Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Wedding Invitation

People don't always see others for what they are.  When I first met my husband, he was full of bitterness and attitude -- MAJOR attitude.  I pegged him for spoiled, demanding, miserable, and intolerant.  I was right.  But what I hadn't seen was a man who loves his children, who struggles to be a man in a society that frowns on authority and strength of character, and a man who'd been betrayed.

When Scott met me, he saw me as beautiful.  Despite my worn out look, my mood swings and my attitude -- MAJOR attitude -- he could look past those things and into my heart.  He saw the mother who loved her children, who struggled to make ends meet, who's fatigue and short answers were merely a symptom of the day to day conflict in which she was engaged.

Scott rescued me.  As God was changing my heart, Scott was changing my circumstances.  He showed me what it meant for a father to love his children; I began to know God as my Father.  He explained things from a man's point of view; I learned to love with God's heart although others are different.  He taught me how a good husband loves his bride; I began to see the love of Christ for His bride, the church -- the body of believers. 

Jeremiah 3:14 -- "I am married unto you."

Imagine, if you will, the groom who waits expectantly at the front of the church for his bride, clothed in spotless white to join him.  To him, she is the most beautiful one on whom he has ever rested his eyes.  To him, she is purity and light.  He has worked just to meet her, and will continue to work to keep her.  He has pulled her up to know just how precious she is to him.  He will cherish her.  He will share her sorrows and joys.  He will protect her.  He will never leave her.  He provides for her.  He shares whatever wealth he has with her.  He will give her a new name -- his own.  Nothing but death will separate him from her. 

The church of Christ is His bride.  But unlike the mortal union that is marriage, death is no wedge between Jesus and His bride.  In heaven, Jesus and His bride will celebrate their blessed bond.  A bond in which the bride and groom have been conformed to one heart.

I see Scott very differently now.  I see him as the one who was not ignorant to my imperfections, but chose to see me with loving eyes.  I see him as a hero to his children and me, and a servant to God.  I see him as the one who's love brought the pages of God's Word to life for me -- a living example of the Husband, Christ. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Are We Even Speaking the Same Language?

Four years of high school Spanish and I can ask for the bathroom, identify a seahorse, and correctly name six of the seven days of the week.  So when Christine told me last year that she wanted to take French, I knew it was time for Rosetta Stone.  Six months later she was still screaming, "I HATE this stupid thing!" in English.  Apologetics it is, then.  Knowing her plans to go away to school next year, I figured it could only help. 

We are currently talking about some of the religions that have taken hold in America -- Islam being one of them -- and what appears on TLC, but "All-American Muslim," a new series which premiered last night!  In the first episode, an Irish Catholic man was converting to Islam in order to marry a Muslim woman; by admission, she does not adhere to Islam's strict practices, and based on the discussion with his mother, his conversion is more of an issue of tradition than eternal destiny.  In one scene, Jeff the groom-to-be is speaking with his future father-in-law about his conversion.  His fiancee's father says, "You are not renouncing anything, only adding to it."  One of the greatest lessons taught in the Garden of Eden is that the best lies are those closest to the truth.  Isn't this what any person making a difficult decision wants to hear?  "Relax, you can have your cake and eat it, too.  It's a minor adjustment."

First of all, the "shahada" offered by converts (and by Jeff in last night's episode) is "There is no God but Allah.  Muhammad is the messenger of Allah," or something very similar.  That in and of itself is exclusive -- "no other."  Stating there can be no other, forsaking and renouncing any that have had Allah's place before.  And The One True God?  What does He say?  Exodus 20:5: "Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God..."  He's not looking for any competition, nor is there any worthy of competing with Him.  The act of claiming any other god to be God, or to share the throne of heaven with Him, is renouncing God Almighty -- Jehovah.  God will not, cannot share His throne.

Secondly, adding?  Is God the Creator one who is in need of supplement?  "And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good." (Gen. 1:31a)  Is God's grace or power insufficient?  "But he said to me,   'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'" (2 Cor. 2:19a)  Is God's Word out dated?  "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness," (2 Timothy 3:16)  Is God's Word not enough?  "You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you." (Deut. 4:2)

Lastly, and probably most importantly, Allah is not the God of the Bible; Allah is not Jehovah.  Without fumbling my way through a lesson on Islam, in which I am woefully inadequate, and taking up even more of your precious time, I know this much -- we are not speaking the same language.  Allah is not a trinity.  According to the Qur'an (sura 19:88-92) Allah has no son; it is a monstrous allegation and at it, the entire earth rises up in protest.  Allah "loveth not transgressors," (sura 2:190), but 1 John 4:8 tells us "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."  If Allah does not even know God -- Jehovah -- how can he be God?  In Islam, there is no substitute for the sacrifice that sin requires, just the hope that one's deeds will be enough to garner eternity in paradise; sin is not eradicated, ransom paid in full, but merely covered, forgiven by a completely sovereign deity who does not promise paradise beyond a shadow of a doubt to anyone -- Islamic teaching is always followed "with the hope" of entering paradise.  All is subject to the will of Allah.

When faced with the rhetoric of those who deny The One True God and preach syncretism as a politically correct way for us to "co-exist," I'll rely on the truth spoken by The Rock Eternal.  "Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Choosing Freedom

As a child, I don't remember talking about feelings very much.  Talking about feelings made you vulnerable, and in our house, vulnerable was never something you wanted to be.  I remember writing.  Writing helped me put on paper all the thoughts swirling around in my head -- things I thought I'd never be able to speak out loud. 

As the story of my parents unfolded, I realized the more I heard, the less I knew. It was a story shrouded in vague answers and circumvented truths.  I grew up choosing sides.  My mother knitted Christmas stockings, and baked cupcakes for homeroom; my mother talked to the old folks at the nursing home.  My mother would cry as dinner dried out in the oven, waiting for Dad to come home.  I chose Mom's side.

Two years ago this month, my father stepped into glory.  His death has done more for me spiritually than any other single event in my life, and I doubt he'd mind my saying that.

Truthfully, I expected his death to release me from bondage, a bondage I had known since childhood -- the bondage of a little girl trying so desperately to win her father's affection through any means possible.  It didn't.  My father's death did not release me from anything, but Jesus did.

I write to you now, ashamed -- ashamed to say that all my years in Christian school, in Christian counselling, attending a Christian church...  I spent them all in bondage because I chose bondage!  I went to my father's bedside shortly before he died.  I wanted to tell him how God had blessed me with a wonderful husband, a fantastic family and a rich life.  I wanted him to make his last days with his family count for more than a cheap suit on Sunday morning and aloofness by Sunday night.  I wanted him to give me some heirloom of wisdom or hope that I could carry with me when he was gone.  I wanted to be there for him as he lay dying; to walk him to the throne room of his Heavenly Father.  All my expectations of a Hallmark moment left me sitting in my truck crying, hyperventilating and banging my fist on the steering wheel.  Bound by my ego, bound by my expectations, and bound by the idea that I was somehow less than I could be, because my father would never live up to those expectations.

At his memorial service, I sat there with the assurance my father was happily in heaven.  I listened as others testified what a blessing my father had been to them.  I listened as others spoke of the father I never knew.  And then, I did know...

