Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Refrigerator Blindness

"It's the little things that matter."  That kiss before leaving for work.  A timely phone call.  Sending a letter to a friend.  A smile. A cup of coffee while lending your ear.  Saying a simple "I love you."  All these small gestures add up to rich moments of  love. Definitely, kind things stack up and matter.  These little things are what make up everyday life.  But so are these little things.  Stomping down the stairs like a herd of elephants.  Not getting the dirty laundry into the basket.  Interrupting.  Nagging.  Nail biting.  Leaving lights on.  These, too, are all little things.

The sweet little things are sweet.  The other things... not so sweet.  It's those "other" little things that can steal away our everyday joy if we let them.  Why bring this up?  Once again - Grace.  Grace in the little things, well... it matters!  If something happened to Daryl tomorrow, would I really care which direction he had replaced the toilet paper roll or how he'd squeezed the toothpaste tube?  Nope.

The older I get, the less the nit-picky stuff matters.  I'll confess that one of the little things that used to drive me crazy was my family's Refrigerator Blindness.  They could stand at the fridge with the door wide open and ask, "Where's the ketchup?"  or  "Do we have any mayonnaise?"  I'd know it was right there, at the front of the shelf, in plain sight.  Yet, somehow, they just couldn't see it.  I'd sigh, roll my eyes, and say, "Really?  Just look.  I know it's in there!"  I would find that it irked me.  Not much.  Just a little.  But, remember, it's those little things that matter.

Need proof?
Chinese Water Torture!
Yep.  Chinese water torture is evidence that little things can drive a person insane!  When I let a little "drip" of something irritate me, it may not be a big deal...alone.  But if I let a lot of little things "drip" at me, it can bore a hole in my joy over time!  What's the solution then?  Decide it really doesn't matter in the long run and learn to laugh!  

A couple years back, I decided to turn the annoying Refrigerator Blindness of my Haidle crew into a joke so I could try laughing about it.  I started teasing my family that I was going to hide their Birthday and Christmas gifts in the fridge since they couldn't seem to see anything in there!  (Actually, Tate's 18th birthday is this weekend and I'm sure he hasn't seen the stack of presents I hid in the fridge because I put them on the top shelf, right next to the milk!)  

 For me, learning to laugh about this is one small "drip" that has turned from Chinese water torture to a "drip" that waters my growing love for my family.  This may be simplistic, but learning to laugh about the not-so-sweet little things has helped me be more gracious.  I know that if something happened to one of them, I'd miss their "blindness" and long to hear them ask once more, "Where's the milk?"  

Of course, stacking up lots of sweet little things is much more pleasant in the everyday.  Reality is the "other little things" will always be there, too.  It's the attitude we decide to have about them that matters.  I want to be gracious.  And besides, I need someone to laugh with! 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Winter Doesn't Last Forever - Spring Is On Its Way!

Ahh... Summer!  We love it all - picnics, sunshine, gardens of blossoming flowers, bike rides, camping and backyard barbecues with friends.               Grr... Winter!  We hate it - cold feet, frosted windshields needing scraped, dormant trees, limited outdoor activities and dark days that seem too long.  Why is it that Summer goes twice as fast as Winter?  Rarely does anyone say, "When is this Summer going to be OVER?"  but contrarily, we start whining, "When is this Winter going to end? I'm so ready for Spring!"

This is true in the Seasons of our lives also.  We tend to skip joyfully through Spring and Summer, whistling a happy tune and smelling the roses. Those days fly by carefree and quickly.   But Fall does show up and eventually turns into Winter.  It's just the natural cycle of life, yet that's easily forgotten during those long, dark Winter days in our souls.  Why is that?  I believe it's because we miss the green - the growth - the sunshine!

While living through the first real "Winter" of my life, my sister-in-law, Kim, shared a book with me called The Desert Experience.  It was through these stories of people's dormant times that I learned about the concept of deep roots.  When the leaves are gone, and the sheen of the bark is dull, that is when the roots dig deeper than ever.  A tree may look dead on the outside, all the while, the hidden parts are developing into a stronger, hardier tree.  If you find yourself in a "dormant" Winter, feeling like you're hibernating deep in a dark cave, I hope you remember that Spring, always, always, ALWAYS comes after Winter.  In all the years that this world has been spinning on its axis, the seasons have faithfully arrived when the Conductor of the Universe sweeps His baton beaconing their entrance.
.....and once again, Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter.  The old saying, "This too shall pass," is true after all.  In the cheerful Seasons, let us use those to rejoice and work in the soil sowing seeds with anticipation of blossoms.  In the quiet, sedentary Seasons let us use those to dig deeper and grow stronger.  I wish all of life was a Summer playground, but it isn't.  And honestly, now that I've lived through a couple of Winters, I wouldn't exchange what I learned in those times for anything.  It was in quietness of my snow covered soul that I heard the voice of my Lord in a way I never had before.  He hadn't left me, nor forsaken me.  He was in the Winter, too!

"But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him.  They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.  It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green.  It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."  Jeremiah 17:7-8

Monday, February 27, 2012

Have You Ever Needed a Rescue?

Have you ever had someone show up at just the right moment?  I have.  My life felt like a suspense movie - the struggle was coming to a climax and I didn't think I was going to survive, when someone came in, shed some light into my darkness, helped throw the life preserver and told me I was going to be o.k..  God sent her into my life when I needed her most.  She didn't preach at me.  She talked to me and shared her story.  She didn't scold me for being discouraged.  She prayed with me and spoke encouragement.  She didn't care that I had loads of laundry and dishes setting around.  She turned her ears and eyes to my heart and befriended me, right where I was.  My life was changed because of the love and grace she showed me when I was at my lowest.  Those first months we got to know each other was like a healing balm to my dry, cracked heart.  Thanks Janine Teske!
     One hot July afternoon, Janine called and asked if she and her Aunt Maryann could come over.  My house looked like a bomb had gone off and I was exhausted, but even though my home was less than welcoming, I felt compelled to agree.  If I hadn't known that Maryann was an actual blood relative to my friend, I would have thought the Lord sent an angel!
     Stories were shared all afternoon while the kids played in the pool.  Maryann talked about her recent move to Australia and her struggles with loneliness and the surprise blessings as she trusted the Lord with some tough decisions.  It didn't take long to connect with this lovely lady.  It was as if God just filled her mouth with words my ears needed to hear.  Then she began to speak about the loss of hope she saw in my life.  She said, "Hope deferred makes the heart grow sick..."  and I felt the light go on!  That was it!  My heart had grown sick.  That's why I felt like an empty shell of the remains of the Candi I once had been.  I had grown hopeless.  I had gotten so focused on my circumstances that I acted as though life had become a dead end.
     I would have to write a novel to explain all that transpired that afternoon, but ultimately what happened was that I understood I wasn't meant to just scratch out an existence and barely survive my days.  I was made to thrive!  The Lord says in Jeremiah 29:11-13, "For I know that plans I have for you.  Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."   This is what it meant to put my hope in the Lord - To trust Him with my life, my days, my family, my future.  My hope couldn't rest in Daryl, my friends, my location, finances or circumstances.  And with a God that held my future in his hands, what did I have to worry about?  Have I felt happy-go-lucky everyday since I've discovered this truth?  Nope.  Still, I understand that I never want my hope to be banked on my circumstances, because they will change, but my God will not!
     I had tried pulling myself up by my bootstraps.  I had tried to "just think positive."  I had tried just sleeping my pain away.  I needed a Rock to set my feet on.  My circumstances were shifting sand and I was sick of sinking!  But honestly, sometimes we don't know what that is suppose to look like until someone comes along and shows us how.  Maryann and Janine are just ordinary women that God put in my path at just the right time.  I'm sure neither of these women would say they did anything spectacular that day.  God did though.  And he used them to do it!  Never under estimate the power of an ordinary person in the hands of an extraordinary God!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Come On! Try a Little Harder!!!

