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

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Welcomed Wind

The wind here can be intense.  It feels fierce.  It wakes us at night, as it howls through our little town!  It is a beautiful, deep, surrounding and powerful sound...

And, it makes me think...

He is likened to the wind.

He blows where He wills. (John 3:8)

He hovers and overshadows and broods.  He dwells.  He abides.  (Genesis 1:2, Romans 8:11)

He fills and surrounds.  (Acts 2:4)

We see Him descend like a dove and also like fire. (Mathew 3:16)  He counsels.  He comforts. (John 14:16)

He teaches us and leads us into all Truth. (John 14:26)  He is the Truth.  (I John 5:6)

He helps us in our weakness.  (Romans 8:26)

He is our Lord.  (2 Cor. 3:16-18)   The Spirit of God.  This Holy Spirit, Jesus tells His disciples to wait for---to anticipate. (John 14)

He gives us wisdom and understanding.  (Colossians 1:9)

He gives joy (Luke 10:21, I Thessalonians 1:6)
He searches me.  He searches all things. (I Corinthians 2:10)
He convicts.  (John 16:8)
He leads and He forbids.  (Rom. 8:14)  He can be lied to and resisted.  (Acts 5:3, Acts 7:51)
He can be grieved.  (Ephesians 4:30)

He speaks.  (2 Sam. 23:2)

He speaks.  (Acts 11:12)

He speaks.  (I Tim. 4:1, Heb. 3:7-8, Rev. 22:17)

The sound of the wind makes me think of You, Holy Spirit of God!  Speak today, I ask!  

"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." (Rev. 2:7)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

An Ugly Game

photo source
We play the comparison game way too much.  Is it just ladies who do this?  I don't know.  But, it can be so harmful.  And, it is so random...like rolling dice.  Who can predict the winner?  

The ability to judge and compare is a significant gift from God.

God compares.  Scripture's stories and Truth are full of His judging, His statements of comparison.  He judges.  I believe this ability to see and compare is a beautiful piece of His image in us.

We use this God-like ability in our every day lives.  From when we are young, we learn to compare and judge the safety of one situation to another.  We make early judgments and decide from very early who we will "go-to", reaching out our hands...  "this one I know."  "This one I trust", a small toddler will make these judgments, won't he?  

The difference, of course, is that God Almighty always judges rightly.  His judgments are always couched in His love, His grace and His mercy.  He is holy, perfect and without sin. He sees clearly, righteously and He is always good.  I am not.

Isn't that crying baby, who won't come to me, making a wrong judgement about my being unsafe?

Now, I do believe that using God's Word allows us to make some pretty sure judgments.  Scripture does certainly name some things as clearly right and wrong, beautiful and ugly, godly and ungodly.    

But, that said, when I use this comparison with my sinful, inperfect, or twisted "lens" on---not the clear lens of Scripture--- well, then I have a problem, don't I ?!  

And, I do it all the time.  I don't think I am alone here.  I think we do it all the time.  

We make judgements.  We make comparisons.

And, then we play a game---the comparison game.  This is when we get into trouble.   Not only do we make a comparison--- but we then place a value on our comparison.  We call one thing right and one thing wrong.  One thing is better and one thing is worse.  There is a winner and a loser in our comparison game!

Sometimes I win.  And sometimes I lose.

He is smarter, I am not as smart.  He wins.  I lose.  She is prettier.  I am not as pretty.  She wins.  I lose.  She is fat.  I am not.  She loses. I win.  She is creative.  I am not as creative.  She wins.  I lose.  ...stupid, silly comparisons begin to plague our thinking about ourselves and our thinking about others.

He is better at this ...she is better at that...

Then we get into bigger, not so small--- deeply harmful, comparisons.  Relational comparisons--- seriously dangerous ground!  She has her quiet time at this time.  I don't.  She does this for God.  But, I do that.  He hears God in this way.  I don't.  She does.  I can do this.  She can't.  She can do this.  I can't.   I struggle with this.  She doesn't.  She struggles with this... I don't!  On and on it goes.  All the while we are making comparisons and judging our "place".  Winners and losers.   Do you ever play this game?  When does it ever stop?!

