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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Better Than Reality TV

Friday afternoon we arrived at the campground. We bailed out of the car and began to unload the gear; sleeping bags, cook stove, food bins, and the most dreaded piece of camping equipment known to marriage, the tent.

This year we brought with us a brand new tent, still in the box. I spied the beast lying on the ground, knowing what must ensue. Looking around I was relived to see the campground was empty with the exception of a retired couple sitting quietly in their lawn chairs in front of their trailer about 100 feet away.

I approached the box, cut the tape and out slid the biggest pile of nylon and connect-the-sticks I have ever seen. The contraption sleeps ten. Why a family of three needs a tent this size, I still cannot explain.

Dragging the tent around on the site, I called to my husband for help. Thus the event commenced; the raising of the tent. This is a hotly contested battle of wit and patience between a husband and a wife. If television wanted a truly unrefined reality show, Raise the Tent, would win hands down. Two minutes into the set up, orders were shouted, my husband was obviously blind to the logic of my instructions. This became readily apparent from the look on his face.

A retort from my frustrated spouse was foreseeable. The sound level increased. I glanced over at older couple who sat smiling at their reading materials, afraid to look up for fear they would break into hysterics.

Precisely at this moment in all tent-raising events, children mysteriously disappear. My daughter retreated to the creek, suddenly captivated with the rocks at the bottom.

I lowered my voice but the yelling continued in what I call, snake whisper. It is still yelling just at a hissing level. I am sure some of you can relate. The older couple is no longer watching covertly, they sit mesmerized by our show activity.

Finally the Holy Spirit became fed up and tapped upon my heart. He reminded me I no longer needed to be in control. In the midst of our squabbling I saw my husband, a gift from God. I saw a man who has made me a better woman. The bickering diminished instantly and the tent went up quickly.

My husband and I are spiritually mismatched in our marriage and although my husband has yet to discover the truth of Christ for himself, Christ is alive and active in our marriage. Christ’s supernatural power brings us through the arguing, disagreements, and tent construction. I look back upon my marriage journey and see Christ standing with us. He has been working through my nonbelieving husband to smooth my rough edges of selfishness and desire to control.

My spouse and I are the ultimate odd couple. Our back grounds and beliefs are vastly different, which makes our marriage, our happy and fulfilling marriage, a miracle.

An hour later, I sat at the picnic table waiting for our friends who were joining us to settle into their campsite. Their daughter wandered over for a chat. I asked her, “Did your mom and dad getting everything set up?”

She replied, “Yes, but yelling was involved.”

I laughed out loud knowing God was alive and well in the next campsite!

1 Peter 3:1-4 (The Message)
The same goes for you wives: Be good wives to your husbands, responsive to their needs. There are husbands who, indifferent as they are to any words about God, will be captivated by your life of holy beauty. What matters is not your outer appearance—the styling of your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes—but your inner disposition.

I am a first Peter three work-in-progress!

Please stop in for a visit at my place: Spiritually Unequal Marriage.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Worthy of the Shirt

"When my heart was embittered and I was pierced within, then I was senseless and ignorant, I was like a beast before You. Nevertheless I am continually with You; You have taken hold of my right hand. With Your counsel You will guide me, and afterward receive me to glory."
Psalm 73:21 NASB

This entire 73rd Psalm of Asaph has been on my heart all month. Because it kept coming up continually, I felt the Lord was leading me to write on it but I was lacking meaningful application. All it took to fix that was a Little League Baseball Game, a semi-illegal pitcher for the opposing team, and one mad Preacher's Wife.

Let me set this one up for you. We are currently in post-season play in a local County Tournament. The eligible teams are not All-Stars but ball clubs who have played together all season long. We have absolutely clobbered this particular team each time we have played thus far. When we arrived at the game expecting the same kids, we discovered two players had been added from a Select Travel Team. The new pitcher looks like Goliath and, giving credit where it is due, could flat out sling a baseball. Dad did not trust his boy to the coaching staff but instead gave pitching signals from behind the home plate fence. To make sure the whole family was involved in giving this child the star treatment, when he left the field, instead of sitting in the dugout with the 'regular' players, he sat in a lawn chair while his mother fanned him like the King of Siam.

Our boys could not hit a thing off this kid. His size was as intimidating as his pitching. The farther along the game went, the madder our parents got. A protest was filed before the game began but apparently the other team had snuck this kid under everyone's radar in the last two games of season play to make him eligible for the tournaments.

This is where I get to tell you how wonderful The Preacher is :) He is the model of grace under pressure and of letting the Lord fight your battles. He wasn't any happier about the situation than I was but he continued exchanging pleasantries with the umpire and other coaches while I sat with a scowl on my face the whole game. He came to the fence and said, "Why don't you smile a little bit?" I noticed he had on his shirt with our church's name on it. I said, "Because I am mad, I don't want to, and that is exactly why I don't wear The Church Shirt to ballgames." And I should have been sufficiently ashamed of myself right then. But it got a wee bit worse.

After the game, I was standing with a group of friends and my little boy who was devastated over the loss. Out of nowhere and for no explainable reason, one of the other team's Moms came up and said, 'Yay..we did it! Did ya'll see that score?? 7 - to - 1 !'

Oh, I know she didn't.

I literally let my jaw drop to the ground and I'm telling you the, "I guess you CAN finally win IF YOU CHEAT!!" remark was about to roll off my tongue when this little voice said, "Remember yourself, Lisa. Remember The Name." Ouch.

Which takes me back to the part of the verse above that talks about 'being a beast before You'. I almost acted like an idiot tonight and was close enough that I would have been embarrassed had I been wearing my church's t-shirt. If I have to worry about shaming The Name by how I act at the ballfield I do believe I need to stay home.

So tell me, am I alone in this? Does how you act ever conflict with The Name you profess? Are you afraid to wear the shirt? To put the Fish on your car? Let's be mindful of our testimony, Girls. We may be the only Jesus some people ever see. The Lord really humbled me but thankfully, He promises to take my hand and guide me to Proverbs 31 behavior. Even better than that, if I have a stroke at the ballfield from having to keep my big mouth shut, He promises to receive me to Glory. However, I can think of other ways I'd rather go out and hopefully when I do, I'll leave this world proudly wearing The T-Shirt.

I would love a visit from you at my personal blog, The Preacher's Wife.

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Hey I've read the book!

In the movie "Patton", ok bear with me girls (I know this is not a girl movie). It shows the general sleeping (Patton) on his bed with a book on his chest - presumably he fell asleep reading the book. The the camera pans on the book, and we see the title as "Tank Warfare by Field Marshal Rommel". (The Field Marshal was the German army commander) The next scene shows the German and the American armies engaged in battle (and please I am using this as an example not to point out people from Germany, one of my dearest friends is from Germany =), and after a few minutes the Germans are retreating. General Patton is observing the scene through his binoculars, and giving some instructions to fine tune the plans set out. As the German Army retreats, General Patton exclaims: "Rommel, I read your book!"

Can I just take a moment to yell, "Satan I have read the Lord's book, you don’t win. You may win these little battles, you may trip me up and get me off course, but you don’t win. I know you know this. You use the tool of my mind, trying to plant thoughts and doubts in my head trying to get me to enact my will to do something that is not pleasing to God, but satan I READ THE BOOK!”

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. II Cor 4:8-12

Satan likes to use your affections to lead you astray, what you think about most is where you affections lie. Is it negative self thought; is it fear, worry, or anxiety? We have control over where our affections are directed. If we don’t take control, satan will. How do we surround ourselves? By Christian music, devotionals, reading Christian books, reading the bible. Surround yourself; meditate on Christ, stand close the cross, then your affections will be on Christ when we are attacked. This is what got me through my week; great Christian friends and directing my affections towards Christ while I was hurting.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 11 Cor 4:16-18

We will fall, we will stumble, but if we are constantly surrounding ourselves with the affections of Christ. The he will not win.


