Wednesday, May 22, 2013

In Other News...

So I'm sitting here waiting for my granddaughter to arrive -- Gramma's first big solo adventure -- and I'm like a kid at Christmas.  So, to take my mind off things, I decided to spend an unhealthy amount of time perusing the online "News."  And here it is... "News:"

Brad Pitt admits to drug use during his wilder early years.  But he's happy now.  Happy.  No, really happy.  Esquire magazine didn't note whether he'd jumped on any sofas while making his declaration.

A Utah mom who learned of her daughter's bullying of another girl in school, decided to ad-"dress" the Peter Pan Collar crime with a "suit"-able punishment.  (All puns thoroughly intentional.)  She forced her daughter to wear thrift store clothing to school, in order to shame her daughter into being a little kinder to folks who look, dress or act differently than she.  Hooray for Mom!  And big, fat (is that PC?) raspberries to all the psychologists who say parents "shaming" their children is bad.  "Children need to be able to trust their parents...blah, blah, blah."  I grew up trusting my parents -- trusting that when I did something right, they would be proud of me; when I did something wrong, I'd get the belt; and no matter what I did, I was loved.

The government is just as corrupt and blameworthy as it was yesterday.

Victoria Beckham wore sneakers, critics dislike Ryan Gosling's new movie, and we've all been mispronouncing GIF.  I'm not joking.

29 bars in New Jersey are corrupt.

Jodi Arias -- never mind, I can't stomach another minute of that debacle.

Oh, yeah, and some guy with supposed links to the terrorist bombing at the Boston Marathon was shot and killed.  But that story, and the follow-up on the Moore, OK devastation followed the DWTS winners and Sharon Stone's dress at yet another awards show.  Must have been a slow news day.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

For Moore, Oklahoma

Thankfully, I have never been that mom whose child did not return home from school, or that wife who has tried for hours only to have her husband's phone go straight to voicemail, and known in her heart it means more than he forgot it on the dresser at home.  Today we are reminded that there are far too many of those wives and mothers, and brothers, and fathers, and friends, in this world.

For those in Moore, OK, our prayers for healing and strength...

Monday, May 20, 2013

What Real Change Is All About

As I said almost a year ago, the Holy Spirit called me out.  It hasn't been pretty.

After several years of sitting in my PJ's, nursing a cup of coffee to the point of room temperature, reading and writing with every spare moment I had, I was challenged to do something more.  Part of the blame rests with my Thursday afternoon, Ladies' Bible Study; we read Francis Chan's book, Crazy Love.  If you haven't -- do so; I believe it will change you.  Prior to this, I'd just heard a radio interview with a seminary student and former Army Captain, who had taken a homeless man into his apartment.  It intrigued me, and I read his book as well (Stumbling Souls by Chris Plekenpol).  God was moving, and the one He was moving was me.

Since then, my husband and I have opened our home to guests at Christmas.  Not the kind of guests that fly in, you reluctantly allow stay in your guest room, and then count the days until your sister picks them up to spend the New Year with her.  The kind of guests with whom you've had, maybe, a handful of discussions, who have a need like none you've not known in ages, or maybe ever.  The kind of guests who will be, if not for Christ living out His Gospel through you, spending Christmas alone, in the cold.  I was stunned when Scott even suggested it.

We've given, literally, until it hurts.  We've tithed and gifted to the point of having to make lifestyle changes and cut back on "extras" when Scott was out of work, just to keep our utilities on and our vehicles insured.  But we never stopped giving -- we never considered it.  We have rearranged the way we shop, the way we spend our free time, and the way we work just so we can continue to give to others.  We have gotten involved in ministries within our church, and devised a few of our own: loading up on non-perishables and snacks, and heading to the city to pass them on to some of the homeless, or running others to doctors appointments and various errands.  We've done without sleep and "me time" to spend time with others, and we've been there with back aches and colds and whatever else, just to make sure we keep our commitments to love and care for them.

Our prayer ministry has changed quite a bit.  We pray actively for others... even others we don't like so much.  As I walk the dogs each day, passing through three different neighborhoods, I pray for those I pass -- in homes and schools, on the sidewalk, driving by.  My prayer time rarely resembles the "God is great; God is good" exercises of my childhood; I couldn't say that a year or so ago.  And Scott's has changed dramatically as well.  I first realized this when, during prayer at church one Sunday, the pastor asked us to call out names of someone for whom we'd been praying.  Scott was one of the first to speak out the name of someone who'd been heavy on both our hearts.  This has carried into our family prayer times at home as well.  We seem to always be searching out folks for whom to pray.  

I can no longer read Vince Flynn, Harlan Coben, Alex Kava, Alafair Burke, or any other of the myriad of novelists I used to love reading.  These days I can hardly get enough of C.S. Lewis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, John Wesley, John Piper, and Francis Chan -- just to name a few.  And that would be in addition to reading chapters of God's Word every day!  I still have a weakness for country music, but Christian radio makes up more than half of the presets in my car.  All those "goofy" religious broadcasts my dad used to enjoy so much, waft through my speakers as I travel to and from work each day.

