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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://crystaltwaddell.com//Fresh Market Friday
https://susanbmead.com// Dance with Jesus Friday
http://afieldofwildflowers.blogspot.com/     Small Wonder (formerly Unforced Rhythms)
http://www.thebeautyinhisgrip.com/    Sharing His Beauty
http://donnareidland.com   Mondays @ Soul Survival
http://www.richfaithrising.com/    Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/     Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://hollybarrett.org/     Testimony Tuesday
http://www.messymarriage.com/  Messy Marriage
http://www.w2wministries.org/     Word-Filled Wednesdays
http://holleygerth.com/     Coffee for Your Heart
http://www.journeysingrace.com/ Grace Moments
http://www.christinemalkemes.com/ The Loft
http://mecoffeeandjesus.com/ Me, Coffee and Jesus
https://faithadventures.me/ #TeaAndWord Tuesday
Word of God Speak with Janice Cox
Raising Samuels Social Butterfly Sunday with Kelly at Raising Samuels
Family Joy Blog Link-up Party at Thinking Outside the Pot

http://www.kristinhilltaylor.com/     Three-Word Wednesday
http://3dlessons4life.com/     Thought-Provoking Thursday

http://arabahjoy.com
https://susanbmead.com/ The Shallow End
http://letuswalkworthy.com/blog/ Let Us Walk Worthy
The Modest Mom The Art of Homemaking Musing Mondays

Purposeful Faith Tea & Word Tuesday Talk

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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

barrett

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bradfordpear17dscriptureEach day is a day of small beginnings. If the Father’s mercies are new each morning (Lamentations 3:22-233), then each morning is a small beginning that takes us gently farther and farther away from who we were before the first small beginning, before the first, “I believe. Help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24) to who God designed us to be in the quiet place before we were born.

A day of small beginnings.

I will rise and write on a project he gave me – even if he gives me one sentence a day, and, as he gives me that one sentence a day, I will find peace and fulfillment in that one sentence, not berating myself that I am not doing enough, am not behind, am not insufficient into what he has called me. I will write that one sentence, rejoicing, trusting that he will being me another one, until the project he has given me is finished.

I will pick up the white socks dropped throughout the house.

I will make loaded potato soup for someone who asked because it’s his favorite.

I will begin to pray for God’s design, plan and purpose in lives where before I prayed for selfish results that would make my life sweeter, better, maybe easier.

I will not eat bread and will have a cup of afternoon tea to soothe out the knots of the day.

Today, I will walk with God, with Sadie on a leash, talking with the one who sustains me, loves me, knows how I am struggling now with organizing my moments in a daily so they form a cohesive pattern – and when that pattern unravels, I will rejoice, probably after I fuss and wallow only to then remember that God is unwinding the world tangled about me so who he created me to be can further emerge.

It is a day, like every day, full of small beginnings.

What are your small beginnings today?

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http://afieldofwildflowers.blogspot.com/     Small Wonder (formerly Unforced Rhythms)
http://www.thebeautyinhisgrip.com/    Sharing His Beauty
http://donnareidland.com   Mondays @ Soul Survival
http://www.richfaithrising.com/    Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/     Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://hollybarrett.org/     Testimony Tuesday
http://www.messymarriage.com/  Messy Marriage
http://www.w2wministries.org/     Word-Filled Wednesdays
http://holleygerth.com/     Coffee for Your Heart
http://arabahjoy.com/ Grace&Truth
http://3dlessons4life.com/ Thought-Provoking Thursday
http://www.journeysingrace.com/ Grace Moments
http://www.christinemalkemes.com/ The Loft
http://mecoffeeandjesus.com/ Me, Coffee and Jesus
https://faithadventures.me/ #TeaAndWord Tuesday
#TeaAndWord#TestimonyTuesday#TellHisStory, #Glimpses,#LMMLinkup The Art of Homemaking Mondays

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When Pride has to Crack

beachwedding.jpgMy husband and I married in August, 1983. We were both still college students. We were young, poor, and, yes, love did make a difference. I remember my husband telling me, with our $25 a week grocery budget, frozen water pipes in the winter, no phone or television, and one car between us –  “We’re going to look back on these days as the best of our lives.”

A year later, he had graduated and found a job right across from the high school he had attended. We moved to a new apartment with pipes that didn’t freeze in the winter, bought both a phone and television, increased our grocery bill – and still had one car between us.

