Monday, September 24, 2012

A Visual, Spiritual Cliff

One of the most wonderful things I've experienced in my life is the development and growth of my children. From the first gassy smile to the first turn of the car key, each step has revealed to me how precious our Creator is that He so wonderfully and wisely made each of us. This morning, during my quiet time with my Daddy, I was reminded once again of the beauty and wonder of our Father and His infinite, unconditional love for us.

If you've have children who've mastered crawling, you may have noticed an interesting phenomenon: Babies generally stop crawling at edges, such as the edge of the top stair, or a table. (Keep in mind, I said generally, because I am all too aware that some of us seem to rear children for whom there is within themselves no fear!) If you've managed to take any sort of child development class, you may have learned about the visual cliff (see photo, borrowed from an article on Eleanor Jack Gibson at

Saturday, June 26, 2010

TSMSS--Better than Hallelujah

I first heard this song about three weeks ago. I used to be an ardent Amy Grant fan but have not been following her as closely since she married Vince Gill. As her life changed, so did her musical style, and my preferences changed as well. As a divorced and remarried mother, I thought I would relate to her more than I did when I was younger, but that hasn't always been the case.

But the last year of my life has been especially difficult. At times, it felt like all I could do was pour out my misery at the feet of the cross. Miraculously, God gave me the strength to testify even in the weakest of my moments, sharing the raw emotion of balancing the human view of justice against God's omniscient scale to a group of 20-something guys at a job site. In my tears, I hope they saw hope even as I struggled to understand how great God's love for me was and is and always will be.

The verses don't woo me, but oh! the refrain of this song speaks volumes to my heart and the path I've been on.

"We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah
Better than a church bell ringing,
Better than a choir singing out,singing out"
~Amy Grant, "Better Than Hallelujah"

What an amazing realization! Even in my despair, even in the mess, God loves me! He values my tears, my cries of desperation and they are more beautiful to Him than "Hallelujah!" because they are real and heartfelt.

I am so grateful to know, love, be known, and be loved by a Daddy who loves me in my mess. And really, our testimony, our message, is in our mess. How ironic for those of us who survived messes in our childhoods!

"Blessed be the Lord, for he has heard the sound of my pleadings. The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts; so I am helped, and my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him." ~Psalm 28:6-7 (NRSV)

[For more of "Then Sings My Soul Saturday" head over to Amy's blog--Signs, Miracles, and Wonders. Thanks to Amy for starting this meme several years ago!]

Saturday, June 12, 2010

TSMSS--Beautiful Ending

There's not much to say...the video will speak for itself. This is my daughter, performing at her public middle school. God was so present and I wish we had outreach planned for after her performance!

"Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and remain with him forever. So comfort and encourage each other with these words." ~I Thessalonians 4:17-18 NLT

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Meditation on Christ's Passion: I am Peter

Meditations on Christ’s Passion

This morning I spent some time rereading the testimonies of Christ’s betrayal, trial, and death. This is by no means the first time I have read these verses. In fact, some of them I know almost by heart because of their importance in the growing of the faith. But the amazing wonderful thing about the Bible is that Scripture is Spirit-breathed and will speak anew to you when you are open to it.

Perhaps for the very first time, I made some quick notes as I read through these Scriptures. Each note has to do with an impression that the Spirit left upon my heart, things that I may or may not have gotten in subsequent readings of Jesus’ passion. And immediately, without much hesitation, five impressions were left on my heart. It is my hope that the Spirit will use me to relay these impressions with as little of me in the way as possible, that my writing may touch or deepen your experience as we prepare for the celebration tomorrow of our Lord’s resurrection.

Part One: Peter--I don’t know You

The first account that I read of the Passion was from Luke’s gospel, Chapters 22 through 24. In Luke 22, verses 31-34, Jesus speaks with Simon Peter:

(31)“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.
(32)But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And
when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
(33)But he replied,
“Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”
(34)Jesus answered,
“I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times
that you know me.”

The story continues in verses 54 through 62:

(54)Then seizing him [Jesus], they led him away and took him into the house of
the high priest. Peter followed at a distance.
(55)But when they had kindled
a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down
with them.
(56)A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She
loked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.”
(57)But he denied it.
“Woman, I don’t know him,” he said.
(58)A little later someone else saw him
and said, “You also are one of them.” “Man, I am not!” Peter
(59)About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was
with him, for he is a Galilean.”
(60)Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what
you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed.
Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the words the
Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me
three times.”
(62)And he [Peter] went outside and wept bitterly.

