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!