The trouble with "self-made" individuals is we tend to think we can just "self-will" ourselves out of tough times.  Therefore the expression--Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.  Have you ever actually tried this?  Put on some boots, bend over while standing, grab onto the straps or laces and heave upward with as much strength as you can muster!  Epic FAIL! I think this is one of the stupidest expressions in the our language since it's impossible to do, yet we use it to describe someone who overcomes hard times out of a sheer self-determination.  In my own life I ended up in a tough time and no matter how hard I pulled, it was useless.  There is no such thing as a mass moving itself on its own force.  Newton had this figured out, too.  Look at his laws of motion.  It's reality, even for people. No outside force = no motion.
     After six years of marriage, Daryl and I moved 16 miles outside of  Fallon, Montana.  Fallon is tiny enough that if you blink, you will miss it.  There are some very lovely people who live there, but it's an extremely isolated place and was much more difficult than I could have imagined.  Flat, nearly treeless, dry, windy and green for a couple days a year, I struggled with the change of environment.  (They say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I know some of you reading this may think it's lovely, but coming from a girl who lived in lush green, mountainous areas, this was not what I saw.)   Between being a young mom with little children, the physical distance between people, and Daryl's very busy schedule, a loneliness set in like I'd never experienced before.  Upon hearing of this, one lady gave me a book and told me to read the chapter she had marked.  It was titled, Loneliness is A Choice.  That did NOT help!  My loneliness was a bit more complicated than just choosing to be isolated...I wasisolated!
     One day, I sat with the phone book and started calling numbers that had females in the listing.  I said, "You don't know me, but I've moved to the area and am wanting to get to know some people and am going to have a lunch next week, and wanted to invite you."  I was desperate!  A couple came and it was nice, but it takes time to cultivate friendships.  In the meantime, my soul began to shrivel up.
     I began to wonder why I was dying inside?  Why couldn't I just will myself to be content?  I had four healthy babies, a warm house, a hardworking husband, a loving extended family and meat in the freezer.  There was much more going on in my heart than I could have anticipated.  God began to use this isolation, loneliness and depression to help me long for something more!!!  I would sit on the floor when the kids were napping and try to pray, but it was more like tears and moans.  I remember asking God, "Why isn't my relationship with you enough?  Why do I want more?  Isn't Jesus enough?"  Then, one day as I had this echoing around in my mind, I realized something.  Adam walked with God face to face in the garden, and yet, he still longed for Eve.  God even said, "It is not good for man to be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him."  My need for relationship wasn't an insult to God.  He made us to need each other. But God also drew my attention to gaping holes in my relationship with Him through this time of "relationship bankruptcy".
     All my knowledge about God was not comforting.  They were facts about him. What difference did God make? I knew he was suppose to my Rock, my Comfort, my All in all, but practically, I had no idea what that looked like.  Here - in my personal dessert - I longed for something more with God.  A genuine, real, authentic relationship.  I remembered a verse that asked, "Why so downcast, o my soul?  Put your hope in God."  I sat there, on the edge of the couch and yelled, "WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?!?" I tried to determine I was going to HOPE!  I could do it!  I was going to will it into being!  I was going to pull myself up by my own bootstraps and hope...  epic FAIL!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Thou Shalt Not Chew Gum in Church...did God really say that?

I.         Do not worship any other gods
II.       Do not make any idols
III.     Do not misuse the name of God
IV.      Keep the Sabbath holy
V.       Honor your father and mother
VI.      Do not murder
VII.    Do not commit adultery
VIII.   Do not steal
IX.      Do not lie
X.       Do not covet
11.     Do not dance
12.     Do not chew gum in church
13.     Do not listen to any radio unless it's Christian radio or Paul Harvey
14.     Do not listen to music unless it's Praise Strings or the Continentals
15.     No fingernail's distracting
16.     No reading living bible translations
17.     No magazines unless they are Guidepost or Readers Digest
18.     No hand raising during a song, even if it says, "We raise our hands..."
19.     You shall not need the bathroom during the sermon
20.     Do not play songs during Offering unless people know all the words by heart
21.     Do not bring wrapped candy to church, only silent-wrapper-free peppermints
22.     No peeking during prayer
23.     No drawing on bulletins above .0001 decibels since it may make "noise"
24.     No crying babies in the sanctuary
25.     Do not play games that use poker cards
26.     Do not go to movies rated higher than G and dis on Disney
27.     Do not read books that aren't written by famous Christian authors
28.     Actually, don't read books unless a pastor approves it first
29.     Do not watch Oprah, she thinks she is god
30.     Do not miss evening church to watch the Super Bowl
31.     Do not admit to watching much t.v., especially anything during the daytime
32.     Do not sing a love song, because God should be your only love
33.     Do not have any Santa stuff in the house during Christmas or bunnies at Easter
34.     No abbreviating Christmas with's anti-Jesus
35.     No markings on your car unless it's a fish
36.     No skipping verse three of a hymn...Thou shalt sing them all!
37.     No girls and boys hugging at youth group
38.     No looking at historical art...there may be nude statues in that book
39.     Do not ever drink alcohol.  The bible didn't really mean Jesus changed water to wine, it meant juice
40.     Do not wear make-up you can see, especially lipstick, neutral colors only
41.     Do not hold hands at church, even if you are married...just don't touch!
42.     No jeans allowed in church
43.     Thou shalt not......   etc. etc. etc. 

Oops!  Did I just "type those out loud?"  Guess the cat's out of the bag.  Those aren't listed in Exodus with the rest of God's real commandments.  Sometimes they're taught that way though.

No wonder there is a lot of confusion about what God really says!  Over the years, people's rules have gotten stacked in with God's commandments, and made to sound like they are part of the whole package.  God's commandments shouldn't be taken lightly.  God's law helps us see our need for a Savior.  And they are commandments...not 10 suggestions for a better life, a better you.  BUT, the rest of this list is made up things I actually heard while growing up.  Some are not bad suggestions.  For instance, what kid chews gum quietly? No one wants to try to listen to a speaker while some kid is smacking gum in their ear.  But it isn't a commandment of God with consequences, if broken.  And the need to use a bathroom, even if it is during the middle of a sermon, is not a sign of undisciplined spirituality, but the sign of a small bladder!

