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JTcross15152“And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me’” (Luke 22:19).

A college speech instructor asked my son’s class to name three people who have influenced him. He listed Jesus, Peter and David.  I would have listed my grandmother, who taught me to stand up for what I believe, St. Therese of Lisieux, from whom I learned about an alive relationship with God, and Pastor Eddie Turner, who taught about the power of the holy spirit, speaking faith, who I am to God,  Jesus pursuing and saving the broken sinner.

Who would you have listed?

I bet it wouldn’t have been Judas Iscariot. I doubt he would be found on any list. Yet, possibly, from him we can learn the powerful difference of grace over law – of exactly what Jesus’s crucifixion did for you and me and every broken person between and around us.

I don’t know if I can ever fully understand the sacrifice of God-made-man – the son of the king who gave up his power to save me from a graceless life. I don’t know if I can ever fully understand the burden of the sin he carried on the cross – and the willpower to stay on that cross.

Yet, when I study the story of Judas and Peter, I understand more what Jesus saved me from. I need that understanding to better give thanks as I remember what Jesus did for me. The difference between the two is the difference between how we survive our sin, how we are resurrected with Christ and restored to the Father. About 2000 years ago, two men betrayed the Messiah. One ended up crushed, broken and dead. The other preached the gospel the rest of his life, dying a martyr’s death for his faith, never failing his Savior again.

Let’s lay out the facts first:

  • One night, two betrayals.
  • Both betrayals were foretold by the one they betrayed.
  • One man betrayed for greed; the other fear for self-preservation.
  • Both betrayals happened in the shadows – and both saw the face of the one they betrayed afterwards.
  • Each man repented, recognizing his wrong.
  • One repented to church leaders. The other out alone and wept bitterly.

Both had heard the word. Both had walked with the Lord. Both regretted and repented. One died, and one lived.

What really is the difference between Judas and Peter at the point where they recognized their betrayal? Why does history forgive Peter and condemn Judas? Is it really as simple the difference between grace and law? A veil’s separation of two man’s redemption?

The first difference is what each did about their sin – their weakness – whether it was pride, fear or greed.

Two men. Two Betrayals. Two choices.

One sought absolution from church leaders. The other sought Christ.

Judas represents the hopelessness of the law, while Peter represents the grace of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice.

Judas sought absolution through the church leaders. Judas sought repentance, but he sought a go-between. The veil was still between him and Jesus. Judas sought forgiveness, but from the church leaders. He regretted his actions. I don’t doubt that he wept bitterly. I would think a man about to hurl himself to his death would weep.  Under the law, the weight of his sin was unbearable, irredeemable. The church leaders didn’t grant Judas the forgiveness he desired. When absolution was denied him by church leaders, the unbearable burden of his sin led him to suicide.

Two men. Two Betrayals. Two choices.

The record of Peter’s story line pauses after his betrayal, weeping and repentance. There is no written record of where he was between the time he wept and resurrection morning. I imagine the grief of his sin equaled Judas’s grief. I imagine he beat himself up for his major fail moment. Haven’t we all had those fail moments? Moments where we betray our hearts, our values, our faith? How can we condemn others when we, too, have failed and sinned?

Peter seemed to not only understand that he was a sinful man, but he understood the need to repent. Peter didn’t seek go-betweens.  The night before the crucifixion, the veil was firmly in place; the law still ruled. No priest interceded for him, and without a priest to intercede for him, there was no absolution.

Peter repented by faith. Just him and Jesus.  By faith, just like Abraham, Noah, Sarah, Moses, Rahab – and the heroes of the bible – by His faith and hope that Christ was the Messiah, before the temple veil was rent from top to bottom when Jesus died and man was no longer separated from God, Peter held on in the darkness of the crucifixion before the resurrection. The burden of his sin must have been overwhelming. After all, the same burden caused Judas to end his life. Yet, the power of faith always proves stronger than the burden of sin.

Have you ever wondered how Peter could have returned to the other ten? How he could take his place – how he could be a rock for Christ’s church? Are you willing to weigh another’s sin? To judge whether one betrayal is worse than another? After all, a betrayer was needed – just as Samson’s sinful behavior was needed to bring down the Philistines (Judges 14:4).

Yet, we find Peter restored to the ten – not meek, not unworthy, not out-cast for his betrayal.

There’s a story I know, of a man who went into basic training in WWII. His sergeant constantly rebuked him as he was trained for  war-time responsibilities. There wasn’t a day, it seems, he wasn’t called into the sergeant’s office for some infraction. Those rebukes stung, yet they had a lasting impact. He told me, “He grew me up. He taught me to be a man. He was a father to me.”

Peter was that way with Jesus.  Peter pushed away Jesus initially, before he was called to be one of the twelve: “”Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8)

Jesus rebuked him over and over, “. . . he rebuked Peter and said, Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man (Mark 8:31-33).

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”  He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.  And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God” (Matt 14:28-33).

“Simon, stay on your toes. Satan has tried his best to separate all of you from me, like chaff from wheat. Simon, I’ve prayed for you in particular that you not give in or give out. When you have come through the time of testing, turn to your companions and give them a fresh start (Luke 22: 31-32, The Message).

Peter, so like the World War II soldier, took those rebukes, remembered and learned from them, and held on to them in the darkest of moments.

Two men. Two Betrayals. Two Choices. Both pursued by Christ.

One man looked to his fellow men for redemption and didn’t find it. Who he looked to led him to death.

The other looked to Jesus, the man who had rebuked him, and in the rebuking, taught him. Who he looked to led him to the resurrection and redemption.

How did one survive the burden of sin and another didn’t? Could it be Peter kept his eyes on Christ, kept his focus, his hope in him, though he yet didn’t see, didn’t understand about crucifixion tearing away the veil (the law) separating us from God?

It was a “Faith-is-the-substance-of-things-hoped-for;-the-evidence-of-things-not-seen”  (Hebrews 11: 1) moment.

One was overwhelmed by the burden of the law; one was redeemed through faith by grace, the burden lifted and born by Christ.

That we sin doesn’t surprise God. We are fallible, and in our fallibility, we are only complete and whole through God.

To truly understand the power and grace of Christ’s crucifixion, we need to understand man’s hopelessness and separation from God by the law.

It isn’t enough to say that Judas betrayed Christ. To most, he is a man defined only as the betrayer – and whose death was a fitting judgement against him.

Yet, God saved killers. God saved thieves. God redeemed selfish men. The stories say so. If we leave Judas in the potter’s field, dismissing him, we fail to truly see the power and depth of what exactly Jesus did for you and me. It might only be a veil’s difference, but when the veil separates us from God – it’s the difference between life and death.

Victor Hugo’s novel Les Miserable is a story of two similar characters – one who represents the law (Judas/Javert) and another who represents Grace (Peter/Jean ValJean). Javert sought salvation through the law. Law breakers were irredeemable, unworthy of God’s grace, of man’s kindness, benevolence and second chances. In the end, Javert realizes he had it all wrong. In a life-changing moment, Javert recognized that God redeems the sinner. The revelation into God’s grace also revealed the wrong he had done to so many people. The realization of the weight of his sin overwhelmed him. He could only feel the soul-killing burden of sin’s weight. Having kept is eyes so long on the law, Javert is unable to set his eyes on his Savior and the forgiveness he so readily offers. Through forgiveness the burden would be released through redemption, all because of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. Javert didn’t believe it could be for him – and so he threw himself into the river.

Judas repented without salvation hope; the law was his hope and the men who kept the law denied him forgiveness. He is a living example of sinner’s hopelessness under the law. His hopelessness is even foretold:

“For I must die just as was prophesied, but woe to the man by whom I am betrayed. Far better for that one if he had never been born” (Matthew 26:24).

Judas betrayed Jesus, yet Paul killed thousands of Christs (for if Christ is in each believer, then each person is Christ). If God redeemed Paul, would he have not redeemed a repentant Judas? Would he have not lifted the burden of sin off Judas, just like he lifted the burden off Paul? Off Peter?

Under the law, aren’t we all like the Cain crying out:

Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden” (Genesis 4:13).

Two men. Two Betrayals. Two Choices.

What we do know is that Peter pressed forward towards Christ. Peter held on to this truth:

 “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6)

Despite Peter’s betrayal, he was welcomed back in to the group. We don’t know what he did during those hours after his betrayal and resurrection morning, but whatever he did led him back to Christ, to the embrace and acceptance of the fellow apostles.

Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection gives us a grace over law culture, a redeeming of the soul out of sin culture, a salvation infused with God’s grace culture.

Two men. Two Betrayals. Two Choices. Two Endings.

 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is not here—he has been raised! Look, here is the place where he was placed.  Now go and give this message to his disciples, including Peter” (Mark 14: 6-7).

Peter passed the test. He came through – and Jesus was letting him know that he knew, that he was forgiven, that he was part of this new life under grace. “Including Peter”– including you, including me – including all those broken sinners repenting but not believing they are good enough, worthy enough.

There would have been no crucifixion with betrayal, and, without crucifixion there is no resurrection. Without resurrection, there is no grace.

. . . . and that is what we are doing this Easter season: remembering just exactly what Jesus did for us, remembering exactly what the crucifixion was all about.

A tale of two betrayers – and all the difference a veil makes.

Are you looking to Jesus in your fail moments? Do you you believe God’s grace is for you, too – no matter the weight of your sin?

You have two choices – grace or the law. What do  you choose?

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16)

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http://www.missionalwomen.com/     Faith-Filled Fridays
http://arabahjoy.com     Grace and Truth
http://www.janiscox.com/ Sunday Stillness
Porch Stories – http://kristinhilltaylor.com/
Trekking Through – http://www.trekkingthru.com/
Woman to Woman – http://www.w2wministries.org/
Searching for Moments http://www.lorischumaker.com/better-wife/
http://www.richfaithrising.com/    Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/     Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://www.messymarriage.com/  Messy Marriage
http://holleygerth.com/     Coffee for Your Heart
http://3dlessons4life.com/     Thought-Provoking Thursday
God-sized Dreams http://www.godsizeddreams.com/
http://donnareidland.com   Mondays @ Soul Survival
https://faithadventures.me/ #TeaAndWord Tuesday
The Modest Mom The Art of Homemaking Musing Mondays
Purposeful Faith Tea & Word Tuesday Talk  
 Blessed But Stressed
 Embracing Everyday Glimpses
Fresh Market Friday:  Fresh Market Friday
Dance with Jesus

Da

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webwormwater

tent worms nest
in apple tree leaves
in limbs raised
reaching skyward
as if to heaven
leaves rustling in the
still quiet
green raiment devoured
without a sound

bagworms dangle from
family fur shrubs landscape
by porch steps, garage doors
under windowsills
leeching nutrients
until pine needles devoured
limbs browned
the high and low siphoned away
peace, joy stripped

how, some ask, in the devouring
and leeching – how can
God be good
or true
– to let us endure
hard times, challenging times
hurting fearful times
that pull and drain
threatening the root and heart
of us

how could there be any good
in a righteous man dying
a hammer and nail driven
death on a cross?

but there was
good
God’s kind of good
in the unfairness of Christ’s death:
salvation for all mankind
The great I am is
the hope message
in the challenge
in the high and low
likely and unlikely places
like tent worms give hope
to a hungry sparrow

“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good” (Romans 8:26-28)

(a repost today – because I am savoring this cool autumn weather – and the photo and message warmed me where I am! Shalom, friends)

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mllkwedding22A Letter to My Granddaughter on the Event of My 30th Wedding Anniversary

Sweet Grandbaby Girl,
I hope you grow up to be a Forever Girl – and by Forever Girl, I mean a wife full of love for her husband – feeling it in your heart, thinking in with your mind – and choosing it in moments you don’t feel it. . .

. . .who even after 30 years, 50 years, 75 years of marriage looks at her husband with bigger love than when she said, “I do,” who never stops seeing him as an amazing man. Despite moments of frustration and imperfection –  you still say “Thank you, God”, that his smile still dazzles you and a single word melts the anger away because trust, faith and love endure.

I pray that he is the Elkanah to your Hannah, that you are the Leah to his Jacob – that you would never sell a night with your husband to another woman for a basket of fruit, that he is the Joseph to God’s call on your life and that you are the Sarah to God’s call on his life.

mlkeith2I don’t know what my marriage will be like in heaven, but I cannot imagine it without my Forever Man– that I met over 30 years ago at a Mule Barn social– and he picked me to be on his football team. I want to be his Forever Girl – Forever.

I want you to be a Forever Girl, too – a Forever Girl who waits for her Forever Man.  At age 12 I entered into a covenant with Jehovah-Rohi, the Lord my Shepherd – that He would guide me to my bride groom – and in return, I wouldn’t be a Bond Girl , a Breck Girl, Harvey Girl, a Girl Friday, or a Girl who Just Wants to Have Fun– I wanted to be a Forever Girl – a girl who loves and is loved in return by her husband for as long as forever allows.

A Forever Girl asks ““Let me know, Father, who the right man is?”

I wish someone had explained to me that just because some young men had all the pre-requisites for my list (yes, I had a list – from a writing assignment my Sophomore year of high school) – just because that relationship doesn’t click doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with me – or you. I wish someone had explained the following:

  • No answer to “Is He the one” means no or not now.
  • No means God has something better for each of you, better than you can imagine. After all, we only know what we have been taught, experienced or God-revealed: Our knowledge is limited to what we know; Understanding how little we know and how much God knows is the first step to having faith in a Forever marriage.

