his passion for this game, he's come back swinging. The Pancake Man isn't a fluffy little boy anymore, he can pick me up and throw me over his shoulder like I was nothing more than a backpack. He's not buying into the “you're dumb” theory and fights for his grades.
My Pancake Man doesn't stop with football and what he needs to do to excel at his game. He teaches Sunday school for the first and second grades and just began taking a turn leading Kids Church. He is stepping out of his comfort zone. He's not just stepping out in faith; he's taking a flying leap and trusting that he won't fall. He's found his passion, this boy of mine. And it's leading him to places he never thought he'd go, never dreamed he could, was told that he never would.
“... a bruised reed he will not break...”
March 21, 2013
21. Christians tend to build ourselves nice little prison cells. We are a religion of “Thou shalt not...” And we like it that way. Right? No? Then why aren't we free? Why aren't we reveling in the joy of inherited perfection? Why aren't we basking in the peace of security?
Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” What does that mean exactly, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free”? The popular idea (and probably the correct one considering the following verses) is that Paul is referring to freedom from the law. But, I have another application...
For example: A lie is told. Now there are two choices, either the truth can be told or the lie has to be maintained. Pride generally says that we maintain the lie. So now we have to remember the details of the lie and who we told it to. Then we have to repeat that lie to others who may come in contact with the original recipient. We must also hope that no one who knows the truth will find out or blow your cover. And just like that, we are prisoner to our lie and our pride. We are not free.
Can you think of areas where you've imprisoned yourself? Off the top of my head I can think of at least a dozen areas where I've done it to myself. Instead of Spring Cleaning as usual this year, I challenge us to Spring Clean our jail cells, rip down the bars, and be free.
April 11, 2013
22. I was sound asleep this morning when my husband called me on his break. He gently talked me out of my slumber and then jolted me awake with the announcement of how much more was being taken out of his paycheck in taxes; I had just reconciled myself to the last round of hikes. I'll admit, I threw a full blown fit that included blaming one of my best friends because she voted for the guy that put this in motion. But this isn't about who's politics are right and who's are wrong, nor is it a whine.
In Matthew 22 the Pharisees try to trap Jesus by asking if they should pay taxes. He responds to their question by asking them one, “Whose picture is it on the coin?”
“Caesar's,” they respond.
“So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
Fine, I can do that. I can give our current Caesar what he's demanding. But now I'm left struggling with how we're going to survive on so little when our budget was already stretched tight. What do we do now? Can you sense the panic causing my voice to rise?
Guess what? There's an answer for that too.
Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God...”
I know that God is in control. I know all the Sunday school answers and still the fear lingers. The little whisper in the back of my mind keeps telling me that we're going to drown any moment now. And here we go again.
Let's recap shall we?
Give to Caesar: Check!
Freak out: Check!
Be still: Can I do a half check?
What's still missing? I can tell you exactly. Just like Peter stepping out of the boat, taking a few steps on the water and then sinking, I am of little faith, I doubt. But remember the part where Jesus reached in and saved Peter anyway? Yeah, that's what I was missing.
It's not just taxes. There are plenty of other areas that cause me to freak out and doubt, to be of little faith. I'm pretty sure you have them too. But just like he did for Peter, our God will reach out and save us.
April 18, 2013
23. I once heard, in all earnestness, a sermon on how we are to walk, talk, look, and smell like Christians. What? Yep, you read that right. Apparently there is a Christian dress code, a Christian dialect, a Christian gait, a Christian style, and yes, a Christian perfume/cologne. I have no doubt that all are available, in bulk if you prefer, at your local Bible Book Store.
Unfortunately, I don't do a lot of shopping there. The most recent Bible I own was purchased at Barnes & Noble. The kids' came from Borders. I strongly suspect that I have a stolen-from-the-hotel-room Bible on my shelf. In fact, the last time I set foot in a Bible Book Store was because I couldn't find the book "Heirs Together" in the secular book stores. So, all of that to say, "I don't know what aisle you can find all that on, I'm pretty sure it's there though."