What a mess we have made of a sweet gift!

Instead of our God-created differences being something that we can see, judge rightly, and deeply value; it brings animosity, or insecurity.  Instead of unity, our comparisons bring disunity.   Instead of your strengths bringing hope and a compliment to my weakness... I feel badly or wrong.  Or, I feel better or self-righteous.

We just win or lose.  This game playing brings distance, a massive chasm, between you and me.

These judgments bring a block to trust, intimacy and vulnerability between him and her.   We see it in marriages.  We see it in sisters.  Brothers.  We see it in friendships and neighbors.

I have put you over there "in that category" and me over here "in this category".  You are better than me, so therefore you are not like me.  And, hence, I can not trust you or open up to you.  And, I certainly can't show you my weakness.   I feel far from you.  Judged by you.

It doesn't matter if I am winning or losing the game--- either way, pride or self-hatred, we are disconnected from each other.  With our pride or self-hatred we are not seeing ourselves as God sees us.

What freedom would come if we saw ourselves and others rightly--with our strengths and weakness in full view--- and valued God's creativity and His work in each of our lives.  He views us with grace.  Can I trust that He will, in me... and you...  ...make all things beautiful in His time.

Instead sometimes we are walking around like a nose detached from the face, bemoaning the fact that we are not an ear... or proud of the fact that we can smell better than him...  What a mess--- what an ugly game we play!

Wash us in Your Love Father!  Cover us with Your Grace and Mercy, Jesus.  Holy Spirit, bring wisdom and understanding.  Lead me into all Truth.   

Monday, November 28, 2011

Open Handed Trust

An open hand communicates and implies trust.  Open hands suggest release, waiting, and anticipating.

It is the opposite of a clinched fist---a "stands with a fist" stance.

And, for me, it seems to often come back to trust.  Trust, again?  Time and time again, this seems to be the theme.  My theme.

Do you trust me now?  God Spirit sweetly whispers into my heart when I find myself in a tight spot.

Do you trust me with this?  or with that?  Do you trust me with him?  or with her?  He invites me to open my hands to Him, His love, His control, His goodness, His work.  He invites me to surrender.

He invites me to release those I love.  He invites me to love-deeply, yes, and to pray fervently, absolutely!  But, He wants me to lay them down and walk away.  He invites me to intercession which asks a Father for help and then ....trusts the fact that He indeed listened to my request.  He heard my heart.  He will do what is best.

To this place of rest, this childlike trust, is where He invites me again today.

My default mode, as I have shared many times, is to control or fix.  I want to make it right and manipulate. I want to be the author and the perfecter.  

There is a fight within me; a deep, seated fight that seems to speak old lies to my mind and heart... saying, 'if I do release or let-go, it won't get done or it will get out-of-control'.  Inside, I fear that if I release things, or situations or people then they will be left "unfixed!" and "imperfect".  As if...  As if!  it is my job to complete the work in them!  ...this "savior mentality" is not only ungodly, but very unhealthy and certainly unhelpful in building trust in my relationships.

Trust me, Stephanie.  Lay it down and trust me.  I am the Beginning and the End.  I own the cattle on one thousand hills.  I hand-placed the foundation of the earth.  I am the Author and the Perfecter of Your faith... of their faith.  Do you trust me now?  

This is the sweet invitation.  So, I release again today.  ...yes, again!

I say and confess, I open my hands, kind Father!  I let go.  I trust You Lord--- Maker of Heaven and Earth.  You own the seas and all that is in them.  You will make all things beautiful in Your time.  

It is amazing what freedom that is found in trust.  It is remarkable the beauty that can be found in simply opening your hand.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Stands with a Fist

I just know that I am right.  I am right and you are wrong...

Sometimes when my husband and I have an argument, there is a deep feeling that rises within that says "I will not be put down!"

I am right.  You are wrong.  Period.  ...End of discussion.

And, I stand with a fist!

Last night, I felt this rising within.  I felt the tiger-Stephanie raring it's head and I stood in a defensive stance.  You are wrong!  ... Without the actual words, this is the sense... this is the feeling... that rose up in my heart toward my husband.  

