Sunday, November 4, 2012

Who's in Charge Here?

Who tells you what to do?  Do you let anyone boss you around?

And honestly, who do I want telling me what to do?

The answer:   Uhm... nobody!!!

My human nature says, "You're not my boss!"  (Actually, I think my brother Matt and I used to say those very words when we'd fight with each other as kids.) What I was actually saying was "I'm my own boss, so quit telling me what to do!"  But this quandary of who lords over us is excruciatingly important.  It's not just an issue that arguing children deal with.  We grapple with this everyday as adults.  Who is in charge of us?

We are in the middle of voting for a President this week so I thought it was the perfect time to reflect on who's in charge of my life.  Who is my leader?  Who has ruling authority? Am I going to consent to let someone be master over me? Do I still silently say "No one is my boss but me so don't tell me what to do!"

Voting appeals to us because it gives us power.  Power to choose our leaders.  We look at names listed on a page or screen and put a decisive check mark that weighs our voice among fellow countrymen.  I am very patriotic and am so proud to be an American.  I love my country and am overwhelmed with thankfulness for the freedom I have!  We will find out in a few days who the President will be for the next four years.  I'll admit it... I get excited every election!

But there stands a greater decision at stake than "who is your choice for President?"  It's this:

Who is your King? 

No polling booth.  No voter registration.  No ballot with names waiting to be checked.  But the question stands and the answer you choose will last longer than a four year term.  Who is in charge of your life?  God? Or you?  There are only those two choices. Since human nature is to be independent and stubborn, we do not easily give up the throne to our lives.  As self-appointed kings, we like to make our own decrees and rules.  But that goes against everything Jesus taught.  We must lose our life to gain it.  We are called to surrender.  Yield. We'd rather vote than kneel!   But he's a good King.  He's true.  He's just.  He's not a candidate, a contender or a wannabe.  He just... IS!  Yes, He is the Great I Am.

Guess it seems like food for thought to remember that leaders have come and gone, empires have risen and fallen, but there is a King in this universe who has remained in power and "is the same yesterday, today and forever" and "all authority in heaven and on earth are given to him."

As stubborn and independent as I am, I've never regretted giving away my heart to Him.  I still wrestle with what I want versus yielding to what God wants some days, but He is my King and I love him with all my heart and I will follow him all the days of my life!

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Answer Is A SQUIRREL! Get Real!

"If your house was burning down, but you knew you had time to safely grab three things, what would you grab?"  

I heard this question asked during a Sunday School lesson sometime in my early adolescent years.  Used as a tool to get kids to ponder what truly matters, the question was a good one.

BUT... for a kid like me who was all about giving the "right" answers in order to please the audience, I quickly weighed my answer according to the "invisible-ultra spiritual-scale" that would score me the biggest points.

0 points - Selfish things such as a favorite toy, stuffed animal, or shirt.
3 points - Semi-important family items such as birth certificates, Social Security
                  cards, bills
5 points - Sentimental family items such as pictures, hand-made art hanging on
                  the fringe
10 points - Spiritual items such as hymn book, concordance, old sermon notes
50 points - My Bible
200 points - Everyone's bibles, especially the ones containing the most hand-
                   written study notes

What I was really thinking I'd have wanted to save from the fiery grave was my favorite stuffed deer named Bambi, the afghan my grandma crocheted for me, and my favorite necklace of a bear swinging from the chain.  But what I said and thought was this:

"I'd have to say my Bible" (even though I know I could buy a new one but 
                                                   that's the "right" answer!)
"My dad and mom's bibles" (because that shows I'm thinking of them)
"Nothing else" (because that drives home the proof that I don't love earthly 
                                      possessions.  That sounds very, VERY spiritually mature)

I was truly a pleaser to the core of my being!  I didn't answer with genuine answers because I'd predetermined those were not the "right" answers to give a teacher.  And what's a teacher suppose to say to that?  "Oh, come on kid!  What would you honestly grab?"  Are there children in  the world that would  grab their bibles from a burning house?  Probably.  But in the back of my head, I knew I could go down to the local book store and buy another, but that sounded shallow.

We are taught to Be honest - Don't lie. Well, except at church. How do we become people who smile and answer "I'm fine" when things are actually going haywire?  I don't know if there is one big universal answer for everyone but I think it's tied to a belief that being "real" can make you vulnerable to judgement.  Inside, we can play the mind game just like I did when the burning house question came - "I'd like to say I'm lonely today or being a mom is tough sometimes, but the answer with the most points is 'FINE'".  

Sometimes our lives aren't fine.  Sometimes we are stuck in a crazy cycle in our marriages.  Some days we wish we could have the whole house to ourselves because our kids are driving us insane.  Sometimes we blow it big time and  reap the consequences of our own sin.  Some days we are surrounded by people and yet we feel like an island.  Let's be real!  There are good times.  But there are bad times, too.  We need to be loving and gracious with each other in all circumstances.  

Here's an easy test to take to see if you are comfortable being genuine.  Ask this question:

"What's got a bushy tail, lives in trees and eats nuts?"

If you want to answer "Jesus" just because that's the "right" answer, then maybe you're struggling with being honest and genuine.  By the way, for all you fellow Pharisees out there, the answer is A SQUIRREL!  And yes, Jesus is also the answer to all the things in life that truly matter - honest!  

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

I Want To Be Genuine...Not a Convincing Counterfeit

Genuine - not fake or counterfeit; original; real; authentic

Have you ever seen a picture that was so gorgeous that you were almost sure it had to be doctored?  Or something so strange you knew it couldn't be real?

This is definitely...

           NOT REAL!

But  it is amazing how authentic it looks.

These days, as kids watch movies, I often wonder if they can even tell the difference between the genuine and the computer generated images since it all melds together so smoothly.  I remember watching Sci Fi movies and groaning to my brother, "That doesn't even look real."  Corny effects helped to expose the artificial origins.  How are we suppose to detect the difference these days?

The "fake" looks so convincing anymore.  Bombarded with "perfect" images everywhere, we can hardly remember what a picture of a woman looks like without the airbrushed transformations on every crease and shadow of her face and body.  We crave the authentic and yet are drowning in the believable artificial!

Convincing Counterfeits.
                            We are surrounded by them.
                                                           Sometimes....we are them.

Legalism is very dangerous because of how authentically good it looks on the outside when inside, it's not as it appears.
     Legalism convinces the brokenhearted to put on a mask of happiness.
     Legalism makes mirages out of unhealthy marriages.
     Legalism controls the child to behave instead of learn.
     Legalism hides corrupt priests in honorable looking robes.
     Legalism hides the truth for fear of what others may say.

I've been trying to put into words how important being "real" with each other is. I'm struggling to gather my thoughts.  Perhaps it's because I am in the process of learning this myself.  It's difficult to write about something when you're still formulating your thoughts.  Bear with me.  I plan to write on this through out the week.

As one of my favorite quotes says..."We do not write in order to be understood, but we write in order to understand." -C. Day Lewis    Guess I have yet to understand genuine.  I know I want to be real and allow others to feel like they can be real around me.  It's one of my favorite things about God.  He is who he says he is and he takes me as I am.  No airbrushing needed.  In fact, he's seen every part of me - even the garbage.  It doesn't get anymore real than that!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

"Your Dad went home to be with the Lord today"

There once was a storm in Oregon.  Storms are not unusual there, but this was a very big storm. Trees down.  Power out.  Cell towers without service. Flooding. This storm struck right where my parents, my sister and her family and my niece lived.  We'd watched video as the weather channel reported the chaos.  Since we couldn't get a hold of anyone, we just had to be patient and wait.

During this time, the Lord gave me a very deep calm and overwhelming sense of peace.  It was strangely odd - as if "unnecessarily" present.

