"I count myself one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write." ~St. Augustine

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Nothing to say

I haven't written, or posted, much these past few days because... well, simply put, ... I don't have much to give. I don't have much to say. Or, maybe more accurately, I don't have words to explain what I might want to say...

I have nothing to give. Or, at least, not much of anything.

As we have had a houseful of guests, this has been an on-going thought recently. Reoccurring very often, actually.

I don't really have anything to give her, ... or him, ... or them.

As I have sat with friends, talked with mentors, spoken with disciples, or listened to family... I just keep thinking, I got nothin'

Now, please, let me add a big caveat here... this thought hasn't been a negative one. And, as far as I can tell, it isn't stemming from insecurity or false humility. It really has been quite sweet. In fact, it feels... well, it feels true. And, it feels okay. True and okay.

Like Peter in Acts 3, I find myself saying, "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you." I find myself saying (or my heart whispering)...
"Wisdom and knowledge I do not have, but what I have I give you."

"Advice and counsel I do not have, but what I have I give you."

"Healing and miracles I do not have, but what I have I give you."

My heart's reply to the stories, the hurt, the shared emotions, the questions of life, the victories and triumphs, and the confusion that is lavished on me by friends... this heart's reply is simply... I have not.

...But what I do have, I give you.

I can smile at you. I can hug you. I can ask you questions and listen. I can cry with you and I can pray for you. I can cook you dinner and pour you coffee. I can laugh with you and get angry with you. And, I can write a blog post from time to time.

It isn't much... but what I have I give you.

Reading tonight on a favorite blog, I read a beautiful post reflecting on the parable told in Luke 11. In this story a man is visited by a friend in the dead of night. When the man realizes he has nothing to serve his guest he runs to his neighbor's house. The man knocks, pleads and says with passion to his neighbor, "I have nothing!"

And, the neighbor gives the man bread.

This blog post reflects on the truth that "I am the servant, not the source". And, this stirred my heart. This, this!, has been the sweet message to my heart these past months.

Yes, Stephanie! Yes, you have nothing in and of yourself. Nothing. But, in Me, you have ALL. In My Love, You have abundance, my daughter. So, my lovely, give from that abundance and keep giving liberally!

So, I write tonight with nothing much to say... but, what I do have, I give you.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Fish counting

I just read a piercing blog post at A Holy Experience. And, as I sit here I feel compelled to "count my fish" just as the disciples did that foggy, early morning in John 21.

And, so begin to I count...
1. Ridiculous generosity shown to our family each month, every month.... for 10 years.
2. More mind-boggling and insane financial gifts yesterday.
3. Coffee and quite moments.
4. Warm oatmeal, eaten with morning chatter.
5. A little boy who still wants to climb up on my lap in the mornings.
6. A little girl who wants her back scratched and can never get enough.
7. Exercise, sweat, and stretching.
8. A computer.
9. Honest blog posts that touch my soul.
10. Kind emails that rejoice with us.
11. Friends that will rejoice with me even when their day is hard.
12. God's Word... fresh for today.
13. A comfy chair.
14. A sweet neighbor that smiles and waves as she passes by.
15. A sweet pup who is ever hopeful, ever expecting a treat.
16. My 8 year old "Rockband" drummer that is as cute as can be.
17. Good books.
18. Happy voices playing in the next room.
19. A piano and piano practice.
20. Sunshine and frost playing on my window.
21. Music.
22. Pictures drawn by little hands.
23. Making plans for the future and excitement about upcoming events.
24. Opening an early Christmas present. ... just because.
25. The smell of baking apple pie.
26. A difficult night sleep that allowed quiet moments to pray.
27. Pain and suffering. Past memories to bring again to the feet of Jesus.
28. Allergy medicine and a warm shower.
29. The gorgeous, blue-eye-man-that-I-love smiling at me.
30. A God who pursues...
and pursues... and pursues.

A Friend who pursues me and fills my net with abundance... my net is breaking this morning as I drag myself to the shore and count the fish.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Truth Doesn't Rot

The other day I was all set to make a fabulous pasta recipe. I had all the ingredients and began the preparations. About half way through the readying, I reached into the refrigerator to get my Parmesan cheese. I was so bummed to find it full of mold. Nasty green and black mold dotted the cheese that was needed for my meal.

Now, I will say, I am the type who feels perfectly happy cutting off mold from a block of cheese and eating what remains. That doesn't bother me a bit. But, the problem is that when mold hits grated Parmesan, it is a lost cause. The mold is throughout. And, the whole container is lost. A waste. This was a bummer on a number of levels... the waste of perfectly good (and a bit expensive here where I live!) Parmesan and a recipe that was "unmake-able" because the Parmesan was at the center of the flavor for this dish! It didn't ruin my day, but it did ruin my plans.