In the midst of the argument (which wasn't going very well at all--- I might add), I had to excuse myself for a visit to the bathroom.  What a blessing this "nature's" interruption brought!

Being away from the argument for even a moment, brought an opening.  ...a tender call of the Spirit.

What was He saying? I am not even sure.  I was too angry to hear His voice!  But, He was calling, inviting, reminding...  

And, I bowed my head and answered with a cry for help, "Help us, Lord.  Help me, Lord".  

When I stand with my fist poised in defense or offense, I am never ready to hear.  But, Father God interrupted my stance and whispered His invitation for more---  I offer you peace and love.  I offer you long-suffering and patience.  I offer you mercy.  Grace.  

Ah!  There is the word.  Grace.  

Does Grace ever stand with fist?  

I knew in that moment that I was returning to the discussion with my hand down.  I knew I was ready to admit my hardness, my wrong.  I knew, most importantly, that I needed Jesus desperately in that moment.  I wasn't right!  Only He is good and just and righteous.  

This morning, I was listening to a song by Aaron Shust .   "I have learned to live to lose", he sings.    Living to lose.  What a concept!  

We come out of the womb primed and ready to win.  I toddled my way through the world knowing that I was right and that I deserved first dibs on that toy!  And, I am taught and I teach myself to win.  What might it mean to live a life ready to die.  To live every disagreement ready to bow my head and lose.  

To live to lose...  is this real, genuine humility?  It rings bells of "turning the other cheek" and "I count all as rubbish that I might gain Christ and ...be like Him in His death".    

False or feigned humility, false submission, "being a doormat" and victimization are not what Christ is offering here; because, certainly, I can submit on the outside and pridefully, forcefully, deeply, stand-up-on-the-inside at the very same time!  I can stand with a fist and you don't even know it!  

I believe He is offering me a life of grace.  I believe He is offering me a life of love and peace...  He is offering me a trust in Him that allows me to put my fist down.  

I don't know.  But, what I do "get" today... is that I am most definitely not always right!

Shocking, I know. (smile)

Monday, November 21, 2011

She Came Today

She came down this morning...

Oh! the joy it brought my mother's heart!

Each person has unique ways, ...and places, ...and times, in which they meet with God.  For my husband, his best time is in the evenings or on a walk in the fields.  For me it is early in the morning in my quiet spot.  ...

Each morning, I rise early and make my way down to my small, quiet spot... a place where I long to meet with God each day.  I have invited each of my children to come to me when they wake-up for a quick kiss, a tight snuggle and a moment together.  For years and years now, they have both come down to sit on my lap for a minute or two.  This has been a deep joy to me each day!

For months now, my daughter has stopped coming regularly to sit with me.

She is getting older.  ...sleeping later.  And, often, when I have said to her, "Good morning, sweet girl, I didn't see you this morning?"  She has replied to my comment, "Oh yeah!, I  forgot".  She tells me that she woke with other plans...  a shower, a book she wanted to finish reading, email to check...

She knows that this is okay.  It really is.  She isn't reprimanded or punished, of course.  It isn't a command, or a "must" in our home.  It is only an invitation.  I invite her to come.  I will be there each day and she can come and sit with me for a moment.

And, certainly, it doesn't affect my love for her.  It really doesn't.  I do miss her morning messy hair, and my heart still stirs when I hear her getting out of her top bunk.  I long for her to come.  But, my love for her isn't altered in any way if she doesn't come.  Without her coming, though, we miss the snuggle... I miss the snuggle.  

A few months ago, when I  noticed that she wasn't coming down anymore, I began to realize that I needed to go to her.  I needed to go out of my way during the day to get that hug... that physical touch she was missing in the morning.  So, I have made it a goal to purposefully hug her at another time in our day.

But this morning!!  ...

This morning she came!  Hair messed, warmed in her comfy pjs, wearing that 'just-woke-up' look in her eyes... she came.  And she curled up (not easy anymore... she is getting older!) on my lap for just a moment.

Oh! What joy this brought to my mother's heart.

I will wait for her every morning with anticipation!

Is this what my Father might feel when I come down to that quiet spot and sit, hair messed, eyes blurred, coffee in hand...