I remember sitting at the counter telling Daryl, "I need to be ok with the reality that tsunamis happen, storms happen, bad things happen.  There is nothing I can do to stop any of those.  I'm strangely, totally alright with the fact that my family rests in the hands of the Lord.  Even if a horrible wave hits the entire west coast of Oregon, God will be there with them, even unto death. I need to be ok with that. And amazingly, I am.  I'm so glad this is not all we have to live for.  We have a hope and a future that's sure."

Sounds a bit morbid maybe, but it was a point of mentally surrendering my family to God.  That was a point I had never been at before.  A day or two later, my Dad found a spot where there was phone service and called briefly to say they were alright.  Roads were closed all around, no power, no cell phones, some flooding, but they were safe.  I told him thanks for calling, we'd been praying for them and glad all was well.

That was the last time I talked to my dad.

My brother-in-law Tytus called December 5th, 2007.  He simply said.  "This is Tytus.  I'm calling to give you some news.  Your dad went home to be with the Lord today."  I just remember my heart  feeling like it was going to stop beating from shear shock.  I just remember saying, "What?" since I must not have heard him right.  He repeated the same words this time, his emotions giving away the pain in having to deliver the message.  That "unnecessary peace"  had been put in place by God in preparation for this moment.

My kids immediately felt that there was something wrong.  "WHAT Mom?"  I swallowed hard and told them what Uncle Tytus had said.  Grandpa Dave had gone home to be with the Lord.  "You mean Papa John?" (my dad's dad)  No.  YOUR grandpa. Not mine.  They began to sob and we held each other and cried for a while.  Daryl came home to find us in tears.  He, too, thought he must have heard wrong.  You mean Grandpa John?  No.  Dad.

My dad died of a massive heart attack while helping remove downed trees.  He was only 58.

Just like that.  In a moment, he had left this earth to be in the presence of Jesus! His faith had become sight.  God had prepared my heart for this moment by saturating it with peace.  But the other part of this story? God had prepared my dad's heart, too.  How could I possibly know that?  The final words my dad wrote in his journal just days before he died...

"I'm ready, Lord.  Come quickly."    

I really miss my dad.  There are so many more conversations I wish I could have with him.  Guess I'll just have to wait until I see him again in Heaven.  Like I told my kids before Dad's funeral, "This isn't good bye.  It's only 'See you later'".  

Monday, May 14, 2012

"Blessed Are The Flexible For They Shall Not Break"

Do you remember this saying?

When E.F. Hutton talks.... people listen.

Do you have an E.F. Hutton in your life?  Someone that demands your attention simply because they possess incredible amounts of insight and wisdom. You hush up since you don't want to miss a word they say.  There is such a woman living at a Christian Camp in Ekalaka, Montana.  Her name is Pat.  To look at her, she is tiny in stature, but once you've gotten to know her, hear her and watch her, she grows into a giant right before your eyes.  Not physically, but spiritually.  She would tell you, it's not her, but her Savior.  She's right.  It's Christ in her-all to His glory!  Her life is a living picture of what it looks to allow Jesus to reign and have power over all you do.  When a life is completely open to the Holy Spirit, pouring into others as a conduit of God's love and truth, the amount of influence that can flow is immeasurable!

As newly weds, Daryl and I went to a marriage retreat that Pat and her husband, Bob, led.  We learned nuggets of wisdom that helped give us a good, healthy start to our relationship. "Catch for us the little foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyard." (Song of Solomon 2:15)  It's the little things that can rob your blossoming relationships, so catch them before they trample it to death, they taught.  Good advice.  Godly counsel.

Through the years, I'd brush shoulders with Pat-gleaning a little here and a little there.  Reading her book, Tears in the Bug Juice was inspiring.  She told of the sweet and tough times of trusting God to provide for their camp as it began.  How did this Southern Belle end up in Eastern Montana peeling logs to build camp structures?  By the hand of God - and a willing heart.

When Daryl and I had slowly let our marriage deteriorate, we went back to camp during another marriage retreat.  We found restoration and hope in God's Word, faithfully taught once again by Bob and Pat.

Over a deli sandwich another day, Pat got me thinking about writing, which is in part where this blog comes from.  She asked if I could write a book, what would I write about.  After pouring out my dreams and thoughts, she smiled and said, "There's a book written about that very thing called The Hidden Art of Homemaking."  I ordered it and devoured it!

Pat and Bob are celebrating 50 years of marriage this month.  Because of the beautiful things that have grown out of Pat's life, I take seriously what she shares.  She knows what she is talking about.  She practices what she preaches.  She isn't perfect, but she is wise!  She may not feel like a Southern Belle after decades at a camp, but she is a daughter of the King and that's much better!

She still says Pat-isms, which cause many a young lady to stop and pay heed.  When Pat talks, people listen.  My favorite Pat-ism this year...

"Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not break!"

Thank you Pat!  My life looks different because you are in it.  Happy Anniversary to you both and may God bless you richly for the love you've shared with the world.  We love you!

Pat, my E.F. Hutton

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Compass of Desires

A compass is made to point North, giving direction, assurance.  My compass is often more like Jack Sparrow's compass.  It swings around, looking to point toward what my heart wants the most.  Do you remember that part in the Pirate movies?  Jack's compass pointed toward what he desired most, instead of pointing steadily North.  During that time, he could hardly give an order to his crew as to where they should set sail because he didn't know what he wanted anymore and the needle danced around, out of control.

During the sermon today, God really spoke to my heart about something.  I realized I mostly do what I want to do - what my heart desires.  Like Jack's messed up compass, I hope to get direction based on what I want!  Instead of anticipating that the navigational direction in my life is going to only point North, or in a spiritual sense, to Truth, I wait with bated breath only to do what my selfish desire wants too much of the time.

Today being Mother's Day, I wish I could tell you I am always sacrificial with my time, money and energy.  Instead, I awakened to the fact that I am still selfish.  Rats!  I thought that surely by now I wouldn't have to battle with my self-centeredness.  I wish that I did have a compass I could whip out, look at and see my desires miraculously match up with God's desires for me and that I'd happily set a coarse to follow them.  Sometimes I want to be lazy.  Sometimes I just want to gripe.  Sometimes I think I'll ignore. I really want to be "good" all the time, but I also want my own way.  I think this must be that internal battle Paul talked about in Romans 7.
          "For I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.  For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.  For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing."  

Sure, us moms do a lot of things to help make the world go round.  One example?  That fridge doesn't just magically fill up with food. We surely do many things for the love of our families.  But unfortunately, even us moms are not immune to struggling with selfishness.  I hope though, that as the years continue to go by and I can pray, MORE OF YOU JESUS IN MY LIFE, the more syncopated my compass needle will be with God's desires.  Oh, how I wish I could put aside all my selfishness.  It's exhausting to wrestle myself each day.  But I honestly do want the Lord to be honored in my life. Today was a day to recommit my "wants" to my Lord and ask that he'd bring my longings into sync with His.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Come on! Pick up!

One day our youngest, who is eleven, called a phone number, then turned on the speaker phone to ask, "What does that mean?"

*beep*  *beep*  *beep*  *beep*  

Haha!  It was a busy signal!  I hadn't heard one of those in a long time now that cell phones are around.  Everyone seems to have one, giving us instant access at all times.

As many of my friends and family can attest, I am not a fan of answering the phone all the time.  Honestly, there are times the phone just interrupts life at the wrong moment.  I think my lack of urgency to answer it stems out from time in life when we were in full-time ministry.  Our phone rang like normal people until dad was a Pastor. rang ALL THE TIME!  We could scarcely eat a meal without it ringing several times.  Because you never knew if it was an urgent matter (and that's part of what ministry involves) you answer it.  I can't imagine what it's like for Pastors in this day and age with cell phones.  It's got to be tougher than ever to get away and rest.

