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

Thursday, February 24, 2011

What do you do?

What do you do? What is your job, your occupation? or, ... What did you do today? These are common, everyday, over-coffee questions we ask each other, right?

We took an hour to worship today.

My job? ...officially? Well, I pray... I walk alongside a few people that live overseas... I write occasionally. And, I worship.

Sometimes I feel guilty. I think sometimes I feel wrong about our job... what are we really doing here, Father, we ask ourselves when we haven't done much of anything that can be ticked off on a "to do" list. When our time sheet submitted says we prayed... we worshipped ...we sat with someone and listened...we talked on the phone ...wrote a blog ...or an email. Or a boat-load of emails...

Sometimes I feel confused with others about our job... how do we explain what we are attempting here? How do I put into words our call to pray... our call to be a soul friend to a few ... our call to worship or to write. How does this really fit with the call to the unreached of the world?

So when I pray; or when we pray.... is it really "doing" anything? And, can I check that off my list? When exactly is "prayer" or "soul care" ever done? When can I check off the "prayed for Afghanistan"... or the nations ... or this marriage ... or this organization? Can I tick the box, say "I did my job" and be done for the day?

And, what about when I spend the whole day forgetting to pray... not taking the time, not praying. What happens when my time-sheet can't show forth prayer, worship, or caring for others?

Did the prayer over my soap suds at the sink "count" toward my hours --are those calculable prayer hours? How about that midnight bathroom visit.... and that moment of half-conscious prayer on the toilet? Is that my job?

I know. I know these are stupid and silly questions. Almost ridiculous, I know. But, they linger. They come up. From outside and from within.

When we spend our team meeting... not "meeting" with an agenda... but meeting to worship, to read His word, to hold our hands up together and just say, "You are awesome God!"...

In home school we are reading about 6th and 7th century monks and monasteries. We definitely are not like them, for sure. But maybe we feel a similar calling? I don't know.

On Wikipedia a Medieval monk's life is described: "Prayer was a monk’s first priority; all other tasks fell secondary to this one. Apart from these prayers, monks had several tasks to complete, such as preparing medicine, lettering, reading, and others. Also, these monks would work in the gardens and on the land; a monk could spend most of his day gardening. Monks also did something called Cloister, where they would walk around the center of the monastery reading and writing parts of the Bible, as well as writing prayers."

Okay, can be really clear that I don't think we have the call to be monks! But, that said, we do have the call to pray first and foremost... and then do whatever the Lord leads us to do. And, that sounds a bit monk-ish, doesn't it?

Or, is that the call of every Christian?

At some point in history, for centuries actually, it was okay to live this life of prayer, worship and simple service to the Lord. It was an acceptable, supported, and an "okay" job. Odd maybe. Okay, I get that. Monks were unique and odd. But, it was acceptable. And it was valued. Did people question the monks on how they spent their time? It is hard to imagine they did... but, maybe.

We took an hour to worship today. Smack dab in the middle of our "work week" we sang together. That is what we did. We worshipped. And, it was sweet. And, tomorrow our time sheet can say we spent an hour in worship.

Are you okay with that?
And, more importantly and more pointedly... am I okay with that?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Loud and Clear

I love to hear them sing. My kids. Loud, full-belly singing from the back seat as we drive along... pure joy to my heart. Really in those moments, you just must join in, of course!

Today we sang together with our "Seeds" worship CD. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind...".... we sang to the catchy memory song.

While singing these amazing words, I was struck. This is a clear and very real commandment from God Almighty to His people. This is what He wants... His perfect will, His desire, His expectation for His kids.

And so the dialogue begun, half singing... half praying..., What does it mean, Lord, to love you in this way... all of me.

All my heart. How might it look if all my feelings, all my longings, all my passions were turned toward you, today?

All my soul. How, Father, would my life be different if the depths of my soul, my very personality, my gut, my very breathe and being were all about love with You?

All my mind. Father, what if all my thoughts were for you, around you, with you, toward you, submitted to you?

It is a real and clear commandment and therefore, I believe, a real and genuine possibility. Maybe even now and in the "not yet"! I believe that in this command, ... the first and greatest! (Matt. 22:38)... God's perfect intention is made clear. His desire for Me, and our relationship, is summed up in these words.