If I don't come, He still loves me.  His love is never altered by my not coming...  In fact, He still will reach out, run after me and hug me throughout my day!

But, when I do come...  what must He feel?  Does it bring Him joy when I enter into His love and rest?  Does it bring my Father in Heaven deep joy when I accept His invitation to sit for a while and snuggle in?

Do the words "She came today!" well up within Him as they did inside me this morning?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Paint Me Pink

Walking out my front door, the dark grey clouds spit small rain drops on my face.
Here we go, Lord, my heart prayed... another walk together in the rain!  
Briskly crossing muddy fields, the grey clouds shifted and lit up in the morning's dawn.   Still grey... but not so very dark any more!  To my left, the sun rose slowly, deep reds and orange sang out, announcing his waking.  Beauty... just simple colored beauty... opened my heart to the Lord this morning.
In an instant the color spread and the grey, spitting clouds were painted a light, bright pink.  Awe filled my mind, as I watched in wonder the beautiful pink that covers the grey.  In my heart swelled the words,
Look at what the sun can do!

And a prayer issued forth from my heart, Lord, paint me pink today!
Paint me pink!  This grey Stephanie... paint her pink with the splash of Your color, Your Light, Your beauty!  
As I prayed, I was reminded of words found in Scripture this morning, tucked away in I Corinthians 15:
"But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect".  His grace has it's grand effect! ...paint me pink, Lord
I am what I am by His grace alone!  His grace to me, every day, paints me pink.  His love over me, His light, His righteousness paints me beautiful.  Grey Stephanie, deserving nothing in her own right, was plucked out of the rubbish heap of sin and made beautiful, colored pink with His light and His righteousness.
And, as I walked on,  I prayed words we have been working to memorize in home school this last week:  "Father, may I grow in the knowledge of You with all wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives.  May I live a life worthy of You and please You in every way!"
I want to please You in every way!  May I live in the Truth that I am loved, chosen, found, and splattered pink... today!  

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Cold Heart Warmed

I woke up this morning feeling cold.  Not physically cold, but emotionally and spiritually cold.

I put on my slippers and poured my coffee... hoping one of those would warm me.  They didn't.  

I sat in my quiet, small place---my chair--- and covered my lap with the blanket.  Would that warm my heart?  It didn't.  And, I read God's word.  My heart cold.  Blah.  

Lord, where are you today?  Where am I... was probably a better question.  

Cold and dark... like the morning, I woke up and couldn't be stirred to warmth.  

In those moments, I must rely on what I know to be True.  In these cold moments there is very little heart.

I know Father God invites me, commands me, to love Him with all that I am; my mind, my heart and my soul.  But, in the cold moments I must love Him with my head... and wait.  

Believe and wait on the Lord, Stephanie.  Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.  

Rising from my chair, I methodically put on my walking boots, slung on my warm heavy coat, and placed the hat on my head.  Worship music in my right ear and my dog's leash in my left had, I walked into the chill of the morning air.  

Song after worship song spoke truth into my mind... and no heart response.  ...just words in my ear.  

Beauty all around me, sun rising... pink clouds, green trees with beautiful dying orange-leaved friends next door...  and yet, no heart response 

I believe Lord, help me with my unbelief!   Tears now began to well up, to brim, and form in my eyes... frustration with my cold heart.  

Keep walking on, keep looking up.  Keep waiting...  He will draw near.

Finishing my walk, on the homestretch, I heard the words to a familiar song.  Was it song #5 or #6 this morning?... I don't know, the songs had just played into my ear.  Cold words.  But in an instant something changed.  These words spoke near.  Nearness.  He spoke something deep into my heart.    

"Who taught the sun where to stand in the morning..." 

I was watching this sun rise, His sun rise...  and with these words, my heart was stirred.   ...there was movement in my soul.    In that moment, I knew--- more than in my head--- that my Redeemer is Alive!

The Truth I had been trusting with my mind was the same; firm and unchanging... Nothing had changed about Who God was, Where He was, or what is True about Him!!  But, the coldness, in that instant melted with a moment of worship!
In the cold of the morning, I was warmed.   