You can visit me at my personal blog: Laurel Wreath

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“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” ~ John 15:1-5 (ESV)

Before I share with you my thoughts on the above passages today, I have a confession to make. I have ‘black thumbs’—honestly, I cannot grow plants; indoor or outdoor. This makes me really sad, because I love plants and flowers.

My three little indoor plants looked very sick. Although I had watered them, they were dying. I told my husband that I wanted to try to ‘rescue’ them. We bought some organic soil and some clay pots at the home-improvement store across the way.

I grabbed my poor little plants, took them out of the plastic container, added my organic soil to the clay-pots, trimmed off the dead parts and set the plants into the new soil…

As I was going about trying to ‘rescue’ the plants, the above passages came to mind. Sometimes our Lord needs to cut some dead branches off of us. Sometimes He even needs to replant us into a better soil in order for us to bear more fruit.

I am not sure if my plant felt anything when I moved them into the new soil and cut their dead branches. When our Lord replants and cuts away dead branches from us, it is always hurtful. Well, it is true for me.

Over the years I have learned that through replanting, losses, sickness and cutting away my dead branches, I have grown in my faith. I know that God, even though it might hurt, has my well-being in mind.

Next time He plans to up-root you and plant you into new soil, don’t be afraid. It might hurt, but it will be for your benefit. To grow you in your faith so you might be able to share with others in their sufferings.

As for my three houseplants? Only time will tell if I was able to ‘rescue’ them. I pray that I replanted them just in time to be beautiful again…

Lord of Heaven and Earth. I know that You have to prune and cut away dead branches in order for me to bear more fruit. Lord, I want to stay close to your vine. I know that I am just a branch and cannot produce fruit on my own. I trust that what ever happens in my life will be a process to grow in my faith and my trust in You. In the precious name of Jesus ~ Amen.

As you are celebrating Memorial Day in the US today, please remember the fallen and currently serving soldiers in your prayers…

Visit me at my personal blog: Sting My Heart

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Sunday, May 27, 2007


Speckled and freckled beneath the waves of his sun bleached hair, is a five-year-old boy who's "all growd up." The sun has stained his cheeks to a rosy shade of pink, but he takes little notice of this, as he's only particular about his adorable wavy blond hair. This new obsession of his has led to the fact that Mommy's brush is MIA most everyday.

I can't bring myself to cut it, nor can I stop myself from brushing my lips against the softness every chance I can get. So I do--unless he runs. Last night he ran.

I chased the giggling boy around the coffee table, through the diningroom, out of the kitchen, and into his bedroom, until he was cornered. Smothering him with hugs and kisses, I savoured the scent of his freshly washed hair, while feeling the soft wave of feathers against my nose and my cheek.

After crossing his arms, his bottom lip slipped forward in defiance. "What's your problem?" asked his sister, who was standing in the hallway.

"I wanted to try going to sleep without hugs and kisses tonight!" he huffed, once again releasing the lip that marked his desire for independance.

With little assistance, he tucked himself in, and waved me off into the night--his crown of curls encircling his rosy red cheeks on the pillow. I let out a yawn, and slipped off to bed myself.

About four hours later, we awoke to the clap of thunder, a flash of lightening, and the little man standing at the foot of our bed, hoping to crawl in beside me.

"I'm scared," he announced, then he slipped in beside me and pulled the covers up to his neck. For a while, I watched his young silhouette rise and fall with each breath he took. I smiled knowing that this little man was not "growed up" at all. He still needed his momma, and together we needed the storm.

I got to thinking about the storms of life that shake us, bringing us down to our knees. Perhaps it's financial, or a matter of health, or perhaps it's losing the trust of someone you've grown accustomed to leaning on. Maybe it's shaking your faith, but hopefully it's doing the opposite--drawing you closer to the arms of the one who protects.

We need the storms. For without them we wouldn't see that we have need for Christ. We are all sinners, and we all walk the same soil that trips us up from time to time leaving us feeling alone in the storm. But like my son who wants so desperately to stand on his own, we aren't alone and shouldn't be. I praise God that He is there to comfort me, to cleanse me, and to shelter me under His wing. I need my Father, and because of Him, I can weather the storm.

Visit me at my personal blog: Darlene Schacht dot com :)

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Apart At The Seams

Ever feel like you're "coming apart at the seams?"

Recently I was reading Daniel 7, regarding the antichrist. Without getting into the ins and outs of eschatology and speculating on whether we are in fact, in the "end times" or not, I just wanted to share a verse that caught my attention. Verse 25 of Daniel 7 says of the antichrist:

"He will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law;" (NASB translation)

We may not know who the antichrist will be or when he will appear, but we do know who he will be working for and where he will derive his power. From the same enemy we face- Satan. It is interesting to me that he will "wear down the saints." The NIV renders it "oppress," but it is from the Hebrew word "bala" or "bela" which means "wear away" or "to afflict," and literally means "to wear out as one would wear out a garment." The verse refers to what the future antichrist will do, but very much points to what his Boss, and our enemy is up to at this very moment- wearing us ("the saints"- followers of Christ) out! The question in the study I was doing asked, "How does Satan attempt to oppress you?" It occurred to me that I most often get "worn out" at the seams, just like my favorite jean jacket (pictured above). I am most likely to wear out at the point of tension, and what's holding me together gets stressed. And if what's holding me together is me, then there will inevitably be a rip. Then a tear. Then a gaping hole. It can be revealing. And it isn't pretty.

But that need not be the case for a follower of Christ. Romans 13:14 says to "Clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ." Not only that, as a believer I can put on the full armor of God. Add to that that I'm lined and filled with the Holy Spirit, and I've got wear-proof, tear-proof spiritual clothing! Satan knows he can't truly wear me out, but he can, for short seasons, fool me into thinking I'm coming apart at the seams, wearing thin, flying by the seat of my pants, or coming unraveled.

That's when I must come before the One who knit me together in the first place. Let Him repair my holey-ness so that I might walk in His holiness. Allow Him to replace my self-willed stitching with His threads of grace, according to His perfect pattern for my life. Try as he might, the enemy can't irreparably alter what isn't his, whether it's the "times" or the "laws,"... or me.

"Pierce my weak areas with your Word, Father. Thread the seams of my soul with your truth. Search me and know my anxious thoughts which so quickly become my points of tension and lead to holes in my thinking and openings for the enemy. Help me to put on love, above all else, as love is the very essence of Who You are. Lord, you hem me in- behind and before. You have laid Your hand upon me. Oh, how I love You. Amen."


Friday, May 25, 2007

Father, Give Me...

"There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.' So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country and he began to be in need..." From Luke 15

Father, give me...

Give me time.

Give me money.

Give me control.

Give me freedom.

I am guilty of this. I am guilty of wanting to take what God intends for me to use in the boundary of His will and instead trying to make it mine. I just know I can use it more efficiently on my own. And it's so much easier, too. I don't want to be tied down or accountable. I am able on my own to accomplish my day's tasks- caring for my family, serving my community, making my house into a home day after day.

But then, no.

I squander it. All I desire for good works against me. I find myself frail and weak. I find myself insufficient. I find I was much better off when I was within my Father's gates, using His gifts the way He intended. But where am I now?

...and travelled to a distant country...

I am alone. I have strayed far from home and can't see my way back. I am lost, set adrift by my own selfishness and pride. Can I make the journey back? I must try. But wait...

But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him...

"While the prodigal son was still thinking about what he would say to his father,... his father ran to meet him. What does that mean, to run to meet him, but to assure him of his mercy in advance." (Saint Augustine)

Mercy in advance. God sees me. He runs to meet me. He knows my heart and has merely waited for it to turn. I see His mercy, I know His love. I again allow myself to be wrapped in His arms and forgiven. No words are needed, but I say them anyway,

"I am not worthy, let me simply serve you..."