I post more on Facebook about my faith, than I do about my family.  I have no qualms about telling others who I am and what I believe.  I make no apologies for it, either.  And yet, none of this is the "me" that came into this world 47 years ago.  This is not the "me" that terrorized her brother, lied to her parents, drank daily, smoked weed and black tar, and cussed like a sailor.  And this is not a "me" that I have created -- a new persona developed after years of being a mom and a suburban housewife.  This is a blood-bought, rebirthed child of God Almighty, who wants nothing more than to complete the task which has been given her -- "the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God!"  I have done nothing toward becoming this new creature, but seek, and trust, and obey God.    And I am so much happier for it!  There is little, if anything, I could have done on my own to have such a life.  Know that as I boast, I am not boasting in my own strength, or wisdom, or success, but the strength, wisdom, and success that comes from knowing and trusting in Jesus, from getting out there and getting it done for Him! 

Scott and I are looking forward to where Jesus leads us next.  we are happy to meet that next challenge with Him by our sides, shepherding us toward being better people and bringing glory to His name.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Goin' All "Mary Poppins" on Ya

Words fail me.  Yep! It's true.  Well, maybe not completely.  There's a verse in Romans that says God's kindness, patience, forgiveness is meant to draw us away from the sin and darkness of this world, and draw us toward Him. In times like these, I mostly hear from the pulpits of our churches, this verse explains why God doesn't just whack us all -- or at least "the bad people" -- if He is really a sovereign God who cannot stand the sight of evil.  The truth is, as a people we chose evil over the goodness of God, and sometimes parents have to let their children see the error of their ways for themselves; He is patiently waiting -- still loving us all the while -- until we wise up.  Additionally, the fear, deceit, hedonism,and selfishness plaguing our society contrasts so sharply with the goodness of God, who wouldn't run toward Him?  The trials and losses of this life keep us on our knees, seeking answers from the One True God, the only One who can redeem us and rescue us!

That being said, I sometimes see this verse a little differently.  Last week was one of those weeks...

Let's begin with the picture perfect weather we had most of the week.  The dogs and I couldn't get enough of it.  Rich, blue skies over budding green trees and shrubs.  Petals falling before us as we walked like a pink and white ticker-tape parade.  Breezes blowing the musty, lingering remnants of winter out to sea.  Cottony white clouds floating easily overhead, tumbling like kittens before they dissolve into thin air.  Days like that just make my heart sing!  Very "Song of the South," I know, but it's true!

Then there was the trip to the mechanic.  A simple but fairly costly repair, paid for in cash!  Yes, cash.  God is Good!  I think that's a first for us -- saw the guy in the office rubbing one of the bills, I assumed he was testing for color-fastness.

Grocery shopping with Mom.  Always an adventure.  You never know when she's going to come out with a completely inappropriate remark like, "Is her hair real?"  No filter and no volume control.  But I have my mom... with me... in good health... and happy.

Tuesday I had lunch with a friend.  We had just seen each other a couple months ago for breakfast.  This, I have found (at least for me) is the secret to having lunch.  My job requires me to keep odd hours, and though I work part-time, my days outside of work are full of "other stuff."  When the time in which I've talked with friends grows too long, so do our lunches.  Before we know it, we've talked for three or more hours, I am grossly behind schedule, and what should have been an enjoyable afternoon has turned into me being late for bed, or not having gotten something done, and I am stressed.  This was "an enjoyable afternoon."

Wednesday -- different friend, same deal.

Later in the week, we got a new, FREE sidewalk!  Anyone who knows me knows how much I like free.  New and free are sublime!

Throughout the week I helped prepare food for a party a friend was throwing.  Pounds of potato salad, pasta salad, and meatballs came to life in my cozy, dilapidated kitchen.  Since, it seemed inspiration had decided to stick around, I took advantage and did some baking.  Like Martha Stewart and Snow White, all rolled into one disgustingly happy, content human being.

Then there was the very first visit from my new granddaughter, Olivia, and her mother, Shannon!  Although I was meeting my granddaughter for the very first time, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE her mother!  How old do I sound when I call her "a great kid?"  I know, but she is; she is a great kid.  And as strange as it may be, I was looking forward to spending time with her.  I knew I would love Olivia, once I met her, once I spent a little (15 seconds) with her, but I know that I love Shannon.  Surely, those of you with children have that friend of your son's or daughter's that has stolen your heart -- one who pops into your mind the minute you start praying for your children, maybe even treats you better than your children!  I'm gushing; sickening, I know, but I have truly missed her.  I miss all my "children," and my children who are out and about, drying their wings and taking flight.  But it was a great visit, and I was so thankful to Shannon for allowing me back into her life, and allowing me to be a part of Olivia's.  And I was thankful to God -- for answered prayer, for the softening of hearts, for walking with me in the pain, and for His kindness -- the kindness that turns me toward Him!