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tired Questions

It is hard when I get tired.

When I am tired, I am just not my best.  Who is?  I suppose this is true about anyone..

As tiredness creeps up, it feels like the temptations of old strategies, coping patterns and sin tendencies are crouching at the door of my heart... a tiger ready to pounce.  And, I just want to sleep and let 'em pounce away!

I have written of these tired temptations before...  I feel them again tonight.

All my life I have been learning how to cope with tiredness.  We all have, I guess.  You, too.

For so many years, so many pattern-making years, I have run to a variety of things to find my rest.   Some of these patterns have been nearly harmless. Many of these places and patterns have been destructive.  Or, in the least, these strategies have not been helpful or uplifting.

I have run many places... In recent years I have learned to run to God.  But, for so much time, Father's love has just been one place among the many.  ...and not usually the first-chosen place, to be sure.

I guess the questions I am asking tonight is...  why have I come here again?  What could I have done different to avoid such tiredness?

This tiredness I feel in my body tonight, this physical exhaustion... is this a must?  Did I have to get here?  I know there are choices I have made today.  There are choices I made yesterday, in fact, that have affected today!  There are choices I continue to make that push my body, my emotions and my mind beyond my God-given capacity.

Physical tiredness is an inevitable reality of this tentliving-life we live on earth, I know.  Jesus, my Savior-Brother, fell down tired after a long journey into Samaria (John 4).   He certainly knew exhaustion.  ...and was revived by "food" the disciples knew nothing about.

This is the food I need, Jesus!
Another questions I feel welling up is... and now what?  Where do I go from here?  When I am tired, where will I run?  That tiger that sits in the dark corner, those temptations, will I turn to them and invite them to pounce?  Or will I claim the freedom I have in Christ to say "no!" to them.

I can tell that crouching tiger--- my sin, my coping strategies--- to "sit" and "stay" in Jesus name, just like I can tell my dog to sit and stay.  (A big difference being that the sin-beast must submit to the Name of Jesus... and my dog doesn't always obey! smile).

Why am I here again?  What can I do next time to avoid this exhaustion?

What will I do now?  Where will I go to get the deep, soul-quenching, body renewing rest that I actually need?

...just lay down, Stephanie, and trust ---and rest in Him.  
Find rest, O my soul, in God alone!  (Psalm 62:5)

But, indeed, it is hard when I get tired.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

God's Big Work

My Big God works in small, unseen places.  Quiet corners, dusty rooms, and dark valleys... He shows up.

We often attribute, expect, or imagine, God to show up in "big" ways.  But, instead, He whispers and He nudges.  He prods and He caresses with the tenderness of a mother.  This big God shows up in small ways...

What is the real definition of "big" anyway?

When people who love God tell me they don't hear the Spirit's voice regularly, I just assume... I am quite certain, actually... that they simply need to change their definition of His voice.  Often, we think it should look this way...  the thunder, the lightening, the earthquake and the wind; but, instead, He whispers.  Or, when we do "hear" Him, we call it something else, or don't understand what we are hearing (Act 22:9).  We call His whispers, His nudges something else ... "the sermon", the friend's "words", or the "worship song", or the book I am reading, or my child's probing questions.  Could these, too, be Him nudging, His voice?  Could this be His tender voice hidden in small places, those quiet corners?

My life is small.  ...very small, actually.  I am an ordinary person, with every-day struggles.   But, He shows up every day in small places-- my small places.

He whispers His love into dark, dusty corners.  He did this in me.  He keeps doing this in me.  He entered in and now He keeps expanding me.  He is making me big.  He enlarges my soul and my mind.  He equips me to be something way-beyond, exceedingly beyond, ordinary!  He makes me His girl, His daughter!  In Him, I have become a daughter of the King of Heaven.

Every day He sees me and adores me and speaks to me in this quiet little town, while I sit in my small armchair, thinking my random, tiny thoughts...

...one of my small places...
He sees you, too.  In your small place...