As Christians two thousand years after Christ’s death, I think we find it easy to jump to a hasty judgment of Peter. It is easy to point the finger at him and question his faith and his true devotion to the Lord. And yet, before you do this once again…stop and look at it differently. We cannot go back in time and be at the house of the High Priest on that night. And yet, each of us will have many opportunities in our own lives to admit or deny that we know Christ.

In verse 57, Peter tells the woman, “I don’t know him.” In some ways, in that moment, I believe that Peter was telling the truth. As he watched the traumatic events of that day, I wonder if Peter did in fact feel as though he did not know Jesus. Sure, he had been beside Christ throughout the majority of his earthly ministry, and quite often, Jesus met with resistance or taught what was considered controversial teachings, but I wonder if Peter really knew the Jesus who was taken into the custody of the San Hedron for a secret trial. Wasn’t this man, the same one who had broken bread and shared wine with them a few hours earlier somehow different?

I believe that in some ways, Jesus was different at this point. He had gone after the Last Supper to the garden to pray. Peter and the disciples had been asked to keep watch and to pray while Jesus stepped away from them for a very personal conversation with the Father. During that time in the garden, Jesus--both God and man--struggled with his flesh. He knew that the time was come when he would be handed over and sacrificed, and yet his body was weak.

I believe that we experience pain only because of sin. I naively want to believe that without sin in our world, there would be no pain. And yet we know that Christ was without sin, a blameless lamb without blemish, offered as a sacrifice--a Passover Lamb--to purchase our redemption. And the Bible recounts that Jesus struggled with his flesh before he was to die. Why? Because death equals pain. Up to this point, Christ had not endured earthly, human pain. He was blameless. He was without sin or fault. He had felt no pain physically.

But as he hung from the cross, he would take on all sin onto his body. Every ounce of pain that could be felt, he would endure. And although I don’t believe he was afraid, I believe that his flesh like our own was designed to avoid danger and pain. After his time in the garden that evening, I believe that Jesus’ countenance may have changed some. And Peter did not “know” this Jesus who was about to take on himself all that sin.

But Peter is not alone in this story. The Bible does not recount this part of the story so that we can judge Peter. It is retold so that we can see ourselves in the Passion. I am Peter. You are Peter. At some point, perhaps at many points in our journeys of faith, we will all be Peter.

At some point, you have or will be called to testify to your faith. It may be as a child at school, it may be as an adult in the workplace, or it may be in your neighborhood on the weekend. But I know that at some point you are going to be in a position to stand up and live as Christ would, and out of fear you will choose not to do what is right. You will feel like standing up for what is right will alienate you, like it is too hard, or just not know what or how to do the right thing. And in that moment, you too are saying, “I do not know him.”

And it may be for you that when you stop and think about it, you realize that you said this at a point where no one but Jesus was watching you. And perhaps, it will point out to you why Christ had to die. As I write this, I feel heavy conviction for something I did in the “dark”. Something as simple as watching a movie with gratuitous sex in it is choosing to say, “I don’t know him.”

Just before Jesus is taken to the house of the High Priest, in verse 53, he declares to the Jewish officials: “But this is your hour--when darkness reigns.”

Are you like me? Have you done something in secret that screamed to the Lord, I don’t know you? It’s not too late to confess it, repent of it, and ask for forgiveness. Don’t go into the celebration of victory with this bearing down upon you. Lay it at the foot of the cross and let Jesus take away your sin.

Oh, Father, forgive me for judging Peter! I am Peter. It’s been said that a person’s character is fully seen when no one else is looking. And I know that although Peter denied you in public, it is my own denial of you in the “darkness” when no one but you can see me that is most heart-wrenching. Forgive me! What is done in secret will be made known to all, and I repent of my weakness. But I find hope in the knowing that you forgave Peter and used him. Forgive me, strengthen me, and use me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Friday, February 6, 2009

My Love Song

You are so beautiful and lovely.

You take my breath away.

I am captivated by who you are and what you are becoming.