A Forever Girl is a Faith girl who by faith waits for her Forever Man. She doesn’t give up and give herself away. By trusting Jehovah Jireh, she knows God will provide in His time.

mlkeithWhen Forever Girl meets Forever Man a faith-kind of trust grows. Her mind might struggle with trust issues – but her heart will trust – and trust like children innately born to trust their parents. Only God can create that kind of trust between two people.

A Forever Girl
Isn’t taken for granted
is seen as an angel, like a rose (Psalm 5:18)
Is ingenuous, honest, courageous, full of valor
Striving to encounter challenges with tranquility and firmness
Delighting in benevolence
Not seeking revenge
Sacrificing personal ease, interest and safety
For her Forever Man
She is her husband’s crown (Proverbs 12:4)
liberated through submission

So many  think pledging their life to Adonai, Lord and Master, limits and confines – when really, in Kingdom principles – it liberates, frees us to be as we were designed. When we pledge in marriage to submit to our husbands, kingdom principles work the same way – it liberates. Our Forever Man is to love us as Christ loved the church.  A Forever Man allows his Forever Girl to soar, yet provides shelter from a harsh world (Ephesians 5:22-23).

Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor—since they’re already “one” in marriage (Ephesians 5:25-28).

Go all out for your Forever Man, too!

A Forever Girl is made whole through her Forever Man.

Forever Girl + Forever Boy + The Holy Spirit = One

IMG_6850The writer’s of the movie Jerry McGuire plagiarized with this statement., “You complete me.”  The world calls it a cheesy line . Cheesy implies infantile, unbelievable – but God wanted us to complete each other – through Him. Malachi tells us so (Malachi 2:15). Don’t let the world diminish your relationship potential.

A Forever Girl Champions her Forever Boy.

  • Do your Forever Man good and not harm, all the days of your life (Proverbs 31).
  • Don’’t diminish, excoriate, mock, talk down to, belittle, undermine, manipulate, harden her heart, threaten.
  • Don’t  see him a Neanderthal, a bumbler, a lower-being, which society encourages women to do.
  • Understand that God created man for himself – and God created woman for man ( I Cor: 11:9) – and they both need each other. That God took Adam’s rib – and made him incomplete without her testifies to that.
  • Strengthen all parts of the whole. Build it up:  respect, encourage, seek to understand, forgive, find merit in innate differences, lift him up when he falls down, keep each other warm in the cold (Ecc. 4: 9-11), strong in the challenge, comforted when you each reach the end of yourselves.

A Forever Girl doesn’t stop believing that God knew what He was doing when He said, “Yes, this is the man.”

Your daddy told me once when he was moderately little that when God answers prayers, He answers them abundantly. He grew up to be the Forever Man to your mother’s Forever Girl.

Praying you choose to be a Forever Girl – both for God and your husband.

Love,

Your Muddy

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butterfly17acLet me draw a deep breath here! (I love punny things). My boys would think it sounds like a lecture coming – and maybe it is, but maybe it isn’t.

I could say I’m inspired, but semantics just won’t let me. To be inspired is a holy thing:

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3: 16-17).

The 1828 Noah Webster Dictionary defines inspiration to “infuse or suggest ideas or monitions supernaturally; to communicate divine instructions to the mind. In this manner, we suppose the prophets to have been inspired, and the Scriptures to have been composed under divine influence or direction.”

The world says inspiration is “to infuse ideas or the poetic spirit.” It’s just like the world to take a holy word and sieve God out of it.

I think I’m going to leave the inspiration thing with God, not a piece of art, a well-worn favorite book, a famous singer, or chocolate cake.

Now, to “spur on” – I am semantically comfortable with “spurring.” Spurred on is something I can dig into.

We all have daily spurs: responsibilities, hunger, relationships.

Maybe a cup  of coffee or the thought of a cup of Tupelo Honey Fig or Vanilla Orchard tea spurs me out of bed. More often, it’s the school morning alarm – and the responsibilities of getting my boys up for school spurs me to get my day started.

My taste buds spur me to make bacon and tomato or fried bologna sandwiches.

Just this week, making my family happy spurred me to make a pot of Tortellini Soup. About two weeks ago, the thought of bringing a smile to my aunt spurred me make the Chocolate Malt Cake she’d wanted. The thought of my brand new grandson spurs me to finish knitting his baby blanket before it gets cold.

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Inspiration seems pristine, coming from a shining place where goodness is. Spurring, though, prompts lessons from hard places, a moral compass, and want.

For example, my parents divorce spurred me to treat relationships carefully and ask God to guide me in relationship decisions.

Watching my mom work hard on minimum wage jobs to raise my brother and I spurred both of us to work hard and study hard because stability and security were something we wanted in our future.

Spurring caused me to seek God. If I seek him, call to him, drawn near to him, let him become my God, he draws near to me, lets me find him, answers me and show me great and might things I do not know,  becomes my strength, my defense – my salvation. His breathes (inspires) into my life, and it changes everything. Mighty and Wise is my God from whom my inspiration comes.

Knowing what life is like without God in it spurs me to teach my boys to live life with God in it. When I bring God into the big and little challenges, he breathes inspiration that comes out as wisdom.

One of my sons doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life.

“Passionately pursue God, and you will find yourselves pursuing something you are passion about,” I say.

Hard truth – what spurs me to God where inspires my decisions, choices, actions and words doesn’t necessarily spur my boys. Those lectures? They don’t feel them on the receiving end like I do on the giving end. They haven’t experienced my hard places. My soul spurs are not theirs.

As a mom, I used to think I could spur my boys into God’s plan for their lives. I can’t. I can show them the way to God. I can provide the tools for every need and success. I can pray for them. However, I cannot spur their soul to seek God.

Another hard truth – until want spurs them – want for a job to provide their daily, want for a solution to a problem they own, want for a forever girl, want for a dream, want for God – until they have experienced a want that stirs up self-motivation, they won’t be spurred to God. If they aren’t spurred to God, they miss out on his inspiration.

These life spurs – yes, they spurred me to God. . . . until I have learned to go to him even when not spurred.

Knowing God leaves blessing for me in the daily spurs me to intentionally look for God – and I find him on the warehouse dock to watch gaggle of geese flying southward, or I find him in the zinnia garden with the butterflies, or rejoicing in the hydrangea blossoms from a bush that by faith, prayer  and attention made it through a hard transplant.

Often, it is the humanness of ourselves that initially spurs – and it is my faith that sends me to him where he breathes hope, wisdom and love into the soul of myself.

Soul spurs – that’s what they are, that spur us to relationship with our divine designer from whom our inspiration comes. What has spurred you to God? What inspiration did he give you?

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After-thought: “If I work to inspire people, then I take my focus off of loving people. However, I think if I do my best to just love those God gives me, then God takes care of the inspiring. That takes a big burden off of me and gives it to the one who can handle it”

 

 

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The Joy Bearer being Tossed into the Ocean

To Barrett on the Occasion of your 21st Birthday,

I’ve always said since you were a little boy when I gave you and your brothers spirit-filled names that we should have named you Joyful Barrett Bucher. God saw fit to give you an extra measure of the Joy of the Lord, equipping you to be a Joy Bearer.

Being a Joy Bearer doesn’t mean you always feel joyful. Just like an Everyman, you might struggle to always choose joy. Sometimes you might balk and rebel against choosing to find the joy God leaves for us in the messiness of everyday living. . . . but just like building muscles, I pray that you will train yourself to choose joy for yourself.

There is a difference between choosing joy and being a joy-bearer, though. Choosing Joy is about your internal happiness. Being a Joy Bearer is about carrying joy into another’s circumstances.

You are a God-designed Joy Bearer. You have a gift for bringing joy into any room, any moment, any situation – and you bring it in all different ways. You bring joy with a word, an expression,  an act of compassion, encouragement, service or insight. Sometimes it can be called comic relief – though it is not an entertainer-kind-of-thing. It can be called unconditional love, hero to the rescue, faith for healing, beautiful timing that redeems a conversation, or simply a hug. It looks and feels like God’s grace being inserted into a moment  or situation.

Today you are 21. Your life is your story now. You hold the pen and eraser. You are its editor. Dad and I are now secondary characters in your story. It’s a hands-off, hands-up time, meaning the greatest impact we can have on your story now is through prayer.

My prayer for you is that you continue to be a Joy Bearer as you grow into independence. Yes, The Joy of the Lord is your Strength ( Nehemiah 8:10 ).

This strength can only be built in his presence – and, as you spend time in his presence, you will hear his guidance: “You will show me the way of life. Being with You is to be full of joy. In Your right hand there is happiness forever” (Psalm 16:11).

Faith is maintained through real, intentional relationship with the one who created you. Maintain that belief that God designed (Psalm 149) you to be exactly who you are even when others don’t see what God sees or know what God knows about you, even when you don’t see it or feel it.

There will be those who don’t believe – from teachers to peers, to strangers to even family – but as long as you know God knows- and hold on to that knowledge, you will fulfill your God-designed life, and a lifetime of people will be blessed by you, the Joy Bearer.

While the Joy-Bearer carries God’s joy into other’s lives, he doesn’t leave the joy-bearer a solitaire individual. God has people – and those people are the friendships and mentors who see you as he does. You will find them in likely and unlikely places, expected, but most often, unexpected. If you can’t see them or find them, ask him and he will reveal them to you.

I have so many stories of your Joy-Bearing moments in our family. One of my most treasured memories is the time you sneaked up behind me in the kitchen – you were the only one who could sneak up behind me – and gave me a hug. I consider that moment my greatest mothering failure.I was cooking and fraught over a different mothering situation when you sneaked up behind me, wrapped your arms around me and gave me a Bear Hug. I shook off that hug saying, “Not right now.” I regret that shaking off and not just allowing myself to enjoy the complete hug. I regret how it possibly made you feel. You haven’t sneaked up to give me a hug since then. You were a Joy Bearer bringing joy into a space and to a heart that needed it. I learned a lot from that moment. I learned to let go of the messiness and accept joy, accept love when offered. Sadly, in that moment, for you, Joy-Bearing proved itself not always comfortable.

The lesson in that for you is to never under-estimate the impact of giving a joyful gift. You might not see the impact in the moment of giving. As a matter of fact, it might be shaken off. However, like a mustard seed, it can grow into something bigger and more  beautifully life-changing than you intended, estimated or imagined. Today that mother-fail moment is a treasured moment because it taught me to love better, to find, accept and choose joy in a fraught-filled moment. Being a Joy-Bearer might not always be comfortable, but I don’t think any act of kindness returns empty. Sometimes it takes time – and that is a faith and hope thing.

You have blessed our family for 21 years as a Joy Bearer. Like all of us, you will have moments of living life all wrong and moments of shining rightness. From the wrong to the rightness and in-between, choose not only to be a Joy Bearer but a Joy Chooser, redeeming the messiness of everyday living into the God-designed life he intended for you.

“You always show me the path of life. You will fill me with joy when I am with you. You will make me happy forever at your right hand” (Psalm 16:11)

We love you. Happy 21st Birthday! Praying you have blessing, joy and sweet surprises as you write your story!

Love Mom and Dad

Below are some of my very favorite posts about the Joy-Bearer in our family:
The Center of the Brotherhood and Commemorative Poem
Lemonade Joy
Not Everybody Can Whistle; Not Everybody Can Wink
The Freshness After the Storm
Mystery of the Missing Turtle Head
The Owl and the Puppy Dog
Mother Words

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“What greater thing is there for two human souls, than to feel that they are joined for life–to strengthen each other in all labor, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent unspeakable memories at the moment of the last parting?” ~ George Eliot, Adam Bede.

The oldest son walked in first, into the hospital room that Saturday in late February. I’d been admitted just long enough to have IVs placed. The antibiotics hadn’t even been started yet. I was septic with double pneumonia. My husband had gone home to bring back what I’d need for a stay. The second son and his wife came with my two youngest about 30 minutes later, followed by the 3rd son. I couldn’t talk; it wasn’t worth the effort, but, like any time all the boys gather, there is more entertainment to be found in the listening than by trying to add my 2 cents worth. It was an unanticipated gathering where love doesn’t need to invite, love just comes.

2016 was a year of unanticipated gatherings. I call them grace gatherings.

Gatherings: fellowship, belonging, inside the circle, storytelling, listening, laughter, tears, highs and lows, memory-making, engaging authentic caring, maybe just a just-holding-hands, sharing, quiet or loud, praying, believing, forgiving, hoping, choosing love, a just-being-there kind of gathering.

You see, there are the on-the-calendar gatherings with cakes and candles and a year added to someone’s count. There are holiday gatherings with feasting, thanksgiving, sparklers and fireworks. There are Soli Deo Gloria gatherings reminding us of God’s love and faithfulness in the birth, crucifixion and resurrection of His son. There are back porch gatherings, kitchen counter gatherings, breaking bread or sharing a cup of tea gatherings. People arrive either through formal invites or the casual, southern-styled, the-door’s-always-open invitation to stop by, sit long and talk much over a glass of sweet tea or lemonade.

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Ben and Katrina’s June, 2015 Wedding

Then there are the big-moment, still-planned gatherings like weddings and graduations with suits, ties and starched shirts. Or planned family gatherings in flip-flops, sand with a dab of beach soccer. Last summer,  35+ members of my husband’s family gathered at the beach. We’ve done this since 2009. This was the first year all my boys (with their family) have been together like this since 2008. It was a memory-making gathering.