But my worth is found at the cross. I am His child. Forgiveness is sweet and fellowship is sweeter. Thank you, Father.

Though this scene is played over again and again, the ending is always the same. The Father is always watching the horizon, waiting for our return. Will you pray with me?

Loving Father, thank you for your mercy in advance. Let us always seek you, draw near to you, desire you above all else. And when we fail, open your arms to us and show us what true love is so we may show it to others. Amen.

Visit my personal blog at Fruit in Season.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007


When he was four years old, he asked a lot of questions. Or, I should say, he asked the same question a lot of times. Wide-eyed, anticipating a sensible answer, he would look at me as though I held all knowledge, ready to serve it to him in response to his every, "Why?" And I did my best to answer his simple questions in terms he could understand. If he'd just sat still long enough.

That was back when his dad and I were nearly as smart as God in his big, brown eyes. Back when a kiss could make it better and sadness could be washed away with a sippy cup of juice. Back when the world could be conquered from atop training wheels and world peace was threatened only by inevitability of a good, soapy bath.

At age ten, his questions are now more sophisticated. "How do we know for certain if someone else is saved? When is God coming back? Didn't God tell Adam and Eve about Satan? Why do some people know how powerful God is, but still refuse to obey Him?" And I do my best to help him find answers in verses, sometimes failing and admitting, "I don't know."

Touched by three deaths and the debilitating illness of a child in the past week, my prayer list is long. Or, I should say, it's short since it includes only one question, "Why?" I look heavenward, wide-eyed, anticipating a sensible answer from the One who does hold all knowledge. He hands me His Word to answer me in terms I can understand. If I just sit still long enough.

He never says, "I don't know."

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 childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor 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: 11-12

Carol's blog can be found here.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The First Time

The first time is always an event. I remember when my son scored his first soccer goal. He turned and said "YES" running down the field. Of course, we made phone calls to family members after the game recounting each important detail.

I love "firsts." I have come to treasure sharing firsts with those I love. First dates. First kisses. First days of school. First teeth. First steps. First time to walk on the beach and see the ocean. First time to fly in an airplane. First Broadway play. First Major League Baseball game. First time in a swimming pool. First prayers. First live concert. First mission trip. First time to jump in a pile of autumn leaves. First July 4th fireworks. First time carving a pumpkin. First time to play in the rain. First time decorating a Christmas tree together. First roller coaster ride. First books. First birthdays. First time to play in the snow. First sunset.

The first time always is coupled with a childlike wonder and excitement. Each new first experience makes such a powerful memory in our minds. Children seem to have the ability to experience life in this manner all the time--bringing such anticipation and joy.

I believe that God desires for us to live life like this all the time. He places amazing blessings and challenges in our lives to reveal himself to us. Just hiking in His creation should be "like the first time" every time. He is awesome, amazing, and wonderful. May we pursue Him passionately and with wonder each day--just like it was the first time.

In Him,
A Spacious Place


Created to Be a Helper...

In just over two weeks my husband and I will celebrate twenty one years of marriage. With each passing year I become more and more grateful for God’s redeeming work not only in my life but in my marriage. Let me explain.

In June of 1986 a young bride-to-be prepared for her special day like many young women her age. She put forth all her dreams into the wedding making sure every detail was exactly as she had hoped. The day came and her prayer was “If the flowers are dead, the cake rotten, the music bad, and if no one shows up, but if the Lord is there, it will be the perfect day.” It was a great day and the Lord’s presence was there in the midst of it all. This young bride with her new groom at her side set off on this new journey of marriage and service to the Lord. But, little did she know beneath the beauty of new love, hopes, and dreams crept a huge crack in her foundation and understanding of a biblical marriage. No one had ever explained the biblical role she just took as a wife. She viewed marriage as a partnership, one in which they would love each other, take care of each other, and share life together. It all sounded good. Her needs and desires were equally as important as his. If she chose or needed to continue working after their children were born, they would equally share in the duties of the home and children. And it all seemed right in the eyes of this young Christian woman who had a strong desire to please God.

When there is a crack in the foundation of a home it would take enormous skill and effort to repair. Walls and flooring would have to be ripped up in order to repair the damage. This would prove to be very difficult if a family had to continue living in the house while the work was being done. This is exactly what had to take place in my life. I can’t say that at one given moment I realized that my thinking was wrong, but rather God in his gracious and loving way slowly began to do the work in my heart and thoughts in the midst of living life with my husband and a growing family.

When you remove the beautiful flooring that you have laid, remove any padding, get down to the foundation and finally uncover what is wrong, it is liberating. I was completely liberated in my thinking when I could see for the first time how my view of the marriage relationship was somewhat flawed. I am so thankful to God today for doing His great work in my life and heart while although not perfect and without rough spots along the way, keeping my marriage and home in tact. It was one simple verse that spoke to me so deeply, Genesis 2:18 says, Then the LORD God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." (ESV version)

As I studied this verse my eyes were opened and I began to gain a clear picture of God's purpose in creating woman. The apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:8-9, "For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man." For too long like so many others I had accepted Satan's lies that I needed to stand my ground for position against my husband. No, it was blatant but very subtle. Lies had seeped into my thinking out of ignorance and let's face it what do we hear constantly from every direction but the ultimate lie being that my own worth would be determined if I could do everything he could do and still be a wife and mom.

When I accepted God's truth that I was created to be his helper and I began to live my life with this understanding and slowly function completely in my God created role, my life and thinking was slowly transformed. It didn't mean I couldn't have a job or a career or that he wouldn't help with cleaning, cooking, laundry, diaper changing and so on. So why does our blood pressure rise at the mention of the word HELPER? If you went about your life and told others you were here to be a helper to your husband, most people (including some Christians) would look at you as weak. Eve, created a “helper”, was to assist Adam in caring out God’s order to rule and subdue the earth. The role has not changed. We are to assist our husbands in fulfilling God’s will for their lives. The more I walk in this role, even with an imperfect man, the more God has fulfilled me as a woman. I am viewed by God with the same dignity and value as my husband, but my role and design is distinctly different.

Men and women, though equal in essence, were designed for different roles. Women are in no sense intellectually or spiritually inferior to men, but they were quite clearly created for a distinctive purpose. (excerpt from “Twelve Extraordinary Women” by John MacArthur pg. 8)

In sharing this type of post I am fully aware that for many women the role they have taken on in their marriage has resulted from years and years of doing things a certain way and the thought of viewing it any different seems next to impossible. Or their relationship with their husband at this time is not where they would hope it to be and so viewing themselves as a "helper" to a man who may not be fully committed to the Lord himself does not seem possible or even realistic. Yet I know the Holy Spirit can work in hearts and change lives if we will allow His word to transform us. Invite Him today to begin a new work in your own heart and thoughts towards a biblical understanding of a woman's role as "helper".

In Him...Chris

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Note: previous comments were lost for this post ~ sorry.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Letting Go

Remember in Proverbs 30: 19 that poetic verse about seemingly commonplace moments that are actually marvels beyond comprehension? They include: “the way of an eagle in the sky, a snake on a rock, a ship on the sea, and the way of man with a maiden.”

Well, I’m adding one more to the list of bafflers: the way of a mother planning her child’s graduation open house.

You've got to see (or be) a mom in this mode to believe it. One minute she can be all business, organizing food lists, decorations, music ... and then become an emotional blubbering mess in the blink of an eye.