As I was waiting one evening in our car for my husband to come out from work (when you share one car, waiting becomes a pastime), I remember praying that God would show me how to love him(God) the way I had loved him as a child – so heart-full, trusting, seeking him in an arms-wide-open, flung-around-his-neck-in-total-acceptance kind of way. I needed him growing up – and He was there – faithfully.

Another year later, in 1985, I was in graduate school, working on a Master’s Degree in English because I wanted to be an editor. I’d worked for a local paper for about two years, typing up AP stories to be sent over to layout – and writing movie reviews and articles on local living. In graduate school, I was working on the next step. I received an assistantship  teaching remedial writing to college students while earning that degree.

The teaching, it stretched me. It took me two weeks for my eyes to stop watering in front of a classroom full of students – and, at least, a year before I stopped having nightmares of student mutiny in the classroom.

I made dear friends, including a fellow Teaching Assistant (TA) who was a missionary-minded young woman with a heart for reaching out to others and sharing, not just kindness, but the gospel.

My friend, Rhonda, asked if she could share some bible tracts with me – and I said sure, even though I had no clue about what a bible tract was. If you asked me today, I still probably wouldn’t be able to tell you. We met for coffee in between classes and teaching– a beautiful, sunny day when over a cup of coffee,  my religious pride bumped into a heart-wide open to the love of Jesus Christ.

I’d been in church all my life – had gone to Christian schools and read my bible at home. I could probably count on one hand the Sundays I missed church until I went to college. This new friend was sharing scripture with memorization plans – and I felt so lost, as if I’d studied hard for a test only to fail.

She probably thought her time with me was a mission fail. Nothing she said seemed to stick – and I’m sure she could see my pride right there behind my smile – you know the smile you keep on your face when you don’t know the answer – but you don’t want anyone else to know you don’t know the answer? Yes! That smile.

I didn’t leave our conversations slamming the door shut behind me. Yet, I didn’t leave those meetings with a heart-wide open, flinging myself into this God-adventure with a bring-it-on attitude. There was so much I didn’t know – that I needed to know. I’d happily said, “I do” to a lifetime with my husband, but I blanched at whether I had the faithfulness for a lifetime as a Christ follower. How does one prepare for that?

My Master’s would prepare me for editing – Right?  Pre-marriage classes and lots of love prepared me for a life time of marriage – Right?

This is where I bend over in a faux laugh – at the ridiculousness of thinking six weeks or two years can prepare anyone for an actual, daily experience with all possible contingencies – whether it be editing or marriage.

If it’s impossible to prepare for editing or marriage, how could I possibly prepare for a life time of God? How can anyone ever be fully prepared for the fullness of God?

Life got busy, my friend and I met once or twice again. She was so kind, so affable – someone comfortable to be around, yet I always felt like a student in the classroom who thought they knew everything but actually knew very little. In hindsight, we both had the Gospel. Yet, the gospel was just Logos to me (just the words), but it was Rhema to her (the gospel alive).

Like the father of the demon-possessed child, my heart was crying out, “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). My spirit cried out for more than a word relationship with God. My spirit was crying out for an alive relationship with this loving Father who’d taken such good care of me all my life.

I’d prayed over a year before for God to help me love him like I did as a child – and this sweet friend was one of the first he sent across my path. Her job was to crack the hard crust of pride around my soul, and in that crack, plant a seed.

In her faithfulness, she planted the seed. There have been many Apollos who have watered that seed – and God, in his faithfulness, has made it grow.

God meets us all in the hard brokenness of where we are – His word tells us that over and over again. He met Jacob and Rahab, Jonah and Daniel, Rebekah and Ruth, Paul and Peter – he meets us and draws us closer to him in all manner of ways – God-designed ways to reach each of us. In each, the seed was planted and watered – and God made it grow! It’s not something just for bible heroes – it’s for every single one of us. God tells us over and over again – he can crack through whatever is keeping us from him.

My friend, Rhonda, went on to be an ESL teacher overseas, taking along with her the gospel to share with those who might never have heard it, planting seeds, and I’m sure, watering seeds others have planted.