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Family, June 2016

. . . and then there are the unwanted gatherings where grace just brings you to stand with others in the hard moments when illness threatens or death comes . . . . unwanted gatherings redeemed by grace.

Grace:
1. 
Favor; good will; kindness; disposition to oblige another; as a grant made as an act of grace
2. Appropriately, the free unmerited love and favor of God, the spring and source of all the benefits men receive from him. ~ 1828 Noah Webster Dictionary

Twice this year, Grace gathered and lined up, gave hugs, shared stories that touched our hearts and brought smiles.

Grace always makes time to love.

Those memories we’d all gathered?  Memory stories overflowed with more than enough grace to pour on aching, loss-sore hearts. Nanny had sowed enough love to bring grace to every one of our hearts when she went home to heaven in November. Those memories we’d gathered? Whether 6 or 66, we each had within us a lifetime of memories gathered to pull out when we miss her, to pull out to comfort in her absence.

It’s hard when a beloved character in your story leaves your story. It’s like when Beth dies in Little Women. The gatherings are never the same kind of sweet as when she was there, and it leaves the reader poignantly homesick for earlier chapters, even though the story continues on, fulfilling the designed hope for each character remaining in the story.

Yes, I would have preferred only the birthday sparkle and back-porch kind of gatherings in 2016. Who wouldn’t? But I find myself humbled by a loving God who instills in the hard gatherings grace that redeems through His unfailing love, a love so big that not only does he seek a one-on-one gathering with each of us, but manages to give each of us what we need in the table-packed, porch-packed, house-packed, beach-packed easy or hard gatherings.

2016 was a Grace-in-the-Gatherings kind of year. I don’t know God’s design for 2017. I do know there will be birthday gatherings with cakes and sparkle. When Spring comes, the back porch will open up again and sweet tea and lemonade will taste mighty fine with those who come to sit long and talk much. My 4th son graduates in May, a new grandchild will come in July. The one thing I can rely on is my reliable  Father-God who always shows up, whether I’m alone or in an easy or hard gathering – and brings His abundant grace to share with all who come.

Praying grace in your gatherings in 2017!

“Remember: He WANTS your fellowship, and He has done everything possible to make it a reality. He has forgiven your sins, at the cost of His own dear Son. He has given you His Word, and the priceless privilege of prayer and worship” ~Billy Graham, Hope for Each Day: Words of Wisdom and Faith.

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(Still remembering and celebrating 33 years of marriage)

There’s nothing worse than being young…. and being the last picked.

When you have buck-teeth, wear high-top shoes because you have flat feet- before high top shoes are cool and your dad doesn’t live with you because he got tired of it – you feel like you come in last –every time.

When you can’t find the phonics lesson on the worksheet in second grade and math doesn’t make sense – you feel like you come in last – every time.

When your thesis director in graduate school dumps you because he feels you have no creative ability and you make careless mistakes – you feel like you come in last – every time.

When your kid, who you’ve poured all within you, prayers, squats for discipline, encouragement – everything you always thought a good, loving parent was supposed to do says, “You’ve set me up to be a failure. Deuces” – you feel like you just came in last.

When you gain some weight and can’t fit into your favorite clothes, I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’ve come in last.

When the publisher says, “We love it. Send us all you have” for your children’s book – and they get bought by a bigger publisher (Random House) who says, “We don’t know how to draw wind” – I went from first place to rock bottom last.

This morning, my 15 year old drove down the mountain. A fresh driver, careening a bit to the right edges – and my struggle with auto-terror won over my desire to be supportive-encouraging mom – and I gasped, “Jesus Help Us.” As my son careened and steadied, I both encouraged and flipped-out – and I felt like I’d come in last.

There’s a lot of last-place moments in my life. Situations that seem to whisper, even shout, “Failure. Loser.” They don’t define me though – those last place moments.

They are just moments that set up God’s greatness.

Jesus told us, “So the last will be first, and the first last” (Matt 20:16)

We see that with Rahab, Naomi, David, Mary Magdalene, Zacchaeus – so many people in last place, due to their own choices – though maybe those  seemingly bad choices were all that was  available, still they were brought to blessing by God.

Sometimes you can’t get first-place positioning without having last place experience.

Braces got rid of my buck teeth, my feet slipped into a little blue cotton sandal, and in the midst of it all, I found a Father who championed me against the mockers- and I bask in God’s favor.

I couldn’t find the phonics lesson, but I read and read and read (my defense mechanism against people on school buses making fun of the little buck-tooth girl in high-top shoes) – and it wasn’t too long in second grade I was moved to the advanced reading class – and I basked in God’s favor, the little girl who’d found Him in a closet and talked to Him in her back yard.

The Dean of the Graduate school called the English Department, telling them, “Best creative thesis I’ve read,” followed by Honorable Mention in the Sigma Tau Delta English Honor society’s creative publication the same semester. Charles Dickens responded to a man’s request to view his manuscript to determine if he had creative ability. Dickens replied, “For all I know, the land is yours by right” – More than the land being mine by right – I basked in God’s favor.

The book publisher, the irate son of my prayers, the closet full of too-tight clothes – and the inability to always control my terror  – He knows the desires of my heart, the love in my heart. He knows my weaknesses, my failures, my miss-its – He knows my heart’s intent, its integrity – and, though the humanity of myself fails – Jesus intercedes in my behalf – and I bask in God’s favor.

33 years ago, in a field outside the mule-barn at a college social, two young men picked football teams. Two girls remained to be picked – the last picks for each team. I was one of those two – and the red-headed young man picked me – last. Then picked me for a life-time. I bask in God’s favor.

It is an opposite day paradigm – the business of being last.

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“And now, God, do it again
bring rains to our drought-stricken lives
so those who planted their crops in despair
will shout hurrahs at the harvest,
so those who went off with heavy hearts
will come home laughing,

with arm loads of blessing”
~Psalm 126: 5-6.

 

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“In repentance and rest you will be saved,
In quietness and trust is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15)

Mohair is a beautiful yarn – on its own or double stranded. Mohair is gentle, delicate, warm – and thin. I’ve had days lately where I’ve felt like a thin strand of mohair – come upon a knot.

Spinning my own yarn; walking my own story.

Sometimes this yarn I spin is like bulky wool. Knots that happen are easy enough to unravel, to work out.

There’s no undoing a knot in mohair, though.

My story has stretched me thin lately, mohair thin – and the knots, they’re beyond anything I can do.

In myself, I’m mohair thin.

I was designed to be double-stranded with God.

Spinning my own yarn; walking my own story

God can . . . unravel the mohair knots in my story, unravel and leave my heart llama warm – and I can pull my yarn on into the next stitch of this story I’m working.

This last week, God unraveled a nest of knots.

Knot – A car-load of people I love learned that
God makes a way in a traffic jam, even when
there’s no logical way out

Knot – Someone in authority wasn’t willing to open a can of worms
until someone else was
relief and solution spilled out

Knot – Someone saw truth and stood up for it

knit, slip a stitch 
knot, knot, knot 
knit two together, pearl
knot, knot, knot

This week found hands on shoulders in a circle
young and old
praying for God to unravel
the knots
either we make, others make
or just-happen knots

There’s no wrong-side of a knot
when we take it to God

Spinning my yarn; walking my story

the sweet aroma of praise
in a hard moment hallelujah
for the lord God almighty reigns
and his name is like honey on my lips
water to my soul
a lamp unto my feet
the knot unraveler
who can
in a world of cannots

 

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pinkfl1522_edited-2It is said, a twisting, terrible serpent and a deadly sea dragon roam the world, devouring the cardinals which bring hope along with the mighty oaks with its limbs raised high in praise, drying up refreshing waters, lying in wait for the hare and deer, destroying good and allowing evil to thrive.

It is also said, there lives an old man, older than any storyteller or history book can remember, who’d carved out a garden with his bare hands and imagination, watered it daily from seed-time to harvest, year after year beyond memory and record.

The old man’s garden, it is a pleasant garden filled with sweet fruits that satisfies the soul and brings wholeness to the heart, the hands and feet, the mind – the inside and outside parts of growing life.  The serpent and the dragon dare not go near the old man and his garden, though they blow seeds designed to destroy with every wind, on every dust particle. They plot and connive to destroy it from within and without.

The old man, he attends his garden daily, walking its paths he designed, pulling out weeds with his hands or hoeing, loosening the soil so that the waters go down deep, and, by going down, strengthen the roots – and in the strengthening, loosening weed roots that don’t belong, making them easier to tear out before they grab hold and make greater damage.

Day and night, the old man can be found either kneeling, his hands working through the soil, his hands dark with the healthy, rich soil. He is a hands-on, vigilant guardian over his creation—vigilant of the thorns and battles from without that blow, always seeking to invade, to overtake, to choke out his creation.

Sometimes he stands at the garden’s edge, watching, listening.

Come, make peace with me,” he calls in a still, soft whisper. “Come, make peace with me.”

Sometimes he crosses the garden’s borders, strides into the dark woods and wild fields, returning home with seedlings and shoots, stems with leaf buds to graft into his vineyard trees, by the arm-fulls or solitary, always worn, struggling to live, but totally given over to his healing power. Somehow, he hears their call.

Sometimes, a seedling finds its way into the garden, weakened, worn by those very thorns and briars in the battle outside the old man’s garden. Maybe a shoot, almost dried out of life, lying limp on the old man’s wall – how it got there, who can tell – but it seeks sanctuary in his garden, tended by the old man’s healing ways – and, in the tending, finds new life.

Sometimes, the living things, they come, peer into the garden, unable to believe it is, indeed, better within than without. They don’t stop and talk with the old man in the garden. Maybe they think he won’t understand, but, he does – he understands everything. Maybe they think they’re too intelligent to ask a simple gardener about big things like serpents and dragons. Maybe they think living within an old man’s garden boundaries are restricting, limiting . . . small-minded. Instead of extending their hands in greeting, to just meet and talk, to try and understand the old man, they shove their hands in their pockets and walk away.

Somehow, though, seedlings, shoots and stems for grafting and all other living things, they keep coming, laying hold of the old man’s protection – and they come to make peace with him because there is not peace to be found outside his garden.

“At that time God will unsheathe his sword,
    his merciless, massive, mighty sword.
He’ll punish the serpent Leviathan as it flees,
    the serpent Leviathan thrashing in flight.
He’ll kill that old dragon
    that lives in the sea.

At that same time, a fine vineyard will appear.
    There’s something to sing about!
I, God, tend it.
    I keep it well-watered.
I keep careful watch over it
    so that no one can damage it.
I’m not angry. I care.
    Even if it gives me thistles and thornbushes,
I’ll just pull them out
    and burn them up.
Let that vine cling to me for safety,
    let it find a good and whole life with me,
    let it hold on for a good and whole life” (Isaiah 27:1-5).

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I’m the gate. If anyone enters through me, he will be saved. He’ll come in and go out and find pasture ~ John 10:9

“Jump a Fence

Climb a Tree

Homespun, he is Free”

from Blackberry Roland, by Blue Cotton Memory

From little feet puddle jumping to  muscles and cleats sliding through mud and rain-soaked tackle, these boys of mine don’t always choose the neat, tidy paths and gateways.

God placed within their tiny hearts before they were born – a desire for freedom, a frontier-kind of spirit that would lead them out of bondage, through a parting sea – and into a new land, a land where the banner of Shaddai flies high for all to see, where children are taught with their first steps that Jehovah-Rohi shepherds them through the gate, hand-in-hand with the Savior.

Through the gate – it sounds so simple. Forging new paths, to discover new ideas – like Ford with automobiles or Charles Best who discovered insulin – or Neil Armstrong walking on the moon – fence jumping sure seems a quicker way to get there. Their toes almost itch to jump fences – from the time they learn to walk.

These boys to men seem designed to avoid gates.

I see it in their desire to debate – just for the sake of debate – chewing (sometimes it seems like gnawing) their logical teeth on challenging authority or the status quo.

How many times have I said, “Don’t outsmart your common sense.”

The oldest, he taught them all the longest word in the dictionary: Antidisestablishmentarianism – and, to him, it meant not taking establishment ideas at face value. At first glance, the gate looks like establishment ideas.

Some shun the gate because their parents walked through. The gate seems to have always been there. It seems so ordinary, so every day, so already done. These boys to men don’t just go through the gate because it’s there – it often seems like a life motto they’ve worn emblazoned inside.

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“I am the Gate for the Sheep,” Jesus tells us (John 10:7)

These boys to men – they gotta have Him – there’s no other way – no other way to be delivered from all that life will throw at them – from the liars, cheats, and thieves who aim to steal more than their wallets, identity or cell phones.

The gate isn’t religion. It isn’t rules. It isn’t an activity list of things we do. The gate is relationship. Relationship releases the gate latch – relationship with the one who designed you, the one who died to save you.

Real relationship. You cannot get there by fence jumping (fulfilling the bucket-list of Christian-expected behavior but not relationship) – or digging under it.

I imagine that if you wanted to spend time with Him debating – I imagine He would welcome that as the beginning of relationship. You might not be through the gate – but at least you’re at the gate with Him.

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A few years ago, I hosted a an unofficial small group with some parents of teens, friends of my sons still at home – and we read Sticky Faith together, trying to figure out how to get these boys to men who have walked through that gate when they were little – to continue living through the gate – in His pasture where they live “saved from sin, the dominion of it, the guilt and condemning power of it, and at last from the being of it; and from the law, its curse and condemnation, and from wrath to come, and from every evil, and every enemy”(Gill’s Exposition, Bible Hub).