My father's testimony may not have included me or others of his family, and though he hae to answer for that, it does not mean he had no testimony at all.  Others tell me he had a heart for God.  I find comfort in that, for I often worried if he had a heart at all.  I am not his judge.  I was never promised a champion for a father; I've never been entitled to a "Dad."  But when I pray to my Heavenly Father I know the One who answers exceeds all my expectations, has lovingly and wisely created me, and today directs my paths.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Got Any Spare Change?


Matthew 2:19-23
19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”
21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.

So when, exactly, did God change His mind?  If Jesus was prophesied as a Nazarene, why the extra step, a false alarm to rise and return to Israel?

1 Samuel 15:29
He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.

If God does not change His mind, if God was not outsmarted by Herod's son ascending the throne after him, what was this?

Isaiah 55:8-9
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.




I don't presume to know the mind of God; all I can attest is what I have experienced personally, or what God has provided all of us in the Scriptures.  I do know God has "geared me up," so to speak, to face one event, and has led me onto an entirely different path.  Is this because of choices I made in the interim?  Perhaps.  Is this because the actions of others have had some impact on how things developed?  I'm not sure.  Was it some sort of heavenly test? a dry run?  I can't say.  But the way in which I meet each calling, and the disappointment, confusion or relief I experience when things turn out differently than I expect, change me, change who I am, and change my relationship with my Heavenly Father. 

God has called us to be faithful.  To pray.  To boldly approach His throne.  To ask that it may be given.  To seek and know Him.     




Saturday, October 29, 2011

Oh, Brother!

The shh-tic-tic of Bishop's paws on the hardwoods next to our bed.  The short trek to the back door, only to find it's raining big, floppy, cold drops; there's no way he's going out in that.  Burrowing back into bed between sheets that have by this time begun to grow cold. 

All of it enough to flip the throttle of my slightly warped, always active mind, over to "FULL."  Or, as one of my favorite childhood heroes used to say, "My Spidey-senses are tingling."  Despite having gone to sleep only four short hours ago.  The reason for this sudden insomnia?  Less than twelve hours ago, we were preparing to leave my "nephew's" wedding -- a nephew I never knew until my father's death in 2009.  This is where my story begins.

My father had been married before he and my mother were married.  A simple, so-what sort of explanation far too common in this day and age.  Given the circumstances, the "players" involved, and the convoluted stuff cheesy stories are made of, yeah, it kinda was a big deal, but I share it with others, so I won't lay it all out there, so to speak. 

I don't remember ever not knowing I had other siblings.  As a child, I would wonder what my "big brothers" were like; there were two.  Particularly, when my little brother -- the one I shared both parents with -- was getting on my nerves, I would imagine trading him in for a brother I could really look up to; figuratively and literally, I guess. 

When my father passed a couple of years ago, I finally met my younger older brother.  Looking into his eyes was for me, like looking into the eyes of my father -- something I'd never been able to do.  Talking with him was reminiscent of some of the theological discussions my father and I would have when I was a teenager -- sometimes because of his great knowledge of Scripture, sometimes because the uncomfortable silence would gnaw at me and it was my "go-to" for finding some common ground between us.  But this?  This was different.  This was another piece of a puzzle, gently locking into place; this was a different kind of brother than the one of whom I had dreamed.

Two years later, less than a day ago, right smack in the middle of a mad dash to the parking lot to grab gum from the truck, so I could meet some folks without actually breathing coffee into their faces, and...

Number One Brother steps from between two chairs and introduces himself.  Wow!  (BTW, I'd considered calling him older older brother, but wisely I think, abandoned that point of reference.)  So how does it feel?  Still processing that one, but here's what I've got so far...

Superficially, I am amazed at the similarities in mannerisms and facial expressions; things heredity doesn't seem to explain.

Profoundly, I have been blessed with two great brothers and their families.  Half-brothers as a result of biology, but they are brothers in Christ -- a facet I consider to be of far more significance.  If shared genes, or curiosity, or common invitations never draw us to relationship again, I hope a mutual love of Our Lord and Savior will.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Way

This road I am on is not my own.  While it has been given me to travel, one day I will be forced to reckon with what I have or have not done while moving toward its end.  My reward will not come because I have travelled many miles or few.  My prize will not be given because the road has been exceptionally difficult or blessedly smooth.  This road is a gift, a gift which I must pass on to those I meet along the way; a gift I am called to share with those who do not yet know The Way.  When I reach the end of this road I will stand alone before the One has given me this gift, My Heavenly Father.  He will ask, "Who have you invited to follow you?"

"I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man comes unto the Father except through me." ~ Jesus Christ 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Reason to Hope

Romans 5:1 (NIV)
"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."

From Spurgeon~~

BEING justified by faith, we have peace with God. Conscience accuses no longer. Judgment now decides for the sinner instead of against him.

If God be just, I, a sinner, alone and without a substitute, must be punished; but Jesus stands in my stead and is punished for me; and now, if God be just, I, a sinner, standing in Christ, can never be punished. God must change His nature before one soul, for whom Jesus was a substitute, can ever by any possibility suffer the lash of the law. Therefore, Jesus having taken the place of the believer—having rendered a full equivalent to divine wrath for all that His people ought to have suffered as the result of sin, the believer can shout with glorious triumph, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" Not God, for He hath justified; not Christ, for He hath died, "yea rather hath risen again." My hope lives not because I am not a sinner, but because I am a sinner for whom Christ died; my trust is not that I am holy, but that being unholy, He is my righteousness. My faith rests not upon what I am, or shall be, or feel, or know, but in what Christ is, in what He has done, and in what He is now doing for me.

Monday, September 19, 2011

You Think You've Got Problems...

Before I share this, I want everyone to understand whatever good you see in me is of God.  I am nothing without Him.  Having said that, I want to encourage everyone that God can do the most amazing things, including touch your heart to serve others though your heart may have hurt of its own.

A few weeks ago, one of my drivers was completing his last few hours of work before heading off to vacation.  He'd planned this fabulous trip to Myrtle Beach or one of those other glorious golf destinations.  You could see the excitement in his face.  In fact, his excitement made me excited. 

Except for one thing, he'd hurt his knee.  Which explains the true reason for our conversation in the first place.  Anyone knows, if you've got two weeks of vacation coming your way, you don't stand around talking about it!  So, he had to report this injury, but in so doing, he began to really whine about the possibility of it affecting his game.  He was really upset!  So upset, I began to be upset for him!  How awful to be so excited about something, to be so close to realizing it, and -- SLAM!  Just like that, you're sidelined.

A few more minutes of his creased brow, awkward pacing and worried tone, when suddenly he says, "Why am I doing this?  I know you've got problems.  You don't want to listen to me.  Your problems are much worse, I know."

And he does know.  He has almost firsthand knowledge of some of the things Scott and I experience.  But at that time, those things had never crossed my mind.  I hadn't even thought of thinking of my problems!  If I'd taken the time to compile some ridiculous report on "who has it worse," chances are, Scott and I would have trumped his scaled-back vacation with little effort.  At that time, my focus was on someone facing disappointment.