Everything we see rots... or molds... or dies out... or sags... or wrinkles... or tires. How many times have I gone to my refrigerator and had something rotten to be thrown out? Or how many times have I had to throw out, or give away, my favorite pair of jeans because that one hole finally gave out. There is little in our world that is lasting. And, there isn't much that is not susceptible to decay.

Frail and fleeting. Temporary and transient.

The other day I felt worn out. I bundled up and dragged myself, and my cup of coffee, out to our prayer shed. And, I sat there feeling a bit down. I was discouraged. I was tired.

And then I stumbled on these words... "May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope,encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word." (2 Thess. 2:16,17)

Eternal encouragement. Our Lord Jesus and our Father have for us a never ending supply of encouragement to give us! A fully stocked refrigerator of encouragement... that never rots, doesn't mold and won't run out!

And, the source of this encouragement... this "ai┼Źnios" (which in Hebrew means "without beginning and end, never to cease, everlasting") encouragement... comes from God's love and His grace. It is from Himself. This eternal encouragement is His being. From His very Self, His love and grace bubble up and flow out. This grace flows to us in an ever existing, ever full, abundant river of encouragement ready for the drinking!

With this drinking... with this pouring... comes hope and strength. And, our hearts are filled.

I was filled that tired, weary afternoon. My heart was encouraged and hoped welled up from within. I was strengthened to continue on... to continue on in good deeds and good words.

There isn't much in this world that lasts... and much around me rots, molds and decays. It is good to be reminded of the eternal, the lasting, the never ending... and so sweet to be reminded of the Source.

"Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval." (John 6:27)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Angry Words

I yelled at my kids yesterday. It wasn't pretty. And, it hurt them.

It was as if frustration with their behavior seized me. I didn't pause. I didn't pray. I just raised my voice and said harsh words in anger. I spoke angry and mean words to the ones I love here on earth the most. How is this possible? Would my brother, Jesus, have helped me if I had asked? I think so. He has before...

It is so easy to let emotions get the better of me and throw self-control out the window. This is what happened yesterday. And, I am am deeply sad about my behaviour. Had I asked the Holy Spirit to help, would He have filled me to full with self-control, peace, and patience? I think so. He has before...

Oswald Chambers says, "The true test of a person's spiritual life and character is not what he does in the extraordinary moments of life, but what he does during the ordinary times when there is nothing tremendous or exciting happening." Yesterday, I failed this test. And, I failed miserably. An average day. An average childish misbehaviour. Nothing tremendous and nothing out of the ordinary. And, I failed.

When I did ask my sweet children for mercy and forgiveness, they gave it... and I believe they honestly gave it. They forgave me. But, I still saw hurt in their eyes. Forgiveness releases the wrong-doer, but it doesn't take away the pain or the repercussions of the wrong done. I am grateful of their mercy and grace. But, with even this 'small' blow of emotional and angry words, I gave my sweet children a wound. I wounded these that I love so deeply. And, this hurts my heart.

Lord, give me pause. Give me space when the frustration seems to overtake. Give me a right mind to ask for Your help. Help me to live in Your strength, Your grace and Your self-control. When I react in myself alone, I fail miserably. If I had asked You, Father, would you have helped? I think so. You have so many times before...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Painful Good-bye

Saying "good-bye" is very hard! We weren't created for it.

And, I have lived a life of "good-byes".

Haven't we all? ...And, it doesn't seem to get any easier. In fact, I wonder, as I write this early morning, after sending my friends away in the dark to catch an early morning flight, does it get harder? Does it hurt more? As I love more deeply, connect more securely...And as I understand the fragility of life and the reality of space and time... maybe it hurts even more than it used to. I don't know.

As I watched my daughter cry her way through her thousandth "good-bye" this week, I couldn't tell her that she would learn to do "it better". Or, that it would get easier. Her tears just tugged at my already aching heart. I know, baby girl, I know... my heart and mouth whispered to her soul and ears.

"Good-byes" are just plain hard and there is no way around it. Watching one you love get into that car, onto that air plane, or walk out that door... just rips our hearts in a way that is significantly painful. It feels wrong. And, I wonder if it feels wrong because we simply weren't created to say "good-bye". It goes against our very nature.

Is it the life calling that our Father has given us... this overseas living and work... that makes it more difficult? I don't know. Likely our "good-byes" are more often; but, not more difficult. It just hurts to say "good-bye".