“I can’t believe my baby is all grown up!” becomes the tag line in any conversation concerning that child. For instance, Mom could be talking with the manager of the dental office who called to remind her of the child's appointment. Before she hangs up, she will somehow work in the refrain, "Yes, he'll have to switch from the pediatric dentist to our dentist because he's graduating this month, you know. I just can't believe he's all grown up!"

In Indiana, a mom of a high school senior in the month of May is a force to be reckoned with—or better yet, to be avoided completely! There’s a tradition here of having an open house around graduation time that resembles a scaled-down wedding reception. The pressure and stress of this event can be overwhelming if you're not a natural “entertainer” or hostess.

And this is where I am personally this week. My son is graduating high school. By the time you read this, the open house will have happened yesterday afternoon, and I am anticipating a bit of melancholic let-down Monday morning.

It would be easy to poke fun at the moms who build “shrines” for their kids at this milestone, but I’ll resist, because I “get it.” I think there is an underlying, unstated reason behind the frenzy that deserves some compassion.

At the heart of this circus is a mother’s process of letting go, saying goodbye, to her child. Many moms begin grieving at the beginning of the senior year, and the last month is highly emotional. In spite of a different kind of parenting that lies ahead, moms start to feel that there’s nothing productive left to do, and so they create something to do for that child. It’s like staging one last hurrah to say, “I love you. I’m proud of you—and does this make up for not doing the fundraiser in elementary school, the track meet I missed in junior high and the time I called you ‘honey’ in front of your coach?”

It’s all about that deep, unconditional, heart-tourniquet kind of love that looks a little desperate during this transition. What a paradox—a mom’s goal is to guide her dependent child to independence, and yet there is an inescapable desire to hold on to him. It’s baffling—beyond comprehension—the bittersweet way of a mother with her child who’s on the threshold of independence.

My son was dedicated at 3 months old. We were determined to give him the most solid spiritual background we could so that when he reached this point in life, he could take the next steps toward an ever-deepening relationship with Christ.

In many ways, it’s time to let him go now—let him make many new decisions that I may or may not agree with. That is a little scary.

So today, I’m clinging to scripture from comfort. I have always cherished Luke 2:19, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Even though Mary held the Savior of the world who would inevitably become famous in some way, in that moment, he was primarily "her" son. She knew she would have to let him carve his own way once it was the proper time, but for now she could treasure the time with him and treasure the potential he embodied. I guess the sweetness of that verse moves me, but also just knowing this ambivalence I feel, pride mixed with a little grieving, is a normal part of motherhood that crosses time and culture.

And John 14:1, Jesus’ comforting assurance, though so familiar, is so meaningful: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.”

Finally, John 28:7 “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.”

Thank you, Lord, for making me the mother of my son. May he become all that you destined him to be with a heart that is perpetually drawn to you. Give me the grace to move into this next phase of parenting and to trust you now as I did the day he was born. Your faithfulness lasts through all generations, and I am blessed with the privilege of trusting you with my precious son.

Visit my personal blog at 2nd Cup of Coffee

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Neither Do I

(John 8:3-10) The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her,

"What is wrong with you?!"

What? He didn't say that? Oh, that's right. It was me. To my five-year-old. Who already knew his error. Who didn't need his mama to tower over him and ask him a question to which he knew no answer.

Poor Micah. His actions were almost comical this morning.

First, while holding his water bottle and an armful of magnets for his baby sister, he leaned over and poured the entire contents of the bottle on to the floor before he noticed. We cleaned it up, cheerfully, together.

Next, he did a balancing act on the salad spinner that baby sister had carried into the living room, and broke it. Then we had a conversation about distinguishing between what is and what is not appropriate to perform his circus act upon. (I also had a conversation with baby sister about possible sabatoge, since this was the second time she had been involved.)

Finally, he hopped up on the dining room table to listen to a story on cd, and knocked over a full glass of water. It was no longer comical.

Did Mama explain gently, while helping him to mop up the water, that sitting on the table is not acceptable? Did she hug his shoulders and use the moment as an opportunity to encourage?

No. I asked him, "What is wrong with you?"

Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"

"No one, sir," she said. "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared."Go now and leave your life of sin."
(John 8:10-11)

I could almost see Jesus, out of the corner of my eye, kneeling on the ground and writing with his finger. I thought about how I would positively fall to pieces if He asked me the same question. Did I really expect an answer? I didn't, yet Micah answered, "I don't know." Head low, eyes filled.

No one here to condemn him but you, Beloved.

I saw his hurt and confused face, and I dropped my stone. It was time for a hug, and a conversation about the proper use of chairs, which are really more comfortable than the table anyway.

Now He speaks to me as I sit here in a quiet house, and Micah sleeps in his bed. I replay the scene over and over, my heart heavy, my spirit low - I fail so often. Too late! my soul hisses. It's too late! You did it again!

No. It can't be too late.

Neither do I condemn you, Beloved. Leave the sin here, with me. Just remember this: Feed. Love. Lead.


You can visit my personal blog at A Path Made Straight.

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Top 10

It’s the weekend! Woohoo!

Over the past few weeks I’ve been busier than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Sorry, all you cat lovers.

What is it about the month of May? I find this month particularly stressful as many of our ordinary activities culminate and crescendo in a finale worthy of the White House.

Bible study ends next week. I must prepare for our end-of-the-year brunch. Brunch is not only a time to remember our experiences with God but an elaborate decorating contest to prove no center piece can be too large or ostentatious. ---I am centerpiece challenged! Send me your suggestions.

Every May, my daughter is included in a ton of extra curricular activities. A day trip to Disney Land, birthday parties, visits to museums, field trips, and band concerts. My daughter plays the flute.

From my tour around the blogosphere earlier this week, it is obvious I am not alone.

Post after post I empathized and sympathized with a number of you who are stressed out, weary, drained, fatigued and just plain wacky from the pace of it all. Perhaps it is just me who is wacky (likely).

So how do you know when it is time to stop, rest and spend time alone with our Savior. Some of my church friends got together and we comprised our own Top 10 list.

The Top 10 reasons you know it’s time for a rest and recharge: (These are real experiences)

10. You find yourself arguing with your three-year-old and she’s winning the conversation.
9. You start cutting the person’s food next to you and you realize it’s not one of your children.
8. Going to the grocery store is the highlight of your week.
7. All you can grow, is found on the leftovers in the refrigerator.
6. You throw on a cap to avoid getting your roots done.
5. The Ice Cream truck driver knows your order but not your children’s.
4. Your date with your husband ends up at Wal-Mart, and you’re both excited about it.
3. You’re hourly telling your kids, “Mommy needs a time out!”
2. The manager at Sees Candies says, “Oh, hi, you again, the usual two pounds?”

And, the number One Reason you know it’s time for a rest and a recharge:

You begin calling your hot flashes, “mini tropical vacations.”

Laughter and time alone with my Savior, is just the thing. With my Lord’s help, a hot Starbucks, and meaningful time alone with my bible and prayer journal, I will triumph. I will conquer the centerpiece, finish errand running, help with the birthday parties, and plan the camping trip.

God is good! All the time!

Matthew 11:29
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Amen, Lord Jesus, Amen!

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Enough Is Enough

We are a baseball family and this spring has found us chasing hard after three boys on three ballteams, eating our weight in nachos and hotdogs, and feverishly washing uniforms night after night. The pace is maddening but the boys love the sport and their mom and dad love watching them play it.

With that said, our oldest has had a difficult year. He is on an overcrowded team whom he has never played with before. Translation: He has become a benchwarmer for the first time in his 7 year 'career'. Now, he is the kind of child that believes about himself what others believe about him. He thinks because he doesn't get to play that his coaches must not think he is good, therefore he has worked very hard to live down to their expectations. My heart has been broken as I have watched his esteem fall in direct proportion with the number of slots his name has slipped in the batting order.