When I intercede for big places, ...Afghanistan, India, China, or America...  I like to imagine my Father at work in those small places.  ...I like to imagine His Spirit whispering kindly into those tiny, ordinary, unseen people.  I like to ask Him to show up in that widow's dirty, cluttered living room.  Or, that tavern.  Or, that sweat shop--- in that hard working man, or ill-treated child.  Or, that dusty, small corner apartment bedroom, work cubical or classroom.  I believe He is whispering under that black veil, into the heart of that small woman drinking tea.

I believe He sees.  He is the God who sees these people. (Genesis 16:13) And, this is where my God does His biggest work...

...unseen places.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Order My Day

Lord, please order my day. 

This prayer I have been praying on and off for many years.  I am not sure where I first read it, or heard it... but it has become a regular, genuine prayer many a days.

There are days when the task list seems overwhelming.  The needs are great.  And, a tornado has obviously descended on my house...  laundry piles, dirty dishes stacked high, schooling to correct or to plan, phone calls to make, emails to write, ...the list is endless.  Where do I even start?

Lord, please order my day.  

This is where I started.  I decided to start by asking for His heart for my day.

Let me be clear, this doesn't come naturally to me.  It really doesn't.  Prayer is not my default; nor, is it where I go simply because I am a Christian.  No, actually, more naturally I worry.  Or, I make a list.  Or, I plan and work hard.  I work...  And worry and get frustrated.  And, maybe even a bit angry, annoyed that I had to do all this!  That is more "Stephanie" in-the-raw.

But, He is gentle and continues to teach.  To teach and to invite...  He invites me to so much more.

A friend of mine told me of a concept she learned in counseling once.  She said that patterns in life are learned over time.  We go to them in a familiar fashion.  Like reaching to the top drawer to find that every-day pair of socks, we reach for these patterns--- these reactions.  She was taught that in order to re-learn a new pattern (or unlearn an old, not-wanted pattern), you have to choose not to go to the top drawer.  But, to find "another" drawer (in your mind, your heart, your soul).  ...we have some choices in which "drawer" we will reach for...

My "I am overwhelmed" drawer is the top drawer for me.  In this top drawer are all sorts of "socks" like list-making and planning, worrying and frustration.  But, I have a choice, I can open another drawer first.  I can go to the "trust God and rest in Him" drawer.   Socks are necessary, yes.  Planning is certainly not a sin!  But, where do I reach first... that is the question.

Every day I can choose.  I have another option.  ...another drawer.

Lord, please, You order my day.  What first?  You and Me... Your strength, Your plan, not mine.  

This is the drawer I chose to open.  The "I can trust my loving Father" drawer is an option!  In this drawer I find strength, peace and a firm foundation.  I also find surprises!  Things I didn't schedule or plan, or ask for... they show up in my day.  Gifts from Him come flowing into my life.  Gifts that might have the "look" of distraction or sabotage when I haven't asked; when I haven't turned my heart toward Him.  He brings these things to me when I ask Him to order my day.

What if I choose to pray all day, every day!  What if praying and abiding in Christ was my full-time job, my "task"... my primary work.  And, I did dishes while praying.  Not the other way around.  I didn't pray while I did dishes.  I did the dishes while I prayed.  And, I did laundry while I prayed.  And, I answered the phone while I prayed.  Prayer and abiding....  first.

Tornado house, laundry piles, school work to correct, emails to write---  I got a ton done!  I really did.  Can I write that and not sound self-promoting or "health-wealth" gospel-ish, or exaggeratory??  I got a ton done!!  ...I actually had time left over and very little stress today.  Time for a stop by friend who needed an hour of prayer together.  I had space for even this!  It was miraculous.  It was Him---from beginning to end.

I have so much to learn about abiding.  Teach me, Jesus!  And, please order my day.  

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Hard Topics

photo source
Life's hard questions...

Over their morning's cup of cold milk and my hot coffee, we have had some hard conversations lately.

Difficult topics and tender subjects: ...fornication, drugs, alcohol, prostitution, and human trafficking.  My children are growing up and ready to talk.  They are hearing things... new things, hard things... and they desperately want to understand.   

How does a parent tackle these topics with a 9 year old and a 12 year old?  Both curious.  Both asking.  ...not an easy answer.