This brings me back to what I said at the start.  Whatever good you see in me is of God.  I don't want to ruin my life or the lives of others with pettiness, jealousy, bitterness, or unforgiveness.  I want to enjoy the life God has given me and live the life God has given me.  To face each day and each circumstance with a smile, to be there for those who wish to share their victories and defeats, to show others what God has done for me, to testify to God's mercy and grace.

God was alive and working in me that day.  God answered my prayer for change and fullness in my life.  He will do the same for you.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Review: "Seven Days In Utopia"

I said I'd get back to you...

So, I was really excited about seeing this film.  Robert Duvall, a golf theme, the "aw-shucks, doe-eyed innocence" of Lucas Black, down-home values and horses.  Mix with a G Rating the whole family can enjoy... duh, winning.

Well, not exactly.  Don't get me wrong, I am recommending it -- strongly.  But beware the sappy elements. 

Cliche Story: Alcoholic no longer in the game because of his past takes under his wing a struggling young champion of course, because he sees a little of himself in the nipper.

Cliche Sub-Plot: Arrogant native tries to bully the local sweet young thing into romance.  New guy makes a distinct impression on her, and said native becomes instant adversary of new guy.  Later, of course, the animosity heads on out to pasture and all is right for these three crazy kids.

Unique Ending, but Obvious Attempt to Win "Converts": Without saying anymore than this... "And that's a bad thing, why?"

So, yeah, many elements you could see coming from a country mile, but my family -- my whole family -- left with a warm feeling in their hearts, a renewed faith in entertainment, a smile on their lips, and if I'm not mistaken... a sappy little tear peeking out from the corners of their eyes.


You just can't beat a little schmaltz now and then.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Ladies! It Seems We Have Some Growing Up to Do!

So, I've got -- maybe -- two hours to myself.  What am I going to do with them?  The problem is not having nothing to do, the problem is having so much to do.

My husband is the best.  He helps around the house.  He even vacuums way more than I would ever think of vacuuming.  He helps clean up in the kitchen, and never leaves dishes in the sink.  I pre-cook meals throughout the week, but Scott heats them, prepares side dishes if necessary, and makes sure everyone else in the house eats a balanced dinner.  He helps run Christine to her evening activities, and he will pick up odds and ends from the store.  Last week, he even helped put laundry away, but trust me, I'm not looking for that again soon.  The point is, as wonderful as he is, he never seems to have trouble doing nothing when he has the opportunity.  I don't think that makes him a bad person; I just think that makes him a guy.

So, why is it women feel so driven to be everything to everyone, and sometimes push those around us to do the same?

Sarah Jessica Parker's new movie, "I don't Know How She Does It," is supposed to be a funny and charming look at the "superwoman."  I haven't seen it, but from what I hear, she holds it all together (at least on the outside) -- being great mom, ideal wife, fun and sensitive girlfriend, talented career woman, all while rocking a pair of stilettos.  Apparently, not so far off Parker's personal experience.  And women are relating!  I realize there's no surprise there, but why?  Why, if I polled the female population on Sunday morning and asked how many women have ever wrestled with falling short of the Proverbs 13 woman, would almost every hand go up?  If I checked the local elementary school, why would a find a car line of women who workout more than an hour a day, are on perpetual diets, have a copy of some women's health or glamour magazine stashed in the car to read while they wait, have had Botox or boobs or both -- or are saving for them! -- spend more in a month for waxing and filling than their husbands have spent on underwear in the last decade, stash their credit card receipts at the bottom of their D&G handbag, and their purchases behind their son's old crib in the garage?  If I asked around at work would I find any moms who don't feel tired, stressed, angry, or incapable?  Would I find any that know why they feel as they do?

When your eight year old daughter has a thorough knowledge of what it takes to be a popular girl, but can't explain the word "character" to you...  When your six year old daughter says she's fat...  When your twelve year old daughter has a major meltdown because you refused to buy her pants with "PINK" written across her posterior and every other tween and teen in youth group has them...

It's time to find out why we feel so pressured to be perfect, put a stop to it, so we can teach our girls to love who God made them to be!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

'niyaS tsuJ

In a world where Kirstie Alley's weight loss, Charlie Sheen's meltdown, and Michael Vick's pants (or lack thereof) are headline news...

At the Walgreens checkout today:

"Would you like to buy some M&M's?"

No.

"Would you like to donate a dollar to finding a cure for Diabetes?"

So, I can buy a bag of M&M's and a cure for Diabetes in the same transaction?  Thank you Walgreens!


In the Huffington Post:

"Michael Moore, Elisabeth Hasselbeck Clash Over Bin Laden Death On 'The View'"

What's next -- the Donner party for health code violations? or Elvis Presley for drug possession?  I mean, Bin Laden's dead.  We're gonna argue over whether a dead guy should have had a trial...  He is dead, right?


In my snail-mailbox:

This week alone, I have received five -- count 'em, five -- mailers from Chase, AmEx, and Bank of America begging for my business.  Have you received any of these?  Really, I doubt Kim Kardashian's wedding invites were any nicer.  Glossy, embossed envelopes cradling heavy-weight cardstock tri-folds that promise me the world at my fingertips if only I will indenture myself to their disseminators.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't these the same folks who received bailouts from the government a few years back? who sent their people on junkets and doled out huge bonuses? who are now spending more on fancy solicitations than I spent on my last automobile?


In my Elle magazine: 

Wrong of me, really, to single out Elle, but horoscopes...  How is it possible that every month I can meet the love of my life or get that big promotion I've "been dreaming of?"  What if I've already found the love of my life? or I haven't been dreaming of much of anything but Starbucks and Godiva Chocolates?

And how is it possible that my horrible-scope in one mag can warn me of "money troubles around the 15th," but another says to "look out for that big financial windfall around the middle of the month!"  Who writes this stuff?  Worse, who reads it?  I thought Miss Cleo had taught us all a lesson.


In my brain:

In a backwards society where we inject ourselves with botulism to look healthy, and we encourage people to be edgy -- that is, until they fall off -- then we castigate them, does it surprise anyone that we will give our credit card information via the internet to complete strangers, but family counselling is a multi-million dollar industry because we can't seem to communicate with -- or trust -- own family members?!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Just Foolin'

The Bible says a lot about fools.  I've been a fool.  I know a few.  But just for some interesting reading, I thought I'd post some of these verses.

Proverbs 26:6-12 (ESV)

Whoever sends a message by the hand of a fool
cuts off his own feet and drinks violence. 

 Like a lame man’s legs, which hang useless,
is a proverb in the mouth of fools.

 Like one who binds the stone in the sling
is one who gives honor to a fool.  (I'm picturing the sling coming right back around and pegging the user right in the face -- or worse!)

 Like a thorn that goes up into the hand of a drunkard
is a proverb in the mouth of fools.

 Like an archer who wounds everyone
is one who hires a passing fool or drunkard.

 Like a dog that returns to his vomit
is a fool who repeats his folly.  (As a dog owner, former drunk and hardhead, this one's a personal fave.)

 Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes?
There is more hope for a fool than for him.