My deepest longing is to be with you--always. I want to see you in the morning when you first awaken to greet a new day. I want to see you when you’re sweaty and your hair is falling off your shoulders in the midst of really living life. I want to see you when you are weary from a long day, and starting to fall asleep.

Did you know that I watch you as you sleep? It is the most beautiful sight. In that moment, your deepest beauty consumes me with a desire and passion to know you and be known by you more than you know any other person and are known by them.

Did you know that my heart breaks when you shed a single tear? I feel each one deeply and am troubled by the pain that you have faced and endured. But I want to wipe your tears. Listen. I call to you with a voice saying, “There, there, my love. I know this hurts. But I am here to hold you, to comfort you, to calm you. Here is my shoulder. Cry upon it for a time, but be prepared. I will give you joy to replace those tears.”

Don’t you know you’re beautiful? Did you think he wrote that song as an original idea? laughs No, I set upon his heart and his tongue those words that I say to you each day.

Why do you struggle so? Don’t try so hard. You cannot add to your beauty. Only I can do that. And rest assured that each day that you walk with me, that you look deeply into my eyes, my heart, my way I bless you with a greater beauty.

Do not hide from your beauty. Yes, they hurt you because you are beautiful. But they are the problem, not your beauty. Your beauty is a testimony to our love song. It is the way in which I reach others and touch them, even without you knowing that I have done it. Submit yourself, your beauty, your talent, your everything to me. I will fight for you. I will protect you. Be weak. Take risks. Know that I will keep you from falling.

Think of Elizababy. As she learns to walk, she takes risks. She risks falling and getting hurt. But still she makes the attempt. When she falls, she goes back to her first love--you--looking for healing and comforting. Does she give up and refuse to try again? No. Your love and comfort encourage her to take another risk and try again. Now, I am your first love. Come to me when you fall and get hurt. I will comfort you and heal your wounds. But do not be afraid to try again. I will protect you and encourage you. I am watching you, even when you do not know it. I love you.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Keep Moving Forward

Everyone is doing their "looking back" on 2008 today. And it makes sense. For many, my family included, this has been a year of many milestones, and not all of them were "happy" ones. (In case you don't live where I do, or haven't been watching even the national news, our last two weeks of 2008 have been entrenched with lots and lots of heavy snow--stop everything, put down your shovel, leave your chains in the trunk--heavy snow. In fact, I live less than 1/2 mile from the grocery store whose roof collapsed as reported on NBC news. We have put two days into shoveling out our roof with another day still ahead of us.)

But it is my deep belief that as Christians, we should not spend so much time looking back. We cannot go back and undo this year. We don't have that power. And I don't believe that is what God wants for us anyway.

(12)Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been
made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (13)Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, (14)I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

--Philippians 3:12-14 NIV

So in light of today's date, I leave this as my farewell to 2008. I'm going to keep moving forward (I borrowed this from "Meet the Robinsons", a Disney movie with a fairly decent message), pressing onward toward the goal--a closer walk with Jesus, and preparation for the final days.

I wish you peace, hope, grace, and love in each of your lives as you enter into the new year. Know that I will be praying for each of you and your families. Only the Father in heaven knows what our futures hold, and praise God He wants the best for us!

Keep moving forward!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Whiter than Snow

Seasons Greetings

Here is the meditation of my heart this Christmas eve during a season marred by disappointment economically and weather impediments. Oh, and a few pictures of our joyful day!

7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;

let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins

blot out all my iniquity.
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,

and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence

or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation

and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
--Psalm 51:7-12 NIV

Elizababy wishes you a very Merry Christmas!

The view from our living room window
(note: the fence that is almost gone between the two yards is 4 feet tall!)

The view on the way to Vancouver, five days ago
May the love of the Father, the sacrifice and gift of Jesus Christ, and the remembrance in the Spirit bless you this holiday, and every day. Loving you each with the love of Christ, because how else could I?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I'll be waiting

I'll be waiting
I may be young or old and gray
Counting the days
But I'll be waiting
And when I finally see your face
I'll run to meet you
(lyrics from "I'll Be Waiting/The Prodigal's Song by Amy Grant)

Last week at midweek service, Brother Timmy delivered a message that really spoke to me. Or, perhaps I should say that in the time I was in service with my heart and soul quieted, seeking for God's will and a bit of His wisdom, I heard some things that He spoke to me in that still small voice. (Brother Timmy, I apologize if it seemed I was distracted...your message was great...but I was hearing another voice too...I'm confident you'll understand and forgive me!)