If you are someone who has walked away from all things "religious" because you tired of the crazy, extra rules, I'm very sorry. I understand. I pray you don't walk away from the real truths of God and toss it ALL out.  Honestly, the Lord doesn't care if you come to him in jeans or a skirt.  You will not find verses about either in the bible, anywhere.  When the man-made rules and empty traditions are what become important, then that's when it becomes "religion" in the truest sense.  Jesus was actually very anti man-made religion.  His harshest words were aimed at the Pharisees of his day.  They'd missed the point!   It wasn't rules, it was relationship!  Intimate relationship with God.  He isn't asking you to "conform".  He wants to "transform" you and that happens on the inside, out.

Manners matter, yes.  But let's not mistake good manners for holy commandments.  And for goodness sake, dance, raise your hands, read a book, peek during prayer if you want to.  Live in grace!  Live free!  Love God with your whole heart... you can love him, even with gum in your mouth :)

Cease Striving

Have you ever seen a sculpture of a beautiful woman hanging laundry on a clothes line, scrubbing floors or cooking?  I couldn't recall any, so I checked.  Maybe I just don't know where to look, but I found very few statues of laboring women.  Granted, a couple sculptures showed women carrying pottery, such as a jar or empty plate.  The hardest working female statue I found was the Statue of Liberty and she carried both a torch AND a book!  Oh, yes, and there was also that one woman pulling a goat along side her.  Yet, out of all the statues that I found, none of these ladies portrayed strain or stress on their faces.  After all, who would want to ponder a woman toiling over her life?  A peaceful woman at rest is a thing of beauty.  Artist have known this for centuries!  The tranquil face and quiet soul of these statues captivates us.

Now, on the other hand, when I looked up statues of men, I found them throwing disks, wielding swords, fighting battles, and one was even holding the world on his shoulders...literally.  Symbols of strength and courage.  These were equally captivating as the faces of these men with furrowed brows, showed intense determination and grit.  There is a time for all things, but I think the intrigue of the warrior is easier for me understand.  He's "doing" something.  I can see the results of his struggle right before my eyes.

One night when I was feeling overwhelmed with all the activities I'd committed to, I started asking God how I was to manage my heavy schedule when I felt I had so little left to offer.  I came across a verse that jumped off the page.  It wasn't the answer I thought I'd find.

"In repentance and rest is your salvation.  In quietness and trust is your strength..."  Isaiah 30:15

I didn't need to learn to be a better juggler for Jesus so I could fit more things into a schedule. I needed to learn to stop and be still.  My sister and I have been going through the 12 steps of P.A. (Pharisees Anonymous) together these past years and at step 5 decided to start reading the Bible from the Message and other translations at times. (*gasp!*)  She called me one day and said, "You know that verse that says, 'Be still and know that I am God',  it could also read, 'Cease striving'.  Isn't that a great way to think of it?"  For a couple of girls who'd been used to "staying busy" for Jesus, this seemed a whole new concept.  We began talking about beautiful, peaceful statues and paintings.  We'd seen the movie Pride and Prejudice, and both loved the scene where Elizabeth walked through the hall of statues.  We shared the same longing for the tranquility these marble forms expressed.

I've thought about this conversation with my sister many times these past couple years and  I can't help but remember the statues of these beautiful ladies.  Their creators captured the essence of peace. They captured what it looks like to "cease striving".  Not a single one of these women look lazy.  They are peaceful.  At rest.  Quiet.

There is a time for all things:  A time to "put on the armor" and "watch the ant".  But there is also a time for quiet...where I can hear His whisper.  And in quietness and trust is my strength.  Shh....

Monday, February 20, 2012


What do you think of when you hear the words "Come to Jesus?" or "What does the bible say?" Do they bring different feelings?  Or the same?  Now, we might think these are one in the same since Jesus is the author of the Bible, right?  True.  But, if we only respond  by saying, "Go to scripture!" we may be missing the personal aspect of Jesus.  My relationship with Christ underwent major changes when I started "coming to Him" rather than only "going to scripture". 
     I need to make something VERY CLEAR here!  I am NOT saying we should skip the Word of God.  Any of you who know me well, know that I love my bible!  It is God's truth. It's a light to my feet. It's without error and it's everlasting!  That makes it immeasurably important.  The reason for this disclaimer is because I know how the legalist's mind thinks and someone may be reading this and squirming...don't quit reading yet!
     In John 5:39-40, Jesus says,  "You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me,  yet you refuse to come to me to have life." He was talking to the Pharisees, the guys who knew what the scripture said, and knew it well.  But they were missing Jesus!!!  
     When a child has a question or needs to tell his dad about a mistake he made, he comes to his dad and says, "Can I ask you something?"  or "Dad, I need to tell you something."  

DAD: "Come here, Son.  Come sit on my lap and tell me what's troubling you."  


DAD: "You know what I'm going to say!  I've told you over and over!  My truth isn't                 going to change!  Know it, so you can live by it!"  

Jesus is all about relationship!  He proved it to us by coming to earth in the first place.  "For God so loved the world..."  Love is relational.  He says "Come to me..." This paints the image of an open armed, welcoming Savior who invites your approach and need.  He's loving.  He's affectionate.  Look at the phrase "Go to scripture..."  To me, "Go" implies sending away.  No one ever points their finger at themselves and says, "Go!"  The finger is pointed away from the body to direct the eyes to the desired destination.  It may sound like I'm splitting hairs, but I truly believe this difference in our thinking is part of the reason people, children, and churches are confused in this day.  We are busy focusing on WHAT we believe instead of WHO.  We need both.  Jesus came full of truth and grace! 
     By no means should we stop reading the Bible.  God wants us to.  (Joshua 1:8, Hebrews 4:12,  2Timothy 2:15)  But I learned that I needed more than only knowledge of the truth.  I needed to be with Him. (Psalm 46:10)  Come to Him. (Matthew 11:28)  Approach Him boldly. (Hebrews 4:16)  It was then, that I came to know His love for me.  I had read about His love, memorized verses about it, and told others about it, but not until I drew near to Him did I understand it!  
     If someone had never met my husband Daryl and asked me to describe him, I could do it one of two ways.  
     1. He's 6 foot tall, black hair, blue eyes.  He was born in Miles City.  He grew up in Fallon, Montana.  He works at Agri-Best Feeds.  He is 44 years old.  He is of German descent.  He speaks English.  He has large, strong hands.  He lives in Billings. His phone number is... wait, I'll stop there!  This would all be true!
     2. His sincerity toward people is one of the things that drew me to him when we met.  He is a man who is known for his funny sense of humor.  He would help anyone that God puts in his path, from the person stranded along the roadside to the friend who needs to talk about his marriage.  Daryl loves his children and he makes them laugh like no one else.  He loves Jesus and wants to honor Him with his life.  He has been a loving and faithful husband for nearly 20 years!  This, too, is true!
     Which one tells the inquirer "who" he really is? Obviously, the second.  Facts are only part of the story.  I don't love the facts about Daryl, I love the heart of him!  Knowing about Jesus doesn't mean I know him anymore than knowing about Abraham Lincoln means I know him.  Jesus says, "Come."  It's an open invitation for our whole lives!  I love when I hear him calling me...