Me? I graduated and taught college students to write for a number of years as I raise five sons. Editing? Well, God had other plans – and, most likely, you’ll discover if you read often, that I need an editor for those pesky typos. Marriage? It will be 34 years this year – and, no, I don’t think anything can really prepare anyone for a lifetime of marriage, though faith and love are what sustain and grow it. My pride? It crumbled and dissolved, replaced with grace and humbleness, faith and hope, forgiveness and unconditional love. That arms-wide-open kind of relationship with God? It’s a work in progress. Now, instead of hanging at the door, too shy to enter where He is, I know I can run into him and fling my arms around his neck.

dollyfinalI’m joining with Dolly for the next few weeks as she shares questions from her 7 Days of Soul Care as writing prompts. The questions are ideal as prompts for journaling because these are not surface questions. The questions invite you to pull out your life experience and study it through Soul Care eyes. Won’t you join Dolly at her blog, Soul Stops and share your response?

Questions From Day 1 (Know God, Know Yourself) of 7 Days of Soul Care for next week (or you can pick another question from the book):

Who or what influenced your perspective of God’s character? Could you ask God to reveal what experiences affected your view of him? Was it a person? Experience? Media? Book? How does that message about God compare to the God revealed by Jesus and the Bible (God’s revelation to us via different people across hundreds of years)?

http://www.richfaithrising.com/    Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/     Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://hollybarrett.org/     Testimony Tuesday
http://www.messymarriage.com/  Messy Marriage
http://www.w2wministries.org/     Word-Filled Wednesdays
http://holleygerth.com/     Coffee for Your Heart
http://3dlessons4life.com/ Thought-Provoking Thursday
http://crystaltwaddell.com//Fresh Market Friday
https://susanbmead.com// Dance with Jesus Friday
http://seespeakhearmama.com/ Give Me Grace
http://www.journeysingrace.com/ Grace Moments
http://www.christinemalkemes.com/ The Loft
http://mecoffeeandjesus.com/ Me, Coffee and Jesus
https://faithadventures.me/ #TeaAndWord Tuesday
#TeaAndWord#TestimonyTuesday#TellHisStory, #Glimpses,#LMMLinkup,

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cakecollage1 “So, whether you eat or drink,
or whatever you do,
do all to the glory of God”
~1 Corinthians 10:31

 I gave my youngest son a gift the other day after school – silence on the ride home. As the car climbed the mountain to home, I pointed out, “Just to make sure you understand – this silence is a gift. I don’t want you to accuse me later of not paying attention to you”

“I know, Mom,” he answered, with a smile that told me he valued this gift. He’s 16 and, right now, he and his 18 year old brother are sharing a car, hence the ride with mom.

This youngest one, he’s an introvert (an engineer-type like his dad) – until he’s not. When he’s not, roll the camera – it’s a sight to see.

One evening last week, as I was cleaning the kitchen, he slid onto one of the five stools at the kitchen counter. I hadn’t cooked dinner. I think I’d brought in t0-go because I’d been run down from the three-week crud going around.

He unleashed a lecture on me: ” Mom. . . Mom! You’re slipping. What happened to the breakfasts – the homemade pancakes, the granola bars made with the oatmeal with the picture of the man wearing a wig, the eggs and bacon sandwiches with ketchup? Breakfast used to be your BEST. You  only have a few more years before we’re gone. I think you  need to step it up. You’re slacking – you need to push through – Be Your Best with the time you have left with us at home.”

Teens like turning the table – giving your words right back at you wrapped in one liners and lectures. foodcollage

I stood  on the other side of the  counter, cleaning up after having let the kitchen go for a while under the weather. Really, to be honest – I probably hadn’t really been my best since right before this time last year when I’d been hospitalized with pneumonia – this time last year when this same boy  the day before I’d gone into the hospital had asked me for “Just  one Word, Mom” – because I’d stopped talking -Talking cost so much physically.  All the boys were a bit unnerved that I’d stopped. But when this boy asked for one word, I gave him that one word – he’d bartered a two minute snuggle for that one word – and, well, no matter how ill, I guess the mom in me values that more than anything in the world. But I digress.

I stood in the kitchen, drying soup bowls,rinsing milk out of glasses, smiling sheepishly – admiring my son’s eloquence, loving that he admitted enjoying one of my love languages (not the talking gift, but the cooking gift) – and dismayed that one of my sons labeled me a slacker.bakecollage3

Later, as I mulled over what  he’d said to me, I realized that since I was released from the hospital last year, I have baked through this year-long recovery – and it has been a year-long recovery. Two months after pneumonia, I had a complete hysterectomy (planned) – accompanied by plantar fasciitis. I went from walking three miles about three times a week to not being able to even walk to my mail box.  There were other challenges, too,  maybe just as you had your individual brand of challenges.