In about twenty minutes, God placed some pretty powerful points upon my heart. In the middle of the hype and anticipation for Christmas, God showed me how this really does apply to my walk with Him, or how it should.

If you have children who can count, or at least who can make some approximation to counting, you know that children LOVE to countdown to big events. My daughter listed a countdown in her calendar a year ago that was over 180 days until she flew east to spend a couple of weeks with her grandmother. Each and every day, she checked off the date and knew she was getting close to something spectacular. She could not wait for the day to arrive when she would board the plane and fly 2000 miles to see her grandparents...alone.

We are currently in another countdown. Most of society is in a countdown, even if they do not align themselves with a religion. Everywhere we go right now there are signs telling us how many shopping days are left until Christmas.

In our home, we are counting down the days until our family will be altogether to celebrate Christmas (even though we will be doing this early this year). We've been known to count the days until payday. We've counted days until a vacation begins. We even counted down days until our baby arrived (which due to the unpredictable nature of babies was a little more challenging).

We count down to these events because they are exciting for us. We anticipate them happening because we know, or believe, that something wonderful is going to happen.

The Israelites were also given the opportunity to wait in anticipation for something wonderful. In Egypt, they waited for a deliverer while being bound as slaves.

When the deliverer came to them, they mocked him for his previous service under the Pharoah. He wasn't what they would have chosen for a deliverer. Moses wasn't their choice for the golden child. Yet God knew what He was doing. He set aside Moses to lead the people out of bondage and into the Promised Land.

The Israelites were given the opportunity to wait anxiously to go into the Promised Land. But the spies that they sent into Canaan decided to accept fear instead of a promise, and they wandered for 40 years. The original Israelites who were delivered from Egypt, all but one of them died before setting foot in the Promised Land.

The Israelites were repeatedly given opportunities to wait in anticipation, eager to see God bless them, deliver them, love them, take care of them. And they failed to see the blessing and wait with joy and excitement for what God was going to do for them.

In fact, they went so far as to miss the birth of the Messiah. The baby Jesus could not be the Messiah that was going to be sent to deliver the nation and restore Jerusalem. He was not an earthly king. He was a Nazarene, no less, and nothing good came from Nazareth. They missed the biggest blessing delivered to them although the signs were everywhere around them!

How do you miss the decree from a king to have all baby boys under the age of two murdered? Especially after the history in Egypt with the massacre of Israelite babies during the time of Moses, they should have known that this was a foreboding of something BIG. And what about a bright star that magically appeared in the sky? If this happened today, I could understand and suggest that maybe the lights from the city drowned out the light from the star. But these were times when there was no electricity, and the towns were much smaller. They studied the skies to determine the calendar for planting and reaping. They had no clocks. The sky was their clock and calendar. So how did they not question the appearance of a new bright star? And why were they not even more suspicious about this star when it aligned with the decree by Herod to have the babies killed?

And yet, for each reason I feel that they failed, I know that I am failing also.

In Matthew 24, Jesus speaks to his disciples. He tells them that there are going to be signs that may alarm them. He warns them that wars will break out, there will be famines and earthquakes. He tells them, He tells us, that these are the signs that the time is coming. He warns them about false prophets and a false Messiah. He tells them what to watch for, and to be ready.

And then at last, the sign of the coming of the Son of Man will appear
in the heavens, and there will be deep mourning among all the nations of the earth. And they will see the Son of Man arrive on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. --Matthew 24:30 NLT

Are we ready? We know that Jesus is seated in Heaven and He is
waiting to return to the earth. His Second Coming is going to be glorious.
will we be ready? Are we counting the days and getting ready? Or, will
we be
like the Israelites and reject the truth and the blessing because it
doesn't fit
our schedule or our idea of how it should happen?

Is there a sign upon my heart declaring "X days until Jesus arrives!" ???