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Peace... A Child's Perspective

This week we hear about kid's take on peace.  WHAT IS PEACE?

...being happy with it
...when you feel relaxed and everything is good
...peace and quiet worry free
...when you are satisfied with your doings
...a time of rest
...knowing that you have nothing to fear
...when it's calm and quiet and everyone is nice to each other picking flowers and fruit

I once heard a story about an art contest where artists were asked to paint what peace looked like.  Several canvases captured scenes of morning sunrises.  One was of a green pasture with a horse standing under a tree with a few lazy cattle on the hillside behind.  Another painted a quiet meadow, filled with an array of wild flowers and distant purple mountains.  A babbling brook running over soft, mossy rocks was another artist's interpretation of peace.  A couple of paintings of beautiful churches were also submitted.  But the picture that won was unusual.  The artist had painted a rugged mountain side being battered by a storm.  Rain slapped the rocks as strong winds howled against the trees.  The elements showed no mercy as lightning flashed in the background.  But nestled into a crevice of a rock on this tall mountain side, was a bird, safe and sound.  As the turmoil of the storm raged around, this small creature sat in complete protection and peace.  This was the painting that won the contest for this artist grasped the concept of peace.

It isn't the absence of the storm that gives us peace, but the cleft in which we nestle ourselves.  The old hymn Rock of Ages is still one of my favorite songs.                                     Rock of Ages, cleft for me
                               Let me hide myself in thee...

"Here my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.  For you have been my refuge, a strong tower..."     Psalm 61:1-3

"You will keep in perfect peace, him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.  Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal. "    Isaiah 26:3-4

Safety is not found in the absence of danger, but in the presence of the Lord.                    Amen to that!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

What is Peace?

I love the movie Miss Congeniality!  Daryl and I often quote favorite lines from it.  His favorite..."That's so ostentatious!"  I have too many favorite lines to list them, but I love the part of the movie when Sandra Bullock's pageant character is asked, "What is the one most important thing our society needs?"  She answers very seriously, "That would be harsher punishment for parole violators."  The audience is so quiet you hear crickets in the background.  And then she chimes in, "And world peace!"  The crowd goes wild, and besides, everyone knows this is the politically correct answer every pageant girl is suppose to give, right?  I die laughing every time because it's just too funny!

But really, what is peace?  Websters dictionary says it's a state of tranquility or quiet; freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions; harmony in personal relationships.  Actually, I like what Wikipedia says about peace..."a state of harmony characterized by the lack of violent conflict."  Don't you think that's what every person is looking for is peace from violent conflict? Conflict in broken relationships, work struggles, health issues, and most importantly, inner conflict of sin and self?

It's interesting that the word HARMONY seems to go hand in hand with PEACE.  As a musician I can't believe I'm going to say this but, going to a 5th grade band and orchestra concert is the perfect picture of NO HARMONY.  You want to cover your ears and yell, "Make it stop!"  It hurts!  When our relationships and hearts are out of tune and lacking peace, most of the time that's what we are pleading, "Just make this pain stop!"  No peace is painful!   Anyone who has lived through a war will tell you the greatest day comes when you hear, THE WAR IS OVER!  The conflict has ended and peace is beautiful.  The bible has a lot to say about peace.  It's definitely not something that comes from sitting on the beach in yoga pants, while taking deep breaths.  That's vacation!  Peace is much, much deeper and it only comes from one source.  From the Prince of Peace.  His name is Jesus.  And not  the mad-flannelgraph-Jesus, but the one who says, "Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."  (Matt 11:28)  Even if we think we are only a "little bit out of tune" with God, it still makes the hairs stand up on the back of our necks when we try to play it our way.  He has perfect pitch. Pure harmony comes only through Him.   

My mom used to tell us that peace is one thing that can't be counterfeited.  You can't fake peace.  And just like Sandra Bullock said, "I really do want world peace!"  I hope you have peace today as you read this.  If you don't and life feels more like that 5th grade orchestra concert, set aside some time to talk to God about it.  Peace does exist...and not just in the movies!

There was a "Peace" of the Puzzle Missing

"First, I do not sit down at my desk to put into verse something that is already clear in my mind. If it were clear in my mind, I should have no incentive or need to write about it...we do not write in order to be understood; but we write in order to understand." - C. Day Lewis in Poetic Image

     Writing, or maybe I should say, journaling has been a beautiful place of retreat and reflection for me over the years.  Not that all my journal entries are beautiful...some look more like verbal vomit, but there is a time for that as well.  Better to end up on a page than on my family!  Therefore, there are a few "missing" pages, burned somewhere, usually followed by a prayer of humility as I realized my attitude was the problem.  When I look back through my years of journals, I am amazed at God's faithfulness and struck by how many miles we've traveled together over my relatively short life.  He is a good God!
     I am also struck by the amount of constant conflict I was in through my 20's and early 30's.  Maybe it came from being a mom of small children and unable to complete a single thought for a dozen years! (That could drive anyone a little crazy!)  But a few years back, I began to realize I was missing something.  Peace.  My "light-bulb" moment came when a friend said something about loving the songs we sing about peace in church.  I asked her why those were her favorite because, honestly, they were  NOT mine.  She explained how peace was one of the sweetest things about the presence of God in her life.  Hmm.... God's presence equaled peace.  Nope.  I hadn't experienced that one yet.  I told her that when I sang those very same songs I thought those words meant the peace you'd get when you died.  She was shocked and through her laughter she said, "You can have peace in life!  It's not just at death!"
     Here's the weird thing,  I thought peace was the absence of fear in the face of death.  I had personally been touched by this "peace beyond understanding" when I about died after Trey was born.  When things were critical and I was being put under, I remember thinking that I didn't know who's voice I would wake up to... My surgeon's or my Savior's.    And I was completely at peace, either way.  (This is a whole other story, so another day!)  I trusted God with my life and my death and God's peace was more real through that time than ever before!  He took away any fear of death and I was ready to go home to Heaven.  Obviously, I didn't die!
     But why did I have such a lack of peace in my daily life?  I was in such an internal conflict.  I had an invisible civil war being waged inside and let's just say the "south" was winning way too often, wanting to keep it's slavery...and I was the slave.  I knew God, but had little peace.  What was my problem?  It came back to grace once again.  Now, when I read those journal entries, it's so clear how I continually went back to what I should be doing, how I should be behaving and how I never felt that I could measure up.  I had missed the sweet, simple truth that God really loved me and desired to be with me.  He was gracious to me, faults and all.  God began to use Daryl's example of unconditional love to show me what grace looked like in ACTION, not just definition.  I already knew the definition... I needed to experience it!
     Jesus knows me, this I love!