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Some were frontier parenting – this was their first foray into the teen years. Others, like us, had older children who entered through the gate or were fence jumpers or tried digging under it, trying any way to avoid the actual relationship required to go through the gate.  We needed fresh eyes to break battle-fatigue habits, to re-equip, re-adjust, re-train for the next 6 years.

Sitting across the table, breaking bread – (getting ready for them to start the teen book while we went over the parent’s book) – learning ways to intentionally open the clogged conversational arteries with our children, how our spiritual gifts communicate with each other (not part of the book, but part of what we are doing) – and how to encourage real relationship with the one who created them, who loves them – who died to save them.

One of the things I loved about this group is that it included some of their inner circle of friends. As one teen filled a bowl of soup, a parent asked,”Who influences you most now – your parents or your peers?”

We were not looking for a right answer – We were looking for his answer.

“My peers,” he answered. Another answered, “My parents.” Each gave valid reasons, truthful reasons.

Maybe by pulling them to the table, bowl by bowl – with friend’s parents who they tease includes their “favorite mom” – maybe, just maybe we can mentor faith that sticks: real, life relationship faith.

How can we as parents encourage relationship building of these sons with their Savior? Real relationship building – We asked our sons to define what it meant to be a Christian?

Sometimes there was a disconnect between the logos “right” answer and the rhema (the aliveness) of their answer in their every day. They knew the right answer but their actions weren’t always in tandem with the right answer. Both were still fusing together.

Over the bowls of soup, I also wanted to ask, “Who is influencing your gate relationship with Christ?”

“What does that gate relationship consist of?”

What does it mean to pass through the gate to the pasture?

Or are you just fence jumping?”

Today, about 2 years later, those mentoring relationships are making a positive difference. Other moms and dads interacting, having real conversation – not scared-to-intrude conversation have created peers who reflect that interaction into their peer relationships.

I’ve seen hard decisions made by these young men who prayed first and put self second.

I’ve seen young iron sharpening young iron because of real relationships with other moms and dads showed them how in breaking-bread, over-the-counter real conversation.

They’re pausing at the temptation to fence jump – and instead making the decision to hang out at the gate, take ownership of that relationship found there. In the ownership, they’re discovering it’s not an establishment relationship. It’s a real, personal, one-on-one relationship – a grafting together kind of relationship.

Going through the gate? Or fence jumping?

(updated, September 9, 2015)

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All gate photos except for last were taken at Colonial Williamsburg, Fall 2013

 

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tomatoes_edited-1“Open up, heavens, and rain.
    Clouds, pour out buckets of my goodness!
Loosen up, earth, and bloom salvation;
    sprout right living.
    I, God, generate all this.
But doom to you who fight your Maker—
    you’re a pot at odds with the potter!
Does clay talk back to the potter:
    ‘What are you doing? What clumsy fingers!’
Would a sperm say to a father,
    ‘Who gave you permission to use me to make a baby?’
Or a fetus to a mother,
    ‘Why have you cooped me up in this belly?’” (Isaiah 45:8-10)

It’s raining, a long, summer-morning slow-drench kind-of-rain. Thunder cracks and rumbles to the north. Soothing quiet, except for the soft pat-a-tat of rain against the windows, and the noise like a rushing wind, only it’s the soft percussion of rain against pear tree leaves, maple leaves, cherry tree leaves.

The rain, it refreshes my soul. When it’s not raining, I miss the snow – because life slows down, the rush is sifted out of the schedule, leaving the good stuff like my husband and boys, friends piling in, crock-pot promises and something in the oven that needs a chocolate ganache – and stillness.

Right now, though, I need to savor the green of garden tomatoes and chard, cucumbers, corn and fresh onions, a bacon and tomato sandwich, my summer gazpacho, to savor the drowsy wake up of boys working summer jobs for gas money, movies and responsibility to savor the long walks at sunsets with my golden retriever wanting to make friends with road-side frogs.

Even in the midst of a world gone up-side down, God pours blessings like rain over tomato vines . . . . That’s the hard part, though: a world gone-up-side down. A world where babies. lives are bartered for cash over lunch, part by part – as if standing at the butcher counter haggling over parts and costs – yet, it’s  not cow liver and pigs toes the bartering is about; the bartering and haggling are over babies designed by God.

“The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government” (Thomas Jefferson).

How is this government-sanctioned murder any different than Hitler systematically murdering the Jewish people? The only difference is that Hitler confiscated the financial riches of a grown-up population, and our government sells the organs and limbs of the most dependent and powerless of humanity – so powerless that government took away its rights before it hat the chance to take one breath in order to cry out for help.

This horrific act is so diametrically opposed to the purpose and foundation of our country, a country beckons the helpless:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
(Emma Lazarus, Statue of Liberty, “Collossus”)

Don’t unborn babies yearn to breathe free, too? Isn’t freedom and liberty – and all its promises of being created equal – aren’t these promises for unborn babies, too? Don’t unborn babies deserve our protection from such hideous violations to their bodies?

Lila Terhune in her book Cross Pollination pointed out that before every great move of God, babies were murdered en masse – before the children of Israel were delivered from slavery, before Israel and the world were delivered from the law into grace.

There’s a disquiet in my soul at the terrible wrong being done – and in the soft pour of the rain, in the quiet of my home, with all my boys – and all their organs and limbs in-tact – there’s the faint sound of the drum-beat of heaven preparing for battle. Can you feel it, deep inside?. . . to where you can almost hear it?

Praying today that the hands that guide the transducers probes in these abortion clinics hear that drum-beat of heaven along-side the heart-beat of God’s children in the womb. I pray their hands shake in fear of an angry Father-God over those who harm a single hair on the head of any of his children. This, after-all, isn’t a powerless Father – He is the God-of-Angel-Armies.

I pray that the Holy Spirit enter these rooms and change hearts so that these little hearts and souls will fulfill God’s designed plan for their lives – so the little heart in the womb will one day sit in a home watching a summer rain fall over their tomatoes, savor the taste of a bacon and tomato sandwich, while little arms of their own children wrap around them for protection in the rumble and thunder of a summer storm, take walks under a moon that resembles the curve of a raccoon’s whisker, confident that his or her country protects the weak in an America stands for and with God to protect all His children.

I pray, too, that God shows me how to help this happen.

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We were at the beach a few weeks ago. Two of our sons and our new daughter-in-law went parasailing. As I stood there watching, taking photos, God and I had a moment – a heads-leaning together, He understanding my humor when I said, “Parenting looks just like that, especially at the independence-with-training-wheels point and the full-blown independence point.”

Without faith, I couldn’t do it with an iota of grace. Without faith, I’d be scared, hollering at them to come back where it’s safe (like, really, where I am is safer at all?), crying, and asking everyone and their brother to help, to step in, to do something, to make. them. come. back.

I might be saying things like “They could break something. . . . something I cannot fix – you know – those unfixable things that once broken can’t be fixed. . . .They’re going to hell in a handbasket. . . . . Oh, my – they’ve really done it now!” You know – those out of control, only the-negative-outcome-wins kind of thoughts.

I might have even started out this parenting gig 29 years ago with a few moments like that – because I didn’t understand faith and hope – and tied together with God’s mighty, very interested, very hands-on, I-got-the-plan-and-understand-why-this-is-happening kind of love.

I sat there, camera in hand, watching these people I love soar – beyond my control – but under God’s.

How I can feel as a parent and how I can feel as a citizen of American right now have some commonalities. I can feel fear, disappointment, lack of control over a lot of decisions, both in the leadership of our country and on our streets. I can run around trying to fix everything, bemoan the state of everything, speak failure, downfall, going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket kind of faithless prophecy. I could do that. I hear it all the time, as if God isn’t big enough to save America. It would be so easy . . . . or I can do what I’ve done these last 29 years- ask God to handle the plan. . . . believe He is bigger than any challenge.

I can “Cry out”(ask God) like the angel instructed Zechariah – and “Cry out, again”(ask God, again), per the angel’s same instructions – so that God will intercede where man cannot (Zechariah 1:14, 17).

There are many who love our Lord. If the population in America is 318,881,992 (million) and the Christian population is 223,217,394.4 – and God was willing to save Sodom if 50 righteous men – I think we’ve got that, friends. I think out of 223,217, 394.4 Christians – there are many righteous children of God for whom He would save our country. There are many in our country who have not forgotten. We need to take our eyes off those who have no faith in Him, and place our eyes on Him. I believe he is bigger than those who do not believe Him or heed His ways.

He says, “he who touches you touches the apple of His eye” (Zechariah 2:8).

Cry out, – and, then, after we’ve cried out, we need to take a deep breath and trust – and show that trust by praising God, loving on Him with our praises. There’s a lot in our country that needs intercessory prayer – but let’s start first by seeing God’s goodness around us, praising Him in the hard rain of a summer storm, worms from a mother bird whose baby fell out of the nest and scampered to safety, sweet peaches in cream on a summer Sunday morning, the grace in a sit long and talk much opportunity of a relationship restoration, the cool break in a summer hot, 4 stools filled with boys at the kitchen counter talking big and little thing and barbecue, faith that God is bigger than men chipping away at our country’s foundation, kitchen hugs that show love never fails, God’s faithfullness in the seed-time and harvest of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, dill, lavender – and rain trees, how the smell of home-grown Spanish onions never fails to make me close my eyes, inhale deeply and smile – every summer, and that over the course of our beach holiday, one son emerged a new creation, one learned the value of sun screen – and that a parasailing adventure read, to this mother’s heart, like Miracle/Mystery faith play – a God message of encouragement.

No battle has been lost, friends. The battle is God’s – and His victory is assured. Praise Him in faith for it!

I bless GOD every chance I get;
my lungs expand with his praise.
2 I live and breathe GOD;
if things aren’t going well, hear this and be happy:
3 Join me in spreading the news;
together let’s get the word out.
4 GOD met me more than halfway,
he freed me from my anxious fears.
5 Look at him; give him your warmest smile.
Never hide your feelings from him.
6 When I was desperate, I called out,
and GOD got me out of a tight spot.
7 GOD’s angel sets up a circle
of protection around us while we pray.
8 Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see—
how good GOD is.
Blessed are you who run to him.
9 Worship GOD if you want the best;
worship opens doors to all his goodness.
10 Young lions on the prowl get hungry,
but GOD-seekers are full of God.
11 Come, children, listen closely;
I’ll give you a lesson in GOD worship.
12 Who out there has a lust for life?
Can’t wait each day to come upon beauty?
13 Guard your tongue from profanity,
and no more lying through your teeth.
14 Turn your back on sin; do something good.
Embrace peace—don’t let it get away!
15 GOD keeps an eye on his friends,
his ears pick up every moan and groan.
16 GOD won’t put up with rebels;
he’ll cull them from the pack.
17 Is anyone crying for help? GOD is listening,
ready to rescue you.
18 If your heart is broken, you’ll find GOD right there;
if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath.
19 Disciples so often get into trouble;
still, GOD is there every time.
20 He’s your bodyguard, shielding every bone;
not even a finger gets broken.
21 The wicked commit slow suicide;
they waste their lives hating the good.
22 GOD pays for each slave’s freedom;
no one who runs to him loses out.
Psalm 34: 1-22

See To Save a City: Interceding for a Nation

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butterflybushc2ccdd_edited-1“When you work from faith, either you will step forward onto something solid, or you will be given wings” (Carolyn Weber, Surprised by Oxford)

Wordless for about 4 weeks, except for these words: “I’m doing a new thing in you” – waves and waves of new things, pushing me through new door after new door.

I’ve separated spider’s knots, transplanted a peony into a sunnier place, gone deep into Samson’s story, sat long and listened much to my two home-boys and their friends, been Surprised by Oxford – and in the surprise fallen in love with the imprint of our Lord in the classics more than when I was in graduate school.

“The mind is its own place, and can make
a heav’n of hell, a hell of heav’n” (John Milton, Paradise Lost).

How did I miss what Milton was saying when I was 22/23 years old? – that what you speak and what you think are what you get?

How is it I didn’t recognize how much faith and understanding was in Milton’s heart? Was it that I didn’t really pay attention to what the words were saying – what the words really meant? -or was I so busy being appalled by professors diminishing the faith of classical writers that I missed the faith of what they were really saying?

“‘Many of the Romantics knew  much of Milton by heart – how can you study these writers if you do not know what was in their hearts as they themselves wrote?’ Then he added, thoughtfully, ‘ While you are at it, I also suggest that you memorize the first few chapters of Genesis. So you know what was in Milton’s heart, too'” (Weber).

Some 30 years later, I find myself wanting go back – and learn anew, learn better and deeper.

In between being surprised by this delightful book, I’m still processing Deidre Rigg’s Jumping Tandem retreat, meeting  face-to-face blogging friends who have encouraged me heart-to-heart for the last few years. Attending the retreat was a stretching process in itself – stretching myself to walk outside my comfort zone – through the airport, so many states away from my family where I found warmth, caring and encouragement every step of the way. I remembered the 20-something in me, young, married – traveling with my husband to a glass-class in Holland, the fearlessly confident me who boarded a train for a day-trip to Belgium to visit a Carmelite cloister while my husband learned about glass-making. I remembered visiting historic places – undaunted about traveling to unknown places alone. 28 years of mothering these 5 sons – and two still at home, while it stretched others parts of me, left other parts of me un-worked. That weekend, I was stretched – and it was good.