Growing up, the only other person I remember needing to be available at all times was the Doctor.  You'd be sitting in church when   *beep*  *beep*  *beep*  the pager hanging from his belt would go off, alerting everyone that there was some emergency he needed to head off to.  A Pastor and a Doctor have this in common - they are aids to those with brokenness.  One for the body. One for the soul.  And you never know when those needs will arise.

Then, there is the Great Physician.  The Great Shepherd.  We have instant access to Him at all times.  No busy signal.  No call-waiting.  No being put on hold.  And amazingly, He never sleeps, so we'll never miss being able to reach him.  This is something about God that is mind boggling to me.  Being an exhaustible human being, I can not fathom the fact that he in inexhaustible! 

Always present.  Always wise. Always powerful.  Always there.

(Ironically, just after writing this, we were trying to reach Daryl's mom and couldn't get her.  Realizing it had been more than 24 hours since any of us in the family had talked to her, we began to worry a bit.  If you know Marly, you know she is Jonny-on-the-spot with her phone, so it wasn't like her to NOT answer!  We used our open line to God this morning already as we prayed for her, hoping she was alright.  I had to laugh at the timing of this situation in light of this post!  Marilyn is the way.  She'd just turned her phone off.  Haha!)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Grace: A Broken & Beautiful Accounting

Graphs help track growth.  Pie charts help compare one slice of "something" against another.  We love to measure and compare. Seeing results measured out like this gives a sense of accomplishment.

Grace is a broken accounting system.  No pie chart can effectively shows grace's work.

Looking at grace - it's ridiculously beautiful though!

According to the bible, when God looks at me, my life-graph doesn't rise and fall according to my righteousness because God sees Christ when he looks at me, therefore, my "numbers" couldn't be better!  Don't get me wrong here, I do NOT want to take advantage of God's grace by living like a hellion and thumbing my nose at his generous kindness to me.  He deserves way better than that! Yet, despite his holiness, he allows me to approach his throne boldly, protected and loved, bought and paid for under the name of Jesus Christ.

Some may say, "How arrogant of you to think you can approach a Holy God with such confidence!"  Remember though, it was HIM who tore the curtain! He opened the Way to his throne through Jesus.  With humility and thankfulness, I approach, but also with confidence. He loves me...and I unabashedly go to him as my Heavenly Father, knowing he will not send me away.  That's amazing! Amazing Grace!

Grace didn't only show up when Jesus came.  We see God's grace in the Old Testament, too.  The story of Noah is one such example.  Yes, we see his wrath poured out, but desiring than none should perish if they'd turn back to him, he also gave mercy and grace - in the form of an ark.  This is an excerpt from something I wrote a few years back.

I just realized the other day that God waited 100 years for Noah to build the ark...only to save EIGHT people in the end.  EIGHT!!!  This is significant to me in light of what I was thinking about yesterday. We are all about results and performance as people. We generally run life like a business. If we aren't getting the results we think we should be getting, we cut the funding, by George! But God doesn't work that way. The thing that blows my mind about the story of Noah is that God already knew how many were going to get in the ark. It wasn't as if the day of the flood came and God sat there, scratching his head saying, "Oh rats! Noah, I had you make this ark ginormous, and look...nobody is showing up. What a waste of time!" Nope. He told him to build the ark, then waited patiently, allowing only eight little people to board. Now that's kindness!  That's mercy. God's not into showing off his most recent stats. He's into loving people. That's the way it was from the beginning and the way it is now. EIGHT people saved in a hundred years time?  Wow! That's not a good return on His investment according to the numbers. Or then again...maybe it was a great return- according to grace.

Isn't our God incredible?  How do we not fall head over heals in love with such a God?  

Lord, thank you for not loving me based on my performance because I know I would fall short.  If my life was recorded and measured according to a graph, it would not be impressive at all. Thank you for allowing me to take on the name and the beautiful results of Jesus as my own!  You truly are amazing and I love you!  May my life bring you the glory you deserve!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Brothers and Sisters...gotta love 'em!

Who will you "do life with" the longest?

Your siblings.

Think about it...they show up on the scene relatively close to the same time you do. They're around during the growing-up years.  They see you get married.  They'll grow old along side you. There's a good chance that they'll leave this world the same decade you do.

In contrast, your spouse doesn't show up for a few decades. Your in-laws arrive midstream. Friends come sporadically throughout your timeline. Your children show up several chapters in.  Your parents generally leave this world miles ahead of you.

My siblings are some of my all-time favorite people in this world.  We've seen each other at our best and worst.  We have memories of each other from all different phases in life.  And no one on earth understands what those growing up years were like better than the siblings who went through it with you. Thank God for brothers and sisters!

One day, after talking with my brother Matt I realized he had done a wonderful thing in my life as an adult that I hadn't expected. Validation. Sure he had made me laugh over the years.  He'd made me rip-snorting mad, too. But after all this time and all the life experiences, he had validated my thoughts and feelings just by understanding me. Sounds like a simple thing, but it was revolutionary for me.  In the midst of the lessons on Grace, God had used Matt to validate the struggle I was in while trying to break free from the crazy cycle of legalism. And sometimes you just need to know you aren't crazy!  Conversations with my brothers and sister kept me grounded and realistic.  And they have helped me grow on this journey from legalism to grace.

Everyone deals with struggles and hurts and my siblings and I were no exception.  My brothers both struggled with drowning the past in the liquid numbing agent of alcohol and masked pain with humor.  My sister and I hid ours in peace-less striving of perfection and paralyzing guilt that robbed the joy out of life.

Now, as we get together as grown-ups, we laugh about the good times, the funny moments, the sweet memories like camping and vacationing.  We tease each other about our quarks and remind each other to be kind because we hold the secrets to things known only by each other - Secrets worthy of blackmail!  We can cry over the sad moments and the grief of missing dad in a way that connects us like no other.

Today, I write this as a love letter and a thank you note to my siblings.  Matt, thank you for helping to make me into the person I am today.  I learned my first relationship skills with you or on you, depending on how you look at it. You've seen my worst and yet you still love me. You still make me laugh like no one else and your insights have been some of the most helpful in my understanding of life, marriage and parenting.  Jonny, thank you for being the one to who shares things so simply, honestly and to the point - that life is about people, not "stuff" and institutional structure.  It's been awesome to see your strength and determination this year. I look forward to more years of getting to know you even better.  Your tenderheartedness is one of your most enduring qualities and I love that about you.  And Cathi, you've gone from being my sweet "little" sister to my friend and sister in Christ.  You've encouraged me, challenged me and inspired me these past years and my life looks different because of the love and grace you have shared with me.  You are like that "iron on iron", getting the sharpening sparks to fly.  No one's conversations have lingered in my mind like the ones we've had.  Thank you for being my best friend!

I am truly blessed to have you for my siblings!  I'm glad we get to "do life" together and hope we have many more.  My life really is richer because you are in it!  And honestly, I really like you guys!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

One Late Night "Google"

What is the strangest thing you've ever googled?  One day, Daryl and I acted like junior highers and tried to stump google by asking it to search for something we thought would be impossible for the internet to match.  (Obviously, this was several years ago, before we knew how amazingly unstumpable Google really is!)

I Googled "VBS dinosaurs driving me crazy" one night.

My dad had just died a few months earlier and we decided to go spend a month of the summer with mom.  It was right during a dinosaur-themed Vacation Bible School at her church.  I have a confession - I have a love/hate relationship with VBS.  Love the kids!  Hate the craziness.  I am a huge advocate of creativity, but sometimes what we call creative is just craziness in disguise. God is creative, for sure, but trying to make snacks shaped like objects from the bible lesson is just plain crazy!  There is no such thing as a sanctified snack so why go there?  One night, after painting a huge mural of a dinosaur scene on two king size sheets for my mom's class, I was ready to go coo-coo-for-cocoa-puffs-insane!!!  I couldn't sleep and kept asking myself...why am I doing this?