We can run from the pain. We can ignore it. We can choose not to enter in. God has creatively allowed our minds all sorts of strength and endurance that can push the pain away, or push it within. In some instances this is a beautiful gift... this strong mind's ability to endure and persevere. And, sometimes this running, this pushing away, this ignoring--- it is simply unhealthy.

So, while I whisper into my sweet girls ears... and listen to my own words with my hurting heart... I don't ask her to stop crying. When she breaks a bone, cuts her arm or bumps her head, I want her to be free to cry. This hurts! And, when I allow her to cry and I enter into her pain... wading knee deep in my own pain ...I have to agree with my darling girl. Yes, my love, This hurts!

Our bones were not created to be broken. They function best whole. But, in God's wisdom and kindness, He gave us the ability to heal. Our broken bones do heal themselves in time.
Our skin was not created to be cut. It functions best when it is whole. But, in God's wisdom and love, He gave our skin abilities to heal itself.

The family of God was not created to be separate. We function best together,... as a whole. But, in God's kindness, He gave us the ability to persevere through hard good-byes. He gave us the sweet ability to connect in such a way that our physical separateness can not fully alter our internal and spiritual connection with each other. We can stay whole and unified... even when apart.

And, as Father fills us with hope that our ailing bodies will soon be replaced by new "tents"---heavenly, healthy, whole bodies. So, our Father shares with us that in heaven there is "no sea".

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea." (Revelations 21)

For anyone who lives overseas, or anyone who pains with "good-byes", this verse is a great hope to our souls. No separation. No death. No early morning flights and no time zones. ...we, the Bride of God... the Body of Christ will be in a united. We will live in one "city", together, unified and whole forever. No sea.

And, no hard "good-byes".

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

An Angry God

I sometimes forget how angry He can be. I forget about His wrath.

This morning His angry voice and wrathful actions on the pages of Scripture stopped me in my tracks.

Early in my Christian experience, His anger and wrath were hard to escape. I easily feared the Lord and feared an image of "an angry God" that looked a lot like an unholy father's anger that was unleashed. I felt like God was always angry at me and ready to burst with wrath. It wasn't a right picture. It wasn't Truth. It wasn't God.

In those early days of faith, I had deep difficulty accepting His boundless love and mercy. I often struggled with images of this angry, wrathful and vengeful God. His voice in Scripture in those early years sounded angry to me... even His earthly voice through Jesus. I heard angry tones in His voice.

This is not so now.

My heavenly Father has pursued me so faithfully with His love! The work He has done in my heart is amazing! Truly. Through the years He has run after me. He has showered me with love. Showered! His theme of love and gentle, merciful pursuit has been amazing beyond words and so significantly steadfast. So, that, ...well, now... I simply know He loves me. I know this truth deep within and around me. It is a real knowledge that has been years in the making. He is love. God is love. My Father is love. And, I know this.

But, I forget that He is also a God of justice and wrath. He is a jealous God. My Father has a righteous and holy temper that is also a significant part of His beautiful complexity.

He reminded me of this truth in the early morning hours today.

Reading in Ezekiel, I heard His angry voice. His voice was downright mad! He is angry, deeply angry at His people. And, He is punishing them... His people, His kids, His loved-ones. He is inflicting harsh, difficult and painful punishment. God, Himself, is commanding death and vengeance. Let's not forget this. It isn't only an Old Testament story... Acts and Revelations reveal this piece of God's character more than we like to note.

So, wrapped warmly up in the blanket of His love, I need to remember His justice and His anger. Just as my children sit calmly, without fear, on my lap or their Dad's lap, they do know that we get angry. The anger does not define our relationship and it certainly isn't the whole of my character. (That said, I am FAR from holiness and my anger is NOT always righteous. Righteousness and Purity are part of His very nature as well, and always true about my Heavenly Father and His anger... a clear and important distinction, to be sure!)

But, my children know that I can get angry and they know that often with my anger comes discipline and punishment. Lord willing, and by His grace alone, this anger is righteous in nature and so, therefore, is the discipline. This is an important part of our relationship--- my kids and I. They need to know my love, my pursuit, my grace, and my wrath. That is true and complete parenting, I believe.

We need to remember!

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

Be wise, my son and daughter. Be wise, Stephanie and remember WHO your Father is, Who He really is in His complexity and entirety.

In Ezekiel there is a mark that is put on the heads of those that are with God and in agreement with Him. Those with the mark are kept from death and punishment! Because of Jesus, I bear that mark! Be wise and eternally grateful, Stephanie, for the love poured out... for the boundless love poured out!!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Just about perfect

The other night I spent some time just hanging out with a friend. Walking away from our time, I felt deeply peaceful and happy. I was content and full. I guess I felt satisfied really. This was a sweet feeling.