I went on an afternoon photography walk with Laura Boggess, sat long and talked much with Brandee Shafer, Car-pooled from the airport with Dolly Lee, Amanda Hill, Tammy Belau. Maybe it’s the mothering in me – having carted around so many kids in my car so many years, so many rich conversations – but car-pooling with these women made me feel right at home.

I hung out with Elizabeth Stewart, Marilyn Yocum from my hometown, Linda Gibbs, Diane Bailey – and Christy Mac-Rodriguez, who didn’t really believe my luggage would arrive by 3 a.m., but sat with my on the porch in those awesome rockers and talked to me until mid-night.

I don’t think anyone really believe my luggage would show up any time soon – but after listening to Joel Olsteen on the radio for about 7 to 9 hours worth of driving to Louisville to read my books to elementary school children, visiting with my aunt – and flying out of Louisville because there weren’t any available in Nashville – I was optimistic, hopeful, full of faith – and at 2:55 a.m. that Friday night, after flight cancellations and new flights booked – the luggage arrived!

Lisha Epperson was part of this stretching. I was hesitant to walk through the doors of her dance session at the Jumping Tandem retreat, yet, it was the one session I knew I would deeply regret missing if I did not. Maybe it’s this fearless confidence I’m working on this year – listening to God’s promptings of what He wants me to do – and so I did – even though I hadn’t danced since I was seven. At seven, though, I didn’t realize I could dance for God.

I took my 52-year-old, apple-shaped, out-of-shape self – and reached way down deep inside to pull out the little girl who once loved to dance until someone told her dance classes had stolen her grace, and how someone had once told the girl developing in me “what’s up front” is what really counts – not the brain, not the heart, not the humor, not the me, just the physically endowed, girl-quality of mammary glands – and so I grew bent over, trying to hide the superficial, so wanting to be valued for the inside-stuff because that was where the most important part of me was.

I took my 52-year-old self a few weeks ago – into praise dancing with you Lisha– and danced for God – reaching high, bending low – stretching to awakeness. Lisha led us all in gentle, God-lifting encouragement, creating an environment that allowed me to retrieve something I’d misplaced long ago – and I was able to stretch deep, pull it back to me, and with ballerina hands turning, arms rising, palms outward, giving, reaching to offer whatever I have to offer to a loving Father, Lisha taught me, also, palms turning heart-ward to pull close what He gives . Lisha brought grace to brokenness – and that brokenness became grace – maybe not to the world’s eyes, but to His eyes.

After the last prayer, the last hug, I climbed on a plane to my hometown, then drove about 4 hours to where home is now – and without skipping a beat, stepped right back into a daily I’ve done for almost 29 years.

When I picked up the boys from school, the older of the two immediately had an allergic reaction – either to Mother Nature, a virus – or me. (Am I the only one who sees the humor from the coincidence in that? Surely, that kind of humor is not what finally-over-the-edge looks like?) It took 5 days for him to totally recover. Homecomings are never glitche-free, no matter how love-filled they are.

I am home, living in the regular of the daily – but there’s a thread of something new going on – a thread tangled Gd-intentionally up in this fearless confidence lesson He’s working on with me this year.

I’m not quite the same person who boarded the plane, though I’m living in the daily “same.”

There’s been no radical, immediate transformation. Just something happening breath by breath, as He draws me closer to where He’s leading me, showing me where the stones are, building faith for wings.

I suspect, though, what’s going on is all about the wings – and the faith required to use them!

“When you work from faith, either you will step forward onto something solid, or you will be given wings”(Weber, Surprised by Oxford)

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If anyone’s ever tried to trick you out of your redemption, tried to throw you back under the curse, made you feel like you’re not good enough to sit at God’s table – read this, friend. Read it and live redeemed.

God doesn’t half redeem us, partially save us, find us one quart short of worthiness. He is a God who loves abundantly, whose love overflows into us until we overflow His love to others.

His son covered our sin completely, not partially, so we could enter the Father’s throne room as favored children. Live favored. Live redeemed. Live loved!

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With God’s arrival comes love

love came helpless in a manger, with only an earthly father’s wisdom and a new mother’s arms, probably shaking under just the shawl of this new mother-hood responsibility alone

and love one day was unexpectedly left behind on family trip – and love showed itself to strangers, teaching them, hardly yet a man(10 or 12) but still God’s love offering, teaching them about the God who sent him until found by chagrined parents not quite what to do with such a love child.

and love sent a message to a man with a donkey and colt, who answered by sending along his donkey and colt for love to enter Jerusalem. Love worked his way to Jerusalem – and the people saw, the people who had waited and watched threw coats and olive branches to pave loves way. Love entered Jerusalem amidst welcome, song and recognition:”“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”(Matthew 21:9)

with God’s arrival comes generous redemption

God’s love walked the love offering walk, like a perfect lamb chosen and led, the final sacrifice, the final atonement for humanity gone wrong in sin. Love arrived to pay the unpayable debt in full, redeeming each of us from a debtor’s prison soul-deep in sin,
so that you and me could come home with Him,
returning a runaway humanity, a prodigal people
home to a loving Father, Brother and a Holy Spirit.

wait and watch no more, friends,
He’s come
He’s redeemed
grab hold of his hand
and let him pull you out
of hurt, pain, exclusion,
rejection, that not-good-enough
feeling, brokenness

let Him pull you out with his unfailing love
unfailing love that didn’t sell you and me out
on mountain-top temptations
and cross-top death torture
He didn’t let us down by coming
down
so much was His love and determination
to free us
and take us home,
to the front porch steps where the Father doesn’t just wait
but will run out to welcome us
to pull us into a
a God-sized bear-hug
. . . love didn’t just tells us so
love showed us so

“Israel, put your hope in the LORD,
for with the LORD is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption” (Psalm 130:7, NIV)
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barndoors_edited-1The other day, I did a radio interview for my new book release. It was my second radio interview, but I still had little confidence in my ability to sound coherent.  The only confidence I carried into that booth with me was that I could survive the 10 minute span. It’s the same technique I used to get through 5 labor and deliveries – thinking that in 24 hours it would be over.

Friends and family were so encouraging. When I told them I was shaking in my shoes, one said, “I can’t imagine you being nervous about anything.”

When I first started teaching college students, I wasn’t much older than they were. I had mutiny nightmares for weeks. However, I walked into that classroom acting like I knew what I was doing. Eventually, I did.

Motherhood was like that. I had to persuade a newborn, a 3 month old, a 5-year-old, a pre-teen – eventually a teen that I knew what I was doing. Sadly, once they went to college, I think they saw through me.

Confidence in me? Not an ounce for what I can do – but I am Fearlessly Confident.

Fearless Confidence has nothing to do with the quality of my scones, lemon-curd or chocolate-ganache filled cupcakes or the quality of the photographs I take or words written or stories I tell.

Fearless Confidence has nothing to do with commas, semi-colons, colons, verb tenses, vocabulary or grammar rules, writing structures or transitions.

There’s no Fearless Confidence in how I mother these 5 sons.

Fearless Confidence has nothing to do with sock matching, laundry folding or delivery to the right boy’s room.

Fearless Confidence doesn’t mean I respond to driver’s in the on-coming lane crossing the yellow line any better.

It doesn’t mean I think you’ll love my children’s books, that I always shepherd correctly – or even always love rightly.

Offers to help can turn out all wrong – so no Fearless Confidence there, either.

I can try to share grace-filled words that are heard/received with the opposite intent.

Fearless confidence has nothing to do with how I do anything.

It has everything to do with whose I am.

Through the Fall, up through December, my husband had been encouraging me to show the world the same fearless confidence I show him, my boys or my community.

“Talk to ‘em like you do me,” he’d say.

“But the world isn’t you,” I’d respond. “There’s no place for that kind of confidence there.”

It can be a restricting thing when the “world” says, “Leave who you are at home.”

barnstairs_edited-1Being boxed up can cause self-atrophy of who we are God-designed to be.

Atrophy:

  1. gradually decline in effectiveness or vigor due to under-use or neglect
  2. (of body tissue or an organ) waste away, typically due to the degeneration of cells, or become vestigial during evolution.

Sometimes, the world we walk in is uncomfortable with Fearless Confidence. In the uncomfortableness of Fearless Confidence we hide it, only taking who we are out – every once in a while, in the safe places.

It is not how we were designed to live our God-designed journey. Even if we are believing it inside – in our hearts and minds – we are designed to be who we are  outside, too – on the sidewalks, highways and hallways of this life we walk. If we don’t, who we are designed to be weakens, shrivels up, unable to stretch fully into God’s design.

One day, between Christmas and New Years, I happened upon Elizabeth’s blog, Just following Jesus, about her one word of the year-endurance (she does a beautiful job showing the grace, beauty and faith of endurance – stop by and read her post).

Do not, therefore, fling away your fearless confidence, for it carries a great and glorious compensation of reward. For you have need of steadfast patience and endurance, so that you may perform and fully accomplish the will of God, and thus receive and carry away, and enjoy to the full, what is promised” (Hebrews 10:35-36)

My soul caught on, not just the words Fearless Confidence – but the admonishment to not fling it away. Fearless Confidence caught like mohair yarn snagged on barn-door wood – it caught at me and wouldn’t let me be.

“That’s your words for the year,” the one who created me whispered quiet.

“Oh, no – not that word – not Fearless Confidence – the world – it doesn’t want that,” I told Him. The world can be mean-spirited when it doesn’t want things. A self-atrophied spirit can fight for others, but rarely feels up for a fight for self.

“This is  going to be hard. It will be really – really uncomfortable,” my heart whispered right back.

. . . . and for a few days, we both just let it sit between us. God knows that sometimes I need time to turn things over. He had faith in me that I’d come around – and come around faster than I used to.

One of the best lessons I’ve learned about God, His directives and His timing – is that when He tells me something – it doesn’t mean I was supposed to have had it done yesterday – that I’m somehow late because I should have known and then I trip all over myself in graceless haste because I believe I’m already behind.

I’ve learned that when He tells me I’m to do something, He prepares me for it, has created a time frame for it to not just get it done but time to also ready for it – and that time frame is before me. I am not late because He is not late.

. . . . and for a few days, the words Fearless Confidence sat between us. He knew I would need time to absorb . . . time for me to take a deep breath . . . .and step into this new year where together He would teach me how to walk, talk and be Fearlessly Confident in a world that wanted none of it.

Fearless Confidence? “Oh, they just think too much of themselves,” some people say.

“They just think they’re better than anybody else.”

Someone else’s Fearless Confidence can be intimidating.

Eleanor Roosevelt, in This is My Story, said, ““No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

But they can try. . .

“The eyes of others our prisons; their thoughts our cages,” said Virginia Woolf.

. . . . thus encouraging us to walk into their cages and lock ourselves up.

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams,” Henry David Thoreau admonished. “Live the life you’ve imagined.”

I have no fearless confidence in the life I imagined – but I do have fearless confidence in the life He designed for me, the dreams He’s placed in me, and the journey He’s given me – because He’s given them. My dreams are just shadows to God’s plans.

barnbudc_edited-1I can have fearless confidence in who I am through Him because He tells me so:

He tells me that He designed me, put all these dreams and things in me, planned every day of my life. I am not who I am by whimsical happenstance. I am who I am because I am God-designed, God-loved. In that, I have fearless confidence.

My stories and words may not be welcomed by everyone – but they are welcomed by those who were designed to receive them.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6)

Does this Fearless Confidence mean I’m soul-cleaner, holier, smarter, more worthy of going up to God – ’cause He’s the big cheese, you know – and, well, I hear He hangs with Mother Teresa, Peter, James and John?

No – it just means that I know that He’s my dad – and, he manages to make all of us feel like his favorites. Because He’s my Dad, I know I’m always welcome – even when I get myself into those messes I manage to contrive. He doesn’t tell me to come back when I’m cleaned up.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

God doesn’t create an inner-circle that leaves any of His children out. He makes room at His table for all of us. He always has time for me and you – even when He’s in the middle of something big. . . . even when He’s talking to someone the world thinks is more important than everyday ordinary men and women like you and me.

“But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory” (Hebrews 3:6).

The Fearless Confidence in Hebrews 10: 35 – is about fearless confidence in who I am to the great I Am, to Shaddai, to Jehovah-Raah – the Lord is my Shepherd, to Jehovah Rapha – the Lord my healer, to Jehovah Jireh – my provider, to Jehovah Shalom – my peace, to not just carry the banner of Jehovah-Nissi – but to walk with fearless confidence under His banner.

He designed my days before I was born – he is not surprised when I find myself in the middle of a self-designed mess.

He knit me together inside and out – gave me spiritual gifts, love languages – and a skill set designed just for me.

He sent His son to die on the cross, so that I could be called His child, His daughter – a daughter of the King – who can run into His throne room, fling myself into His arms and laugh with joy or cry for mercy – or even just talk.

He loves me beautiful – even when I don’t feel it. He designed each of us to be loved beautiful.

So when I walk into a library and ask if I can come read my books, I’m fearlessly confident – not that they will say, “Yes” – but fearlessly confident I am His beloved daughter.

When I’m invited to read to a classroom of students, I am His beloved daughter. That morning on the radio, I really just had to show up and be who He designed me to be right then and there – not who I am going to be in 10 years or 19 days.