The sarcastic PK (Pastor's Kid) in me came out as I googled "VBS dinosaurs driving me crazy" late that night.  It was as if I could vent my frazzled feelings to the computer screen.  Lo and behold, something surprisingly popped up in legitimate response.  Someone had written a blog about this VERY subject!  The title of the post: Those Wacky VBS Themes.  And right there, next to the title was a picture of a dinosaur.  Someone else was evidently going crazy while working on VBS, too.  I read the blog and laughed til I cried.  I scrolled through post after post that the author had written.  I thought for a moment we had maybe lived the same life.  Grateful that I wasn't the only person in the world questioning whether or not we'd gone overboard with church programs, I drifted off to sleep feeling a sense of relief.  I wasn't alone.  Someone else had been laughing at the craziness, too.

I returned to read more of the same blog the next morning.  Again, I laughed until I cried.  Who was this?  He definitely had wrested through the same strange church questions I had been asking and had a knack for putting into funny stories.  Then light bulb came on as I realized, this was another PK.

They say that the best comedy mixes enough truth with enough humor to make the audience comfortably laugh at subjects otherwise uncomfortable to talk about.  This was the comedic relief I  needed.  It felt good to laugh about making silly foam crafts, strange action songs, and doofy puppet shows.  Pausing to laugh about it all helped me realize something. We'll do insane things just to tell kids about Jesus.  As long as they come away having heard about the Good News, it'll be worth it all.

Sometimes life isn't one thing OR the other.  Sometimes it's AND.  Church is good AND sometimes church is crazy.  Stumbling across this blog, it surprised me how much I needed to laugh at the deranged things we do.  But hey!  If God can use the jaw bone of a donkey to do his will, why not a blog or a VBS craft!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Snake on the Path ...or is it?

If you were walking along a path in the forest and came upon this....
...would you think Snakes!?!

What about this one?

If you've ever had the shock of a snake across your path, you know how it can set your heart racing!  The first picture - harmless tree roots, but they sure could look like snakes at first glance.  The second, obviously is a snake slithering over the ground.  Why are there snakes in my blog? (Honestly, I got the heebie-jeebies just looking at pictures of snakes!) Thus, there is a point.

Until we know whether it's a root or a snake, we will act like it's the snake.  The same is true in life.  Occasionally, something will happen, a situation will arise, and we'll automatically throw up the defenses and make a knee jerk reaction before understanding the full truth.  This is especially true in our relationships.  Words are said and assumptions are made.  Feelings are hurt and accusations can fly - all on a whim of an emotional reaction.

Just like the flinch we feel at the sight of a "snake", our EMOTION shows up before our REASONING has time to kick in, and we will react in life with intense fear.  It's merely human nature to have an emotional reaction.  This is where TRUTH is so important.  Looking at the truth, the reality, can help us take captive the feelings we feel.  We are not robots though.  Even the most logical of people will still jump at the first sight of a snake!  Emotions are not an evil thing like some legalism teaches. God made us emotional beings. He's emotional, too.

"For God so loved the world..." (John 3:16)
"In all their distress he too (God) was distressed..." (Isaiah 63:9)
"As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion..." (Psalm 103:13)
"Do not grieve the Holy Spirit..." (Eph. 4:30)
"...but (God) will rejoice over you with singing." (Zeph. 3:17b)

Emotions are proof we are alive. We love. We hurt. We anticipate. We grieve. We enjoy.  I wanted to share this illustration I'd heard about snakes, because it made me understand it's alright to feel.  Legalism points its finger and says, "You shouldn't feel like that!  Stop it!"  For too many years, I thought it "right" to only be logical, and felt horribly guilty if I had any feelings to wrestle through.  

Truth.  Looking at the truth of a matter is what settles us down so we can think, yet God designed our bodies to "react" and feel.  And sometimes it's that reaction that saves us from the real snake!  "I'm so glad you saw that otherwise we could have stepped on it!"  Truth is, sometimes there really is something there.  Often times, there isn't.  Truth helps us determine whether our emotions are in line with reality and emotions are often what jars us abruptly to look for the truth.  

Next time a "snake" shows up on your path, literally or figuratively, making you jump, scream for a second if you need to, take a breath and look down and decided whether it's time to laugh at yourself or JUMP to safety.  Either way, I bet you'll jump first!  You just can't help it...

Thursday, April 26, 2012

What idiosyncrasies?

Daryl and I will be married 20 years in August. We laugh as we sit and reminisce about our years together. We've had tough times, but we agree, it's been mostly a wonderful time.  I still like him...a lot!  In the early years, it was easier to stumble over our differences and scratch our heads in confusion as we tried to figure each other out.  Years roll by though, and with time, we look at each others weaknesses less and see each other just for who we are.

Have we grown and changed over the years?  Certainly.  But some habits and quarks, we just don't care to refine.  "Why do you think we still like each other?" Daryl asked last night while we were on a date.  We exchanged a gamut of thoughts.  Then Daryl began to talk about what a difference being gracious with each other makes.  Instead of focusing on each other's habits and quarks, living with a grudging tolerance of each other, we zone in on the things we enjoy about each other.

In our years together, you'd think I would know how to put the vacuum away properly and Daryl would know how to dispose of a Christmas tree.  We laugh about our idiosyncrasies.  We crack ourselves up, which could be either a sign we are both slightly crazy or that we've learned the art of grace after 20 years.  I asked Daryl if he care if I told the Christmas tree story.  He once told me, when I asked to tell another story... about our brand new stove flying out the back of our pickup at 50 miles an hour, he didn't mind if I told his story at a ladies retreat I shared at.  His response?  "That's the great thing about being married to me.  I give you great material!"  Haha!  Yes, he does!

Anyway, the Christmas tree.  There is that window of time when people generally disposes of their Christmas tree.  Daryl would choose to set our tree outside. Just outside.  Somewhere.  One year, the tree was there til March-behind the house.  A few years later, the tree was next to the back yard garage til...June.  That's almost Christmas in July!  But then, he beat his record and the tree laid next to that garage until September!  As we discussed the disposal of the tree, he jokingly suggested we just keep it and put it up like the Charlie Brown tree.  It went to the dump that day.  The next year though, we cut down another tree and he was "trimming" it up.  It was going to look beautiful in our house with the high ceiling.  Somehow, he sawed the tree in half!!!  It was instantly dubbed the Christmas "Bush".  The kids got such a kick out of it and talked about it so much, we had people stop by the house and ask if they could look at our Christmas Bush.  We'd even sing the song, "Oh Christmas Bush, Oh Christmas Bush, how lovely were your branches."  I think our Christmas trees were Daryl's arch nemesis, that is, until we moved to Montana where he took our tree to the tree disposal sight, came home and declared, "You should be so proud!  Our's was the 3rd tree on the pile!"  Honestly, he'd never been sexier than at that moment!

I hate to admit it, but Daryl has beat his nemesis before me.  Mine is the vacuum.  For 20 years, my vacuum has never had a "place".  There is truly not a designated place for our vacuum to reside when it's not being used.  Its place is whatever room it was last used in.  This is why I often here the kids ask, "Where's the vacuum?"  Someday, I too will beat my nemesis.

Learning to be gracious about stupid little things like this are what have kept us from forgetting that we really do like each other... a lot!