Enjoy!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

I spoke with someone a few weeks back. Someone who is so thoroughly unhappy with her life, she is willing to destroy the lives of those around her. She begrudges even her own family the smallest bit of comfort and, with intent and calculation will poison the well of anyone else she suspects of being satisfied. It truly is sad. I began praying for this woman even more than I’d been praying before. I began asking God for a way to love her as He does.
“God, I can’t imagine being as small and spiteful as she has been. I can’t imagine deeply hurting those I love because of my own insecurities, as she has. Therefore, Father, I can’t begin to relate; I can’t begin to understand her thoughts. And while I can pray for her, I am having a very hard time loving her. Please help me.”
Yeah, I know just a little self-righteous, but I really could not see myself as being anything like that, and I genuinely wanted to find some common ground so I could pray as effectively as possible, empathize with her and get a feel for how I should pray.

Heading off to a long Saturday morning at work, I quickly scoured my shelves for some reading material. I came across a workbook I’d picked up, “Who Calls Me Beautiful?” It’s Regina Franklin’s path to “Finding our true image in God.”
Five hours later…
Chapter One – “List three areas of physical beauty – according to the world’s standard – that you feel you lack.”
Done.
Then – “Identify one of your deep spiritual longings.”
Um…um…

“Really,” I thought to myself. “You can’t think of one?” 

Now, I know I have deep spiritual longings; I know I can name them, but I was distracted by that fact my physical imperfections had been right there, front and center, but the spiritual…?  I suddenly realized just how much I am like "her."   

How often do I take things personally and lashed out, because I am not OK with seeing that quality in myself?  How much time have I spent critiquing my legs instead of wearing that dress that Scott loves?  Is my relationship with God the priority that it should be, or am I too busy worrying about superficial things?  Have pettiness and jealousy caused me to open my mouth, ruining a perfect moment with my husband?  Wasn't it just a few weeks ago, I sat in church obsessing over the run in my stocking?  When a friend wanted to spend some time discussing the sermon later...?  How often do I bow my head in prayer, only to find minutes later I'm thinking about what I should have said at the last fund raiser?  or worse, what that nut job from HR did say?  Aren't I just as bitter and frustrated as "she" is when I set off to find happiness in anything without Jesus?  When I come up empty, have I ever rained on anyone else's parade to salve my wounds?   

"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness..." -- Matthew 6:33


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remember...

Symbols of 9/11...

The towers burning. 

Firefighters raising a flag on the rubble of Ground Zero. 

A smouldering field in western PA. 

The crumbling walls of our country's bastion of defense, The Pentagon.

America's flag.

We look to these symbols to remember, to mourn and to summon up the strength to continue.  And while these memorials can bring comfort to our hearts, it is Jesus who thoroughly comforts the soul.

John 4:14  (ESV)
"...but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.  The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

Today, as we remember those who gave their lives in service, those who demostrated courage with their very last breaths, those who left us far too soon, those who were much loved fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, and even those so corrupted by the Evil One they would give their lives in service to him, we look to Jesus, the author and finisher of faith, who endured suffering, was and is the object of scorn, promises to shepherd and abide with us in our joy as well as our pain, and now sits at His Father's right hand, awaiting the homecoming of those who love Him.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A 9/11 Story

Christmas morning.  1974.  The house is numb with the overwhelming melancholy that crashed the party just as the last gift was opened.  My mother has initiated a slow reawakening, stirring the air with the smells of a holiday meal and the anticipation of friends and family to arrive.  I am huddled in a corner reading a brand new Nancy Drew.  I put my cheek against the cool, crisp pages and breathe in the pungent aroma of unspoiled type. 


As long as I can remember I have been a bibliophile.  In fifth grade I became so engrossed in "Harriet the Spy," I wanted to be her.  I began taking notes on the activities of my neighbors.  Scribbling the least interesting tidbits on an old 5 and dime store tablet, in hopes that sooner or later the pieces of my puzzle would tumble into place, revealing some sinister wave of crime on our sleepy little street.  The result was Mrs. Wooster, our school principal, calling me to her desk to discuss my punishment.  It seems my neighbor and classmate, Larry Nell had gotten a bit tired of my snooping, and when he found one of my little observances in a library book I'd recently returned, the die was cast.  This particular missive read, "Mrs. Wooster gets on my nerves."  Mea culpa.

In all my years of gorging myself on book after book, it wasn't until adulthood, as a homeschooler in fact, that I began reading some of the best literature of my life.  "Cry, the Beloved Country."  "How Green Was My Valley."  "To Kill a Mockingbird."  "Shepherd of the Hills."  And most recently, "Uncle Tom's Cabin."  When a good story gently unfolds before your eyes...  When experience and symbolism are so carefully and consistently woven throughout...  When the universality of the tale is so evident...  That is literature that speaks to more than the eyes or ears of the reader.  That kind of literature speaks to the heart, the heritage, the essence of humanity.  To be lost in the story of man's struggle to rise above, to follow the rolling hills and muddy waters of ordinary existence straight to the feet of Justice herself, to see victory as attainable for all mankind -- that is what draws me to a good book.  It is with such conviction that I pause to examine the "story" of 9/11.

A solid week of biographical and autobiographical accounts.  Documentary after documentary on the "rebuilding."  Endless speculation over 2001, and prognostication and suspicion over the possibility of attacks in 2011.  But where are we as a nation?  Are we better off than we were ten years ago?  Have the stories of heroism and loss made any difference at all?  As the tragedy of 9/11 continues to play before our eyes, does it speak to our hearts of justice, courage, kinship or America's struggle for God's blessing?  Ten years ago, stadiums full of U.S. citizens tearfully sang "God Bless America."  Did we mean it?  Do we care for God's blessing?  Do we even recognize the existence of God any more today than we did when we watched thousands of our neighbors perish in what some have said was a wake-up call to our backslidden country?  What have we, as a people done with the story that was written that clear blue September day?

The flags are in ribbons, or lie somewhere underneath the outdoor Christmas lights.  The simple kindnesses we witnessed for so many days and weeks after the attacks, have been replaced by rage at our airports.  The heads that were bowed in deep reverence for the pointless loss of life and a desire to find a Foundation on which to rise again, can't rise above the pillow on Sunday morning.  Eyes that shed tear after tear for those lost and those who had lost, now watch hour after hour of ego maniacal athletes and celebrities as they live and die in excess.  Multi-colored hands that were joined across "fruited plains," bi-partisan lines and societal classes, no longer reach out to raise up another, but crash down in frustration at the negotiating table, or wield the gun that generates yet another statistic in gang related news.  Where is Justice?  Where is Equality and Fraternity?  What has been our heritage, or even worse...

What will be our legacy?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

See, I Told You So!