During his last game he wanted to get a great hit SO badly but he struck out and later was thrown out at first. I knew he was devastated and couldn't wait to hug his sweet neck after the game. When he came off the field, I put my arm around him and said, "You okay?". I'll never forget his reply. "Not really. I didn't do one significant thing today."

How often has the enemy fed us that line? "You aren't good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, talented enough; therefore, you are worthless." And we hang our heads in agreement and accept whatever implications this will have in our lives. We adopt a mindset to expect rejection, anticipate failure and ultimately live a defeated life because of it.

I see this in my boy's face as he steps up to bat. He doesn't believe there is a homerun in him and it kills me because I know there is! I've seen that child in action! I've seen him earn the coveted game ball in the Little League World Series. I've cheered him on as he sent a hit soaring over the outfielders' heads. I've cried my eyes out as he made the play at the plate that won the big game. I know he can but I just don't know what to do so that he will remember.

I imagine God gets just as frustrated. He's got to bang His enormous head against the walls of the Beautiful City. "I know you can do this! Don't you remember what we have been through together? What else could I possibly do to prove to You I love you? How many more times do I have to provide before you have faith that I will always meet your needs? When are you going to accept that I am enough, that I am Who makes you significant?"

I had a long talk with my precious boy. "Who are the most important people in your life?", I asked. He answered appropriately with, "God first, then you and dad". Good answer. "Well God, me, and dad think you are Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones, and Javier Lopez all rolled into one, baby boy, and don't you let someone who is not the most important person in your life make you ever think otherwise. You choose to believe who loves you most." As soon as those words came out of my mouth I realized they were a God-inspired answer. We have to make a concious choice every single day to whose voice we will give power. Will it be the Father of Lies or the Voice of Truth? (Love that Casting Crowns song) Because let me say to you that if we choose the Lie, then he has gained all he ever wanted: precedence in our hearts and minds over God.

Dear Ones, choose to believe the One who loves you most! Choose the voice of the One who is on your side, the One who knows you are Esther, and Mary, and Hannah all rolled into one. He knows your heart and through Him what you are capable of and will not rest until you are convinced you are enough because He is enough.

I believe along with God that you have a homerun in you yet. Batter up!

2 Chronicles 20:20 "Listen to me, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be able to stand firm. Believe in his prophets, and you will succeed."

A little sidenote: Just got a call from the ballfield - MY BOY just crushed a ball into left field and was batted in to score the first and only run of the game. I do believe he has been listening to the Voice of Truth..:))

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Who is God when he does not perform the miracle you seek?

This is an easier said then done message, for I wavered in posting it. But just as much as we like to talk about God's goodness, mercy, and grace there are other aspects that we need to take to heart for it is part of the package deal:

God is a God of miracles. We come to him with our prayers, as we should. We cry out in our darkness, and pray for light. We seek peace and comfort when things around us seem to be closing in. More times then not, God comes to our rescue. He is always there, he is walking beside each of us through our difficult times and many times he answers our prayers. But what if he doesn't?

A mother loses a child, a husband develops an illness, or like some missionaries find themselves in prison.

Jesus loved John the Baptist, from their first meeting while John was still in Elizabeth’s stomach he leaped for joy. John devoted his life serving Christ, and preparing a way for Christ’s dissension into this world. There should be NO DOUBT that Jesus loved John. But John found himself in prison; he was in a pit if you will. Do you ever wonder what John’s thoughts were during this time? I am speculating here, but if it were me I would be praying for my release. Praying to God because he is a God of miracles. Time passes, and John is still in prison. Finally John sends a disciple to ask Jesus “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else? (Matthew 11:2-6). Can you hear the depression and deep sighing from John? John is saying, “I’m still here in prison and I know you are a God of miracles, are you really the one who was to come?” Do you see the seeds of doubt in John? My goodness I think I would have acorns of doubt by then. Why is God not coming to rescue me?

Want to know Jesus’ response?

Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me. Matt. 11:4-6

In Jesus’ response, he is telling John that yes he is who he says he is, but there will be no miracle for you. “Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” Interpretation, blessed is the one who still believes because of who I am, not because of what I do or don’t do.

How do you respond when God does not perform the miracle you are expecting or diligently praying for? Is not God still God even when he does not save us (or a loved one)? Yes we are confused and may not understand why this “thing” is happening to us, but Jesus says “do not fall away on account of me.” God is still God even when he does not act the way we would like him to.

Why was my child diagnosed with this disease?
Why am I having medical problems?
Why did the prayers for my marriage go unanswered?
Why did God not respond the way I thought he should?

Sweet sister, this is a lesson the Lord just brought before me and it pierced my heart. How does it affect my faith when things don’t go my way, what if this disease ends up killing my family memeber? What if my loved one dies after a long battle? What if that woman who wants to become pregnant is never able to conceive?

Oh sister, there is so much pain and sometimes the miracle may pass you by, but that does not change one bit of who God is.

God is who he says he is, the end.... period..... no matter what happens.

God does want us to come to him, to pray for hurting people, to bring others who are weak before the throne. But realize God is God no matter how he responds.

Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me. Matt. 11:4-6

Note: the words in this article are all mine (well except the scripture), but the idea came from an article I read by Sue Warburton titled “Where’s My Miracle? The God I wanted wasn't the God I was getting.” I just took the idea of her article and wrote my own words about how it spoke to me. Sue’s article is found in Discipleship Journal.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Are We There Yet?

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” ~ Revelation 22:1-5 (ESV)

I remember the road-trips we took when I was a little girl. My parents always made the point to take my sister and me at least 2 weeks during the summer to either Bavaria or Austria--for a fun-filled vacation. Traveling with two little girls from Northern Germany to the most Southern part of Germany into Austria was an adventure in itself. I don’t know what the fascination with Austria was for my parents; except the Glacier water was very clean—and very, very cold. Although we always looked forward to two fun-filled weeks, we dreaded the drive. It took at least 8 hours to get to Southern Germany, and an over-night stay in Bavaria to reach our finial destination in Austria. I loved my dad, but oh my – when he was behind the wheel, he was a mad-man. My mom always made sure that we went to the bathroom before we left, didn’t had too much to drink during the first stage of the trip, because we never knew when the first pit-stop would be. You see, my dad wanted to get us to our destination as quickly as possible—he wanted to enjoy at least 10 days a year with his family away from all the hustle and bustle. One thing that came always by mid-way to Austria: “Are we there yet?”…

Do you hear yourself asking the same question on the road of life-“Are we there yet”? Being in my mid-forties, I am looking forward to the day where things might slow down. But will life really slow down after you have raised your child/children? I don’t think so. There are always new things to learn; there are new twists in the road. Believe me, some days I wish I would be already at my final destination—Home with my heavenly Father. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I love my live, but I am longing for Home when it gets really frustrating down here.

Seeing my Savior face-to-face, asking a question here or there…Sounds great to me. Read the Revelation passage again…Doesn’t is sound marvelous? Worshiping Him without interruption? No more hustle and bustle. The water of life, bright as crystal flowing from His throne…ah!

I know that He still has tasks for me to finish here on earth, so I rejuvenate on a daily basis through Scripture and praise music. I know it is not the same as worshiping Him face-to-face, but it will help me to reach my final destination. I know when you have little children it is not always possible to get rejuvenated on a daily basis, but make it your goal. Your husband, children and you will benefit from it. When you take time with Him, the road of life will be less bumpy—trust me. But foremost trust Him to lighten your travel and get you safely to your final destination…

Lord of Heaven and Earth. You are willing to rejuvenate us when the travel this side of heaven gets bumpy. Lord, help us to make time with You so we will be refreshed for our daily tasks. Help us to clear out our schedule to sit at Your feet and drink from the water of life. We are trusting that You will get us safely to our final destination. In the precious name of Jesus ~ Amen.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Bung Balogna

Bologna is the most innovative food there is. It can be used to stuff cheeks at a picnic, win friends and influence people, and promote dance among the canine population. I fondly remember my bologna days during those quirky moments when my mind travels back to my childhood…

When he's inclined to do so, my dad plays a mean fiddle. I popped the weasel in “the day” more often than I can count; yet each time, I danced with my sisters like it was the first time the tune tickled the drum of our ears.