Love me. Love me with all of you.

And, I was made to love Him in this way. All of me. This is my inheritance in Christ. This is what He offers me... this beautiful, whole, complete love. This "all of me" love and relationship is what I can have with my God. Imagine.

So, I join in and sing the words... loud and clear with my kids. And, I say "Yes" Father teach me this! Lead me forward in learning how to love You more... with more of me. All of me.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Reaching out

She reached out and touched Him.

She was unclean and had been bleeding for twelve years. (Luke 8) Twelve years is a long time. I know. I have had a similar problem for 25 years. Twelve years is a long time.

Doctors. More doctors. She had spent all her money. She had probably spent all her emotional and physical energy on seeking help. Twelve years is a long time to seek help. I know.

I think I might know her path... or in the least I am acquainted with her grief.

I know the embarrassment. I know the unexplainable, irrational guilt. The hiding or ignoring. The fear. I know the confusion that might come with twelve years of bleeding. I know the looks of "unclean" on faces of people who can't handle a topic of this nature. Too personal. Too "gross". Too embarrassing.

But, something remarkable happened that day inside that bleeding, reaching-woman. Hope and faith had welled up within her. She was propelled forward into the crowd. Was she even ever supposed to be there among them, this unclean woman? Probably not.

She pushed through the crowd. She pushed through those that would judge her and call her dirty. She pushed through the heaving, dirty, hot crowd... a crowd so thick it almost crushed Jesus... and she reached out. Pushing forward, she believed. Reaching out, she knew. She knew that only if...

If only... she could touch His cloak, she would be healed. And, she was.

She was healed that very moment. That day the bleeding stopped! The mess of her life. The pain. The embarrassment. The despair and discouragement. In that moment, and from His powerful Self, it all stopped. It all ended the moment she touched Him.

He hadn't reached out to her. He hadn't seen her. But, He knew her the minute she touched Him. He knew and He searched for her. And, then He tells her that she can go in "peace"! Peace, to your body, my daughter! It was her faith that healed her, He said.

She had to initiate this healing... or did she? Where did that faith come from that allowed her to be so bold? Where had this courage and believe come from?

I believe that our Father initiates and pours out all faith... as a gift. And, in that moment, He filled her with this deep, unmistakable gift.

In the last few days, I have felt this hope welling up within me. Like never before.

Like never before, I have sensed that God might be whispering into my soul, "I want to heal you". Yesterday, in prayer, I was certain He did want healing. I need only ask and reach out.

In response to this faith, I must disregard the severity of the disease and the years of pain. I must push through the reasons that says, "not possible". I must say, "No!" to those thoughts ... the heaving crowd of intellect and medical history .... and reach forward. This is harder than I can explain in words. If you have any long term illness, you might understand the difficulty of this act of faith.

It can't come from me. It isn't coming from me. This faith that I feel building up within my soul is radical. It is divine. It is an unmistakable gift from my Father above.

Reach out, Stephanie and touch Him. Say to Him that you want healing. Believe, my daughter, that He can and more than that... believe He wants to.

So, for the first time (maybe ever), I am asking in faith that the Lord would heal me. I am asking that the internal bleeding would stop. I am asking that the pain would end and my embarrassment and unclean-ness would be over. I am asking. I am hoping.

I am reaching out.  ...and waiting.

Painting by Gwen Mahag
photo source

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


He just says, Relax. ...and let go.

I can so easily get worked up about this or that. Important things. Stupid things. Equally so, I just get worried, or harried, or overwhelmed.

And, when I take a moment to sit.... When I sit in silence asking for His love to surround, to uphold, to cover ... He speaks. He whispers, Relax. His word speaks. His Spirit speaks. He shows up.

He speaks His Presence when I take the time to listen. In the midst of the busy, noisy life ...when I take that moment ... when I sit my rear-end in a chair (and sit my mind down too) long enough to listen, He speaks Himself. His Presence. His bigness. His care. His love.

I will be with you. I will carry you. I will walk with you.

I am here. I am with you. I am carrying you and walking with you.

All worry seems to fade, or dim. All anxious thoughts are surrounded and covered. All hurriedness is wrapped and quieted in that moment.