As I assessed my feelings, and talked them over with my husband, I realized that this particular friendship was "just about perfect". Let me explain.

My personality can tend toward being extreme; or, at the least, intense. It isn't uncommon for people to comment about this intensity and to even express to me that they have "avoided" me in an attempt to avoid the intensity of my presence. This has been hard for me to hear at times... and yet, I know it is true. In the past I would have explained this as ... Simply put, my intolerance of "fluff" conversation. Generally speaking, I feel awkward with social, light conversation and I feel exhausted by small-talk. It tires me and I don't like it. When I go to a party, for example, and walk away having had no "real" heart conversation, it feels like a major waste of time and I feel disconnected and unsettled.

Like I said, my personality is a bit extreme. And, I guess, there are those who don't particularly like me for it...

But, last night, I walked away from "a party" energized and happy. And, last night, this friend and I talked about a myriad of "fluff" subjects. We talked recipes and Christmas shopping. We talked color schemes and fluff novels and jewellery. This didn't bother me in the least. ...I entirely enjoyed it, in fact.

Maybe it isn't that I don't like fluff conversation after all...

Now, I think it is more than that simple explanation that I used to give.

This friendship is not just fluff. And, it is not just intense. It is BOTH fluff AND intense... intermixed and intermingled beautifully. And, I love that. With this friend, I can be confessing sin one moment and talking recipes the next. She can be sharing her frustrations in one moment and we can be laughing about the weather or our kids behavior the next. We seem to dance in and out of light and weighty without a moment hesitation.

I was reading today in "God in the Yard" by L.L. Barkat. She asks her reader to consider how we would define contemplation and prayer... as 1). Focus and Purpose or 2). Wandering and Rambling...

I realized that I see my relationship with God as BOTH/AND... just like this friendship. I would define contemplation and prayer as both wandering and walking together and also focused and purposeful. Light and Weighty. Intense and Lazy. Purposeful and Passive.

...this perspective, I think, is new for me. And, it is very freeing.

This afternoon I spent some time with God. And, I felt happy and satisfied. We talked trees and birds. We talked divorce and deep scars of pain. We talked about upcoming events and household chores... and we talked worry and concern. Like a perfect friendship, I am realizing that I can speak with God about sin and deep, dark heart issues and the next moment be asking Him to help me figure out what to make for dinner. I can talk with Him about the weather and the wars ... and we can dance in and out of this.

And, this is sweet. And, I feel content and full.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cures what ails ya'!

It is amazing what a good night sleep will do for perspective, isn't it?!

Man, the other night I totally lost all perspective! All semblance of rational or reasonable thought flew out the window. Exhaustion blew in and seemed to cloud my heart, my soul and my mind. Simply put, my world was collapsing. All was lost!

My judgement was not "sober" and my mind was not "sound". I was clouded and under-the-influence. ...not by alcohol or drugs, but by tiredness.

In this moment, my husband kindly reminded me it was "after my bedtime" and I just needed to go to bed. I listened and obeyed. (smile). That night I think I slept that nearly 9 hours... and when I woke up, the circumstances hadn't changed, but my perspective was renewed. The world was not crashing down around me... and my life and ministry were not all "for naught!" New eyes replaced sleepy ones from the night before.

It is amazing what a good night's sleep will do for the mind! Without being too terribly simplistic it can certainly "cure what ails ya'!"

God shares His thoughts on sleep and rest throughout His word. He grants it to those He loves, He says... and leads His own to quiet places to rest. He values rest. He values deep rest. Real rest, in fact, is so highly valued that it is commanded by God. It is a must, a non-negotiable, a holy law that is not to be taken lightly. He tells us to keep the "rest" holy and to rest in Him... real rest. This is more than just sleep!!

What would a Sabbath-life look like? What kind of perspective or "sober judgement" would we have? I can begin to imagine a life where rest (good sleep included) was a regular and rhythmic part of my days. It is what God has for me, I know. Just as it is good for me to not murder, to not steal and to keep watch on what or Who I worship; it is good for me to rest and to keep His Sabbath holy.

Sabbath... Rest.... Sleep. It cures what ails ya'!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Seeing Color

We are studying the human body in our home school lessons this term. Last week, in our science lesson, I was struck a new with the fact that the eye needs light in order to distinguish, discern or "see" color. Try it. You can hold a handful of crayons in your hand in a dark room, and while detecting the crayons or "seeing" them... your eye can not distinguish their colors. Essentially in the dark, or a darkened state, you "see" in black, white and shades of grey.