Grace in marriage is seeing who a person is at the core, loving who they are and appreciating what they are good at without harping them to death about their failures.  I can paint murals on walls, turn a piece of junk into art, and talk the leg off a mule.  Daryl can build or fix almost anything, make us all laugh every night, and listen 'til the cows come home.  We make a good pair. Idiosyncrasies and all.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Hmm... What Exactly Am I Trying To Say Here?

Anytime I write, I like to mull over words and phrases in my mind until I find just the right words.  Take out the unnecessary words (or in this case type the word "unnecessary" three times just to figure out how to spell it!), and add just the right adjectives so the reader can grasp the whole picture vividly.  Some days, creativity and writing flow like the chocolate rivers in Willy Wonka's factory, and other days, well... I, uh... type and hmm... (*sigh*) Yeah, you get the picture.

I love to put little marks in my bible when I come across unusual and seemingly unnecessary descriptions tucked in between the deep mysteries of God's Words.  Sometimes I laugh out loud and wonder if God chuckled to himself as he decided what to include as God-breathed, perfect scripture.  Let me give you a few examples.

1.     "The power of the Lord came upon Elijah and tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran..."  This makes me laugh every time because I can just see him with his hairy legs sticking out under his bunched up robe, booking it across the desert!  Run, Elijah, Run!  God could have just said, he ran.  But, no.

2.     "In that day the Lord will whistle for the flies from the distant streams of Egypt..."  I love that God is the conductor of the universe and spoke the stars into existence, can calm the sea, move mountains, but whistle for flies? Once again. this paints such a comical scene for my imagination.  A bit like an old Lassie episode, "Oh Lassie!"  and he comes a runnin'!  I just never thought of flies obediently coming when called.

3.     "Like a gold ring in a pig's snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion"  Proverbs is full of great word pictures, but what dad doesn't want to have his daughter memorize this verse before she's allowed to date.  My dad did!

4.     And finally, this one isn't funny, but it caught my eye and made me think. Nehemiah was sent to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and scripture lists family after family working together.  "Next to him...worked so and so, and next to him, so and so repaired..."  and then in the midst of all these dozens of names, "Next to him, Baruch son of Zabbai zealously repaired another section..."  How cool is that?  God chose to point out that this guy wasn't only doing his job, but he did it with ZEAL!  I want to be like this Baruch guy, who serves with such zeal that it is worth mentioning.  He must have really loved his Lord.  Don't you want that kind of vigor?  I do!

We know God takes very seriously what His Word says.  It's perfect!  Jesus even says in Matthew 5:18, "Truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of the pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished."  Every word is intentional.  It's just the words he was looking for to convey his message to us.  God's Word is powerful!  Still, sometimes I smile as I come across those unique spots and wonder to myself, why did you decided to include that?  All I know is sometimes a tiny little word, like zealously, can challenge me to pause and think, "Am I zealous for you Lord?"  And other times, a tiny word just make me snicker because God does have a good sense of humor!  I love that!

(For those of you who would like to check and make sure I'm not making this up, here are the references to the verses above.  1. I Kings 18:46,  2. Isaiah 7:18,  3. Proverbs 11:22,  4. Nehemiah 3:20)  

Monday, April 23, 2012

Everybody Has a Story...kinda like LOST

LOST.  The Christian disclaimer in me wants to say I know I shouldn't say I miss a television show, but I really do miss LOST! Crazy, right?  Truth be told, everyone loves a good story now and then and that's what the writers of LOST were able to do (for the first 5 seasons anyway!).

The whole first season, I couldn't figure out who the "good" or "bad" guys were.  About the time I'd think I knew which side of the line a character was, we'd see a "flash back" and I'd be confused again.  Seemingly sweet, Kate, turned out to be the convict who was being flown home for trial.  Con artist, Sawyer, was just a mistrusting grown boy who was recovering from his parents murder/suicide.  And soft spoken, single mom, Claire, became the Island lunatic!

Life is a lot like the weaving story lines of LOST.  We formulate our first impressions of people from the limited information we know and decide privately whether they're a "good" or "bad" guy. Eventually, we start learning more of their background and are surprised to find a person, a story as compelling as any written book or television show.

 How many of us have been misjudged by someone and wish we could just have another chance to show them who we really are?  More importantly, how many times have I done that to people around me?!?  This happened to me with a little German lady I met when we lived in Eastern Montana, named Berta.  She spoke with a thick German brogue which made it nearly impossible for me to catch more than half of her words.  Standing at maybe 5 feet, she was a intense force to be reckoned with.  I was scared to death of her!  This tiny little woman had me so intimidated, I decided I needed to do something about it.  I don't like to be afraid, so I thought I better overcome it by getting to know her better.  The German ladies of our congregation made a wonderful dessert called Kuchan-a kind of coffee cake with fruit.  Ah ha!  I'd ask her to teach me to make this.  I called her and she drilled off the ingredients I should bring like gunfire, and told me what morning I'd report to her house.  Yes ma'am!  Unfortunately, I didn't understand a good portion of what she told me.  Needless to say, she informed me I hadn't brought the right "kind" of ingredients.  Cream wasn't just cream, but a specific type.  Yeast wasn't just yeast, but should have been rapid rise yeast!

     "You know nothing of making Kuchan!" she said as she tossed her arms in the air and shook her head.
     "Berta, that's why I'm here.  I want you to teach me," I said, hoping she couldn't hear my knees knocking together. Then, she stepped right under my chin, put her finger out and told me, "When we are through here, we'll either be the best of friends or the worst of enemies."
     "I hope we're friends," I managed to eek out.   I think I was crying on the inside, but too terrified to breath, let alone tear up.

As we sat and waited for my very, very slow rising yeast to rise, she told me her story.  This woman had been through more than I could have ever imagined!  Her first husband had been killed during the war, and all she received was a note.  "No body.  No explaining.  No nothin'," she cried.  "Your generation knows nothing of hardship," she continued.  She escaped Germany during the nights, carrying her sickly 2 year old, stealing potatoes from farmer's fields.  Those around her told her to leave the boy, because they were sure he would die anyway.  She told me she couldn't have lived with herself if she'd of done that.  He lived, thanks to her stubborn faithfulness.  Reaching America wasn't the end of hardship.  She spoke no English and had difficulties with the adjustments.  No wonder Berta seemed like a drill sergeant on the outside-life had been horribly tough.  Yet, through this all, she chose to follow a Savior who didn't rescue her from it, but went through it with all with her.  Needless to say, I fell in love with this woman before my Kuchan was done baking.  We'd bonded over her kitchen table all because she was willing to share her story.  It was not an easy story for her to tell.

Everyone has a story.  Share yours with someone.  You never know what could unlikely friendship may develop.  It could even change someone else's life!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Rocks, MSN and Forgiveness

Why is it important to remember?  Why look back?  To remember.  If we don't take the time to remember, it's easy to forget.  We celebrate anniversaries and birthdays to say, "I recall what happened on this day. I remember and I care!"  We shoot fireworks on the 4th of July in honor and appreciation of our freedom and those who fought for it.  We take communion to remember what Jesus did on the cross and pause in thanksgiving and anticipation until his return.

Let's face it... we are a very forgetful people by nature!  We need constant reminders.  Good grief, the disciples would actually see amazing miracles daily - feeding of thousands from a tiny lunch, storms calmed by mere words, diseased outcasts instantly healed - yet they'd have forgotten by the next day and were once again worried about where there next meal was coming from.  Forgetful to a fault.  I love the story in the Old Testament where the Israelites stacked up piles of rocks to remember how God had delivered them from their enemy...again.  The rocks were meant to be a reminder, a sign, so that when their children asked, "Dad, what's that pile of rocks over there?" they could tell them about all God had done for them.