When I saw these words one day, it struck a chord inside.  Yes!  This was true!  This very day, my heart began to feel God's peace in a new way as I let this truth penetrate more than my head.  It struck my heart sweetly.  I went from God loved me and sent his Son now behave and be righteous to "You love me, Jesus.  I believe this and I am so grateful!  I love you back!"  I began to believe he loved me...unconditionally.  The war inside began to die down.
     I still journal to help me figure out life, but I also write love letters to Jesus now.  I am free to enjoy his presence in a whole new way because I sense his eagerness to be with me when I sit down to write.  I am eager to be with Him, too.  What peace!


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Day-of-Love vs. Day-of-Chocolates

       It's Valentine's Day. Love is in the air...  or at least the smell of roses and candy. Today is the day, thousands will overdose on cheap chocolates; school children will stuff handmade mailboxes with perforated cards of Spiderman and Hello Kitty; junior high girls will receive pink stuffed animals from squeaky voiced boys as tokens of their affection;  husbands will dash into a store last minute to grab one of the remaining glittery cards with a squirrel holding a heart and a pre-wrapped assortment of flowers; wives waiting anxiously for that moment he comes home, hoping it will be a sweet evening of romance and dinner.  What a weird day!  I have heard people rant and rave about the marketing that has overtaken Valentine's Day.  I do not loath this day as some have chosen, nor do I wait with bated breath for its arrival.  I can't be anti-day-of-love!  Come on!  But, it is true that we have to easily exchanged what should be expressions for love for each other with a box of Wilcox candies.
       No one likes a cheap imitation of love.  So on this day, let us love well. Maybe read 1 Corinthians 13 if you haven't read it in a while.  It's lovely.  And inspiring!  There was a shirt I saw the other day that had a question on the back that gave me pause...
What does love make you do?  
      Today, whether it is to our spouse, our siblings, our children, our parents, or someone we are just getting to know... Let's show genuine, real love.  It's much more expensive than that box of chocolates...and sweeter to the recipient!  

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Awkward? No! This is Normal!

If you ever need a mini-escape from the daily grind, take a trip to Barnes and Noble and find the book called Awkward Family Photos and prepare to laugh til your sides split.  It's a compilation of extremely odd family pictures, and who doesn't love to look at pictures of families in homemade, matching plaid clothes, posed in gawky positions?  I guarantee it will be one of the best laughter breaks you'll ever take!

     I guess somewhere deep down inside, it feels good to look at other people  at their craziest because it somehow makes us feel "normal".  Everyone feels like their family is the norm.  But really...what is normal?  Patsy Clairmont has a book titled, Normal Is Just a Setting on Your Dryer.  I agree with her.  Maybe the better way to say it would be this: Each family has its own "familiar".   (Actually, I just noticed for the first time that FAMILy and FAMILiar look an awful lot alike!  Hmm...  there could be a connection here!)
     When Daryl and I got married, I had not given much thought to how many things about him would seem "abnormal".  For example, my family always ate Sunday dinner on t.v. trays during football season.  That's just what we did!  So when we were newly weds and I pulled the trays out, clicked the t.v. on and started putting food on our plates, Daryl looked and me and asked, "What are you doing?"  Was he kidding?  What did he mean?  This is what you do!  It's football.  How would he not know this?   Didn't everybody do this?  Guess not.
     Marrying Daryl has been one of God's greatest gifts in my life!  (And I'm not just saying this because he isn't addicted to football.)  Through his example, God began to break me free from the legalism that plagued my mind.  It's a bit like the t.v. trays and football... I didn't know there even was another way to do life.  Living by the list of invisible do's and don'ts was "normal" and these lists ruled my thinking and motivations.  It was Daryl who started to ask, "Where do you even come up with this stuff?"   I'd never asked myself that question.  When I needed to say 'no' to a commitment at church or work, I'd feel horribly guilty, because  I felt I needed to do more.  He'd very matter-of-factly ask, "Why do you feel guilty for saying no?  So what?  You can't be in everything."  I can't? Doesn't God expect me to say yes?  Daryl lived in such freedom from guilt. I had not seen life done this way before. Guilt was my middle name.  It was the most "familiar" emotion I packed with me everywhere!
     Recently, someone had on their Facebook page a saying that I've thought about a lot.  It said:
Everybody has baggage.  Find someone who loves you enough to help you unpack.
I just need to say here, I didn't know I came into our marriage with a suitcase full of guilt, shame, and duty.  I didn't see myself as someone weighed down, until Daryl came along and started to ask, "Why do you think that?  That's not true.  Throw that thought out!"   I've looked in his suitcase and it only held some dirty miss-matched socks.  Mine was full of bricks, rocks, laws, scales, trash and weights.   Maybe he knew what he was talking about.
     Daryl could have felt a bit like I did at Barnes and Noble that day, peeking through that silly book.  When he looked at me he could have laughed and teased, "You are really weird!  Glad I'm so normal compared to you."  He didn't.  He extended such kindness to me...quarks and all.  He even offered to help me "unpack".  This was in part, the beginning of the beautiful thing called grace.
     I'm hoping Daryl will never have reason to laugh uncontrollably at me, but unfortunately, somewhere there lies a picture of my family in bright-colored matching, homemade sweatshirts,  because someone thought we looked AWKWARD enough to ask if they could take our picture!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Grace... A Child's Perpective

WHAT IS GRACE?  Once again, I asked some parents to ask their children this question.  Here are their answers.
GRACE IS... have forgiveness
...something we do not deserve but it is given to us anyway's kinda like mercy, I think. Dad gives me mercy.  He gives me good things I     don't deserve, like M&M's, but not the whole bag. means you get another chance!
...She is a "SHE" (clearly referring, of course, to her cousin who is named      Grace.)
...praise? something about God?  a gift of God?
...embrace? trust? God's Word?  Holy?  Gladness? (answered with question             marks since that's the way mom said they answered.)
...listening to God's getting something you don't deserve.  Life and breath especially.  Every           breath is a gift from God. can't earn it

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.
What is it about the song, Amazing Grace, that makes us love it so much?

We love a story where the hero sweeps in and saves the helpless underdog.  A few movies come to mind as I type this... Rudy, Ever After, Remember the Titans, Forrest Gump, Cinderella, Blind Side, Chariots of Fire.  Captivating our hearts are the history lessons that teach us that battles can be won even when the odds are stacked against the little guy.  Look at Gideon and his 300 men, David and Goliath, The Revolutionary War, D-Day on Omaha Beach.  I think they resonate with us because we need to be rescued and we need hope, and deep down we know it.  And long for it.  We ARE the little guy.  We are the ones in need of saving grace.  And the hero, Jesus, says to us, "I love you so much!  I've come for you!  You are precious to me!  My life for yours...take my gift."  Grace.

 It's receiving lavish love, even though the math just doesn't add up.  I've tried to fire the accountant in my head so that I, too, can pour our God's riches on others and do it out of selfless love.  Grace is amazing!

Friday, February 10, 2012

What is Grace?

In my opinion, GRACE is the toughest word in the world to define.  No, wait!  It's the most difficult word to explain.  There is a plethora of definitions out there, but let's face it, none of them do justice.  Let me expound on this thought through another example.  Kiss.  Define it.