Even after 32 years of marriage, and, yes, fearless confidence in the love my husband has for me and the love I have for him, I don’t have confidence that I do marriage perfect – but I have Fearless Confidence that God and His love works it beautiful right.

No matter who I work for, whether it’s inside the family or outside the family – I am His beloved daughter.

I am not confident in my mothering skills, but I am Fearless Confidence that God has the saving plan – for me, my husband, my boys, my daughter-in-law and DIL-to-be, my granddaughter – and one coming soon.

It has taken me awhile to work through this word – to walk in the world with this Fearless Confidence, to not just live it in the safe places. Let me tell you, it changed everything. It redeemed the challenges. God moved in ways that just had me standing still on the sidelines, watching God move. All I could say was, “Well-played, God! Well-played!”

“Be still and know that I am God,” (Psalm 46:10).

Be still in the Fearless Confidence of who God is and who you are to God! If you don’t know, don’t feel it – who you are to God, ask Him to show you, to help you understand – and He will. Those dreams you have? He knows all about them and wants to help you with them.

He wants you to be Fearlessly Confident that you are His, designed-beautiful, designed for joy, designed for good things.

Do not, therefore, fling away your fearless confidence, for it carries a great and glorious compensation of reward. For you have need of steadfast patience and endurance, so that you may perform and fully accomplish the will of God, and thus receive and carry away, and enjoy to the full, what is promised” (Hebrews 10:35-36)

( I realize that my Word for the Year is really 2 words – but that’s what He gave me. My word doesn’t always start in January – usually, just when He gives it to me. It’s like enrolling in a class for whatever duration He designs it to be where we study. My last word was Shalom)

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Springbloom_edited-1“Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
    It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?” (Isaiah 43:19).

Shaddai promised a new thing – something that would burst out! However, His children couldn’t see this new thing. They could only see barren branches like a tree at the winter’s end. Sometimes we can’t even see this new thing. We can’t take our eyes off the empty branches of a broken winter of ourselves.

Shaddai, though,  promised a new thing:

The God who builds a road right through the ocean,
who carves a path through pounding waves,
The God who summons horses and chariots and armies—
They lie down and then can’t get up;
they’re snuffed out like so many candles: (Isaiah 43:16-17)

That’s what Israel expected – God delivering them like He did Israel out of slavery – God saving Israel and destroying their enemies, those who kept them in bondage, treated them poorly. They expected God to do something grande like the parting of the Red Sea, the swallowing destruction of Egypt’s power and glory. They would be insiders to the world’s success.

They expected a king like Solomon, like King David to lead them into prosperity and security – grande chariots, rich vineyards, wealth and security, power and glory. God would still be in the temple, behind the curtain, the law still the only way to Him.

“Forget about what’s happened;
don’t keep going over old history” (Isaiah 43: 18)

Oh, this is hard. The hardest lesson in letting go of me and letting God is the realization that my expectations of what God can do, how He can lift me out, or even be present in my life are limited by my knowledge – by what I know, by even what the experts know.

Shaddai, the great I Am, the creator, the God who sees us, who provides, –  said He was going to do a new thing –

. . . and, He did – He sent his son, Jesus Christ, to make a way for us – every you and me – straight into the throne room as children of God – and the temple veil was rent in half – God was no longer contained in the Ark of the Covenant – but was released to be with us right where we are.

The God who walked with Adam and Eve in the evenings, the same God who sat outside Abraham’s tent and star-gazed with Him, the God who loved Jacob enough to wrestle with him made a way for us to have that same intimacy.

Springtime reminds us of this new thing, year after year – in the death of winter and resurrection of life in Spring. Look around and rejoice – at the new thing God did – for you and for me!

This week as we walk the story of Christ’s death and resurrection look around you – this redemption story was designed before even man was created. The story itself is imprinted in nature.
“Be alert, be present.
I’m about to do something brand-new.
It’s bursting out!
Don’t you see it?” (Isaiah 43:19).

Don’t you?

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This winter's Narcissus Paperwhites - which bloomed right before Christmas!

This winter’s Narcissus Paperwhites – which bloomed right before Christmas!

I sauteed chicken in butter, a bit of oil, minced garlic cloves, summer savory, and the juice of a lemon tonight – and served it over a bowl of spaghetti, sprinkled with Romano cheese. I made it up as I went along. The boys, those left at home, raced for refills – not against each other, but their stomachs.

It was the best I’d made, they’d said.

They each wanted more – and I made sure there was more than enough. I’ve missed being able to cook like that, to create simple dishes that grow smiles. Not in a Martha-kind of way, but a Mary-kind of way.

The Christmas holiday was a flu-filled holiday, from beginning to end. Despite the Tamiflu, it caught me Christmas Eve – 101+ degree fever. The married son, his expectant wife and my granddaughter took a rain check for Muffaletta Christmas Eve. At Mid-night, my husband and I finished setting out the gifts and filling the stockings – and he prayed for me, prayed healing for me. There’s blessing in that – the prayer of a husband for his wife.

I grabbed hold of that prayer, the promise of Christmas Eve of a Savior born in a manger, come to save us and heal us.

“I believe. I believe. I believe,” I prayed all night long.

Christmas morning, I woke, feeling energetic, strong – and able to fix my grandmother’s Christmas Breakfast Casserole for my youngest. It’s his very favorite – so much his very favorite that all he wanted for his birthday was Christmas Breakfast.

Christmas Dinner was the Muffaletta’s we were supposed to have Christmas Eve.

It was unlike any Christmas I’ve ever experienced. That evening, my temperature went back up.

The entire holiday was like that – fevers, flu, tiredness, like mis-matched pieces to a puzzle. The unexpected Christmas gift was not so much the flu. It was change.

I felt it all around, change, like a seed before it emerges through the soil, into the brave, above-ground world, the faith of that seed to trust it’s creator that it is prepared for what is on the other side of the dark divide.

. . . a seed before it emerges . . .

. . . . that’s where I am, right now . . .

Life is full of those kinds of moments – of change emerging, both big and little, both event and daily.

Right now, it’s as though I’m at an empasse in an everyday Martha-Living with an opportunity to emerge into another way of living, an everyday Mary-Living.

“The Master said, “Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it’s the main course, and won’t be taken from her”(Luke 10: 41-42).

I wonder how Martha felt? Was it too much of a change, to give up works for grace? To trust that everything would take care of itself in the right time, without “fussing far too much and getting worked up over nothing”? – that brushed with grace, Muffalettas for Christmas Dinner instead of the traditional huge spread fulfill heart-needs?

When God is in the change,
more than enough results.
When God orchestrates the change,
works are exchanged for grace
like a seed before the moment of an emerge
. . . . a change offered for grace . . .
still in the darkness,
holding out hope and faith hands
for Him to pull me through right!

(Last year’s Narcissus Paperwhites never emerged to bloom. This year, all tree of them bloomed. I took it as a letter of encouragement from a loving Father!)

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My boys, at some time in the scholastic career, have expressed daunting terror of something going on their permanent record.
They believed that this permanent record, in their minds, recorded every mistake – real or imagined – records beyond the ABCs of English, Math and History. . . and that it would negatively impact their future.

To my boys, the purvayors of this permanent record were as omniscient as God, judiciously intolerant and unforgiving resulting in a figuratively wielded stick of punishment that closed doors on opportunties for current peace and future success.

We were never able to totally coax them out of this belief. Today, with young elementary-aged school children being suspended for gun-shaped sandwiches, playing cops and robbers on the playgound – and wielding finger guns, kindergarteners stealing an innocent kiss – tolerance of mistakes has resulted in a system in American that doesn’t forget – or let the individual forget.

Computer systems, despite the IRS inability to keep employee records, support error intolerance. Computer programmers design programs to catch every error possible.

Victor Hugo’s Les Miserable, wrote to encourage social reform in a country grossly intolerant of the mistakes of its populace – from stealing a loaf of bread to having a child out of wed-lock. Charles Dicken’s novels encouraged much needed social reform, too.

America’s own novelists encouraged social reform.

America, France and Britain have indeed achieved much in the lat 200+ years.

Yet, today one hand preaches tolerance while the other hand wields intolerance – and in the mixed-message of it all, our country risks repeating history.

Ironically, the mythical “permanent record” of students today are becoming a reality. Kindergarten hijinks follow a student through all 12 years.

The records kept are surely as damning to the individual as Jean Valjean’s passport that labeled him a former convict. This passport was required to be shown at every city gate he entered. Though he had served the time(over 20 years) for the crime (stealing a loaf of bread), society begrudged offering the same grace for redemption that was offered to them when Christ became man and died for our sins.

During December, let us, you and I, press in close to the Christmas story.

Let the mercy, grace and forgiveness of it seep into your soul until the very marrow of it is flooded by his Holy Spirit, all the debris of your failures and sins washed away because the magnitude of its power – the very power that raised Jesus from the dead.

God didn’t send his son to save us because our permanent record was  perfect. He sent his son because our humanity cannot achieve perfection without Him in us.

“He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve, nor pay us back in full for our wrongs. As high as heaven is over the earth, so strong is his love to those who fear him.And as far as sunrise is from sunset, he has separated us from our sins”(Psalm 103:10).

God gave Moses only 10 Commandments. The children of Israel had a tough time just following 10 Commandments. The U.S. Library of Congress can’t even answer how many laws America has.

Ron Paul said at least 40,000 new laws were added at the beginning of 2012.

Yes, our society is becoming increasingly intolerant of humanity’s failure when small things are treated as big crimes – and the permanent record-keeping of man-kind doesn’t want to forget – or forgive – which is at odds with the salvation heritage of our nation.

Christ came to redeem us – to deliver us from the bondage of sin – our own sin, our own mistakes and failures, our inability to live a perfect record.

He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2)

Christmas is a time to celebrate this priceless gift a loving Father God has given us.

God wants to remove our sins as far from us as the sunrise is to the sunset. He desires to remove that sin burden so we can rise with Him freed, able to soar. Only then can we live and become who he designed us to be.

“But now, this is what the LORD says– he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1)

Do you get that?

Shaddai has redeemed you.

Yahweh has called you to Him by name.

You are mine,” says the God who sees you – really, really sees you – the good, the bad, all of it. He has pursued you all of your life . . . . to give you this gift.

Gloria in excelsis Deo

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8)

This Christmas season, live redeemed. Live forgiven.

Live the Merry Christmas gift He gave us over 2,000 years ago!

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crocnightA few weeks ago, Bicycling with Ava was released. A Crocodile under the Bed, displayed alongside – hasn’t had grandmother’s come bursting through doors saying, “I’ve got to have that for my granddaughter. Her name’s Ava” – but Croc has slightly out-sold Ava. . . and, well, it’s done something incredibly surprising and beautiful.

For every person who has walked by my table (at art festivals), reached out to look at the books, grandma’s and friends interested in Ava – they’ve got to hear about how A Crocodile Under the Bed is for ages 5 to 105 – because everyone has a crocodile under the bed.

The crocodile symbolizes the challenges. Challenges don’t go away. They just change. Five-year-old challenges are much different from the ones faced at 16, 22, 30, 41, 51, 65, 73+. Those challenges might be different, but I think all challenges, regardless of age, have the potential to steal our peace, hurt our hearts and, generally tie us in all kinds of emotional knots.

page1Parenting is full of challenges our children face: educational, health, relationship, choice challenges. If you’re like me, sometimes you don’t know the answer. Even specialists have trouble identifying issues and solutions.

. . . and the people who walk by my table, I get the opportunity to tell them how Crocodile Under the Bed is a story about giving those challenges over to God–how we’re called by God to both prepare for battle but to rest in peace at the same time. . . . how, sometimes, only God can get rid of the crocodiles under our beds.

I won’t lie to you – selling my books has been a blast. I’m scheduling art and craft festivals to sell them at in 2015. It’s a venue that has so far been successful. It also allows the opportunity for real conversation, whether people buy or not – real conversation about a God who wants to get rid of the crocodiles under the bed – and that is the best part of it all – the best part of all!

Do you have a crocodile under the bed? Do you need to be reminded to ask God to get rid of that crocodile under the bed? Do you know that God loves you enough to wrestle those crocodiles for you?

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears”

Crocodile Under the Bed INTERIOR.inddTo order click here: A Crocodile Under the Bed

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grandfather199My grandfather wound his way before he died of cancer, wound his way to the children’s orphanage’s gym where Mass was celebrated, this man raised Baptist – wound his way to find a chair as women in white leotards danced praise down the aisle, praise to Yahweh.

This hippie church we called it, housed in an orphanage gym while it built a glass church in the woods – He found God there, before God called him home. I’d been in the sixth grade.

During the great war, he worked at a munitions factory counties away– until his daughter was born at my great-grandmother’s farm. He quit his job then, when jobs were hard to find, missing his wife and new-born daughter – quit to be with them. His life was like that – impulsive – but loving big – big enough it spilled down into the hearts of his children and grandchildren.

grandmotherMy grandmother, at 94, her bones spent, dementia stealing the timeline of her stories, asked me one day, “Who’s baby is that?”

“Mine,” I answered.

“Who are you,” she asked – this fierce woman who made room for us when my parents divorced, who instilled that same fierceness in me, the same fight, the not-give-up-ness, this woman who made me feel beautiful inside, who sent me cards with violets because she knew I loved violets, who along with my mother and aunt, went to church every Sunday, who made sure we knew God.