Father, you have told us that Jesus came to earth to save the lost. And we know that He will make his return soon. The signs that He gave us tell us that time is rapidly approaching. And yet, I fear that I spend less time getting ready for the second coming and rapture than I do for Christmas or summer vacation. How can I be so misled? Illuminate the wrongness of my spirit and let me fix my eyes upon a mark that I cannot put into temporal terms, but which should hold my complete attention. Help me put my efforts into preparing my heart, my household, my community for your glorious reappearing--better than any Christmas gift I could ever buy or wrap. In Jesus' name, AMEN.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Away in a Manger

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed
The little Lord Jesus lay down his sweet head
The stars in the bright sky look down where He lay
The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay

The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes
But little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes
I love thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky
And stay by my side until morning is nigh

You know, I really envy Mary. She must have felt somewhat like she had it made. I mean, it Martin Luther got it right and the human baby Jesus didn't awaken and cry at the commotion of the animals in the stable, she truly was most blessed among women!

I write this after letting my baby girl finally cry herself to sleep. I struggle sometimes with knowing whether or not I do the right thing with my children. I suppose that we all do. I know that my last baby (he's 7-1/2 now) was spoiled darn near rotten and I battle undoing that damage each day. But still, nurturing a child isn't wrong. It just can't be. Mind you, I don't hold her all the time. She is not delayed in her development because of being coddled (quite the opposite, her early milestones are the stuff of frantic prayers because at 7 months she's almost walking!). But when she has trouble going to sleep at night, and she cries and cries and cries, it breaks my heart. I want so badly to pick her up and just rock her until she goes to sleep, but I fear that by doing that I will create a situation where she simply won't sleep without me holding her.

(Who am I kidding, I think I have already created this situation!)

I wonder, if the belief of Biblical scholars is correct that Mary was only 14-16 years old when Gabriel visited her, how did she handle motherhood? It was her first baby. Did she know when to let him cry, and when to let him cry himself to sleep? Or, is Martin Luther correct that Jesus in his earthly baby form simply didn't cry?

At sixteen, Mary must have been something for God to choose her to mother and carry his child. I think my children are something special, but they are so common next to baby Jesus, the only begotten son. And yet, I know that Mary was just like me.

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.--Luke 2:19 NIV

Being a mother has brought me much closer to understanding how Mary might have felt. And it has made the death of Jesus Christ even dearer to my heart as well. I don't know if Mary truly understood that her baby boy was going to be born for the purpose of becoming the paschal lamb. But I know that as I watch my children, as I've held these babies in my arms, I've tried to imagine what it would be like to raise them with that kind of knowledge. And the closest I could get was the simple knowledge that their bodies are mortal. We are finite. Perhaps if Mary knew that He was going to die such a brutal death she also knew that it could not hold him.

And there is such joy in knowing that although my children are mortal, their human lives are finite, they have the opportunity to accept Christ into their hearts and lives and have eternal life spiritually, if not physically.

Father, as a mother, I can't imagine what Mary may have felt watching Jesus be led to the hilltop where he was crucified. I wonder if, in that moment, she had flashbacks of his glorious entry into the world--praised by angels, announced by a spectacular star, sought by foreign kings, and feared by the rulers of nations and religion. Part of me wonders if by understanding Mary and her position as a mother, I can know you better. In this season of celebrations, of commercialism and greed, help me keep my life, my heart, and my eyes centered on you and on your gift for all humanity. In Jesus' name, AMEN.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Christmas as I know it

Now to you who believe, this stone [Jesus Christ] is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone, and, "A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall." They stumble because they disobey the message-which is also what they were destined for.”--I Peter 2:7-8 NIV
(my emphasis added)

No matter where you live in the US, or even in the "Western World", you know that Christmas is approaching, regardless of whether you are someone who practices active religious faith. In many ways, Christmas has become a cultural holiday and is no longer much of a religious observance. It has been commercialized, and degraded by the desire of greed--children making long lists of toys they have no need for and that most of their families can't practically afford to get them and parents who go deeper and deeper into debt to provide a fraction of what is on that list.

If you follow my writings, you know that I have been struggling for weeks with the commercialism of this season. I am not sure which is worse--commercials almost non-stop from 7am until 9pm of toys, toys and more toys, or the onslaught of commercials depicting a man giving his "beloved" a large, expensive piece of jewelry. Both nauseate me.