There's one thing that we don't have a hard time forgetting... when someone wrongs us.  I wish I could blame my lack of forgiveness on someone else or my background or my genes...anything but myself!  Unfortunately, it's my human, sinful nature to forget the great things, the miracles, the good things, and linger on the wrongs.  Unforgiveness comes so naturally.  In one of my last posts I mentioned that my dad and I met up and began sharing - learning about God's grace and love.  It started with a shared forgiveness.  A pain from both of our pasts - The "crash" while in Hermiston. (If you missed the story of this, read:  When the Crash Happens )

This story begins because my dad wanted to MSN (live chat) with the grandkids, so we were trying to set up a link where they could "chat".  Something you should know about my dad is this: He was a much better writer than talker.  Little did I realize, God would use this time "writing" back and forth to open up a "chatline" that was much needed for us both.  Our chat went something like this:

Me:    The kids will love being able to talk with you live over the computer.
Dad:   They can practice typing, too.
Me:     So, how was your week?
Dad:    It was good.  But you'll never guess who I saw this week.

(I went on to guess several old family friends.  Finally, he just told me.  One of the deacons from the old church where he had pastored years before had shown up Sunday morning.  The guy's son had moved to the same new town my parents lived and had no idea dad was pastoring there.  Guess they both about spilled their coffee when they ran into each other. I'll be honest, my blood pressure shot up instantly, and I wanted to drive there and find that deacon and give him an earful!  I was instantly full of panic, fear and anger.)

Me:    What did you say?
Dad:   Not much.  He's the one that seemed nervous.  He acted like he wished
          he could just disappear.  I think he was pretty uncomfortable.
Me:    Are you okay?  I'm sure that had to be really hard.  I can't believe how I
          want to jump through this computer and be there.  It's not like you need
          protecting, but that's what I wish so I could be there for you.  Are you
          sure your okay?
Dad:   I'm ok.  Thanks.  I think it's a good thing this happened.
Me:    Serious?  Why?
Dad:   Because I need to forgive him.  I think seeing him face to face was good.
Me:    I KNOW I need to forgive him, but I'm still so angry at them!
Dad:   Maybe God knew we just needed him to show up to get us to deal with
          this very thing.

Dad and I would not have had this conversation so easily had we been sitting on a couch across from each other, but somehow typing the words made us feel safe. Vulnerable.  It had been nearly 15 years since Dad had been the Pastor in Hermiston, but this was the first time he and I had "talked" about it...ever.  To hear my dad say he needed to forgive the man made me realize he wasn't the only one who had held on to some unforgiveness.  That day, I saw my dad as a vulnerable human more than ever before.  My heart softened a bit that day as compassion began to seep in.  Empathy towards my dad and also understanding that it was time to forgive an old wound.  It was time to drop the rock.  

Rocks.  They can be piled up to help remember God's faithfulness.  They've also been used to stone offenders to death.  What are you doing with your rocks?  What shall we choose to remember today?  God's faithfulness or a grudge we have against someone?  Let's pile the rocks high!  We have so much to be thankful for!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Whose Line Is It Anyway? Good question

I used to love to watch Whose Line Is It Anyway! Personal favorites-Props and Sound Effects.  Oh... the comic relief giant, foam tubes could bring when turned into silly hats or dentist's instruments.   (*sigh).

The musical actors would sometimes improvise an act called Three Headed Broadway Star, where they'd have a theme and each guy would alternate singing one word at a time to make a full song.  The production was often full of choppy tunes, side-splitting laughter, and awkward lyrical stories.

There came a day when I had an epiphany! I played my own private version of the Three Headed Broadway Star in my head, and the starring singers consisted of God, my dad, and "church".  They would intermittently sing their word, only to be followed by the other of the triune voices, putting together one long, strange lyrical tune.  Truly, it was as though the three melded into one voice.  

The light bulb turned on as I realized this -  
                    what God, my dad, and the church said were NOT one in                           the same. 

"Well, duh!" some of you may be saying.  But really, to me, this was an awakening!!!  This is not to say that sometimes their voices didn't line up in harmony.  They did sometimes.  Yet, I still had confused "Thou shalt not chew gum in church" as God's rule.  Why?  Because all three voices held the same amount of weight in my eyes.  If my dad told me something, it must be God's will.  And if the church preached something, surely they would align it with God's Word.  And if God said something, every parent and church member would definitely be teaching this truth. Right?  The day I realized my parents were "human", fallible, was a great relief.  For that matter, I awakened to the fact that the church was made up of broken, imperfect people, too.  God was the only one who wouldn't say, "Whoops!  Sorry about that!  I made a mistake."

I had not given mankind a position of honor, but of godlike, unfailing clout.   This was not a moment to rationalize leadership and avoid living under any kind of authority, but instead, it put their "voices" into proper perspective and raised God's voice to its appropriate place.  All the years of hearing things said, such as, "You should never love yourself," or "Sunday School is as important as church" came under a new scrutiny.  Who said that?  I found a lot of times, it was not in the bible, but merely ideas put together by man.  Many of them good ideas, but not "God's commandments".

Usually, a two-fer is a good deal.  A three-fer an even better deal.  Not in this case.  It was time to reorganize the voices in my head.  God speaks.  People speak.  Sometimes they match up.  Other times they don't.  And in a battle of Whose Line Is It Anyway, God's voice is now noticeably distinguished from all the rest instead of some strange three headed blob, vying for the next word.

Monday, April 16, 2012

God is Most Pleased With Me When.... I Behave?

In 2006, I served on a Federal jury for 5 weeks in Denver.  It changed my perspective by opening my eyes to the world of mass drug trafficking and the broken lives of those who survived in the midst of it's chaos.  As important as this trial was, there was another event that happened during these weeks that drastically changed my life the way an earthquake transforms a landscape in a moment's shaking.

Since I was staying in Denver for the duration of the trial, I was visiting a church on the weekends.  It was Father's Day and fittingly, the pastor preached a message about God - Our Heavenly Father.  At one point, he asked everyone to answer this phrase silently to themselves.

God is most pleased with me when...

I immediately finished the sentence with    ...I behave.  That was an easy answer to produce because it was the way I both thought and lived.  The pastor went on to teach about God's unconditional love for us and how it isn't based on our performance because there is nothing we can do to make Him love us anymore than he already does.  He continued, saying he believed part of our view of God came from our view of our dads.  That's a bunch of physco-mumbo-jumbo, I thought.  But I got to thinking, if I were to answer the question, "Dad is most pleased with me when..." I would have finished it identically - "when I behave."

You see, with legalism, performance is everything!!!  If you are "good" and do "right" then everyone is happy with you - God, your parents, church people.  If you are "bad" and "screw up" then you better get it together so that you can live within their "graces" again, but not until you clean up your mess.

Right there, in the middle of the service, the stopped-up tears from years of frustration with trying to "be good", started to flow.  Usually, I'd of been worried about what people thought but in that moment it didn't matter.  Uncharacteristically, I was unafraid to be that emotional, weeping girl who needed tissues from another lady's purse.  There was no hiding my sobs. The tears were there for all to see and I didn't care.  I felt relieved as I understood for the first time the depth of my Heavenly Father's love for me.  I believed He truly loved me with affection and tenderness.  I needed to hear this!  It melted my heart.

This weekend will always be a sweet memory to me.  Not only did it begin to make it possible for me to understand the grace that I'd been reading about in my parenting book, but it turned my heart toward my dad in a whole new way.  I began to pray that Dad and I could have a relationship that would grow closer and more outwardly loving. Our relationship wasn't an offensive one.  It was more "positional".  He was my dad.  I was his daughter.  Little did I know that God was taking my dad on a journey all his own to that same place. The place of God's Unconditional Love and Grace.  It's in this place, I met my dad before he died.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

My One Thousand Gifts

One thousand gifts.  This is the name of the book I picked up one day while wandering around my favorite book store.  It's not the full version but the small gift size book that holds Reflections From one thousand gifts.  It was the picture of the hands holding a tiny sparrow that caught my eye.  I began to flip through the book and saw it was full of beautiful pictures of children in flower beds, stacks of journals, homemade bread, frost covered grass.  I bought it for my sister, but by the time the evening came, I'd read through a dozen pages.  The author of the book had been given a dare...