Kiss-  to touch with the lips as an expression of affection, greeting, or respect

Challengemarried readers ONLY! (The rest of you...wait!!!)   Kiss your spouse when they get home today.  You already know, it will be a gazillion times better than what you just read!  Wow!  There's no comparison!  I can honestly say I don't long for another reading of that definition but I do long for Daryl's kisses.

Now, back to Grace.  Let's look at the definitions.

Grace-  1. the free and unmerited favor of God shown toward man
              2. elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion or action
              3. a charming or attractive trait or characteristic
              4. used as a title of address for a duke
              5. a short prayer at a meal asking a blessing or giving thanks
              6. a musical trill
Grace-  free gift

Challenge: (and you don't have to be married to do this one!)  Today, live with grace.  Show grace.  Enjoy God's grace.  Experience it!  Some of you may scratch your heads at this because, truly, this is not as easy for us to understand as the kiss.  I was there once too, and I certainly won't say that I am an expert on it.  Yet, I have gone from understanding the definition and quoting the verses "about" it, to experiencing it.  And like the kiss, having experienced grace, I long for it!  I love it!
     Grace must be pretty clear to God because it's all over scripture!  And there are so many places in the bible where an opening greeting is "Grace and peace to you from God our Father..."
Grace to you...   I look forward to writing more about my first understanding of real Grace!

What is Grace?  How do you explain it?  Can you put it into words?  If a child asked you to explain it, what would you say?
(Side note: Several people have sent emails mentioning that their "comments" on the blog have not come through.  I changed the settings so that anyone can comment now instead of just Google account members.  Thanks for the heads-up!)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

When the "Crash" happens...

(Quick disclaimer: This is longer today and a bit heavier. When you read this, please remember there is more to the story yet to come and not all churches look like the one described here.  I was reluctant to share some of this, for fear it would only affirm what some people think about church already.  But I assure you, there are healthy, loving churches.  Find one!) 

What do you do when you unexpectedly stumble to the ground?  I look around, hope no one saw, and quickly dust my pants off, hoping to hide evidence of the fall.  Now... my husband on the other hand, would burst out laughing at himself and hope someone was around so they could share in the humor.
     But, what if you fell and were severely injured?  What if everyone with you had the same "event" and you were left dazed, wounded and incapable of helping yourself, let alone, others?  In a car crash, this can happen.  The injured need the aid of bystanders just to get to safety.  They need a medical team to bind up their wounds.  They'd depend on others to help them while they regained their strength.  Eventually, though, the occupants of the crash would heal, gain strength and move on with the daily grind of life, even though their bodies may show the scars of the "event" for a lifetime.
     We had an "event" in our family that likens itself to a "spiritual car crash".  My dad was a pastor in Hermiston for almost 2 years.  There were so many sweet people there and the highs were awesome!  We saw God do some amazing things in people's lives and have some very precious memories there.  But in this church, there was a secret undercurrent that had severely wounded several pastors before us. The pastor that was there just before us ended up in a psychiatric hospital.  Now, it was dad's turn and it didn't take long before the "crash" began to happen.
     I remember hearing my parents talk late at night (I'm sure they thought I was sleeping...sorry mom!)  and they both shed tears as they questioned whether or not we were suppose to have ever moved there.  How could this be God's will?  How were we suppose to live this life if it wasn't about seeking the Lord, but pacifying the needs of a few?  We had also never been so poor.  But that was not the full source of our affliction.  It came in the form of two (the ONLY two) deacons of the church.  It seemed the puppet shows we'd put on became a picture of the strings my dad was told to move to.  He never measured up in their eyes.  There was criticism for bringing the "low-lifes" into our church..."how is that going to help bring more offering in?"  Dad saw them as people who needed Jesus.  There was criticism if dad preached past noon.  Actually, one of the deacons would start pacing the back of the church and point to his watch.  There was criticism that mom didn't host more people in our home for dinner.  What no one knew is there was hardly food enough for us some days.  Often, Dad, Mom and I ate one meal a day. Had it not been for government school lunches my siblings would have felt this hunger, too.  The high school didn't have a cafeteria so we had open campus.  They say, necessity is the mother of invention.  So, out of hunger, I started giving piano lessons to buy my lunches. It still makes me sad when I look back at those pictures because we were so thin.  One lady asked my mom what "diet" she was using because she saw that it was really dropping off pounds.
     The tragedy in this situation was that there was an invisible war being waged.  It was a spiritual one!  I can not see the heart and motives of a person anymore than you can see mine.  So the WHY behind this can not be answered easily.  To see what someone is made of, we can tell a lot by the fruit of their lives. There was a vein of distortion in the leadership and it was hindering to the Body.  Our family was just the next in a line of casualties.
     When the crash hit, my dad was so deeply wounded he was rendered helpless for a time.  My dad had always been strong and confident.  But he was a man crushed under the blow of disappointment and pain.  He had wanted to be a vessel used by God to tell people about Jesus through full-time ministry and walked away broken and confused. He took us Montana.  This was the summer before my Senior year.
     Back to my initial question about falling down... what do you do when you fall, get injured severely and it is suppose to remain a secret?  You swallow hard, learn not to cry and get back to being busy for Jesus (a.k.a. busy at church).  That's what we did.  Looked around, hoped no one really saw we'd fallen down, wipe off the dust and throw some new clothes over top the ripped ones and keep walking.  I don't recommend this, by the way.  It leads to bitterness and a diseased heart.  Not to give away the ending, but I know the Great Physician and he eventually did surgery to remove my bitterness and repair the wound in order for healing to begin!
     This chapter of my story was difficult though.  I grew more confused about what God wanted from me?  Did I even need to go to church?  I didn't like what had happened behind church doors.  Couldn't I just toss out church-life and love God?  A root of bitterness sprang up towards anything "church", yet I found that the next phase of life was more busy "for the Lord" and at times, more "fake" than anything I'd previously experienced.  I wanted genuine.  A genuine God, a genuine faith, a genuine family and genuine friends.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Committee of Voices

Some days my head is quiet and I think they've gone to sleep
Then something hits a mem'ry and my eyes begin to weep
I wish they'd all be silent for they wear me to the bone
Why can't I find the "off" or "mute" like I have on my phone?

Some days they like to chuckle, some days they love to yell
But either way, they make me feel a pris'ner in a cell
They clatter and they like to make a ruckuss in my head 
Since they won't stop their talking guess I'll just go off to bed!

I have a whole committee of strange voices in my brain
They started many years ago and sing the same refrain
"You know that your are worthless" or "If only people knew"
"You have to do that better" and "Give up, you know you're through."

But not so many years ago, a friend took time to say
"You know my dear, I think we need to stop right here and pray."
She pointed out a lot of lies that echoed in my head
And told me how to hear the Truth and follow it instead.

"God never meant for you to sit and battle this alone.
He gave his Word, it tells us truth, Now take this with you, home."
So when my whole committee of strange voices came to jeer
I started speaking really loud, "My God said have no fear!"

I must admit, it seemed real odd to talk aloud at home
My kids would spy around the wall and see I was alone.
I know some days they must have thought that mom was crazy, yes
But I had found the joy that comes from God's sweet tenderness.