Neither of them ever gave up.

Neither, for a moment, gave up on each other, on their children, on the daily. Grandfather might have bruises  under his thumb-nail bed through car-door-slamming frustration

. . . .but he never lost his smile.

“Damn it, don’t die on me now,” my uncle’s wife cried on the way home from taking my grandfather to a cancer treatment.

“I won’t,” my grandfather quipped, ever the one for a good joke and a smile. My aunt had been talking to her car as she tried to pull onto the freeway.

No, he never lost his special sense of joy-timing.

Grandmother’s strength never failed.

grandfather23Between his smiling and her never-failing, they both finished their races.  In the process – they both trained me – to not give up, to finish, to find the joy in the living of what God started before they were even born.

. . . .so when the daily doesn’t go like I want,

after slamming the door – and carrying the bruise of it, I’ll find the joy to be found in it like my grandfather – and have the strength to get through it, like my grandmother.

when my boys choose experience as the shepherd, instead of wise advise,

after slamming the door – and carrying the bruise of it, I’ll find the joy to be found in it like my grandfather – and have the strength to get through it, like my grandmother.

Scan6_2_0039_039When those around me don’t see what God sees in me and heart-dust storms are kicked up because of it,

After slamming the door – and carrying the bruise of it, I’ll find the joy to be found in it like my grandfather – and have the strength to get through it, like my grandmother.

When up is down, and right is wrong – and sure steps seem all slippery and life becomes a caricature of an Alice in Wonderland nonsensical scene,

I won’t give up – because these two people, who wound their own way to God, and pulled me along in their own way, showed me how to not haphazardly live joy and strength –but to choose to carry it all the way to the very last breath.

To love God, from the rising of the sun to its setting, either in the daily or in a life span – takes strength – and when love is involved must take joy. I want to end this story of mine not giving up on God but spilling the joy of my love of Him over onto my children and grandchildren. I want to be like in the daily right up to the end.

Joy spilled from love overflowing, faith overflowing – so that maybe when life deals them a harsh hand in the daily or the decade – these children and grandchildren will choose God’s kind of strength and joy.

Oh, yes, Let me be singing of His mighty love when the evening comes!

“From the rising of the sun to its setting,
the name of the Lord is to be praised” (Psalm 113:3)

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hydrangea2012c

The blue hydrangeas,
They grew and grew and grew
Spilling across doorways and sidewalks paths –

They were ready
For a journey
hydrangeatransplatecAnd so we transplanted them around the corner,
Under the kitchen table
window. The blue hydrangeas sulked
In the newness
Wouldn’t show themselves for more seasons
than seemed
seemly.

We hoped in things we didn’t see
Watered with faith for roots
planted true

“Give it time,” my husband spoke
Beside me

“4 more weeks,” suggested the nursery man
Before it was time to give up

Until one day, just before reaching for the shovel
Just before giving up
a chopped chive-size
piece of green
stuck on what seemed
a dead stick

hydrangea 2013ccThe piece of green grew slow
Was joined by more pieces
Of green
Until it a few seasons later,
It stretched stalks of green
Just growing
Growing
Not ready
not ready yet to bloom
hydrangea2014c_edited-1Until just the right
season
When roots reach deep and the stalks
Multiplied
reach high
Little clusterbuds of no color
One day
Open blue
blooms

summerhydrangea14
You know, if we’d left that hydrangea bush by the garage door, it would have been limited, unable to reach its full potential. By transplanting it, giving it more room to grow and become, it will be more than it ever could have before. It’s been a tough transplant/journey for my hydrangea – but I live in faith of something I don’t see – that it will grow bigger, bloom more, have a greater impact – kind of like God’s plan for me and mine!

hydrangeac_edited-2More on blooming where you’re planted:

Ordinary Dreams of an Every Man

The Year of Living Shalom

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soccerb12bcc

Knight in Shining Armor kind of brave – it’s a God kind of brave – a willingness to sacrifice all – life, pride, reputation, arms and legs, dreams, financial possibilities, comfort, popularity – in order to save someone else.

A God-kind of brave – that we read about from the book of Martyrs – a record of bravery of men, women and children risking all for the second Baptism – for having a copy of the Gospel of Love.

A God-kind of brave that comes to another country to pursue religious liberty – a Jesus-kind-of religion that doesn’t oppress or limit – but frees from bondage, heals wounds and finds joy.

A young boy following his passion for a sport – who shares the Gospel of Love in black grease paint oncheekbones, who risks popularity, riches, a dream job – in order to share the Gospel of Love, a knight-in-shining armor kind of brave – a Tim Tebow kind of brave.

I want my boys who juggle the soccer ball on toes passionate for a game to be passionate for their Savior, to be passionate for a neighbor they don’t know – willing to risk all – so others can know the bottomless, unquenchable love of a mighty God.

That kind of brave.

“Sometimes you’re too poor to have ethics,” the university commencement speaker said – a person of high-rank in the Tennessee primary and secondary education system.

Yet – isn’t that when it counts – when what’s really inside matters? When life isn’t easy – that’s what you see what a man is made of.

This mother’s heart wants to raise these 5 sons from brave boys into brave men:

“Prove yourself brave, truthful, and unselfish, and someday, you will be a real boy” (Pinocchio)

A real boy, a real man where things like ethics, morality, bravery and courage, unconditional love are like invisible ink –

Unconditional Love [bravery, morality, ethics) is like invisible ink. While the invisible ink is made visible by heat, another chemical or ultraviolet light, unconditional love {bravery, morality, ethics}is made visible by uncomfortable situations resulting in pain, disappointment, anger from another’s behavior. So how do you know when you love unconditionally{are ethical, brave, moral}? When you are uncomfortable, don’t really want to, aren’t feeling it, but choose to love {be brave, ethical, adhere to moral principles} anyway – then you are loving unconditionally {brave, ethical, morally upstanding}. ~ Blue Cotton Memory, Unconditional Love Rule 2

If you’ve been around my blog for a long time, you’ve probably heard me quote St. Augustine from City of God who said that the only difference between a pagan and a Christian – is not the things they face because they both face the same challenges – but how they face those challenges.

Seeing Tim Tebow walk out his faith in the midst of cultural challenges that seek strip him of his dream, his job, his cultural standing, even that faith itself – is a testimony of that faith. His ethics count now more than ever. His faith in the midst of adversity is a testimony to that faith – and it takes a brave man, a courageous man, a Daniel-in-the-Lion’s-Den kind of man.

The soldiers who are being discouraged from mentioning their faith in our military are those kind of men – men who would risk a court martial to pray over a wounded soldier or share the knowledge of a God who loves, who saves, who promises eternal life with that loving  – that is noble bravery at its best.

Our faith is being challenged – and we need brave men and women who will stand in the fiery furnace of cultural condemnation – and be a beacon for our boys and girls, our men and women.

A Tim-Tebow-kind-of Brave

~ Congress Shall Make No Law Concerning Tebowing and Other Religious Behavior

~Words Make a Difference

~A Horrifying, Mortifying Commencement Speech

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Holy Friday

 

A Day that leaves me WordLess

A Day that leaves me Waiting

Outside the Tomb

empty like a mother standing in the dark anguished

Waiting

like a child huddled in a corridor listening for storm sirens to stop

waiting

Like the bud on a SpringTree

Waiting

a holy waiting of hope reborn

resurrected

Waiting

for a new paternity and brotherhood

finalized in the rolling of a stone

bigger than me

Even though I know Jesus came out of the Tomb

Every year

I

wait

Because I want to understand the magnitude

of what He did for me

so many years ago

the agonizing

death

on the

Cross

for me

my husband

my children

for all of us

 

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springredbud_edited-1“Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5)

Spring, like morning reaching red-bud blossom tops, has come. After grey sky days spraying mists, spilling water from clouds too full, the sun came out, splashing colors across my world.

The dove sat on the electric lines, the robins, sparrows, mockingbirds, cardinals, tanagers, jays and blue birds are opening up nests, calling across the yard to each other – and the cat, Miss Kitty, stretches in the sunshine, watching, welcoming.

Sadie sniffs the moles waking up, moving under the grass – digging a golf course in our back yard.

The peonies purple stalks, lavender spider’s knots, volunteer pansies, irises and lilies are stretching upward, past the almost spent buttercups.

Like winter promises spring, storms promise blue skies, challenges promise refreshing. Saturday, as the rain washed clean my schedule, I thought how beautiful the Sunday skies would be – washed clean through to blue and white.

Challenges do that, from gentle mistings to torrential power-washings designed to wash or break off what doesn’t belong, potentially revealing more of who He designed us to be – one stormy challenge at a time.

After spending so many months introspective, inward, inside, wrapped in blankets, hibernating from the cold winter,  I’m ready, ready to give up my wish for snow (it always missed us). I’m like that with challenges sometimes – they become so familiar that I’m not always ready to let go when it’s time.

It’s time now to let this winter go. I’m throwing open my doors and windows, cleaning off the porch, scratching away dead leaf quilts that covered flower beds.

Spring has woken with a joy-comes-in-the-morning vibrance. I am eager to greet it – aren’t you?

 

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floridatrees14“For He satisfies the longing soul,
And fills the hungry soul with goodness” (Psalm 107:9)

We packed up the van with 3 boys, 5 beach towels and bathing suits, one camera, a knitting bag, two computer bags, too many media chargers and too many pairs of shoes. I bet if someone looked hard enough, we could have come up with a kitchen sink. I don’t know how to travel without one.

We spent two days with my mom – experiencing so much blessing. We broke bread with those who love us, met people who shared their gifts with us, like Mary and Charlie’s red and white Camellias, come pink edged in purple – and ivory. They took us on a blooming tour of their hands’ work – building my mother a beautiful bouquet. I think they grew more than Camellias, azaleas – and all sorts of beautiful flowers I won’t get to see through the summer – I think they grew generosity of heart, friendship and genuine kindness, too.

IMG_9788cc

Sunday morning, My husband and I walked these Northern Florida small-town sidewalks canopied with Red Bud blossoms and tree moss -to church where we listened to a sermon that included The Devil and Daniel Webster. Then we moved to a Sunday school room, meeting a community who had prayed comfort for us this year when my husband lost his sister. A retired World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War  Navy chaplain  change our lives by telling his stories – of facing fears, ministering to athiests and waiting on God.  It made me want to go back every Sunday. It taught me about waiting for God to grow opportunities that save.

IMG_9820ccGod met me in the sidewalks and pond walks, the church walks and breaking bread – in the people, in the petals, in the moss above and winter leaves below not quite blown away.

We spent the rest of our holiday further down in Florida, practicing my joy-catching – and I caught smiles, a brotherhood strengthening, and time to savor. The littlest, the 14 year old, decided at the beginning of the journey, he was Zack who played baseball and basketball, who referred to us as “you people” – who settled into his born-to persona mid-way through and decided we could keep him.

We talked politics, faith and humor, why we need to love the hard along with the easy. We encouraged them to not out-smart their common sense as they logically tried to one-up each other. There was a little letting go and learning to live with time – time to find Him – in a long walk, in flipping rubber lobsters in a pot to win a blue and yellow stripped stuff animal, over a cup of coffee, in the strengthening sunlight.

IMG_9891ccDespite 10+ hours of over-stuffed traveling, teens trying to keep wrestling to words, despite them not being sure they really wanted to be with us in a hotel room for 5 days, not trusting mom and dad’s ideas of fun – I believed God would satisfy the longing in this soul and fill it with his goodness, that if I would seek goodness – I would find it. God proved himself good to me – I cam home with a soul-net full of joy caught.

“Thank you for taking me,” said the new college student when we got home.

Yes – a soul-net full of joy caught!

God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits,
to the woman who diligently seeks (Lamentations 3:25)

pinkflowers

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icetreebuds“Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds” (Matt 6:26)

Sunday morning, as the winter storm blew towards us, I loaded the car from a visit to my aunt’s. Robins chirped over the backyard fence, maybe they were just calling hello in their own grocery-store rush. Two geese, racing in tandem, honked back and forth, racing? playing tag? Were they taking advantage of the calm before the storm – or preparing?

careless in the care of God

The ice didn’t come until I was home in my own nest, with my own chicks, wrapped in my own feathers. Most people are tired of this old snow. Me? We really haven’t had any. I keep telling people, Moses is standing at our western county line. When the snow clouds come, he parts them like the Red Sea.

I love snow – but it only dusts. Last night, though, water fell wrapping everything in a sheet of ice.

Diamond glitter is deceptive, dangerous – and it encased my world – red buds, dog wood buds, even the bird nests.

The birds, though, hopped around, on one foot then another across the icy grass. No complaining about the cold. No complaining about nests in the ice trees.

living the daily, even the ice-storm-kind-of-daily free and unfettered

icenestI woke early, wanting to find God’s love letter in it. Stepping out my door, the birch creaking with the icy burden, limbs snapping to the ground. An icy mist filmed my face.

wanting to connect with God, to answer His call with the uniqueness of my own voice He put within me – to let that voice connect with Him before I left to work where I am planted, where the job description allows only a portion of who I am

these birds not tied to a job description – me striving not to be

and I need to soar in the knowledge – the living, flying, spirit-filled knowledge – that He counts me more important

more important than these birds – careless in the care of God

Give your cares to me, He says, as I meet Him – let my kingdom  be your nest for shelter, nurturing, protecting and refreshing – where you can soar, fly, race, sing, swap word-songs at fence-post gatherings

So many people avoid God – thinking living for Him is limiting, oppressive or confining. It’s not, though. God is liberating. God’s Kingdom works in direct contrast with the world. It’s an Opposite Day kind of thing.