After you have prayed, what do you do? How do you walk through, push through, live the daily through your challenges?

We all have different ways of pushing through these challenges  There have been challenges I’ve knitted through, written through and just stood through. Last year, I baked through.dishcollage1.jpgA few weeks ago, I drove my sons to Death at Dawn (a two week running event in our community at 5:30 a.m.). I did my own version, walking around town, climbing the bleachers -to, finally, reach my three-mile goal. I’d pushed through to rebuild my strength.

This last year, I’ve felt like an introvert – and wondered where my extrovert went. No knitting. Not much writing. I gardened, grew zinnias and cooked soups, stews and bisques. I grilled cheese, burgers and brats. I baked and baked and baked cakes, cookies, brownies, cake pops – and cakes and cakes and more cakes. Of course, it helps  to have 5 sons with 5 birthdays plus grand girlies and beautiful daughter-in-laws to bake for. That’s at least 10 birthdays a year – but baking steadied me. It allowed me to love when the words didn’t come, the directions wouldn’t knit – and, well, the get-up-and-go just wanted to stay home.

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God met me in the baking – in my kitchen – over the flour, vanilla, sugar, chocolate, flavorings and fixin’s.  Measurement by measurement – faith step by faith step over big and little things that make up the daily – my father and I met there, shared the big and little things on my heart – and I just trusted it was o.k. to have this quiet that left me wordless. I didn’t chase ideas down rabbit holes, searching them out like I’ve done all my life. In the quiet, he assured me this was exactly how he wanted it for now. I didn’t need to know why. I just needed to live faith in it.

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A few years ago, this quiet would have unnerved me – but I have learned to trust that He’s got the plan- and this year, I’ve trusted him so very much about this quiet, wordlessness. Somehow, all this baking  (but, apparently, not cooking the good breakfasts) has been my way of trusting, my way of walking my faith in the daily, of pushing through by trusting that my faith in the hope of his care, all will be well.

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This has been a year of baking sandwiched between a son asking for, “Just  one word, Mom” and giving a lecture encouraging me to start doing my best again, at least with breakfast.

I realized as I was cleaning my kitchen one evening last week, that we all have different ways of pushing through challenges. I have baked my way through the last 365 Days, so much so that my boys are tired of cakes. The Year of Baking Through is done.

I don’t know about this next year. I don’t know if the words will come more frequently. Maybe my extrovert will re-assert itself. I do know one son graduates from high school in May. Another son and his sweet wife are having a baby boy in July. In between is the daily and all its challenges, the best breakfasts and God’s plans for it all!  I will taste and see that the Lord is good! I will take refuge in Him – and be blessed! (Psalm 34:8, paraphrased).

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“They Broke Bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts” ~Acts 2:46

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It’s January in Tennessee – the winds have one moment blown a smackerel of cold and snow and another moment rain and mildness. Mild warmth in January is over-bearing, so the heat is off, the windows cracked open to let in a little coolness. I woke to the Robins and Cardinals chirping backyard chats. These backyard residents always remind me of Jimmy Stewart’s Rear Window living.  This morning, these flighty neighbors called back and forth to each other as if . . . it were Spring.

Spring? In January! Even the Bradford Pear buds are emerging.

They do this every year! Every single year!

Instead of falling in with them (nature duped into thinking Spring is here; me anxious I’ve missed the snow), this morning I said to myself, “Spring weather in a Tennessee January? It’s just a stage.”

I didn’t say it out loud. After all, the birds and buds wouldn’t have listened to me. So I just left them to fall for it all over again..

Year in, Year out – you’d think they’d learn and not be fooled – Two weeks of Spring weather during January in Tennessee is just a stage. Misbehavior? Sass? Mischievousness? Unhealthy boundaries? Rebellion? Lack of Discipline? Weather behavior run amuck?

It’s all happened before. Springtime in a Tennessee January is as predictable a stage, as a 10-year-old with the blues, a 12 year old pushing buttons, a 16-to-19-year-old with no smiles for the camera, and a 21-year-old who figuratively come home.

“What has been is what will be,
and what has been done will be done again” (Ecc. 1: 9)

“I’ve never had a truly happy day in my life,” my first-born said when he was 10. I knew better – I had videos and photos testifying to happy days. However, I thought I’d failed, that somewhere I’d totally, irrevocably ruined his life despite trying to hard to be a good mom.