Lisa was our toy poodle--not to be confused with Preacher’s Wife, who’s clearly not a toy poodle. Although Lisa suffered a traffic accident the day she slam danced with the tire of a moving car, she could dance. Lisa didn't need Fantasia Barino to teach her the “Bobo,” she relied on nothing more than a wiggling slice of bung bologna.

After removing the fiddle from it's felt lined case, my dad always made a trip to the kitchen with his bow in tow, before sitting down to play. There he would carefully hook a piece of meat to the end of that bow so Lisa could join in the fun.

I know that Lisa danced because she was eager to get that meat in her mouth, but I sometimes wonder if perhaps part of that little dog just wanted to dance with her sisters--I know that I did.

Little Lisa was raised by two hand raising, tongue speaking, spirit shaking, Pentecostals--my parents. Little pleased them more than to say, "Praise the Lord!" in front of church friends, only to see our dog hop off of the couch and raise her paws in the air.

Lisa was a special little thing who I enjoyed immensely, but was created for a reason, and that reason was to please God. Sure, I know that Lisa was only doing a trick to please her owner when she lifted her paws in the air, but I do marvel about the spiritual aspect of creation that my mind still can’t wrap its way around.

Luke 19:40 says, ‘But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”’

And my sister, who’s planting her garden, tells her flowers in no uncertain terms, that they were created to please the Lord, and so she’s cheering them on as they bloom. Ok, my family is odd, but you should see her beautiful garden…

The Psalmist often wrote about creation praising God. Each time I hear those words, "Let every living, breathing creature praise GOD! Hallelujah!" I'm reminded of Lisa with her arms in the air, and I sense the pleasure she brings to the Lord. I sometimes wonder if perhaps part of that little dog just wanted to dance before the Lord--I know that I do. Just like it was the first time His voice has tickled the drum of my ears.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Four Words

I recently heard four words that have changed how I view everything. These words are so profound to me, yet so simple. Before I share those words with you, I thought I’d share some instances in which those words can be used. See if you can relate:

You have to work with a difficult co-worker. (A backstabber, perhaps?)

Someone totally misunderstood what you had to say at Bible Study (or on your blog!) and became offended.

Your ob-gyn calls you with questionable test results. You need to come in for a biopsy.

You and your husband are in total disagreement regarding how a certain situation should be handled.

The bills are mounting, and there's not enough money to pay them.

Your toddler just decorated the couch with ketchup.

The car made a pitiful noise when you started it this morning.

Your child's teacher has some "concerns" and has requested a conference with you.

You've prayed for years for a certain situation in your life to change, and it has changed alright… for the worse.

Your teenager is deeply hurt over a friendship, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

A loved one is continually making poor choices.

And on, and on, and on.

These scenarios (and more!) are what we face each and every day as plod this earth. There are moments and seasons of deep and abiding joy, punctuated by times of hurt, angst, and bewilderment. Here are the four words I heard a few weeks ago:

God is using this.

What if:

Beth Moore (or insert the name your favorite Bible study teacher) was in town doing a conference, needed to make some last-minute changes in what she was going to say, and called you from the hotel to see if she could use one of your Bible study resources?

Rachel Ray wanted to use one of your family recipes for her show?

Laura Bush wanted to use one of your children’s books in a talk she was giving at your local library?

Your favorite singer was sitting near you on an airplane wanted to use your iPod?

I know these examples are somewhat far-fetched, but would you let them use what's yours? I would, in a heartbeat! It would be an honor for someone of their renown to want anything I have. I would offer it up gladly! What if the God of the universe, the Creator of all time, events, and people wanted to use the time, events and people in your life for His purposes? This one's not far-fetched at all. He does. God uses finite circumstances to accomplish eternal works. What a privilege it is to think that He would use what concerns me to fulfill His plans! And He does it every day.

Oh, I think I've always been conscious of that on some level, and I’ve certainly repeated Romans 8:28 to myself plenty of times over the years, "God works all things together for good to those who love God, to those are called according to His purpose." (NASB) But lately, it has helped me so much to look situations square in the face and say out loud, "God is using this." These are the raw materials with which He will work as He "works all things together" in my life for my good and for His glory. He will use the big and small events in my life to mold me into the image of His Son, to draw me and others to Himself, to reveal more of His character, to further His Kingdom on this earth, and to bless me in this life as well as eternally. How that knowledge counsels my heart as I get a real sense that it is all in His hands. All of it- the good and the bad- must bow to His perfect will for my life and for this world.

What are you facing today? Disappointment? Joy? Confusion? An area of bondage? Health issues?

Remember, God is using this.

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

On Mothering

Mothers are not just those women who bear children.

Mothers are not just those who adopt children.

Mothers are those who desire children, who love children, who care for children not their own.

Mothers are the women in our lives who bend down to talk with our children and look them in the eye.

Mothers are the women who bring meals to the sick and needy among us.

Mothers are the women who nurture us in so many different ways, showing God's love to all of God's children.

This mother's day is for all of us. All of you.

Happy Mother's Day!

I Am the Lucky One

Down by the lake
in your three year old
rock kitchen,
you made me breakfast,
scrambled eggs, toast, sausage.
We both cup hot coffee
in our hands,
taking imaginary sips.
I am the lucky one.

Hide and seek with the spiders,
bread for ducks,
we watch the lapping water,
unnoticed, from between our
crevassed hiding places,
while others pass quickly by
on their way to "real" jobs.
I am the lucky one.

Autumn the time of your birth
reminds me, "This day shall
not be your burden, but your delight."
I don't know where I'm going or
where I'll be when you're grown,
but right now,
I am the lucky one.

We go to the city
stop for a treat, chips and slurpies.
Mine go down quickly, thoughtlessly,
while I delight in your company,
Salty fingers and red mouth,
you're in no hurry.
Shoppers smile at your good-natured ways.
I am the lucky one.

A day of errands, I need a book.
No one notices, amused, as I do,
how you sit in the window ledge,
warmed by the sun,
among much older readers
in the bookseller's shop.
Your face holds the same serious
expression as theirs, while you read
a ghostly tale, upside down.
I am the lucky one.

Errands finished, we're back outside.
Silently, we bend forward.
Watching the birds among the rose bushes
you learn about rose hips, thorns,
and birds' preferences for crumbs
rather than bagel chunks.
Harried passersby pause, your joy
in the ordinary, contagious,
as you balance on stone benches.
I am the lucky one.

The day is done.
I tiptoe to your room.
Tucking you in, I kiss
your sleeping face
and whisper thanks for the day.
To my own bed I pad
feeling gratitude to God
and wondering why
I am the lucky one.

By Michelle Tobin

Photo credit

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Showing Off

In Texas, wildflower season can be quite erratic. Like our rainfall. And our football teams.

Driving along the country roads this spring out here in Far Western Suburbia, my kids and I comment daily that God is absolutely showing off this year. We've had the most wondrous wildflower season! The flowers so lush and abundant, we find ourselves wanting to cheer God on with unbridled praise. "Go, God!" (Reckon the Cowboys will do as well this year with their new coach?)

And God has every right to show off. He is, after all, God - sovereign over every drop of rain, creator of every tiny bloom, painter of landscapes so breathtakingly beautiful they cannot be adequately captured by any artist or photographer. As His creation proclaims, He is beyond amazing! He, therefore, has every right to show off any time He pleases. And when He does, I am beyond amazed!