Over our oatmeal, or taco soup, or lunch sandwich, my kids have asked some difficult questions.  With mouths full of food and lively debate and discussion, we have talked.  Though I would tend toward careful words, and even avoidance tactics, my husband believes whole-heartily in straight forward, honest, open communication.  We have always told our children "how it really is".  And, so far, this path hasn't led us astray.  It works for us.

So we talk.  We let them ask and we explain, the best we can.  Uncomfortable and squirming on the inside, I listen as my husband talks about prostitution, fornication, and explains STDs and the reality of AIDS this morning.

Today, in the car, the questions still come.  Why?  Mom, why?  Why would someone, knowing full well that smoking kills (it is written in bold black letters on the boxes here), why would they still smoke?  Why would they drink, get sick, have a hang-over, and then go out the next night to drink again?  Why, mom?  It makes no sense!!  

Animated and lively, passion in her eyes, my sweet daughter is almost yelling these words, "It makes no logical sense?!"  

I have to agree... almost with a chuckle...  "Yes", I say, "if I knew that the kebab shop on the corner made me puke every time (or just ONE time) I ate there, I would avoid it like the plague!"  The half-humor helps bring a bit of a calming to the confusion, the frustration, and the passion of her question.

Why.  Why do they do it?  my sweet girl...

I don't know.  I really don't know.  ...each person is so unique.  The answers are complex, aren't they?  Why do I do the things I don't want to do?  (Romans 7)

We talk about cisterns and broken pumps and pipes.  We talk about the longings in our hearts for Father God.  And, we talk about all that Jesus offers us:  peace that surpasses understanding.  We talk about the always-available gifts of God's Spirit: joy, love, self control...

And, I try to explain.  I try to help them see that those that drink, party, and sleep around are looking for God!  They are looking to fill that empty place.  They are desperate to have some peace.  And, this cigarette and that drink... they bring some relief.  These "tools" do bring some modicum of peace and rest; a small taste of relief.

I remind my boy of his question yesterday, "Mom, do you ever just feel sad... for no reason?"  Yes, my boy sweet boy, I do.  
"Do you?" I had asked him.  "Yes, sometimes."  "What do you do when you feel sad?" 
I remind him of this conversation.

Why?  Why do they do these things, my son?  I don't know.  This is what they do when they feel sad, I guess.

What do I do when I feel sad?  You?

 ...maybe they feel sad, angry, disappointed, confused, worried, lost, frustrated and in pain.  And, they need it to stop!  They are desperate to have some relief.  When they were little, their mom's gave them a cookie when they fell down and scraped their knee; now they need to go to food, to drink, to a cigarette, or a lover... to make it feel better.  ...at least for a moment.  I don't know.

What they really need is a hug.  ...a strong, long, lingering, tender love-hug from Father God.
What they really need is peace... guarding, surrounding, overwhelming and sweet peace from Jesus.
What they really need is joy...  deep, lasting, filling, unshakable joy from the Spirit.

Hard, hard topics to talk about.  ...hard life lessons to discuss over a bowel of cereal, don't you think?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Born Thirsty

I was born thirsty.

Hungry and thirsty, I came out of my mother's womb. Needy, I was born into this world.

My need for physical food was only the beginning; just a picture of my real heart need. I needed a place to lay my head. I needed rest. I needed love.

I need love. I need belonging and connection. I need a solid place to stand and a firm foundation under my feet. I need to know the truth about my world, about myself, and about God. I need.

I was born thirsty. And, I still thirst. Every day, I thirst and I get hungry.

In Jeremiah, God explains to His people exactly where they have gone wrong... Where, in all their bad choices and lack of trust, did they make the first wrong turn. He tells them that at the core, the root of all their sins is twofold:
"My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water." (Jeremiah 2:13)

Two root sins I can commit when I feel thirst. ...to forsake my God, the source of Life-giving, fresh water.

...and I build my own pump, my own pipes, my own barrel for holding dirty, stagnant water. And, I build them badly, at that! They are broken and leaky ...mold, dirt and worms get in this water I hold.

I have shared numerous times here what my broken cisterns are: food, entertainment, control, vain thoughts, organizing and planning... to name just a few..
What do your barrels and old, rusty pipes look like?