And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. (Hebrews 10:17)

Yeah, I know, I just used this verse.  Well, as I said, "The memory is the first to go!"  Actually, I just realized I'd had this one saved in my Drafts folder, and it really does put a somewhat of a different spin on things.
No secret here, I burned a lot of bridges in my late teens and twenties, and thirties, and probably even  my forties.  I lied, cheated, abandoned, blah, blah, blah.  In short, I did a lot of really dreadful things.
But, now I've changed.
So, how on earth do I begin to mend fences?  People don't forget. 
When it's time to go back to that business owner and ask for a job... When it's time to return that looong overdue phone call to a faithful friend... When it's time to make a public statement of faith in front of a congregation of people who remember the "old" me... When it's time to tuck my tail between my legs, and go back home...
The spin is this: Though people may judge you, though people may question your sincerity, God looks at the heart.  And, if you have asked his forgiveness, if you have repented of those past misdeeds, God remembers no more!
How ironic that we, as people called to love one another, with no right whatsoever to judge another, can't seem to forget "the time when..." or "the days when she..."  But Almighty God, omnipotent and omniscient, with the power and position to judge, and knowledge to see the heart -- forgives and forgets!
Then, He turns around and grooms us, equips us, refines us for His service -- the honor of doing His work!  He doesn't hide the till.  He doesn't give us a trial run, "just to see how things work out."  He doesn't lock up the whiskey.  He is armed with a batallion of reformed weaklings.  He communes with former alcoholics and anorexics.  He receives tithes from convicted embezzlers and transformed gamblers.  He calls liars to proclaim His Truth and commands gossips to spread the Gospel! 

He changes us from the inside, moment by moment working us toward perfection, yoked with us, carrying us if necessary, but looking at us as if we were BRAND NEW!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Memory is the First Thing to Go!

And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. (Hebrews 10:17)

As I sat in Sears, watching Olivia and Christine goof around in the shoe department, another weary shopper joined me in lamenting our increasing lack of shopping stamina.  Apparently, this affliction struck her with the advent of internet shopping.  "It's just so much easier!" she exclaimed.


Hmm...all this time, I've been blaming it on my age.  I liked her explanation a lot better.  And truthfully, I can be a real Half.com junkie.

Time after time I have told myself, I can quit.  "Just don't think about it," I say.  And, as anyone knows, the more you don't think about something; the more you wind up thinking about it.


But not God.  He makes a conscious choice to forget who we are, who we were without His intervention, without His sacrifice.  How does an omnipresent and omniscient God forget?  He wills it so!


Even when our dearest loved ones find themselves in need of our forgiveness, how readily do we offer them our "forgotness?"  And as eager as we may be to restore them to relationship, how quickly do we revert to our old suspicions when something appears a little less than legitimate?  How often do we find it necessary to re-establish or re-work boundaries, simply to maintain the relationship in a way that we all can be comfortable?

Not God.

And do I really have to mention those "less than dear ones" who just always seem to be asking for it?  Just when I seem to be making progress -- they're at it again!  How can I forgive -- much less forget -- when everytime I turn around...?

Jesus said, "...seventy times seven."  And really, I don't believe that means a literal 490 times.  The point is, A LOT!

Enough that you are absolutely, exclusively reliant on Jesus to handle the situation.  Enough that this becomes more about you and Jesus, than it is about you and the person who has harmed you.  Enough to forget the offense and be ready to receive the reward!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

It's a Fight!

In my limited public school experience, I remember hearing the cries of, "Fight!  Fight!" as students gathered in a circle overlooking two scratching, scuffling creatures struggling to gain the upper hand in childhood.  This is not to say, by the way, that the terra firma of our local Christian school has not claimed the  hide of two or more combatants in its day, but at Christian school we tended to keep it on the DL -- tolerance for such shenanigans being so much lower, and consequences being so much more severe, and all that.  No cheering; no ring girls -- just a lot of looking over your shoulder.

Anyhoo, these fights were almost always preceded by a period of verbal taunts.  Not the "your-mother-wears-combat-boots" kind; even we were too hardened for that one.  (What did that one really mean, anyway?)  But the type that began with vague allusions to "the last guy," and ended with some pretty specific boasts about how little it would take to wipe up the asphalt with today's chosen target.  (Yes, that's right -- asphalt.  No recycled tires or sanitized wood chips here, Kiddies.  This was the Wild West.  True Grit.)  My favorite was, "I can beat you with one hand tied behind my back!"  Everybody always said it; I've never seen it.  That is, not on the playground.

God has a way of whittling us down to "nothing."  Nothing, that is, but Him.  Think Gideon with his army of 300 going up against an army of 135,000 or more, likely more.  Think Abram refusing to take the spoils of Sodom's kingdom.  Think John the Baptist, Isaiah, even Jesus Himself and their "wilderness experiences." 

Think those of us who watch the Sunday morning offering baskets go by (or worse -- drop a dollar or two in for appearance's sake) because "we just don't have it this week."

It's not my job to beat anybody up (no pun intended) or convict anyone (allow the Holy Spirit to do that work in us).  But, I just want to tell you what amazing things God can do with one hand tied behind our backs!  When we are at our weakest, we allow God to be strong.  When we crowd Him out with all of the things we are able to do, our opportunity to sit back and enjoy the show, is lost.

I challenge myself as well today, to "taste and see the Lord is good."

   

Friday, September 2, 2011

Seven Days in Utopia

I am dying to see "Seven Days in Utopia!"  It opens today, and I intend to drag my family -- kicking and screaming, if they insist -- to see it.  I love Robert Duvall, and the thrill of seeing a "family movie" that has something other than malformed blue characters and talking animals delights me to no end!  Besides, I've always liked golf. 

Now, I'm not a golfer, but I have this ethereal sense of what it might be like to spend an entire afternoon peacefully strolling around the links, following a little white ball wherever it leads, warm sun on my shoulders, fresh air coursing through my body, and a carpet of perfect green cushioning my feet.  The golfers on TV always look so composed -- their creases crisp, their whites white.  Like a Tide commercial.  From what the guys at work tell me, it's nothing like that. 

In fact, the picture they paint is so anti-empyrean, it almost makes me think we're talking about two different pastimes.  Perhaps in the high-gloss, cherry wood, sound-deadened bowels of the country club locker room, men are taught to speak ill of the game they are so desperately drawn toward.  A brer rabbit sort of stratagem that leaves wives thinking their absentee husbands have gotten a rigorous aerobic workout, slogging through the gooey muck of water traps and fighting their way back from the soul-sucking sands of the underworld.  Then again, maybe golf wives know. 

Maybe they have their own agendum.  Maybe they enjoy the solace of a Myrtle Beach excursion...for him, and a few days shopping, reading, and spa-ing for them!  Maybe they like having a whole day to themselves, walking in and out of the bathroom just to see if the seat is still down!  Maybe they know 4-1/2 hours in the hot sun, throwing back Stellas (or, as the Brits call them: "wifebeaters") and frantically trying to place a willful little ball in a distant plastic cup can lessen a golfer's life expectancy and increase a widow's net worth. 

Hmmm...maybe middle aged men would be better off taking up cribbage or something a little less...shall we say, Utopian?


P.S.  This movie is rated "G."  Unfortunately, it is only playing at a limited number of theaters.  But, all kidding aside, I will be seeing it THIS WEEKEND.  So, I'll let you know...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Just One Question...

Genesis 50:20 (NIV)

"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"What could possibly be God's plan for allowing an innocent child to suffer?" he asked.

First of all, outside of Jesus, no one is innocent.  Unless referring to a specific crime, and bound by the criteria of America's legal system, strike that word from your daily vocabulary.  Having said that...