Could she write one thousand things she loved... 
                                         a thousand blessings?

Gratitude.  A heart that overflows with thankfulness.  Acknowledging God's blessings, even in the small things.

How many times have I read, "Give thanks in all things...?"  Do I?  Some days more than others.  Thankfulness produces joy in my life, so why don't I do it more?  Finding this little book reminded me that I had started a "Joy List" as I called it.  In an old journal five years ago, I sat at my desk, lit a delicious candle and started compiling an inventory of little things that made me pause and give thanks.
     *the smell of a candle burning
     *my children's laughter
     *a good cup of coffee shared with a friend
     *catching Daryl's eye from across the room
     *music without lyrics
     *an empty canvas and the dream of what it'll look like before the brush 
      touches its surface
     *the smell of a hot light bulb because it takes me back to nights when
      we would watch family slide shows
     *good jazz music and a classic book
     *eating raw wheat after it pours from the combine
     *backyards with trees to play in
     *listening to silver-haired friends tell stories of their youth
     *...and on it went
I have decided it's time to open my newly purchased journal and pick up where I left off.  Maybe you want to join in.  Let's see what happens in our lives when we open our eyes and look for opportunity to give thanks. Pause. Be thank-FULL, even in the little things.  Now, where's my pen?  My journal is waiting...

Rebekah's Cell - A Story of Forgotten Freedom

Not long ago, there was a girl named Rebekah, who lived in a cell - the kind of cell built to hold a prisoner for a lifetime of solitary confinement. No room to move. No sunshine.  Only the absence of any close relationships.  Unquestioningly, Rebekah lived in her cell by her own free choice, for the door remained unlocked. All it would take was a shove and the hinges would open to a bright world.  A free world.  But, she'd moved in so long ago, she didn't remember life outside of her cold, dark walls.  Why did she stay?  If all it took was a push on the door, what kept her from promptly kicking it open?  What paralyzed her from running out into a life of sunshine, relationships and freedom?  And how did she ever get here?

Someone had convinced her that this tiny little cell, this box, was in fact,  freedom. 

A Liar had faithfully droned each day, "This... is your life.  This... is freedom, Rebekah.  This... is as good as it gets."  He regularly visited her throughout the day in an attempt to keep her subdued and deceived.  Because she'd grown accustomed to his familiar voice, she trusted him and thought his words were true.  Why else would Liar repeat this day after day if it were not so?

In the dark, it's hard to discern.  In the loneliness, it's difficult to reason.  In whispered lies, it's impossible to hope.

Early one morning, as Rebekah strained to reposition herself against the walls of her cell, she heard a Man singing just outside the door.  He sang of an abundant life flowing with extravagant love and freedom.  Freedom? she scoffed as she listened.  "I'm free.  It's nothing to sing about," she thought.  Then, as if the Singer could hear her thoughts he spoke, "That isn't freedom, Rebekah.  You've been deceived.  It is for freedom that I came to set you free.  Remember?"  He drew nearer to her and whispered, "I am the Way.  Come to me."

"This is my life.  This is as good as it gets.  This is freedom," she recited.

Without hesitation, the Man sang back, "I came to set the captives free!  I am the Truth."  Rebekah felt her heart hope for an instant.  Could there be more than this?

As He kept on singing to Rebekah, He placed His hand on her cell.  "I am the Life.  This truth will set you free!  Please open this door."  She felt warmth and saw tiny rays of... what was it?  It'd been years since she'd seen it - since she was a very young girl.  It pierced through the walls of her cell and made her eyes squint.  Oh, her heart swelled with longing for more of it.  It was....Light!

Could it be, that after all this time, she'd believed the Lie?  Was there such a thing as genuine freedom?  True freedom.  If she could feel and see His light, His warmth from inside her frigid little cell, surely it could be true that there was more outside.  Rebekah longed for it.  Floods of memories came rushing in like a tidal wave... She'd danced to this tune before, years ago!  It was the King's Song and it was beautiful!  But then someone interrupted, chanting a different verse, telling her the way to freedom was in this room - this tiny cell.  And before she recognized the tune had changed, she willingly stepped into her own personal prison guarded by Liar himself.  Forgotten was the song of Love, for she believed another's song.  Until today!

Rebekah rocked forward, shoving against the hard cell door.  With her heart pounding like a drum, in sync with King's Song, she burst from her prison as she opened the door and stepped out into the sunlight and right into the arms of the King himself!  "Oh, how I've missed you!" she cried.  "I didn't know I'd followed a lie until I heard your singing."

He gently answered, "I've been singing this song to you everyday.  I knew one day you'd hear it and remember it."  He hugged her tight as she drank in the sweet affection she'd been longing for.  In these arms, she found His unconditional love and hope.  Here, was real freedom!  How could she of ever thought life was found within those dark, confined walls?  Like a bird who sits in a cage not realizing the door is open to fly free at anytime, she'd believed the lie that inside her walls resided all the King allowed.  But Hallelujah!  Like a bird who abandons the caged-existence, Rebekah found a King whose love was limitless as the sky, whose grace was beyond measure, and whose freedom was true! 

Now, her freedom has taken her to the places where others are hidden away, closed inside cells where the Liar has led them, to sing them the song of the King, and His freedom and his love.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The ShamWow! Shirt...a Stroke of Brilliance

Life's messy.  Clean it up!  Bissel used this slogan to try to entice me buy their little green machine.   It didn't work.  But... I have hijacked this phrase for my own personal use.  For example, when my kids have left their mess on the counter after making lunch, I say to them, "Life's messy.  Clean it up!"  The act of making the mess is not the issue.  It's who they think should clean up the mess that gets me.  A child's slogan would be more like, "Life's messy.  Mom will clean it up!"

If this is actually true, I mean, that moms should be the "insti-cleaners" for the messers around them, then I'm going to make a fortune off of my brilliant new invention... (*drum roll please*)  Wait for it...

ShamWow! Shirt for Moms

Think about it... if us Moms had shirts made out of ShamWow material, we could just dive right on top of that spill before it absorbs into the carpet.  And that's not all!!!  If the baby urps up on your clothes, there is no need to change, because the ShamWow shirt instantaniously blots up the mess with no effort.  BUT WAIT!  If you'd order one of these RIGHT NOW, I'll include the ShamWow sweatpants to match for those times you're just too busy for that bathroom break!  ShamWow can do all this for you and more!  I'm going to make a bucket load of money off this idea!

Maybe not. 

After chuckling to myself the other day as I was thinking about my crazy ShamWow shirt idea, I got to thinking... God often lays his grace down right over my "mess" and lovingly, cleans up after me.  My life is messy.  It needs cleaned up.  Just like a child, I often leave a wake of clutter throughout my day, and don't even see it.  A careless word misspoken here.  A lack of discipline there.  A spill of harshness here.  The debris of judgement there.  Yet, God's grace can do something I can not do for myself.  Clean up my mess.  It seems to "soak up" more than I could've ever imagined it could.  His grace is truly astonishing!  More miraculous than any silly ShamWow, God's amazing grace wipes my heart clean of all stains, seen and unseen.  Incredible as it may be, a spill, a spilling of blood, is what it took to start the cleansing process.  Spills don't ever "make" anything clean...except this once.  This once upon a cross. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Pendulums...The Swing of Life

Tick...Tock... Tick... Tock... Tick... Tock...
A pendulum swings from one margin to the next, stopping momentarily at the extreme reach of the arm, only to have gravity pull it back down and kinetic energy swing it the other way.  Back and forth.  From one limit to another.