And yet I am tied up somewhere in between detesting the commercialism of the holiday and loving it. Sounds ironic that I should at first complain and then be brazen enough to claim to embrace it? Not really. Most of what we do today, even if we are people of faith, to celebrate Christmas is little more than pagan ritual. The winter festivals of yonder year have come home to roost in the Christian home under the guise of "Christian symbolism". Our trees, evergreen, of course, derive from the European festivals of Yule, which sprouted long before the catholic church had reached beyond the Roman Empire. Yule was celebrated in late December into early January, to celebrate the shortest day of the year and the sun god.

And caroling...even caroling has its roots in pagan celebrations.

So, are we truly surprised that this holiday has become synonymous with secularism, pagan rituals, and consumer spending?


I don't know just yet. I have had many, many ideas. And I'm going to be perfectly honest, I am afraid of them. Well, not of the ideas, but I'm afraid of the resistance of my family and friends to them. I mean, who isn't going to think I need psychiatric help when I take down the tree and replace it with a crude manger with hay, flanked by a cross with a crown of thorns atop it?

And yet, it may just be that it requires something that drastic to get back, to move back to the real meaning of what we are "supposed" to be celebrating. And if we, as Christians, aren't willing to create a separate celebration, perhaps we should just call it the detested "X-mas" as we have already taken Christ and the mass/holy day out of it.

Just a thought.

Oh, and please keep grumpy comments to a minimum. This is really about me seeking the truth and sharing my journey more than it is an absolute truth or stand at this point. But my goal is to get back to a loving Father who sent Jesus as a tiny baby, knowing that He could never have the relationship He wanted with us without a Savior. And He was wise enough to know that we would reject an adult who just "showed up" one day to die for us. I mean, most of us rejected him as a baby...

Father, this continues to press upon my heart. I am less excited about Christmas this year and I think it's because you are telling me that we really are missing the point. Speak to me clearly, and guide me. Encourage and strengthen me so that as I continue on this path toward Your heart and Your will, I will not cower when it seems tough to do what you have asked me to do. And let the devotion of my heart be upon you, and not upon packages, presents, wrapping paper and bows. In Jesus' name, AMEN.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

When God Calls...

I have often struggled with a message being placed on my heart, or a person who I know I must lift up in prayer (even when I don't know the specifics of why). Sometimes these things happen when I am doing nothing important. I have gotten the pleading of the Spirit to pray for someone while driving on the freeway, and have prayed immediately. But other times, God urges me at times when it's just not "convenient".

Oh, yes, I am going there!

I don't know how many times I have gotten online at nearly midnight, flat out bone-weary and spent an hour or two writing, because God has put something on my heart that I just had to write. I would love to tell you that I'm always faithful to this urging, but I'd be lying to you, and that won't help you or me. In fact, here I am on a Saturday morning, on vacation more or less, at 7:30 in the morning the only one awake in our hotel room. I'm sitting on the floor in the dark (so I don't wake the others) typing this because God is placing that urging upon my heart.

(I'd much rather climb back in bed and be sound asleep and wake totally refreshed in like two hours. I would...but I know that this is not going to happen. I know that if I ignore the Spirit, my day is going to be "off"--emotionally, spiritually, physically, and mentally--and it will have nothing to do with a lack of sleep. Remember Jonah?)

When God calls, we must be ready to listen. Sometimes His call is going to be inconvenient to our earthly, selfish desires. In fact, I am going to go so far as to say it ALWAYS is inconvenient to our earthly, selfish desires. That's because the Holy, Righteous, True Will of God is entirely in conflict with our human, sinful, selfish, deceitful desires. That is the nature of our sinful being.

But we must be ready to listen. We must take a moment to step back and prepare ourselves to hear God when He speaks to us. I believe it's not unlike what I see modeled in my son's second grade classroom. When Mrs. D has the children working in groups independently of her leading and needs to bring them back together, before she begins to speak she claps a rhythm. The children are instructed the first day of school that when they hear her do this, they stop talking, put down whatever is in their hands, and clap this rhythm back. But Mrs. D does not always use the same rhythm to gather their attention. The rhythm changes. And if they do not stop and listen to her rhythm each time, they will not be able to clap it back.