I am too glad to tell you this, that voices can be snuffed
of all their lies and cruel deceit, replaced with God's great love!
"Be still and know that I am God... You are my precious child!"
My heart's so full of peace and joy, not often is it riled.
                                                                       by Candi Haidle

Now, please do not worry!  I am truly NOT possessed, alright?  Never was!  I wrote this because it captures how it feels when I battle in my mind.  Lies are powerful if they are believed.  Remember, Satan has been a pro for a loooooong time at getting people to buy into his lies.  God's truth is what sets us free!  This friend who told me to "just start speaking truth right out loud" and "quit letting that garbage rattle around in there," helped me to understand why it's so good to have God's Word hidden in my heart.  I haven't found the mute button for the voices in my head, but they are very, very quiet compared to the committee of screamers they used to be.  I hear Jesus, my Shepherd's voice, instead.  And on the days when a voice wants to whisper something that makes me doubt or fear, I just ask..."Jesus, is that true?"  He is so faithful to answer.  And his voice is so sweet!  (ah....peace.)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Pack it up for Portland! Dad's going to cemetery...I mean, seminary.

(Act One - Open curtain on U-haul)
We moved to Portland, Oregon the summer before I went into 7th grade.  My brother informed people Dad was going to be a pastor and go to "cemetery" (seminary).  I thought Portland was the most beautiful place I had ever seen!  My junior high felt more like a amazing college campus but many of the kids looked like no one I'd ever seen in Montana.  Crazy hair in rainbow colored mohawks, piercings in places I'd never seen pierced, holes burned into their clothes.  And there were rich kids that bragged that they paid a hundred dollars for a pair of pants, and this was in 1985!  Culture shock!  It didn't take long to understand it was going to take work to find my niche.  Fortunately, I fit in perfectly as a band geek.  I met some very sweet, "normal" friends here.  I was often surprised when someone would ask, "What does your dad do?"  I was proud of my dad and how he was following God's calling into ministry, but began to realize  people made assumptions about who I was because of this.  Assumptions that I was ultra-spiritual and never was tempted to swear or cheat; like I was born with holy blood or something. When dad completed school, we started actively seeking a place to serve.  I began telling my friends that I was probably going to move.  "Where?"  Well, we didn't know yet.  We were waiting to see where God would lead us.  "What does that mean?  Is God going to send you a letter or something?"  It was a faith building experience and  I boldly believed God would direct us.  None the less, it was a slightly odd question to explain to my peers.
     You'd expect to do an interview in order to get a job.  But how about interviewing the kids to see if the parents were qualified?  Crazy, right?  Evidently, not to one church we visited.  I know that not every church is as nutty as this one where Dad candidated, but let's just say it was a very strange car ride home as we discussed what happened. Our heads were still spinning.  At one point, board members had begun asking us kids questions.  "Do your parents fight?  Would you say your dad is a man of prayer?"  Weird, huh.  Was this from God?  It sure didn't seem like it.  Fortunately, dad chose NOT to look any further into this one.
(Slight intermission)   
     God was faithful though.  We left beautiful Portland and moved to Hermiston, Oregon when I was 15.  We were excited about what God was going to do here through us as a family.  Dad was really excited about preaching and connecting with people, mom had zeal in spades when it came to children's ministries, and us four kids...well, we saw it as our ministry, too.  We used music every turn of the way and my brother and I used to joke about being the "Christian version" of the Von Trapp family singers from The Sound of Music, right down to the family puppet shows!  We all got busy working for the Lord... or the church.  Something like that.  (Enter confusion over serving God versus serving the church, stage left)  But that's for another day...

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Mad Flannel Graph Jesus

Have you ever held a baby in your arms, and had an argument with your spouse?  I have.  It surprised me when our baby's little bottom lip started to quiver and he quietly began crying.  My frustration hadn't been aimed at him, but he picked up on the tone of my voice, and it frightened him.

TONE MATTERS!  Tone matters.  Yes, our tone truly does matter. (sigh)

     The way we hear words deeply affects us.  When I listened to bible stories, I often heard Jesus' tone as very angry.  "Oh, you of little faith..." he'd say with arms crossed, shaking his head. That was the way my mind pictured him.  "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching," Jesus replied. (John 14:23)  Again, I felt as though his finger was shaking in my face while I read those words.  I don't know if it was my personality, strict household rules, church teachers who taught with harsh tone or all of the above, but I had a hard time not hearing Jesus sigh loudly, speaking with a "holy tolerance" only he could muster up after thousands of years of stupid people.  My sister and I have spoken about this many times over the years.  Why did we feel like we were always "busted" when we'd read God's Word.  Somehow, shame often showed up after reading it.  I discovered it was the tone with which I was reading it.  When the bible uses the words, "Jesus said," there is rarely any adverbs to tell us HOW he said it, so you hear his voice the way you perceive him.
    My imagination was fantastic!  I built butterfly cages out of wood and Saran wrap, had legions of animals that lived in my pretend world, and an invisible identical twin sister named Julie (she was the "good" sister).  But when it came to letting my mind conceive the truths and stories of the bible, I had already been told what it all looked like... Jesus was a flannel graph!
    He was stuck in the same position for practically every story.  You know the one, where it looks like he is preaching and pageant waving at the same time.  Now, I have to tell you, I chuckle as I write this because my mom loves flannel graph story telling.  Flannel graph is not an evil thing.  Actually, it can be a great tool.  But, I do think my imagination would have done a better job making my Savior seem more alive than "impersonal frozen statue Jesus."  Why is this part of my story?  Because many years of my impressionable childhood was filled with a strict, irritated, impersonal, posed version of Christ.  So when I was very little and would sing the song, "Oh be careful little hands what you do...for the Father up above is looking down in love, oh be careful little hands what you do," it scared me.  He didn't feel loving. I thought Jesus was tapping his sandal foot, holding his arm out and saying, "Behave Girl!"
Tone matters.  And this is frightening!
     Obviously, my story doesn't end there because I met God's Grace.  But many of us, for what ever reason, feel shame even after we are saved.  I know now, God isn't yelling at me through his Word.  Actually, I've met Jesus and his hand isn't stuck at all.  It has grabbed hold of mine, like a loving Father.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Love... A Child's Perspective

WHAT IS LOVE?  I asked some dads and moms to ask their kids to answer this question, too.  I thought it would be fun to see what a child's perception and understanding of love looked like. Here are their answers.
...sharing your stuff
...when somebody pushes someone and they forgive them care or be cared for by someone ongoing feeling for someone/a different kind of caring isn't about honey
...sharing my zebra (their favorite toy!)
...someone who loves you with all their heart like Jesus love you.  He died for your sins.  My favorite verse is 
    1 John 4:8 God is love.
...being a friend to someone
...I don't even go to "kitten-garden" yet, I don't have homework.  (Said to dad by a preschooler when asked to answer the question and pretend like he was doing homework like his siblings.  Too cute not to include!)
...I think love is when you like someone very well. 
...being kind.  When you help someone do something.
...can be romantical or something else. a song.  Love could be a heart.