Teach me to listen, Lord. Make me more aware of You, Your sweet Presence and Your love today! Help me to relax and to let go. Help me to surrender.
Stress isn’t a situation. Stress is a state of mind.” ~Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience

Monday, February 14, 2011

Lame oven... lame body

So a month ago my oven was pretty lame. Only two burners worked, and not very well. The oven was inconsistent, not hot enough and/or scorching any and all food I attempted to cook. You just never knew!? Or at least I didn't know... operator error is always a possibility.

My landlady graciously offered to buy me a new oven and I was thrilled. I waited in anticipation of this new oven!

I now have the new oven and I am grateful. The burners work wonderfully and it is beautiful and clean. But, of course, it isn't perfect. (shocking, I know! smile) This oven is smaller. My old oven was small. This oven is tiny. And, on Saturday I found out my oven dishes don't fit!

In a morning attempt to cook scones for breakfast, it became clear that all my oven pans and baking sheets don't fit. It was a moment that almost produced tears. Crazy, I know. Tears over an oven?? And tears over a beautiful, new oven, at that?!! But, ...my pans don't fit!? Frustration. ...even anger.

It is amazing what a very silly thing, like an oven and baking sheets, can show about the state of my heart. As I internally writhed and quaked over this desperate plight... this horrid oven... I knew at once that my emotional state (and outburst) had very little to do with the oven. And, yes, soo very little to do with the baking sheets.

You see, I am exceedingly frustrated these days with this "old" body of mine... this tent that God has given me to live in on earth. It really is very lame sometimes! Only a few "burners" work well and sometimes it is too hot and often not hot enough... okay, well maybe I am stretching the analogy too far. But you get the point. (smile)

My body is breaking down and I have suffered with this long term illness and pain too long... or so it feels. So it seems.

One would have thought I had long ago dealt with this emotionally. I have been dealing with this for over 25 years! But, I am learning that the Lord seems to have me on the same path over and over again.

Okay, He says, Now we re-visit My love. Now, we are back to re-visiting trust and surrender. Oh, it looks like it is time to re-walk the concept of grace.

And, okay, now it is time to re-visit suffering and pain.

Each time He and I journey down these familiar paths they are deeper, maybe even harder, and ...well, sweeter, too. So, again together we walk down the road of my personal pain. And, I process, lament, and learn.

I was reading in a beautifully tender book written by Amy Carmichael, Rose from Brier. From a place of pain, in the midst of pain and deep suffering, Amy writes about her journey. She talks about the need to surrender to the Lord. She writes about a place where one is able to say with a whole heart, "Dear Lord, yes."

When I read this, I was immediately annoyed by her advice. I was agitated. I still wanted to lament and writhe. I wasn't ready to say, "yes". Not yet.

But, sitting in my kitchen with my too-big baking sheets and my new lame oven, instantly I knew I needed to hold up my hands and say, with pain, "Dear Lord, yes". "yes"

Yes, dear friend Jesus, to an oven that won't fit my baking sheets.
Yes, dear Father, to an upbringing that was packed with pain and hurt.
Yes, dear All-knowing Father, to a body that is broken and suffering.

Yes, dear Lord. Yes.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Impossible

Do the impossible.

It seems like He is often asking it from me. His nudges, His pokes, His prods, His whispers...

Come up higher, He invites.

Go further, He whispers. Feed them, He prods. You give them something to eat, He suggests.

Reading in Luke 9, I am struck by His suggestion... or is it a command? ... to His disciples. "You give them something to eat" (v. 9:13). He was telling them to do something impossible. Simply impossible. "about five thousand men were there" (v.14).

But, still, He tells them to do it. Do the impossible, He says.

But, how, Lord? ... they respond.
We only have this much to give... We only have two fish ...

And, I respond the same way. How, Lord? I only have this much energy... I only have this much money? I only have this much time? ... I only have this much knowledge and experience... How, Lord? This is beyond me!

I can almost imagine the slight smile on Jesus' face when He tells his disciples to sit the men down and give Him the fish.

It is almost as if He is saying with a glimmer and light in His eyes, Give me what you have!! Give it to me and WATCH! Watch the impossible. I can imagine Him saying it with delight and energy.

He knows what we have and He knows what He is asking. And, yet, He still asks. He asks the impossible.