I was sexually molested by a family member some time around the age of eleven.  Someone I trusted implicitly; someone on whom I depended, and with whom I spent a good portion of my time.  Someone who had propelled me toward salvation, and represented to me what it meant to be a Christian.  Someone who perhaps, did not intend to "harm" me -- specifically -- but acted no less irresponsibly and selfishly.  In so doing, they left me with shame, confusion, self-loathing, and a host of other feelings I cannot begin to describe in such a limited setting.  Fear and a feeling of loyalty kept me bound to "our little secret" for many years.  Being unable to confide in anyone and watching this person go through life, publicly and painlessly, tore at me. 

At 15 or so, I began to show signs of resentment, anger and rebellion.  When pressed for an explanation, I cracked.  I confessed the entire thing to someone else I trusted, someone I thought surely would help.  "Oh, Judi, you're lying!"  Those words are as alive to me today as if they held breath.  My face still burns and I find my jaw tightening even now, at the helplessness and humiliation that came over me that day.  With those four words a second, more debilitating betrayal was accomplished.

I had already developed an eating disorder.  The years after that were spent in addictive behaviours and sin -- choices I made.  I struggled to control and fix everyone but myself. 

Today, GOD HAS THE VICTORY!

I happily, exclusively reserve the #1 place in my heart for my God and King.  I am in love with Him, and falling more deeply in love everyday.  I will proclaim His grace, and mercy, and redemption and, not just restoration, but abundance, to any who will listen, and even some that won't.

I am loved by the most wonderful man in the whole world.  He is my best friend, my confidant and champion; he desires to spend the rest of his life with me.  Who am I to refuse? ;-)

God has blessed me with the large family I have always desired.  Though some are not with us, I love them no less.  They are being kept from us by the hands of man; God is not bound by that.

Those human beings who acted harmfully toward me?  Those who failed me, just as I have failed others in my life?  Those who succumbed to their humanity and sinful natures, just as we all do?  Forgiven -- just as we have been forgiven.  Forgiven, not because they deserved it.  Forgiven, not because I am "the bigger person" (how I hate that expression anymore).  Forgiven because God has claimed His victory!

The flushed face, the tightened jaw?  Remnants of a pain so great, of a confusion so deep, of a disappointment so consuming, of a shame so incarcerating -- remnants I pray God never removes.

Because, when he asks again,

"What could possibly be God's plan for allowing an innocent child to suffer?"

I never want to forget I am blessed enough to KNOW the answer.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Vacation... All I Ever Wanted

What an incredible couple of weeks it has been!  Now I know, according to my last post on August 7, it has only been about five days, but that's the beauty of modern technology -- I can post days, even weeks ahead, and schedule them to post in the future.  So, technically, I could be stinking and dead but still posting on Brokentobreathless -- oh, the literality!

So, the last two weeks... Well, let me do one of those TV-type recaps for you:

I have been lied to and lied about.  I have heard some of the best sermons I've heard in my life, and read one of the worst books to ever undergo publishing.  I have screamed with exhuberance, and been screamed at with a fear and sadness only deep emotional disorder can explain.  My heart has broken for my children; my heart has burst with love for them, and joy with them.   I have stood laughing while a gallon of milk swirled and dissipated into a fresh rain puddle in the Pathmark parking lot, and stood crying while my family united their hearts in prayer in a church parking lot.  I have witnessed betrayal and deception so convoluded and evil I have questioned even how to pray; I have felt true love so deep it has moved me to tears and implicit belief in its existence.  I have been enraged by those who erect their comic reputations on making others -- specifically Christians -- look utterly foolish and depraved; I have experienced Christian life -- with all its victories and failures -- on a level I pray continues to rise with each new storm.  Our children have reached new heights in maturity and wisdom; our children have found themselves firmly entrenched in childhood, with all its irrational worries and bouts of faintheartedness.  We have been separated by 1100 miles, and only days later, tirelessly sang our way home from a fabulous family outing.  I've heard the quiet of a sleeping household at dawn, and the cacophany of every moment thereafter.  I have revelled in the "plainness" of life and all its vicissitude. 

That, Dear Aristotle, is The Good Life!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The BIG Finish

Daniel 2:1-23

Ever had one of those dreams that left you feeling as if it really happened?  You wake up with tears in your eyes or an uneasy feeling that you can't quite explain.  Well, King Nebuchadnezzar had just such a dream; problem was, he couldn't quite remember what it was all about.  He may have seen a glimpse or two through his mind's eye -- probably enough to recognize it if he'd had some sort of subconscious DVR, but not enough to relate it to anyone.  So he calls his magicians, and astrologers, and so forth.

I picture them, rushing in wearing their robes of finest linen, embellished maybe, with precious jewels -- eagerly anticipating yet another chance to please their king with sycophantic rhetoric and fortuitous prognostication.  Their wicked little hearts racing with the thrill of the reward they will receive upon successfully earning the "king of king's" favor.

“May the king live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will interpret it.”

The king replied to the astrologers, “This is what I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me what my dream was and interpret it, I will have you cut into pieces and your houses turned into piles of rubble.  But if you tell me the dream and explain it, you will receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. So tell me the dream and interpret it for me.”

Huh?  Tell you the dream?  You see, that's not how this usually works.  You have to tell us the dream, then we tell you what it means.  Got it?  OK, let's try this again (probably with much less enthusiasm this time): “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will interpret it.”

But no.  That's not what Nebuchadnezzar desired.  All his boot-licking, kow-towing, self-seeking hangers-on were about to be cut into little pieces.  So they start back-pedalling, tripping over their tongues to talk their way out of this one. 

"Don't you see, King?  Mighty and great kings know how this works.  They would never put to serious practitioners such a silly, outrageous task!  Surely you are not a fool!"  (My own paraphrase, sure, but I think that's the gist)

That did it!  King Nebuchadnezzar snapped.  He ordered the execution of all his wise men -- even those not present.  Now the text really doesn't specify, but my guess is, the greedy little in-house "wise" men were the first ones to go.  By the time the assassins went looking for David and his friends, I'm sure the minions who had stood before Nebuchadnezzar, singing his praises a short time before, were fish food.

I'm going to fast-forward just a bit, because I think there is a contrast here that, until I read this today, never really struck me before.  Sure, Daniel stepped up to the plate because he knew God was in control.  Sure, he let his buddies in on it so they could pray and be redeemed, as well.  And sure, God honored His servants, and gave Daniel a vision of just what the king had seen -- along with it, a not-so fortuitous interpretation.  But, what did Daniel do after receiving God's wisdom? 

Praised God.  Praised Him -- it says, "then" -- immediately.  He didn't seek out a royal emissary; he didn't rush to gather up his friends and head on over to Nebuchadnezzar's place with the good news.  He praised God.  While the agents of Nebuchadnezzar entered his presence grovelling and sucking-up to him (and we see where that got them), Daniel remained true to his God -- the One and Only Living and True God.  And he finished the task!  Not by relaying the message, necessarily, but by praising God for His goodness and mercy!  Our praise is the closing to the letter, the test pattern on the screen, the fat lady's song, the big wrap-up.  Until we praise God for what He has done or allowed us to do -- it ain't over!

I asked God for something the other day.  I'd lost a gift card.  Silly, really, but I know He cares.  I found the gift card.  I breathed a sigh of relief and sort of shook my head at my foolishness (I'd put it somewhere for safe-keeping) and kept right on rolling.  Minutes later, as I was pondering my own "senior moment," I remembered what Daniel never forgot:
 
  “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
wisdom and power are his.
He changes times and seasons;
he deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to the discerning.
He reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what lies in darkness,
and light dwells with him.
I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors:
You have given me wisdom and power,
you have made known to me what we asked of you,
you have made known to us the dream of the king.”