“Opposite Day, when slow means fast, when pink means blue, huggable means squirmmy, when sacrifice means gain.

The universe has order – God made it so – how our blood flows, how my grandmother’s coffee cake bakes, how cells divide, how coffee brews – it is all orderly process. Yet, what He wants from us is sometimes like an Opposite Day Paradigm.

To give ourselves up – our dreams, our hearts, our time, our identity, our dignity – to beggar ourselves until we’re empty with nothing left to give – that is the great deception.

. . . . God’s Opposite Day Paradigm take Sacrifice and turns it into gain. (The Sacrifice of Opposite Day Things)

Liberate your soul! Give yourself to Him – and become careless in the care of God!

icetreenest

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spiderweb
“It behooveth him to wax, but me to be made less” (John 3:30, Wycliffe Translation)

A storm brewed one summer night, tearing at the trees, pink flower petals – and the weaver web. All the parts – all six hands and feet of  that tiny spider were intent on making the silk thread stick  – stick to  brick pillars and porch eaves dripping water  – arms and legs weaving and darning simultaneously.

Just like this mother in me – with these boys – stocking shelves and hearts with nobleness books on heroes, freedom and faith, loving forever to God’s beard and back to plate-fulls of carrots and broccoli with dipping sauce to make it go down – to bed-time chronicles, God stories and prayers tucked in and lectured out on how to live this faith thing that is the most important part of the spinning and weaving and releasing of ourselves into our children.

Hands-on shoe-tying and shirt buttoning instructing,  math problem and oil level checks, to  true friendship discernment and loving hearts that need saving, challenge confrontation and over-coming training – and learning not to give up o confront challenges to overcome – sometimes 2 arms, 2 legs and one heart work as determinedly as the spider with the web – though maybe not as gracefully, as fluidly

like a spider mending and weaving on a stormy evening.

like a mother and a father giving out all that is within us until one day they stand tall above us, tall enough inside and out to leave . . .

to search out their own eaves and pillars on which to stick their faith and life mission where they become small and He becomes bigger – and the work of their life reflects His glory.

I don’t know if I explained that well – how our life’s work, that He designed us for – , that’s the story they will read, the song they will hear, the web a canvas to the artist. It is our family, that web – and the work and faith of our hands and hearts, what we put into the raising of them – that will say the most about us – and suddenly it is so much bigger than just me – these children and grandchildren – and in the weaving, the mending, the praying and faith of it are what people see, not me but the results of the life I lived, of the faith and love I lived.

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fathersons14cI am in smack in the middle of a communication refinement class. Some people get Words of the Year – the Father – He enrolls me in a class that usually lasts about a year. This last one started in the summertime.

I’m a blog writer – writing about the faith, love and politics of raising boys to men – so how come I need a communication class? Because while I can think out what I want to say in advance – even for a conversation, especially for classrooms – real-time in the daily doesn’t allow you to delete, rewrite the words or re-do tone.  It doesn’t allow you to erase emotions from previous encounters that splash into the rest of the day. Writing allows going back and actually editing for hindsight. In-the-moment living does not.

I watched a movie about Louis Pasteur the other night – I cried with his victory– but indignation filled me during plot development: Specialists believed that if they didn’t know it, it just couldn’t be. 3 out of 10 women died of childbed fever, Pasteur asserted, because physicians didn’t wash hands or sterilize tools. Leading physicians of government agencies scoffed.

However, one by one, Pasteur won over these great physicians – because un-refutable evidence came alongside their calling. Pride was set aside – yes – not only because facts proved they were wrong – but also because this field was their calling – and to refuse this truth was diminish the nobleness of their life work.

Communication is my specialty field, especially written communication.  I am still trying to find a cure for foot-in-mouth disease. I still need an editor for careless mistakes. I have the English Master’s and journalism degree. I guess you could say I am a field specialist.

In the process of becoming a field specialist – I had 5 sons – with 5 different love languages and 5 different spiritual gifts. I teamed up with Don and Katie Fortune’s training program and became certified in Discovering Your God-Given Gifts – for children, adults and teens. The books not only changed how I viewed myself, it changed how I saw my children. While the other books explained the strengths and weaknesses of each gift,  Discover Your Spouse’s Gift  contained detailed insight into how each gift communicated and how each gift viewed communication. It enabled me to feel not only more comfortable about myself but to better understand communication perceptions and responses.

At the beginning of this class God enrolled me in, He sent me out to buy Sticky Faith. I needed to break ineffective communication patterns (see Going Through the Gate or Fence Jumping). You’d think that would be enough – but God and I, we were just warming up. Sometimes, while taking God’s faith classes on “Standing” or “Walking,” “Refreshing” and “Shalom” to name a few,  bad habits grow like weeds in other areas – like Communication.

Gift of Exhortation and Encourager love language – that’s me. I learned long ago that gifts are like double-edged swords – gifts and love languages can be used to build up or tear down. I am careful with my gift – careful not to tear down – careful constructive criticism builds up.

One son’s gift speaks blunt and direct, another son’s speaks solution, one is all of them, the teacher is instructive. One communicates through serving; one son communicates through compassion.

The one gift that stymied me, froze me in my communication tracks was the compassion gift. The compassion gifted person or child makes decisions on how they feel. The compassion gift comprises the largest area of the population – so when Bill Clinton said, “I feel your pain” – he won them over.

Logical argument shuts them down. Too many words, even encouraging words suffocate.

To my dismay, I mistook one son to be a server when he was a compassion gift. The communication specialist in me was like Pasteur’s nay-sayers. I didn’t want to be wrong – and I didn’t know how to shepherd a compassion-gifted child. How do you persuade a feeling person to make healthy choices when logic isn’t their language?

What do you do when you discover that your gift overwhelms your compassion child?

Then, one day, the blinders came off – and I saw. . . . how I had missed it.

The compassion gift is an emotional gift. They are risk takers without considering the risk, only seeing the need. The other gifts are intentional about entering the muddy pit to help lift someone out. The risk taker throws himself in, a first-responder, without considering the risks – the preparation, the solution, the after.

Really – the risk taker goes into the mess, literally empathizes, feels their pain, goes alongside them – and leaves it to the other gifts to implement the solution, the rescue, the after.

The compassion gift, the risk taker – stays with them – like a firefighter down in a collapsed well with a child – while the other gifts figures out how to extract her healthy and whole. Not only knowing your gift-job and other’s gift-jobs liberates one to do what they do best. It reduces judgementalism and increases admiration – and understanding.

My son – he probably felt talked to death by me. Too many words, too many logical presentations are like shingles to the skin with this gift.

I’ve  been praying, asking – trying to find out how to communicate with a child, a family member or neighbor with this gift.

How can you encourage without words? How can you persuade without words? Shepherd without a voice?

How? My heart broke that I’d let him down. One of my greatest strengths is my not-give-up-ness – I kept searching.

Then I came across Brandee’s  “Love Wins” post at her blog Smooth Stones in November. She wrote:

“I can hardly stand for someone to tell me what to do. I love a good story. I’m fascinated by facts and passionate about scripture. If the spirit’s right, I don’t mind a hint or suggestion. Sometimes (again, if the spirit’s right), I can tolerate unsolicited advice.

But I’m very sensitive to approach. The minute someone tells me what I must do or must think, I shut down. I despise feeling patronized, judged, or labeled. I can get stuck for a long time over a feeling and have been known to argue with people in my mind for years” (Love Wins, Brandee).

I thought, “This is how my son feels.” This was the compassion gift talking to me.

After I read that, I messaged her, asking “How do you persuade a compassion gift person to do anything” – what is the best way to encourage them. . . .I want to know how to be the parent he needs.”

Who better knows the answer to this question that a compassion gifted person who has learned how to use that gift?

We ended up talking on the phone. If I had a sister, I think we’d talk on the phone like that.  She talked about her communication needs, answering my questions. In our brainstorming and heart-sharing – the answered came upon me – and it changed my life.

How do you persuade a compassion-gifted person?

. . . without words. . .

oh, my. . .

by coming along side, even in the midst of their challenge

loving them

encouraging

because experience talks to them more eloquently than words.

Listening

Loving

Being there

Sitting or walking right where they are, intentionally connecting, listening, waiting with them; Showing them unconditional, non-judgemental love speaks volumes , not like shingles on skin, but like soothing soul touches.

Will you join me here Wednesday. Brandee’s guest posting here, talking to you and me about communicating with the Compassion Gifted. I’ve never had a guest writer before – and I am so excited!

Below are other posts about Spiritual Gifts:

Mother Words:
Junkyard Treasures:
The Freshness After the Storm
Perceiver of Truth
A Boy Called Faithful 

 

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knightThe bully in the bathroom, he was itching for a fight, taunting another boy. A circle of boys stood, tense, waiting. My boy, he stepped in, saying, “Dude, he’s bigger than you. He could squash you.”

The crowd laughed – some nervously, some disappointed: situation diffused. The crowd dispersed into the hallway – crisis averted.

Stepping in . . .intervening. . . interceding. . . like St. George and the Dragon, David and Goliath, Christ and each of us . . . . for something as simple as a bully in the bathroom or life-threatening challenges.

We’re designed and equipped for big and little heroic intercession – interceding with their feet, hands, and mouth – and, most importantly, interceding with cross-emblazoned soul shields.

Warriors prince and princesses – sons and daughters of the king,  kneeling by the bedside, hands clasped at the steering wheel, head bowed at a work station – interceding anywhere at anytime.

“The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know” (1 Tim 2:1)

  • Sometimes interceding is being the shield

David, when his son with Bathsheba became sick, “David prayed desperately to God for the little boy. He fasted, wouldn’t go out, and slept on the floor” (2: Samuel 12:16). David stood in the gap, fighting against the darkness that comes to steal, kill and destroy – interceding for his boy.

  • Sometimes interceding is not just being the shield, but the spear, too.

David’s bold words of faith in His God: “GOD, who delivered me from the teeth of the lion and the claws of the bear, will deliver me from this Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:36). David stepped in the gap – with faith words and actions, interceding for the Israelites.

  • Sometimes interceding helps another bear the shield.

Mose’s standing on the mountain side, hands raised to God – interceding against the forces that deceive about things as little as apples and as big as God- and when Moses weakened, Aaron and Hur stepped beside him, holding Mose’s arms up high when he couldn’t do it himself – interceding (Exodus 17:12).

Our boys-to-men, they’re programmed to stand between the helpless and challenges like giants and dragons – and whatever else the devil can muster up for an attack.

On the way to school the other morning, we talked about intercession – not interceding as if prayers were penny wishes thrown in a fountain. We talked about interceding as if prayers were front-line soldiers holding off the enemy to save someone God wants saving – and you know – God wants every one of us saved – salvation saving, life-and-limb saving, challenge support and rescue saving.

When we intercede, we become like a shield, protecting, destroying or lifting out of overwhelming challenges – either in tandem with the one being attacked or for the one being attacked because he cannot, cannot right now, or cannot on his own.

The intercessor runs to find God – not a slow-walk but like a child running through the house trying to find their mother or father to come help, opening and slamming doors until they find the one who can help:

Isaiah said, “No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you” (Isaiah 64:7) – imagine that – trying to lay hold of God. Searching every room, calling his name, and when you see Him, you run, grab hold of his sleeve, turn Him to you – and beg Him to help. Isaiah laments that the children of Israel don’t see God as available like that – because God is – available – passionately, faithfully available.

Job cried, “Oh, that one might plead for a man with God, as a man pleadeth for his neighbor!” (Job 16:21)

halloween5Which is most effective? Prayers like penny wishes thrown in a fountain – or prayers laying seige to a challenge that needs to be torn down:

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, [and] giving of thanks, be made for all men (1 Timothy 2:1).

Didn’t Abraham do that? Plead with God to save Sodom and Gomorrah? Didn’t Esther pray to save the children of Israel? Didn’t Isaac intercede for Rebekah so that she would conceive?

Do you give out heart-cries to the Father?

“Give out heart-cries to the Master, dear repentant Zion.
Let the tears roll like a river, day and night,
and keep at it—no time-outs. Keep those tears flowing!
As each night watch begins, get up and cry out in prayer.
Pour your heart out face-to-face with the Master.
Lift high your hands. Beg for the lives of your children
who are starving to death out on the streets “(Lamentation 2: 18-19).

Are you a relentless warrior?

“I’ve posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem. ‘Day and night they keep at it, praying, calling out,
reminding GOD to remember. They are to give him no peace until he does what he said'” (Isaiah 62:6-7).

Heart-cries require believing in the promises of God – really, really believing.

Heart-cries require time commitment, standing firm on the battlefield, a giving up of yourself to save someone else in big and little ways.

My life has been blessed by warrior intercessors who took heart-cries to the Father – women warriors in the blogahood – and in my neighborhood – my life and the lives of my family have been blessed because of the time sacrifice, the battlefield stance – a giving up of self to save in big and little ways.

God seems to have some pretty great team-building activities up his sleeve – what a powerful way to turn the seams of this blended family seamless – through intercessory prayer as if we were the front-line warrior standing between another and the enemy.

Heart-cries to the Father – for the lost and the found.

Who can you stand on the front-line for today?

 

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