So, today, Lord help me to give you what I have. I give to you my energy and my effort. I give you my time and my resources. And, I say, I want to come up higher and do more. And, I will watch You (and me) do the impossible.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Not Home Yet

I just want to go home. I just want to be home.

Three weeks on the road... 4 air planes. 5 taxis. 6 trains. 2 boats. 4 hotels later ... twelve hours on red eye flight.

... and I was desperate to return home. I just wanted to be home.

When I am travelling, I always long for home. My pillow. My bed. My coffee mugs. My chair.

Familiar sights and sounds. Familiar faces. Familiar schedule. Familiar food.

I was desperate for home.

And yet, ... I am home now. I am here! I have been home now for three days and I have again that post-travel, not-uncommon discontent feeling. It lingers. The discontent isn't extreme. I am truly happy to be home and to sleep in my ever-comfy bed. But, as I often quickly realize when returning home, I am not really home. Not really.

What is it that I long for?

What I really long for is that "other country" that we read about in Hebrews 11. What I really long for is that heavenly country, that perfect home.

When I am away, somewhere in my mind my earthly home becomes "more perfect" than reality. My insatiable longing for "home" reaches far beyond what my earthly home can provide. Because, when I come home... I have dirty clothes to clean and sickness with which to contend. I have jet-lag and a bed that won't ever promise a full nights rest... I have meals to cook, school to teach, hard people to deal with, and well, life. Real, sin-bathed, sometimes tiring life.

As beautiful as my home is... and, it is beautiful! As happy as it is, ... and it is happy! As blessed as I am on this earth and in my earthly dwelling, ... and I am richly blessed!! Still...it is not my home. Not really.

This lingering discontent reminds me that I am a "stranger in this country" and that what I really long for is heaven. I long for that perfect, no-tears, no sickness place. I long for eternity. I long for the Rest of God. Hebrews 11 tells me, I am not alone in this longing. They, too, wanted to go home. They knew they lived in tents on this earth.

So, I still long. And, sometimes I feel desperate for home and I just want to go home.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Lion's Tears

It was the tears on the face of the lion that made my heart stir. The descriptive picture of his face and his tears instantly brought tears to my own eyes. My chest ached a little as I listened to the story. And, in that moment I learned something. Nothing new. I just learned it again. ...maybe in a new way.

We just finished reading The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis together as a family. It has been such a sweet journey for me to listen, with my children, to my husband's rich voice read these classic books out-loud.

It isn't my first time reading the Chronicles of Narnia... and it won't be my last. So rich. So full of lessons of truth and love.

Today, in our reading, the boy "Digory" speaks with Aslan, the lion, about his dying mother. With tears, this young boy, pleads that Aslan would heal his mother and asks that she would be well. This boy weeps as he intercedes for his mother, pleading with the great lion (who in these marvelous books can do pretty much anything!).

As the boy weeps and pleads, his head is bowed before the lion. And, then ...he looks up. As he raises his head, he sees something that surprises him. And, it surprises the reader. Aslan is crying with him. Aslan is grieving with Digory in that moment. Deep grief. The connection between this little "Son of Adam-boy" and Aslan is deep and lasting.

It is those tears that help Digory move forward in his grief later in the book. It is the compassionate face of Aslan that make all things right in Digory's heart... despite the circumstances in which he finds himself.

My heart was stirred. My welling tears were real. And, my chest ached just a bit today as we read.

After feeling the difficulty of my illness last week. After witnessing devastating darkness on the night streets of Bangkok. After walking along side many hurting people last week... hearing many difficult stories and witnessing real, deep, painful tears ...

...I wrote in my journal: "How, Father, do we know Your rest and Your safety in the middle of this sin-stained, woe-ful, dark world? Where are You, Lord? When will You make it better?"

Today, I raise my head and only have to glance at His face. And, I know what I see there. His big, full, heart-wrenching tears join mine. His face says it all. He knows. He sees. He hurts.

...with me.

More than me.

And, this picture of my Father's face... This picture of His Son, my brother Jesus' face.. The image of the grieving Holy Spirit... They help me to know that I am connected to something much bigger, much more real and more eternal.

I am far from, very far from, alone in my grief.

And, my head raises and my soul is comforted by my Lion's tears.
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