Saturday, May 19, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

That was the last time I talked to my dad.

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

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

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

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

"I'm ready, Lord.  Come quickly."    

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

Monday, May 14, 2012

"Blessed Are The Flexible For They Shall Not Break"

Do you remember this saying?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pat, my E.F. Hutton

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Compass of Desires

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Come on! Pick up!

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

*beep*  *beep*  *beep*  *beep*  

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 11, 2012

Grace: A Broken & Beautiful Accounting

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

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

Looking at grace - it's ridiculously beautiful though!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Brothers and Sisters...gotta love 'em!

Who will you "do life with" the longest?

Your siblings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 5, 2012

One Late Night "Google"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 4, 2012

Snake on the Path ...or is it?

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

What about this one?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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