When I am thirsty... and I will always be thirsty here on this dry earth! ...So, when I am thirsty, I have a choice. I must drink. I need to drink. The questions is from where will I drink? I can run to the fresh water from God! I can eat and drink of Him (John 4).

Or, I can run to my broken pipes and barrels... and drink.

I drank from my rusty pipes yesterday. I took a long, deep drink. In the moment, it almost felt like I had to, like I didn't have a choice... instinct, really, drove me to those pipes. But this is a lie... not the Truth. I always have a choice. He offers me living water--always fresh, always satisfying, always available.

Like a poison, it turned my stomach almost instantly. And, it certainly did not quench my thirst. I tasted the mold and the dirt. It left me hungry and thirsty again.

For, I was born thirsty. Thirsty for God, alone.

"No man can quench his thirst with sand, or with water from the Dead Sea..." ~Horatius Bonar

Friday, November 4, 2011

Trials Become a Rainbow

  © Bob Jenkins and licensed for reuse: Creative Commons Licence

You must have rain and sunshine to have a rainbow.  

I don't think it will ever get old... the rainbow sightings in this beautiful land where I live.  

...The blessings of having both rain and sunshine.  This is the beauty of rain and the Sun living side-by-side.  

As a former California girl, I do like the sunshine, I must say...  But, in all my years of living in California, I don't think I ever saw even one rainbow.  

I have seen multiple rainbows here.   Often, really.  Today, again, sitting in the slicing cold wind and being pelted by the rough rain... there it was!  Where did it begin, where did it end?  Just brilliant and beautiful!  A rainbow.  

Each time, remarkable!  Magnificent.  Surprising and exciting.  

But, I endured the rain today in order to enjoy the rainbow.  

Life is like that, isn't it?  He promises to make all things beautiful, doesn't He?  In His time, He says all things will work together for the good of those who love Him!   

In order for His beauty to shine through me, I need a little "rain" in my life.   He reflects His light off my rain!  He uses it.  He uses the rain:  that suffering, this trial and that pain.  He uses the rain to reflect His glory.  He shines forth His colors.  The rain is like a mirror, reflecting and showing forth the Light.  And then,living in Him, I am beautiful.  

...like a rainbow.  

You have to have gray clouds as well as blue skies.  Without the sun, you have no rainbow---this is true!  But, with the sun... and the rain... you have brilliance.  With His glory, You have beauty.  "to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us" (2 Corinthians 4:7)  

"Indeed in our hearts we felt the sentence of death" ...a rainstorm.  "But, this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God" ... the sun.  "God, who raises the dead!" ...the rainbow! (2 Corinthians 1:9)    

Indeed, you must have rain and sunshine to have a rainbow!  

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Off Kilter.

Out of sorts.  Out of whack.  A bit askew.

That is how I have felt today.  ...just not myself.   This is how I feel, even now.

My mood was stained this morning by a bad dream.  Two bad dreams, actually.  And, throughout the day, I have felt just--- out-of-it---

As I have prayed, or attempted to pray, through the day... I have felt stilted and tired.  My house just felt dark today.  ...not ominous or sad, exactly... just gray and dark.  A cloud hanging. 

But, even as I write this, I am reminded that in reality... nothing has changed.  There is nothing, at all, different from today and yesterday.  Well, nothing, I should say... but my mood.

Moods fluctuate.  At least, mine do.

But my Father in Heaven is a firm, immovable strength.  He hasn't changed.

Who He is, and who I am in Him, doesn't ever change.  The solid-ness of God Almighty fills my mind with beautiful, Biblical images of a fortress...  a rock.  He is my strong tower.  So, the wind and waves aren't even lapping my boat--- but, they feel like they are--- and still He remains solid and unmoved.

So, the shifting shadows descended on my head today, yes.  But, my God never changes.  He never shifts.  And, this thought flickers a bright light in my soul.  This Truth opens my soul and allows me to take a deeper breath tonight. 

"Whatever is good and perfect comes to us from God above, who created all heaven's lights.  Unlike them, [and me], He never changes or casts shifting shadows." (James 1:17)
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