So, what gives me the right?

I work hard. I bust my tail to make a clean, comfortable, somewhat organized home for my family. I do my best to provide healthful meals. I encourage and support my husband, guide my children, serve my church and community, love my neighbor, play praises to Him on my instrument and, as a result, honor God as I administer the tasks He has called me to. Right?

Maybe. It sort of depends, really. Because sometimes, I'm really just showing off. And if I'm showing off, who is it really about?

I don't like for people - my husband, my children, my neighbors, my church family - to think badly of me. Many times, that's why I do what I do and strive to do a good job of it...Because I want to present myself to them in a good light.

Boil it all down, this tendency to show off, and what it basically amounts to is pride. Boil any sin down, and pride is usually at the core. But that's for another post.

The opposite of pride? Humility. Far less attainable than we think, true humility only comes through actively knowing God - knowing who He is, knowing what He's done, knowing He is sovereign - and bowing ourselves down in humiliation that we are not, nor will we ever be even close. We must daily seek God's hand as He holds us in the fires that will refine us into the image of Christ's perfect humility.

Sometimes, it's very uncomfortable. Sometimes it means others will hurt my feelings. Sometimes it means I will endure illness or other trials. Sometimes it means I must be silent in the face of persecution or adversity. All to often, it means admitting I'm wrong. In such cases I have the choice to either square my shoulders and jut out my chin or to accept that my rights were nailed to a cross so I can be made perfect in my weakness.

So, I grow flowers in my garden knowing that I can no more create a single flower than I can create an entire universe. The best I can do is kneel in the dirt to care for what He has given me - family, friends, neighbors, a home with a garden, talents, a ministry - and offer back to Him what is already His.

I have faith that He will, in turn, use those things to show Himself off to me. Because He alone has the right to show off, I will continue to praise Him in all things, whether He shows Himself off to me or not.

I have much less faith in the Cowboys.

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Friday, May 11, 2007

The Shelter of the Most High

I sat at the edge of the lake while my children played happily in the water nearby. Suddenly a shadow fell across my face. I looked up just in time to see the sun disappearing behind a big dark cloud. High in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, I had been told that often times a sudden down pour of rain could occur in the middle of a beautiful sunny afternoon. Before I could collect my three oldest children and run for shelter, the heavens opened and a down pour of rain came hard and very heavy. I was amazed how quickly the storm had gathered.
Thinking back to that day with all of us huddled together in the shelter wrapped in our wet towels with the clouds moving over us, my mind shouting the name, "Jesus!" always reminds me of another storm.

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side." 36And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" 39And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40He said to them, "Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?" 41And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?" ( Mark 4:35-41 ESV)

Storms arise unexpectedly in our lives, too. A telephone call brings sudden jolting news. A letter brings disappointment. A child has an accident. A small pain develops into a serious illness. Or maybe the source of distress is just the everyday pressures and tensions that build and build until the dark cloud erupts into a storm.

I, too, have had my share of storms. Some have been brief afternoon showers. Others have been caused by tensions that have built up, threatening my serenity and peace. Still others have burst upon my life suddenly, hitting hard and leaving in their wake damage and debris. Like the disciples I have been afraid and have cried out, “Lord, don’t you care?” And later, when all is calm again, I hear Him say, “Chris, why do you have so little faith?”

He has never promised a life free from storms, but he has promised to be with us in the midst of them and to bring us safely to the other side. Psalm 91 is a triumphant song of faith. In it we learn that God is our dwelling place. It’s under His shelter that we are to abide. Join me now and read through Psalm 91. Read it again and again over the next several days. Your life and even the storm will not look the same.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, "My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust." Psalm 91 :1 (you can continue reading here)

In Him...Chris

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Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The Ultimate Long-Haul

Last Saturday, I participated in a 13-mile mini-marathon for the first time. What a learning experience it was for this novice! Although I had read all kinds of info regarding what to expect on race day, nothing totally prepared me for some of the more odd obstacles I would encounter along those thirteen miles, from runners dressed in costumes to garage bands along the streets blaring really bad music to bystanders toasting us with open beer bottles at 10:00 a.m.
I started strong, but around mile 10, I grew weary and wondered if I could meet my goal of simply finishing the race. Those last three miles were long, giving me lots of time for contemplation and prayer—recalling Bible verses was a lot more inspiring than focusing on how bad my feet and legs hurt.

Many of us are very familiar with Paul’s comparison of living a Christ-filled life with running a long race, how neither is meant for sprinting or for the uncommitted. Paul understood that we believers are entered into the ultimate long-haul.

Even if you are not a runner, here are 10 running tips that parallel facets of the Christian “race:”

1. Train well (faithful, intentional spiritual growth). Those who train and those who don’t may look indistinguishable at the start line, but by the end, it will be obvious who prepared. In Hebrews 12:12, Paul comments about "training:" “Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.” A certain amount of stress, as in weight-training, is good for the body. A certain amount of stress, as in leaving a comfort zone to help others or spending longer time in prayer, is good for the spirit.

2. Watch your step. Manhole covers are not flush with the road. Trash is slippery. Potholes are treacherous. In a spiritual sense, Proverbs is full of warnings about snares such as laziness, lust and foolishness. In 1 Peter 5:8, we are reminded of the enemy who stalks us from the sidelines. Remember that Jesus himself told us to be “shrewd as snakes and gentle as doves” (Matt. 10:16). This race is serious business--there’s a lot at stake, so "heads up!"

3. Stay nourished and hydrated, but don’t over-do it. Our needs and wants are legitimate, and God has made provision to meet them. If we continually focus on satiating those desires, however, there are consequences. In a marathon, too much water or energy bars can mean an unpleasant time-out at the porta-potty. In our Christian walk, focusing on the material dulls and distracts us from our goal. So grab refreshing water when you need it, enjoy a piece of fruit, but your focus is not on when and where the next reward or satisfaction will come from; it’s on the goal ahead.

4. To borrow a phrase from Max Lucado, “Travel light.” The smallest fanny pack can become a huge burden on the road. Likewise, the smallest grudge can create a lifetime of bitterness. Also, leave behind negative self-talk. So what if you tripped up a step or two back—you are already in a different place. To rehearse our faults and failings along the road is about as counterproductive as fighting any external obstacle, if not worse. Living in grace means traveling light. When I am running, if I exert the energy to turn my head and look behind me, when I look forward again, my pace is off, and I’ve slowed down to an awkward gait. In Hebrews 12:1, we are told, “Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” We are not meant to live in bondage or in the past.

5. Stuff happens; keep going. Saturday, I dropped my MP3 player in a puddle of urine on the floor of a porta-potty, got Gatorade thrown on me, lost my sunglasses and got sunburned in spite of sun block. Nothing I read suggested these particular distractions would happen. The same way, no one told me when they handed me my newborn that someday he would need extensive jaw surgery. No one could have prepared me for the marital challenges specific to my husband’s personality and mine. Stuff just happens, and praise God, in these instances we are not alone. But the onus is on us to stay committed in faith to the One who, in the end, makes all crooked things straight.

6. Think about your goal continually. Every day, I think about death and heaven. I am not morbid, and I am not so other-worldly that I am out of touch with life here and now. It’s just that the older I get, the more I look forward to being in heaven with Jesus. Again, Paul admonishes us, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Keeping your eye on the “prize” keeps you energized and inspired.

7. Encourage others. At the race, encouragement came from bystanders, police officers, volunteers, family and friends. One of the lightest moments in my race came when a cheerleading squad chanted at runners: “We know you’re dying; (clap, clap) Keep trying!” We are to bear each other’s burdens and lift one another up. Have you been anyone’s cheerleader lately?