So what does a Christian walk, talk, look, and smell like? I don't know. I honestly cannot answer that question. I've been told that I'm a really weird Christian and asked if I really am one because I don't look like it or sound like it. This is true. Sometimes my hair is a found-in-nature hue, other times it's blue, or purple, or pink. I don't, and won't, sport a bleached blond bob or the hyper-perm. I wear really high heels and have the sashay to go with it. I'll just as easily wear shorts and a tank top as a skirt and dress shirt. You will never catch me in a pencil skirted dress with shoulder pads and lace collar. There are days, quite a few, that I sound more like a drunken sailor on an unexpected 24 hour leave. More often than not you'll hear me pause mid-sentence looking for a more Sunday School appropriate word than the one I really wanted to use. What do we smell like? Can't answer that one either because, even though I'm trying to quit, I smell like a freshly burned cigarette.
Please don't misunderstand, I don't hide my faith. It's open and out there all the time. I'll share it with you if you like, but before we start, I'm gonna grab a beer. You want one? I am a real person. I make mistakes. In fact, I sin. Badly. That doesn't make me a hypocrite, it makes me a realist. As Christians we are to strive for perfection knowing that we will never achieve it.
There have been churches that shunned me because of all that. Why? That's a good question. Again, I don't know the answer to that. Maybe it's because I don't fit into the neatly outlined stereo-type of "Christian Woman." Perhaps it's because who and how I am threatens their delicately balanced mask. This is what I do know: If we are going to reach the hurting, we must allow our own hurts to show. If we are going to bring in the imperfect, we must not strategically cover up our imperfections. Look at who Jesus surrounded himself with. Look at who he used to spread the Gospel.
I promise you, there are more Christians out there like me. We are the majority. Why, then do we only hear about jack wagons with protest signs? Because we don't carry megaphones, that's why. We're standing right beside you, probably yelling at our kids too. Come to my church, I'll wave at you from the corner of the parking lot where I'm enjoying my cigarette. I'll also smile, and maybe wink, at you from behind my microphone while I'm leading music.
April 25, 2013
24. Last night I spent a good couple of hours on the phone with a friend who just needed to vent. That's ok; we all need to do that on occasion. You know, just let all the frustration and worry just spew out? Especially right now, in this economy, we're sort of living an old country song; we're losing everything and that which we're not losing is just going wrong, or so it seems. As we talked and listened to each other I heard, “Be still and know that I am God” whispered in my mind.
Be still. Be still in a moment when all is chaos? Yes, be still. Your world isn't going to fall apart any worse than it is now just because you stopped thinking about it for a moment in the shower.
Know that I am God. Yes, our brains tell us it's true. But do our hearts? In all of our mad dashing, mind numbing worry, do we know? And what really are we worrying about? Mortgage/Rent, bills, food, gas, illness... Those are the standard responses, but I want you to dig deeper. I know that when I truly stop and listen, what I hear unsettles me. I hear myself telling my God, my Father, my Creator, that I don't think he's actually going to keep his promise, but that's ok because I've got this one, I'll take care of it. Am I the only one? I don't think so.
My challenge to us all today, this week, and every time we feel the chaos welling up, is to stop and take a moment to be still, to know that he is God. That moment doesn't need to be a perfectly planned time of meditation and prayer, you can take the opportunity in the shower, on the drive to work, while out for a run, or even that time between setting your book down and turning the light off at night. When or how isn't important, that we do it is. (Read Psalm 46:10)
May 23, 2013
25. Have you ever heard of “Demotivators”? They're like motivational posters, even have the same pictures, however they're anything but motivational. My favorite is one that says, “Whatever doesn't kill you only postpones the inevitable.” With the barrage of bad news from around the world (thank you internet), I find that demotivator to be more inspirational than throw-my-hands-in-the-air-and-give-up.
For some reason we think, as Christians, that life if going to be sunshine and roses all the time. We're shocked when things go wrong, when one of our people is hurt, when we struggle. Why? We live in an evil world, we do evil things. Yes, even those of us who believe in I Am. Jesus himself promised this. He told us that this world was troubled and would continue to be troubled. Do we think that we live in a bubble and these things won't happen to us?
“Whatever doesn't kill me only postpones the inevitable.” It sounds sad, but to me, it gives me hope. It reminds me of the words of David:
“In God, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?” Psalm 56:4
What can mere mortals do? At the worst, they can hasten the day that I go home to my Father. I may not want to go home now, but that is the plan eventually. So I find comfort in those words. They give me the power to move forward, to tackle the difficult. They remind me who I belong to, why I do what I do, and they give me purpose. The demotivator serves as a reminder that I am but temporarily here, the Psalmist reminds me to stay strong.
May 30, 2013