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Seeking the Son Light

"The Lamb is the light thereof."—Revelation 21:23. 

Whatever darkness has passed across your way, “the Lamb is the light thereof.”  Just as the cloud stands between us and the light of the sun, the cares and troubles of life can keep us from the light of The Lamb.  The light forever remains, we have just entered a place where we can no longer receive it.  The darker the cloud, the heavier the gloom; the larger the veil, the longer we can remain in its shadow.  Step into the Light! 

Jesus does not seek to look on our pain as insignificant.  He does not chide us for encountering trouble, rather He tells us we will have trouble in this world.  (Jn. 16:33)  He promises us that He has overcome this world’s malaise, malfunction, perverseness, and shadows.  He tells us to take courage; take courage because if we are in Him, we too have overcome these things.  We should be living in victory over the clouds of this world that seek to keep us hidden from the light of The Lamb!

Are you dealing with a spouse who can no longer seem to overcome her addiction?  Whose behaviour is taking its toll on every aspect of your life?  Are the responsibilities of family life falling squarely on your shoulders as you struggle to find and save the bride with whom you are still so deeply in love?  Jesus has light for your fearful and broken heart.

Have your beautiful, innocent grandchildren been torn apart by a hateful divorce?  Have they been used and manipulated by one parent against the other?  Does your heart break for them?  Have you been denied the right to bring them with you to church?  The light of The Lamb exposes the darkness of Satan's lies and the work of his demons.

Has your sister betrayed the trust of your aging parents?  Has she seized control of their assets, your inheritance, and family memories?  Has she adopted a sense of entitlement that leaves you baffled, and misused your parents' kindness in a way that has left them penniless?  Run toward the Light!  Jesus holds your parents today; He loves them and cares for them when it is beyond your ability.

When darkness looms over your head, when it holds you in its dispassionate and calamitous grip -- Jesus, the Lamb is the light.  Trust in Him.  Abide in Him.  He is faithful to lead you and prosper you when there seems to be no hope.   Do not fix your eye on the cover overhead, but search in earnest for the light that pierces through even the darkest of circumstances.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Page from Spurgeon

This one from Spurgeon again: (with my two cents in green!)

And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me. (Psalm 50:15)

Here is an urgent occasion—"the day of trouble."  It is written for the cloudy day.  (We all have those!)

Here is [the] advice, "Call upon me." We ought not to need the exhortation: it should be our constant habit all the day and every day.  (Why does He have to remind us of the great treasure of power, comfort, help we have at our disposal in Him?  Who could forget that?!  A sinful, foolish and stiff-necked people.  That's who.)

Here is reassuring encouragement: "I will deliver thee."  We believe it, and the Lord honors faith.

Here is an ultimate result: "Thou shalt glorify me."  When He has delivered us we will loudly praise Him; and as He is sure to do it, let us begin to glorify Him at once.  (Already.  Before we see the results; before we even see any sign of His working -- Glorify His work!)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Walking in Love

I heard a rumor the other day.  It was about one of the members of our church.  It’s not that I felt one way or another about its truth, I was just sickened by how much damage a rumor like that can do. 

Imagine struggling to correct a situation that has somehow gotten out of hand.  After all, isn’t that the way most sin creeps up on us?  Satan is no slouch; he’s a saboteur.  He starts with a small lie, a grey area, and before we know it – BOOM!  Our sin has gotten a lot bigger than we are.  So think about confessing to someone you respect and consider a possessor of Godly wisdom.  You are embarrassed, scared, so sorry for your family and the painyour sin  has caused.  You surrender – to whatever methods you and your counsel are led by God to establish, in order to restore you and keep you from falling back this way.  You will do anything to make it right; you have laid yourself bare, and relinquished privacy and control -- things most of us take for granted – all for the sake of renewal and healing.  And then… you hear the whispers.  You see the looks.  They know.  Betrayal.  Defeat.  Fear.  Confusion and doubt.  Heart sickness.  

Really?  Is this what we do to a brother or sister who seeks forgiveness, and repentance, and healing? 

And if the rumor isn’t true?  What sort of damage can we do with an unfounded story or careless supposition?  Just how cruel can we be and still call ourselves the “body of Christ?”  I know why God is God – because were it I looking on this, my children causing one another such harm, those who bear my name acting so recklessly?  I’d vomit.  I’d wretch and seize in disgust. 

But still He looks on us, his children with love.  The gossip, the backbiting, the jealousy, the arrogance and judgment.  Our sins are vile to Him, but we are not.  And as those who have been sanctified, sin should be just as vile to us.  Especially when it leaves our brothers and sisters wondering who they can trust if not the Family of God.  And yet, we engage in such putridity. 
And yet... He still loves us. 

Ephesians 5:1-2 (NIV)

"Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Keep On Truckin'

Yesterday started out a little rocky for one of my drivers.  He was running late, left something at home that he desperately needed, and he was hitting the road for three days with another driver who, let's just say, tends to be a little difficult to warm up to.  To add insult to injury, "Ken's" lateness and the difficulties he was experiencing just seemed to poke at that big old bear sitting in the seat next to him.  Now, make no mistake, our drivers are equipped with roomy, relatively comfortable "sleeper tractors" -- but this is no "Trick My Truck" operation here.  (Think 9 PM argument with your spouse and no sofa to sleep on, or eight hours of summer rain with six kids stuck indoors and no bathroom for retreat!)  Three days of clashing personalities on barren highway, fighting through weather and construction traffic, trying to sleep in a bunk while someone you don't even like -- much less trust -- drives you to some "passable" truck stop for a shower and artery-clogging chow, checking in at a building where a sleepy guard wants nothing more than your paperwork so he can go home and enjoy his weekend like the rest of civilization, then turning around and doing it all over again -- can leave you feeling a bit... lonely.  Talk about your wilderness experience!  As they left the yard, I told Ken I'd pray for him.

We've all been in the wilderness; we've all had times when we felt completely alone.  But what do we do with those opportunities when we have them?  Yes, that's right, I said "opportunities."  Being alone sometimes is easy for most of us, but feeling alone is an opportunity.  It's a chance to turn to the One who never leaves us or forsakes us.  When those we love are far away or have turned their backs on us, God is with us.  When we have no one else on whom to rely, we can rely on Jesus.  Feeling alone can break us down in frustration and fear, turn our hearts to Him, leave us willing "to do anything" to change our circumstances.  Once we see the power of God to rescue, restore, even give us more than we'd ever imagined, we will never be the same.  The wilderness will never look as lonely and barren as it did when we first entered.



"I know you'll be back soon, but Ken, don't waste your days in the wilderness."  And I'll be praying that none of us does! 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Really Got a Hold on You

Proverbs 29:13 (NLT)

"The poor and the oppressor have this in common— the Lord gives sight to the eyes of both."

Matthew 5:45 (NLT)

"In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike."