There are several things that really remind me of how Gods calls me in this. First is that I must be listening, at least on some unconscious level for God to "clap His rhythm" in my heart, just as Mrs. D does in her classroom. The children do not sit still and quiet all day waiting for her. In fact, it is generally because they are so busy, so loud, or so other-focused that she uses this tool. But they must know when they hear it to stop.

Oh, Father, I know what you're thinking...and I'm not ready to hear it, but I know I have to stop right now and clap! (Well, at least within my heart--the other four people sound asleep in my room will NOT be happy if I wake them up!) The second that God begins to place that urging of the Spirit within my heart and soul, I have to stop.

But stopping alone is not enough. The children stop and...........


If they do not listen, they cannot repeat her rhythm back to her. She calls. They stop. They listen.

How much like God is that? (I have this theory that all you have ever really wanted to know about spiritual growth you can learn from raising, or simply studying, small children!)

He calls us with His Spirit, the Holy Ghost. We are to stop--think of Samuel, of Jonah, of the disciples--and listen. But like Mrs. D, God commands to know that we are paying attention. There is some exercise to show Him that He has our attention. He requires that we clap back His rhythm. This morning, clapping back His rhythm meant that I got up, turned on my laptop and went to a site where my soul could be ministered to. It prepared my heart for the message He was going to give me.

Once the children have clapped back the rhythm, Mrs. D continues with her next instructions. She knows that she has their attention and can move ahead with the certainty (well, they are second graders, so I suppose there never is 100% certainty of anything! LOL) that they are going to hear and follow her instruction.

That is exactly how God works too! When we stop, when take the moment to repeat back to God the rhythm He is placing on our heart, He knows that we are ready to listen. Sometimes that is as simple as saying, "Okay, Father...I'm here. I'm ready." Sometimes it is simply saying, "Jesus." Sometimes it is removing yourself to a quieter situation where you can listen. God will shout if He needs to, but neither one of you (or me) really want that situation. It's not ideal. And then, when He knows He has our full attention, He gives us His instruction!

Now here is where we become second graders, all of us...we still have to choose to follow directions. We have to do what He has told us. (I know that I've gone so far as staying up late, getting up in the middle of the night, listen, but have ignored His instruction.) When we do what the Spirit leads us to do, there is immense blessing for us and for others. But when we ignore Him, that is where we invite trouble in (remember the whale and our good friend, Jonah?).

God is our teacher, and we are all just a bunch of "grown up" second graders. God needs our attention, and we have to stop, listen, and obey.

(I just did.)

Father, thank you for loving me enough to call me. And thank you for blessing me this morning with an early morning wake up call. I know that I didn't want to get up. Who am I kidding? You already know that too! But I thank you for trusting me with this message, and I pray that I have been faithful enough to touch others, as well as to learn from your instruction. Continue to reign in my life so that although I may be busy living life, I am never too busy to hear your call, to stop, and to obey. I know today is going to be a wonderful day because You were first in it! In Jesus' name, AMEN.

For more about hearing and answering God's call...
--I Samuel 3: the calling of Samuel in the middle of the night
--Jonah: chapter 1 is his first calling, but it's a short the rest!
--Matthew 10: Jesus' calling of the disciples and sending them out

Be blessed, and Happy Saturday!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Some disenchanted evening

Every year about this time, things change. My simple life seems to be not quite enough. Everywhere I look I see things that remind me that my life just really doesn't measure up--from Martha Stewart shows that model finely carved pumpkins, to perfectly browned turkeys on immaculately placed tables, to jewelry commercials where an unsuspecting woman is swooped off her feet by her boyfriend/fiance/husband with a gift that we can't afford in a situation I will never find myself, to the myriad of toy commercials with adorable children perfectly dressed opening toys under a department store-worthy tree on Christmas morning. These things seem to mock me for about eight weeks each year, screaming at me that my life is just not quite good enough.

I suppose the irony is what this season is really, truly about.