It's the terrible times that have me crying out to my Jehovah Jireh, to get me through, to provide relief, to walk with me and teach me as we endure the adversity; but it's the weeks like this that cause me to proclaim His goodness, His faithfulness, His loving kindness, and His love!  I run to Him for more!  I long to spend time worshiping and magnifying His gracious and powerful name!  I spontaneously break out in song -- think "The Sound of Music," only in my head, not in the Dairy aisle at the Shoprite.  That He would bestow such peace, so many simple pleasures on me -- someone who has cursed Him, failed Him, rejected Him over and over -- is such a privilege and a wonder, that I cannot find the words! 

And we're back to that again.  Somehow, I don't think you're going to believe me on that one.

A Plague of Biblical Proportions!!!

It was a dark and stormy night -- well, not really, but don't the best stories start that way?  It was raining, but it was early morning, and no one but Bishop and I were stirring.  I sat down for a little quiet time.  And it was quiet -- almost.  Nothing but the ticking of the clock (for those of you born after 1995, that's what clocks used to do before all those little time displays on every household appliance drained your electricity at a rate of about $70 a year!) and the purring of the dog (yes, bullies do purr) and the soft buzzing of THAT INFERNAL MOSQUITO PLAGUING ME!  Now, the experts say that only the males buzz, and only the females bite, but who wants to take chances like that?  Well, it got me to thinking...

Whether you believe, or have even read any part of the Bible, unless you’ve spent your life living under Gibraltar, you know about THE plagues -- frogs, locusts, flies, blood, etc. 

In short, the hindstory is this:  God’s people moved to Egypt during a famine, in search of food.  Many years later God raised up Moses to take His people from that place to a land of promise, but the pharaoh in that day wasn’t about to let them slip away quietly in the night.  As intimidated as he was by the shear size of this nation, he was even more reluctant to relinquish his free labor; he considered slavery and selective extermination to be a much more practical solution.  God promised Moses that He would be right there beside him when Moses informed Pharaoh of the Israelites' departure.  He promised to do miracles among the Egyptians -- miracles so prodigious and consequential that Pharaoh would command the Israelites to leave his land. Needless to say, Moses was intimidated by such a monumental calling, so for his sake, and certainly Pharaoh’s as well God started out “small” -- a staff turned serpent.  As for Pharaoh, he was not impressed; he had a throng of magicians, mediums and soothsayers at his disposal.  They replicated the dramatic demonstration, and all was well -- as far as Pharaoh believed.  

Interesting thing about human nature, if it is familiar, if we can explain it, if we can in some fashion “tame” it, we can live with it.  It can eat us alive, but if we delude ourselves into thinking we have some control over it, we’ll put up with it.  Take addiction, for instance.  Most addicts know their whatever-it-is is killing them; they know they need to do something about it.  As long, however, as they can tell themselves it is an act of will and not of weakness, they will ride that lightning to their deaths. 

Pharaoh, though venerated by Egyptians, was woefully human.  If you know how this moment in history unfolds, you know that plagues came, promises were made, plagues left, and life under Pharaoh returned to business as usual.  What’s truly interesting to me, though, is the very first plague.  The Plague of Blood. 

The Bible says that the blood was everywhere!  Anything with water in it -- puddles, bowls, the Nile, Pharaoh’s fish bowl.  And the stench!  If you’ve ever lived by a creek, you know that after one of those summer rains when the water runs high, and the stuff on the creek bed gets all churned up, and the humidity reaches about  eighty percent -- well, you know.  Now imagine that same stench laced with the metallic, rotting smell of blood.  Whoa! 

But Pharaoh?  As long as his magicians could imitate it, could gain control over it, he was willing to let it ride.  They did, and he did.  Exodus 7:23 says, "Pharaoh returned to his palace and put the whole thing out of his mind."  Fish are dying, the water is so foul no one -- not even Pharaoh or his household -- can drink, or bathe, or water their animals, and he puts the whole thing out of his mind?!  Seven days pass and Pharaoh does nothing but rest in the comfort of knowing he has not been upstaged, that he too, wields power -- even to desolate -- and that makes it OK.
Control is an illusion -- at least for us.  We think we can control our habits; we think we can control how others treat us or how others "use" us; we think we can render ourselves impervious to harm -- bullies, or the bullies of disease, accidents, natural disasters.  Our society believes information and education are the answer to almost every disorder that plagues us.  If we can find out why this happens...If we can isolate the gene that...If we can legislate or design a way to protect...  None of us enjoys sickness or suffering, death and grief, but calling in our magicians to bring them into submission via science and enlightenment doesn't make them
go away.  The real plague is sin and the idolatry of self.
Pharaoh considered himself, at least, as good as God.  Eventually the unexpected, inexorable death of his beloved firstborn son rendered him helpless and pliable -- just where God, a great God, a perfect and loving God wants each of us, in order to give us His best.  Sure, in today's society we don't quit, we don't submit.  But when you give it all to a loving, faithful, omniscient and omnipotent God Who wants to make you and give you the very best, why attempt it in your own strength?
Hey, is that Nothing I hear?