So it seems to happen in life also.  The cycles and patterns of countries, families and individuals swing back and forth, from one extreme to another...just like the pendulum.  One generation is frugal, strict with rules, hard working.  The next generation is wasteful, lawless, and lazy.  Eventually, the pendulum flows back to center, only to keep right on going, headed to the far extreme once again.  We understand why this happens with the pendulum of a clock, but why does this happen with people?  I do not have an answer for this, but I do have a hypothesis:  Generational cycles work in patterns throughout history.

I've heard it said that generational cycles go in patterns of four.  Idealist, Reactive, Civic, and Adaptive.  Another place that "four generations" are mentioned is in the Bible as it says the consequences of the father's sins can pour over into his children to the third and fourth generations.  We notice these family sequences as we say things like, "He is a Kennedy after all," or "...those Petersons are just so generous."  There are physical, spiritual, and emotional family traits in each family. And according to God's Word, there can be consequences still showing up from great-grandfather Frank!  I believe this is part of the reason things like alcoholism can be such a stronghold in families.  It's almost as if it's "in their blood".  But thank God, these strongholds can be broken with the help of God, who is the God of Redemption!

What runs in your family?  There are both good qualities and bad in every family.  As I think of this pendulum swinging as I seek to change certain unhealthy patterns from my past, I pray that I not swing the pendulum too far the other direction.  But then I started to wonder... can you ever swing the pendulum too far when it comes to grace?  Have you ever heard someone say, "They are just too gracious"?  I think this is one "tick" of the clock I'm going to try to unhinge and let it fly off kilter!  That's my desire anyway...

Grace is one thing the next generation will never have to try to "over-correct".  Who wants to reverse that swing of the pendulum?  Not me!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Candid Shots...Capturing the "Real" You

Photos.  My favorite pictures are candid shots, taken when someone least expects it.  They are laughing their real laugh, not the phony-posed glamour smile.  A moment caught...without thought given to setting or angle.  A genuine, unadulterated snapshot that seizes a genuine moment, capturing the personality and glimmer in someone's smile.  

Reflectively, I look through pictures every so often. Daryl and I both have said goodbye to our dads for now, so pictures of them especially make me smile.  My favorite picture of my dad is not the professional picture he had taken for the church directory.  No, it's the picture at a wedding where he is holding three glasses, all inexplainably half-full, and his camera is hanging around his neck like usual.  Someone snapped off a quick picture of him, carefree and natural.  It's priceless.  It captured his essence.  I love it!
Laughing 'til they cry!

It's in these unpolished photos which reveal the personalities of the ones I love.  When I see a mouth wide open and head tilted back in deep laughter, I can almost hear them in my mind.  It beautifully portrays them...the real them.  I don't notice their moles, double chins, disheveled hair or crooked teeth.  I just love the picture since it embodies them as                                                              I know and enjoy them.   

Fun times w/Scott n Kim
Admittedly, a professionally taken picture, especially of a family, is lovely in its own rite.  It deserves a place on the living room wall. But I assure you, my children NEVER smile quite this way except for the staged family pic.  I'm glad.  I'd rather them smile with that gleam in their eye, mouth open and a bit of mischief showing through their brows. 

The Christmas pic that didn't
make the cut!
  I think that candid pictures are a bit like grace.  When there is love present between people, we see the essence of who they are and love them.  We don't see the wrinkles or moles.  We see them!  As we look at their face captured in a picture, there's kind of a silent sigh of satisfaction that says, "I sure love this person.  I'm so thankful for them."   

Next time someone quick snaps a shot off of you, don't worry about how your hair looked or whether they caught you laughing with your mouth wide open.  It'll be this picture that they look at with the greatest fondness since this is the essence of who you are.  Be gracious to yourself, too.  You're adorable, lovable and captivating-just as you are!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Day I Met Grace

I met Grace in an unexpected place - in the pages of a parenting book.

Monkey see... monkey do.  I was caught in the cycle of parenting without much grace.  It's what I knew... it's what I'd seen.  Our four kids were ages 5, 7, 9 and 11 at the time and I had bought a book hoping to find some parenting helps. I would often use guilt to motivate my kids to behave...I was parenting the way I had grown up, but inside, I knew there had to be another way.  I didn't know what was missing, but I knew I longed to change. I didn't know how to be gracious with my children.  It was the area I struggled the MOST!

I expected perfection.  I didn't realize it at the time, but that's what it was.  I was full of fear.  Fear of failing as a parent. If my kids weren't "performing well", I believed it was a reflection of me rather than my kids being normal kids who were human and going make mistakes.  Something I want to blow the cover off of is this:
        Legalism is very deadly to those closest to the us.  It sucks the life out of children and no one knows because it just looks like "good behavior".  

I believe this is why Pastor's Kids have such a high rate of rebellion.  Everyone thinks things are just peachy for the Pastor's family, when in all actuality there is a lot of pressure put on this kids to conform and act like they're perfect and when they are not, they need to "fake it".  After a while, it grows daunting for the kids.  They throw in the towel saying, "I can't live up to perfection so what's the point!"  This is why PK's either rebel or become over achievers.  They live with less grace than the average kid.  Not only can they have parents who fear being seen as failures if their children are not the best kids around to give as an example to the world, but they can have a whole church family that has an opinion about their behavior...or lack there of.  

People pleasing parents.  Legalistic legacy.  The push to perform perfectly.  Add in Full-time ministry.  This can be a lethal combination for a child.  This was our household at times.  This was what I knew.  This was how I had been parenting.  But PRAISE GOD FOR HIS GRACE!!!

As I began to read the page of this book, I saw a whole new way to look at parenting -- AND IT INVOLVED A WHOLE NEW WAY OF LOOKING AT MY GOD!  Heavenly Father.  As I began to see how God "parents" his children according to His Word, I saw a very different picture.  It involved lavish amounts of grace.  He was to be my example in the way to parent.  He was full of mercy and grace!  I had not been.  I understood for the very first time...
        I could not give away what I didn't have.  If I didn't know GRACE, I couldn't show it to my children.  I had found what I was longing for!  
Many of us have things that we want to model after our parents.  But sometimes we also say, "I'll never do that when I'm a parent."  Sometimes it's a good thing.  There were lots of things my parents did well, but one thing I didn't want to carry to then next generation was the legalism we'd lived in.  The day I began to understand Grace was the day these chains loosened.  I would even pray, "God, help me not be my dad."  God answered one day.  He said, "Quit looking at your dad and trying NOT to be him.  Look at me and be like Me!"  This was the beginning.  The Lord was so good to show me this while my kids were young, so that grace could be a part of our lives.  I am not a perfect parent.  Far, far from it!  Just ask my kids :)  But understanding God's Grace has also given me the room to not have to "fake" that I'm something I am not...perfect! 

(And I must add one thing.  This grace became a beautiful point of healing between my dad and I as well!  Those of you who knew my dad know he was a wonderful guy!  I love him and miss him so much.  Words can not express how grateful I am that Dad and I had the opportunity to share some stories together about how we both were learning about Grace.  He had been trying to break free from legalism, too!  This grace became especially evident in his life the couple years before he died.  It's part of why I can share this freely here...I know it's what he would share.  Because of God's Grace, he didn't have to "fake" that he was the perfect parent anymore either.   I can't wait to see him in heaven so we can pick up the conversation where we left off!  I want to hear the rest of his story and share stories of my journey, too.  Grace is a beautiful thing.  It brings healing.  It brings LIFE!)