In a week, we will spend hours cleaning our homes and cooking, baking, sauteeing traditional foods such as green beans, turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce/relish, followed by pumpkin pie (or apple, or pecan, or whatever suits your fancy). We will stress out about whether there is enough room for all the adults in the dining room, and if there is a relatively "stain-proof" area to host a dozen small children eating without adult supervision (because 17-year old zit-covered Wii-playing cousin Brent doesn't count as supervision). At the last minute Thursday morning we will realize that some critical ingredient for our feast was forsaken and will send our poor husbands running to find a grocery store within ten miles that is actually open to pick it up. Never mind that it will never truly be missed from the recipe. And we will urge the children to sit quietly and not touch anything in front of the Thanksgiving Day Parade. We'll remind Tommy and Sarah to stay out of the kitchen, to wash their hands and face (again!), and to keep their voices down. And Dad will count the seconds until Santa draws up the rear of the parade and he can switch over to the football games.

At dinner, we will put on "airs" and hold hands while Grandpa blesses the food and every other thing he can possibly think of that has happened in the last year that could be considered "prays-worthy". Grandma will pinch his hand after eight minutes, while the kids poke their fingers in the dinner rolls and mashed potatoes. Uncle Joe will spill wine on the new fine linen tablecloth. Aunt Nora will again tell the now infamous story about her first turkey baking fiasco. And your loving spouse will have one eye glued to the TV in the other room (or even worse...receive text updates on the game! on his cell phone at the table).

Afterwards, the men will collect in the den watching the game and fall asleep, feet up on the coffee table and snoring, each to his own drummer. The kids will run to the basement to play which is a blessing only for the minute while you attempt to clean the dining room, kitchen, and living room from a feast to feed twenty. Later, much later, you will tackle a family room that appears to have only barely survived a grenade attack. (You will do this alone at 11pm, barefoot and on hands and knees while wishing you could just go to sleep.) Your mother-in-law will stand and tell you every bit of gossip she has heard in the past month about her co-workers/neighbors/other family without reaching to help with a single dish. She'll ask if you need help halfway through only to pull your poor sister-in-law with a two-month old baby out of the den where she was attempting to calm the baby.

And at nine, the house will be empty once again. The only sound will be your yawns over the third load through the dishwasher and your husband's snoring.

This is what we get for Thanksgiving. But I think it leaves us all a little bit disillusioned. We are bombarded by the media with idyllic settings that we will never experience. And we spend the day stressed out, irritated, short-tempered, snippy, put-out, and overwhelmed. Never do we really stop to take account of our blessings.

I'll be honest. Right now I'm not looking forward to Thanksgiving or Christmas. Not at all.


Because I am caught in the midst of the commercialism of the holiday. I am caught in the human elements of the holiday. I am weary because I know that it will never be for me what it really ought to be.

I will never experience a truly thankful Thanksgiving the way the first one was. The Pilgrims didn't fuss over what brand of turkey they were going to have, or what kind of stuffing they were going to serve with it. No. They were ecstatic because they had food and had survived! They had learned how to cultivate crops with the help of the Native Americans. The Pilgrim women weren't concerned about whether or not their table linens were the same ones they'd used the last five years (okay, so that was impossible for them....), or whether their hair and makeup was perfect, their clothes as nice and new as could be.

They had food! They had each other! They had survived a year!

What can I be thankful for in the last year? Perhaps by looking at that, I can strip the holiday of its commercialism and truly be thankful.

1. A new big family!
2. A beautiful new baby girl
3. Being able to stay home to raise my children
4. Financial blessings that were unexpected
5. Labor/delivery blessings
6. Time spent with my kids
7. One year wedding anniversary
8. Opportunities to serve and bless others
9. My health and my family's health
10. Freedom of religion

These are just a few. I could go for hours. But the point is simple:

Strip the season of its commercialism and get back to "THANKS-GIVING".

I will praise God's name in song
and glorify him with thanksgiving.
--Psalm 69:30

I will praise God's name in song
and glorify him with thanksgiving.
--Psalm 95:2

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
--Psalm 100:4

Father, it is easy to see why this season is difficult for so many. Without your Spirit dwelling within us, it is impossible to grasp the truth and embrace what this time of year is truly about. Strip from my home, my heart anything that would keep me from seeing and celebrating the blessings that you have given me over the past year, and the promises you have given me that have yet to be fulfilled. Let each moment be a moment of praise and thanksgiving for all that you have given me. Remove the parts of my heart and mind that dwell on what I don't have. In Jesus' name, AMEN.