This morning I went for a prayer walk and the grass was a brilliant, bright green color. The "color" of the grass is always there. The chlorophyll in the plants and grass make this a reality. Grass is indeed green. But, when the sun is shining brightly, the green of the grass is "greener"... or appears greener, actually. And, when it is dark, and the sun is hidden or shining elsewhere on the earth... the grass looks black or a shade of grey.

The sun's shining doesn't make the green appear, it is there... but the sun's light allows us to see it. The sun's shining show forth the reality. And the color we see in other objects is contingent on the light that shines on them, reflecting into our eyes and allowing our retina to "detect" the color. Your retina is full of cones and rods. The cones are programmed to distinguish color and the rods black and white. At night only your rods are working and your cones are incapacitated by the lack of light. (Okay... enough of the science explanation!! Sorry.)

But, I while I was walking and praying... I was struck again that my eye was able to see this brilliance of color... blues, greens, and browns... simply because the sun was shining. And, I began to pray.

I began to ask that spiritual eyes and hearts of my loved ones would be illuminated by the Giver and Creator of light. I asked that the "cones" of their hearts would be capable to see color.

Some of my friends, my family and neighbours do not have the light of God living in them and therefore only see the black and white of life around them. These ones need the light of God. He is light! They need the light of God to shine brightly in them, to live as light inside them. They need light to awaken their ability to detect the color of life, the truth, and the reality of the world around them that they are missing.

Our Father is present everywhere. He is alive and He is active. He offers love, deep love. He offers joy, lasting joy. He offers peace and patience. He offers kindness and gentleness. This is the "color" He offers us each day. We need to sit in His light, bask in His Word, and open our hearts and eyes to His brilliance that can bring true "seeing".

Father open the spiritual eyes of my friends, my family and my neighbours. May they see you as You really are! Father open the eyes of my heart! Father, teach me to see You more... to see the variety of colors that are you!! May I see You as You really are! We need Your light to shine!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Big Silence

I was up till 1:00 AM Friday night.

I stayed up late watching a fascinating show on BBC called "The Big Silence". For anyone who knows me well, they would know it is not common for me to -- A). Stay up late (I am a seriously "early-to-bed-girl" and, B). Stay up late to watch television. But, I stayed up late. Very late, in fact. I was so deeply moved and fascinated by this show. Early that evening, I went on-line, in fact and watched all three hour long episodes in one sitting... My husband was shocked by the behaviour and he laughed at me!

The show basically explored what solitude and silence does for the soul. For me solitude and silence has been key to my personal emotional and spiritual growth. I can't really articulate how intricate silence has been, but it has been huge. I watched in fascination as a Benedictine Monk took five volunteers, all from varied backgrounds and walks of life, and introduced them to solitude and silence.

After their eight days of a silent retreat, all five people were remarkably changed. It was clear that something very significant happened in their soul. Each one journeyed through frustration, deep dark valleys where they saw the emptiness of themselves, and difficult (hidden) emotions welled up from within each one. Taking away the noise, they all encountered their own "self" and it wasn't a pretty sight... all of them, women and men, young and old, rich and poor... all five came to a place of seeing themselves "more rightly" than they had ever before... just by allowing silence and turning off the numbing noises of life. They also each encountered a place of peace and calm that none had ever experienced.

In my personal journey with solitude and silence, I have found this to be true, as well. Both the darkness and the light have shown forth in these places of quiet.

As a believer it was fascinating to watch each of them encounter, very clearly, God. God's word, God's Presence, God's creation, God's Peace, and His voice were all distinctly felt and experienced by the volunteers at one point. They even articulated it.... and knew it was not from within. It was not "from them" but from "another". And, yet, three of the five walked away from the time not wanting to label that "other" they were encountering- "God". And, certainly these three were not willing to surrender their lives to Him and His love... and this felt deeply sad to me.

Like a man who stands at the door to a warm house, feels the warmth and knows (on one level) the safety that the warmth would provide him... but he chooses to not enter and just to stand outside. There is so much more warmth here by the fire! I would want to yell at that man. Come in you are welcome. Come in... you are only getting a taste of what you can have on the inside!

I wanted to yell this at the television as I watched! Oh, just one more step inside... it is lovely in here.

But we are all on a journey. And, these five individuals were given a sweet taste of what quiet, solitude and silence can do for the soul. And, for me, on my late-night rendezvous with the concept of The Big Silence, I was motivated to go to my calendar and set a block of time in the near future to taste it again. Very soon.
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