8. Pace yourself. Again, this is a marathon. If you try to sprint the entire race, you will burn out. In our spiritual lives, pacing is tricky because we want to be productive in the kingdom. We want to serve with all our hearts--and heaven forbid we stagnate. Forward momentum is good, but most of us have at one time felt the burden of over-committing or embarking on a ministry that we are not called to or gifted for. It is exhausting, and it is not Jesus’ goal to keep us in a state of exhaustion. It is OK from time to time to take a little break and stretch your muscles—just get back in that race and faithfully go at the pace God designed for you.

9. Don’t focus on how you look or perform. I am a little over-weight. I have cheap running clothes and a cheap sport watch. I run slower than some people walk. So what? Onlookers can’t see my heart, how much I love running/walking or how inspired I am. They can't see how good I feel about maintaining fitness. They can't see how thankful I am that my body will walk and breathe on its own and is not dependent on machinery, due to illness. In the same way, we need to remember that the outer man is but a shell holding the real man. We have so many different gifts and weaknesses that comparisons are really moot. We are individuals deemed worthy by God of running the race and gaining the prize to which we are called.

10. Finish well. 2 Timothy 4:7-8: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” We long to hear our Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Carry on, fellow marathoners—finish well!

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Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Whatever is True

Today. I wrote. And deleted. Wrote...and deleted. I gazed out the window, watching the leaves flutter. Shook my head and focused again. Wrote. And deleted.

And so my husband, watching this sluggish scenario, shared with me a story.

Several years ago, while preparing his sermon, our minister-friend, Daniel, found himself searching for something profound to say. Something that would knock the socks off of the congregation.

But nothing came.

He tried to wring it out. He wrote. And deleted. Wrote...and deleted. And then…

What can you say that is true?

A still small voice.

The only words worthy of speaking, the most profound revelation of all, comes in the truth from Scripture.

So today. I’ve wrung it out. I’ve written and re-written, both mentally and on this computer. Yet nothing comes. Nothing, that is, except a whisper of pure, precious truth.

At one time we, too, were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs, having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. (Titus 3:3-8, emphasis mine)

The story of God’s great love for us, poured out in the sacrifice of His own Son, set into motion so long ago when the agony of being separated from His creation was too great, is simply too wonderful not to share. Too marvelous to add to with any of my own words today.

Read those precious words, again and again, for they are as silver tried in the furnace, and purified. Hide them in your heart, but do not leave them there, speak of His faithfulness and salvation. Repeat them to yourselves throughout the day, when you wake, rise before dawn to cry for help; when you sleep, rise at midnight to give thanks. Repeat them to others whose souls thirst for it, for it is like cold water to a weary soul.

These things are trustworthy, these things are beneficial. To everyone. Salt and Light.

Speak the truth. It stands forever.

Much longer than anything else I might have shared today.

*Edited to turn off comments - letting the Word stand alone today. Thank you!

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Monday, May 7, 2007

You Deserve a Six-figure Salary!

Last week, I was intrigued by a story on a national news broadcast. The story highlighted the multiple jobs a mother performs and the equivalent compensation she would receive as a paid professional.

It is a whopping six-figure salary!

Predicated on the extensive domestic duties we perform, it is estimated a mother is entitled to a base salary of $47,179. However, when overtime is included, the annual pay skyrockets to $138,645.

Mothers, on average, log an astonishing 91.7-hour workweek. We multitask not because we can but because it is necessary. We cook dinner, set the table, answer the phone, wipe our toddler’s nose, all while helping our ten-year-old with math homework.

Moms are long-term thinkers. We make choices every day that often won’t bear fruit for 30 years. We are cheerleaders, boo-boo fixers, and hot chocolate makers. We are the disciplinarian, the psychologist, and our child’s spiritual watchdog. We are faithful prayer warriors.

Motherhood offers no monetary compensation and rarely are we encouraged with a pat on the back for a job well done. We receive no vacation time and if we are sick, we work anyway. However, the benefits are excellent.

As mothers we are privileged to peak in on our cherubs as they sleep to glimpse perfect peace and beauty. Our heart melts from a spontaneous hug and kiss. We experience a profound pride while watching our child take their first step or score their first soccer goal and rejoice the day they are baptized. We delight in their first crush, first pimple, and first date. We pray diligently over their learners permit.

We are elated over a great report card, a kind word spoken to a sibling, a crayon-colored card for our birthday and a small voice that says, “I wuv you.”

We are blessed by God to be called to this profession. Motherhood opens a window in our soul to understand God’s unconditional love. Mothering brings joy as well as heartache but most of the time we find fulfillment. We are serving the Most High by serving our children and their earthly father. There is no greater calling in the world than to raise up the next generation of Godly adults.

Proverbs 31:
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.

26 She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

27 She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.

28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:

29 "Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all."

30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

31 Give her the reward she has earned,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

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Sunday, May 6, 2007

Feeding the Snake

There was a Sunday about 7 years ago I will never forget as long as I live. Our oldest son, then four, had attended his first "real" Sunday School Class after graduating from the nursery. Emotionally for me, he may as well have begun Kindergarten. I could not wait to get ahold of that child and find out everything he had learned in his new 'big boy' class.

When we got into the car, my interrogation began, "Did you like your class? Was your teacher nice? Were you scared? Do you want to go back again next week?" To which he answered, "Yes. Yes. No. Yes." They learn the Man Thing early: Few words, fewer details.

In an attempt to get more information (because you know we moms need the minutia), I asked "Well, who was your lesson about?" His response? "I have NO idea but I did find out if people eat poison apples it makes snakes talk." I would be willing to bet Adam and Eve have never heard that version of their story before.

Of course, The Preacher and I laughed and laughed. "Oh isn't it cute how he got that all mixed up?" But the more I thought about it, the more I believed he got the point dead on.

In thinking about ways we "empower the snake", I was reminded of this passage:

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Ephesians 4:25-32

I think of all the times Satan has attempted to embitter me towards another person by subtly slipping me the poisonous fruits of self-pity, anger, bitterness, and distrust. Like Eve, I am often tempted to take a bite by thinking I am somehow entitled to harbor these feelings. If we are not careful, these are just the emotions Satan will use to feed our hearts until we grow fat with pride. Satan is very crafty in using human relationships to gain a foothold. For example, when we are angry with someone we have to see on a daily basis, every encounter gives him the opportunity to whisper, "Can you believe she did that to you? Said that about your children? Brushed you aside like that?" We then have two choices: Take the bait, or feed the snake. Consider Genesis 3:15 (NLT) and I'll explain:

"From now on, you and the woman will be enemies, and your offspring and her offspring will be enemies. He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."

I don't know about you, but the woman in me still feels righteously indignant that Satan cornered Eve. I can't help but have compassion for her and the ridicule she has endured all these thousands of years from the generations of people who blame our plight on her naivete'. Do you ever wonder if Adam brought it up to her? "You know Eve, we wouldn't be in this mess if it weren't for you, dear." Something tells me he did at least once in their 930 years together. This fact alone makes me praise God all the more that he gave her a chance to redeem herself by being the mother of Salvation.

The fact remains that Satan still singles women out today. He attempts to isolate us, busy us, frenzy and frazzle us until we are in a corner where he can feed us poisonous fruit. We can fall for his scheme once again, or we can instead feed the snake: a darling high-heel in the head that is. Genesis 3:15 reminds us that Satan will always inflict pain, but that he will ultimately be crushed under our feet. On behalf of every one of us who has ever fell prey to his wickedness, I want to plant my spiritual stiletto in such a way that he will never forget it. "You've fed me long enough - now eat this."

It's time for a rising up, girls. Time for recognizing Satan's game and calling him on it. It's time we crush his head! Let's beg the Lord for spiritual eyes to discern the enemy's schemes. Put on the full armor of God, and whatever you do, don't forget your shoes!

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