     Some days, my kids blow my socks off with their insight into something that I thought was beyond their years. Such as the day I finished reading the bible story about Joseph and his 11 brothers.  At the end, I asked Tate, then five years old, "Do you know what it means that Joseph forgave his brothers?"  He said very matter-of-factly while pushing his car around in the carpet, "Yep.  It means he started loving them with all his heart again."  Wow!  Out of the mouth of a babe!  Other times, I've had to pause as I realized they had perceived something through the lens of a child and it was skewed; like the little girl who sat on the plane, holding tightly to the chair, waiting for take-off.  The mom could see her apprehension.  "What is it, Honey?" Mom asked. "When do we get tiny?" she answered.  "What do you mean?" Mom questioned, trying to understand.  "You know, when we are flying in the sky and the plane shrinks real tiny."  Kids have a logic all their own.  Sometimes it's completely inaccurate.
     What does this have to do with my story?  I was a child once, (much to my kid's surprise). Children learn what they live.  These years are very formative to our beliefs and fears.  What I learned in my childhood, I call my "default setting."  It's how I learned to do life, and what I tend to naturally go back to.  I think sometimes we forget that children are VERY perceptive and a lot like little sponges.  They watch, listen and try to imitate.  If we talk and live a certain way, our children will imitate it, merely because it's what they know.  Now, us parents can NOT be perfect and provide a mistake-free environment. But, love truly does cover a multitude of sins. So let us love well and ask for God's grace and wisdom as we teach our children.  I pray that I teach God's truth with oceans of grace and love, because I am convinced a child needs grace more than us adults, since they are just tender little shoots growing into who they will be and easily trampled and bruised.
     One last super-cute story about my little nephew, a.k.a. "the cutest sponge ever".  My brother, Matt, had been home for a week with his 4 kids while his wife, who works for the airline was away for some training.  He'd drop the 3 older kids off at school each morning and head home with his youngest, Eugene, and work on some things around the house that he was wanting to surprise his wife with; painting, putting up crown-molding.  He'd walk in the door and say, "Ok, Eugene, here's the deal.  Today we are going to...... and you are going to be my helper."  The last day, Matt was still deciding what project to do, so he walked into house, hung up the keys, walked up the stairs, and headed into the kitchen to make coffee.  Eugene silently followed behind him, every step.  Finally, Eugene piped up and asked, "Dad when are you gonna say what my deal is today?"  Oh, yes, they are totally listening....and evidently, anticipating!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

What is Love?

Words.  They evoke many things in us.  We hang them as decorative plaques on our walls.  
Live, Laugh, Love

Obviously, words spoken are a wonderful means of communication.
"I love you so much!" 

...or they can be a powerful weapon that can deeply wound.
                                        "I never want to see you again!"                     

Words administered with ink onto pages, tell stories, bring imaginations to life, and record history.
                              We the people of the United State of America...                                                                                              

And Jesus is the Word according to John 1:1.  Words are very important!  

Sometimes when I ask my younger kids if they know what a vocabulary word means they'll say something like, "Well, I know what it means.  I just don't know how to explain it."  I think that can happen to adults, too.  We may even use the word often, but when asked to explain what the word really means, we find that it's hard to define.  Let me prove this point.

What is love?

I think it's safe to say we all know WHAT it is, but how do you explain it?  Can you put it into words?  How do you explain love?

I'd love to hear how YOU explain love.  If a child asked you to explain it, could you?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

My, how you've grown!

"Quit standing on your toes!  That's cheating!"
It's not uncommon to see growing children stand back to back, measuring to see who is taller.  This is serious business!  Yet, accuracy between kids is rare.  Hands reaching to feel the tops of heads often seem to go up an invisible incline to achieve the desired advantage.  Being the biggest is the BEST, after all.

We have a doorway full of pencil marks with names and dates.  It's where our kids like to be measured.  Tate is winning right now...even over his dad!  Trey's goal in life is to pass up his older brother who is 6'3".  Every so often, one of the kids pipes up and says, "Hey, measure me because I think I've grown again.  Can you check?"  Physical growth is easy to spot.  Pants look high watered, sleeves get short, doorways seem to shrink, and believe it or not, ceilings can actually get fingerprints on them from boys practicing their basketball moves.   My, how they've grown!

Growth is a natural desire.  After giving my life to Jesus that night at camp, I knew I wanted to grow spiritually.  I wanted to be mature enough that if someone ever wanted to ever throw me in a furnace I could say, "My God is able to save me, but even if he doesn't, I will still follow him!"  I'd heard the stories of those who'd followed Jesus at all costs.  I met Richard and Sabina Wrumbrandt one night while dad was still in seminary.  I had read Richard's book, Tortured for Christ.  He had lived years in a Romanian prison and still loved his God.  More shocking to me than that was that he loved the men who had tortured him!  His unshakable faith and immeasurable love was what I longed to have.  He seemed a spiritual giant to me.  I wrote a song that captured my new desire.  It asked, "Do I love you enough God that I would die for you if it was ever asked of me?"  I took my personal growth serious.  I spent time getting to know Jesus in a personal way for the first time.  I talked to him; studied my Bible; listened to believers around me...soaking it all up like a thirsty sponge.  Growth was good!

At the age of 15, our son, Tate, seemed to grow half a foot practically overnight.  People couldn't help but mention it every time they saw him.  You can't hide major growth spurts. When I was 14, my growth was spiritual, but obvious.  Our family's heavy involvement in church-life gave me ample opportunity to plug in and serve often.  Soon, I was hearing words of encouragement from those around me.  It was like I'd grown that "half a foot" overnight and people couldn't pass by without saying, "My, how you've grown."  It was good to be encouraged, but somewhere along the way, my perception got skewed.  Since I am a people-pleaser by nature, and had already struggled with a puffed up sense of knowledge years earlier, it made for an unhealthy kind of growth.  All too quickly, I began to feel like maturity in Christ came from being a busy worker for him.  In my head, the continual comments turned from encouragement to measurements of growth and maturity.  I was eager to sow seeds in my life and grow, grow, grow!  I just didn't realize yet that I'd allowed a seed of lies to begin to grow.  A weed and flower look an awful lot alike when they are first springing up!

The reason I am sharing this part of the story is that I believe that it's a key point in my focus becoming blurred.  I started out with my eyes fixed on Jesus.  I wanted to love him, like Richard Wrumbrandt, so deeply that I would be willing to lay my life down for him.  But, it wasn't long before I got distracted by all that I was doing for him.  It's easy to do!  Regardless of whether we are in junior high, mid-life, or retirement, we can loose the joy of our salvation and unintentionally turn into workaholics for Jesus.  Work is much easier to measure than Love.  Busyness can be placed on a scale that reports the numbers of hours involved in an activity. It's impossible to gauge Joy the same way.

Like kids on a playground, Christians tend to carry an invisible measuring stick, which we use to see if we, or others, are measuring up.  It's dangerous.  It makes our "biggness" the issue instead of the greatness of our God.  I wanted to measure up. Standing on my toes slightly, I held my head high and tried to be as big as I could reach.