What wonderful words of comfort are these!  In our good days and bad, God loves us all.  There is nothing we have done to earn the love of God; He gives sunlight, rain, and sight to us all, regardless of our deeds.  If there is nothing we can do to earn His love; there is nothing we can do to lose it.  If we have not earned His affection in anyway, there is no period in life so trying, so lonely, so rebellious in which we should ever wonder if we have lost our God to our own sinful acts.  A frail, sinful father remains in love with his children regardless of the way their lives have taken them; Our perfect Father in Heaven treats us to His love and spreads wide His arms if we will but fall into them, or not.  Imagine if the prodigal of Luke 15 had seen his father, arms outstretched, and had turned away, headed back to his degenerate lifestyle.  Would the father's love have been any less?  Or would his heart have broken for the relationship he and his son might have had?  Would he have grieved for all that his son might have become, if only he had love and hope for himself half that which the father has for him?

Oh, Child.  Return to your Father in Heaven, the Father that loves you as no other can.  Lean into His arms; feel the warmth of His light.  Open your eyes to all He can do for you today; receive the perfect vision He offers, and drench your heart beneath His cleansing rain.  Surrender your efforts to the Lord and abide in His care, for nothing you can ever do will loosen His grip so long as you acquiesce.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Stay Out of It!

Proverbs 26:17 (NLT)
"Interfering in someone else’s argument is as foolish as yanking a dog’s ears."




It really doesn't get any clearer than that.  And yet...

I just had a talk with my son a couple of weeks ago.  I explained to him that, while I am still his mother, I still love him dearly, and I still enjoy his company, the specifics of my job took on a very different dimension several years ago.  I am no longer his mommy.  I don't care what others say about him.  It is of no consequence to me what he does for a living, with whom he spends his time, or where he hangs his hat.  Our relationship is based solely on how we relate to one another.  Hence, the term "relationship."  I love him; I pray for him daily -- or more.  I want the best for him, but wanting and praying are all I can do.  The rest, is up to my son -- my adult son.  If he comes to me for advice, help, comfort -- whatever, it is with my discretion and God's wisdom that I act, or not.

Believe it or not, I have encountered an entire group of people who would override me.  Who will get between a parent and a child.  Sign of the apocalypse?  I don't know, but it amazes me that "older folk" are supposed to have more sense, and yet, they do it all the time.  Grandparents who just can't stay out of a family's business.  Grandparents who insist on stepping in when a relationship between a parent and child is not what they believe it should be.  Grandparents who will take up for a child who is being forced by loving parents, to face the consequences of his or her actions.  Grandparents who will meddle in the affairs of their children and "grands" even to the point of telling their grandchildren not to tell Mommy or Daddy what's being said or done.  I'm not talking about slipping Little Johnny a fin like my uncles used to do; I'm talking about deliberately defying a parent's rules and gloating about it!  Morals aside, do these mature (?), seasoned (?), allegedly wise individuals possess any common sense whatsoever?  Is even the older generation so wrapped up in making themselves look good, they can't see they will get the worst of it in the end?

"Interfering in someone else’s argument is as foolish as yanking a dog’s ears."

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Bitter Pill to Swallow

Proverbs 28:5 (NLT)                                  

"Evil people don’t understand justice, but those who follow the Lord understand completely."

A trip to the drug store today can leave your head spinning.  Besides the variety of medicines for specific symptoms, remedies are available in pills, capsules, syrups, chewables, even frozen pops!  And the flavors!  It couldn't be any easier to be a sick kid these days!  I remember cod liver oil, merthiolate, and one-size-fits-all cough syrup that tasted like syrup of ipecac!  Every dose of whatever insipid cure my parents were dishing out was preceded by, "You're not supposed to like it!"

Thank God for modern medicine, but justice can remain a bitter pill.  We all like seeing "the bad guys" get what they deserve, but what happens when we get what we deserve?  If we are righteous and wise, following the Lord, we will understand.

When we keep back our tithe from God and wind up on the receiving end of an unexpected repair bill, do we understand, or do we just keep back more the next Sunday?  When we reap the sorry consequences of striking out on our own, ignoring the path God has set forth before us, do we understand, or do we just press harder to get that square peg into that round hole?

No one enjoys justice; we all want to look for an alternative route.  Facing justice when you know you're deserving of it, is probably the least enjoyable experience of all.  How do you look at yourself, knowing the one who let you down was you?  Even watching someone head down the wrong path can be painful when we consider the consequences to befall them.  But we understand the need for God's justice. 

Justice brings glory to a perfect and righteous God; He cannot change, not even for a moment.  One only has to look at our country's legal system to see how flawed human justice can be.  God's justice is infallible.  So while we may be tempted to turn away, to kick and scream, it is the wise child who understands, "You're not supposed to like it!"  But those who love and follow Him, understand it.

Friday, July 22, 2011

10 Simple Rules

Micah 2:7b (NLT)

"If you would do what is right, you would find my words comforting."

Years ago, my employer cared about people.  We rewarded those who did well, and disciplined those who did not.  I'm not talking caning, or anything like that, but we used "progressive discipline."  We talked to our people each day about something they were really doing well, or those things that were lacking.  After three discussions about the same topic, we were required to reward them or retrain them.  If retraining failed, we sat them down formally.  If that failed, we began progressively suspending them without pay until changes were made or termination was necessary.  (I actually fired one of the nicest guys I'd ever met.  He seemed like a great guy -- honest, intelligent, hard-working.  He just wasn't cut out for that kind of work; he was a danger to himself and his co-workers.  I couldn't allow that.  I was completely honest with him.  I fired him.  He thanked me -- sincerely.)  We trained and retrained constantly; we gave feedback like it was going out of style.

Likewise, management was trained frequently.  Management received salaries and bonuses based on performance.  It was the trickle-down theory; the same way the bad stuff rolls down hill, the good stuff will as well.  One workshop that stuck with me the most, taught us how to treat people.  One lesson really made an impact:

"The greatest injustice you can do the best employee, is not disciplining a problem employee."

A sense of fairness is something we are born with, but my employer is no different than the rest of society today.  We seem to be leaning toward an unfair version of "fairness."  We strive to be fair to the person with the most money, the best connections, the "squeakiest wheel"  -- the person who is the biggest threat, rather than the person who is most deserving of fairness.  We are so afraid of offending those who, let's face it, need to be offended. 

When one of the dogs has done something wrong, I need only to sternly ask, "Who did this?" to know which dog it was.  The guilty pooch immediately tucks tail and begins to slink from view.  The innocent party remains unoffended, tail still in full swing, ears lifted, looking at me expectantly.  Guilty people, however...  Guilty people try to lie their way out.  They badmouth the person who caught them.  They protest laws and twist things around to make themselves look like victims.  They cry "unfair" and incite others to hop their bandwagon.  They try to cloud the lines between good and bad, right and wrong, superior and inferior.  But why are they so uncomfortable?

Micah 2:7b (NLT)

"If you would do what is right, you would find my words comforting."

Rules help us to see our limitations, our strengths as well as our weaknesses.  Rules help us to know what is expected of us.  Following rules makes us stronger and more comfortable with others.  Rules establish a measure of quality.  Abiding by rules helps us to all live in relative comfort.  Sure, we may not get what we want, but rules are designed to help us all have what we need.