The second son was so dramatic, his blues much deeper and louder, that I didn’t recognize the pattern. However, when my third son, the joy-of-the-Lord son turned blue at 10 – I heaved a huge sigh of relief. “It’s just a stage,” I exhaled.

It’s liberating, to say, “It’s a stage” – for both of us. It means it’s o.k. to be blue. It’s o.k. for seasons to be uncomfortable. I wonder if sometimes our greatest fear is that we’re made all wrong, irrevocably broken, “unfixable.” It’s liberating for him to realize he’s a regular boy just as it’s good for me to realize I’m a regular mom. Each stage is designed with a beginning, a progression, an end and an ever-after.

Twelve is a dicey stage. It’s a button-pushing stage. One day, the 4th son came in, saying about the 5th one, the 12 year old, “I’m going to kill him. Really, Mom. If he doesn’t stop, I’m  going to haul off and hit him.” The button-pushing stage can be wearisome – not due to lack of excitement, but for the repetitious nature of cause-effect in the stage.

Three sons ago, I would have panicked. Don’t kind, loving moms who love, discipline and pray for their children have obedient, happy-go-lucky children who adore being together? All hugs and love! Right? A mischief of boys doesn’t work like that – training to be a knight in shining armor is filled with wrestling, challenges, showmanship – learning how to lead and follow. These stages have been humbling, sending me closer to the Father, looking to find that place of comfort under his wing the bible talks about.

“It’s a stage,” I told this son who was terribly tired of his brother in this stage – but he didn’t know it was a stage. “You did the same thing to your brothers. He’ll grow out of it.”

The pressure seemed to just fall off of him. “Well,” he said, turning away. “Then I deserved everything I got when I was his age.”

Interestingly, once the boys seems to understand the behavior was part of a stage, their vengeance tempered. The cause/effect of this button-pushing staged seemed more survivable.

Maybe by recognizing there are stages, we are better able to understand where we are isn’t permanent, that where this stage leads is to something God-better. Uncomfortable? In a hard challenge? In a hard winter before a reviving spring?

Just like a tide’s ebb and flow

Just like seed-time and harvest

Just like springtime weather in January

It’s not a surprise – to God. Maybe to us, but not to God. It’s not the precursor to a fail, to a world-gone-wrong season. Sometimes a stage is a new season, a new life-appropriate challenge we haven’t yet experienced yet – and, like all new things, live the beginning of it awkwardly, inconfused and frustration.

“There is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything about which is said,
‘Look! This is new!”?
It was already here long ago,
    in the ages long before us” (Ecc. 1:10)

I’m in a new-to-me stage. It’s like the first time I experienced the 10-year-old blues, the 12-year-old button pushing – and all those other stages I experienced as the mom in the relationship. It’s new territory, a new adventure – but now I’m tempted to be excited that God is adding a dimension to my story. Maybe it’s more of a rueful excitement that recognizes the awkwardness, moments of self-doubt, frustration, even the failure – all sorts of growing-pains, the kind that sharpens and softens the soul.

This time, this stage, I know that after every hard challenge, there is a period of refreshing. That because of Christ, after every crucifixion moment comes resurrection.

This Spring weather in Tennessee is just a stage. I’m in good company, with these red birds, cardinals and Bradford Pear buds, learning how to live these stages God designed.

“The wind blows to the south
and goes around to the north;
around and around goes the wind,
and on its circuits the wind returns”
(Ecc. 1: 6)

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Treating Boys as Knights in Training
When the Knight Pledges His Life to His Lord
Raising boys as Knights in Training
Six Mom-Stages of Raising Boys to Men

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Inside Muddy’s Purse

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It was a June evening when my second son married. Chaos had been hood-winked by a Thursday evening wedding. The couple was to leave on a cruise the following Saturday morning, so a Thursday evening wedding it was.

Because the bride’s family lived out-of-town, she invited me to help. I gladly let her take the reins. How I enjoyed being invited along for the ride! She took me with her to the baker, the caterer – and anything else in between. As a mother-of-sons-only, this invitation was a beautiful blessing – a God-sees-me blessing.

The wedding was small, about 40, a family-only wedding, on a farm retired to host celebrations. A young couple, the husband with his cello, the wife with her violin played, their music wafting through the ceremony and celebration of this sweet young couple. Family came from the east coast, the west coast and in between.

Maybe it was because of the un-traditional weekday timing. Maybe because it wasn’t designed to be a blow-out. Maybe that’s why chaos was kept at bay that delightful June evening – when Spring still ruled, just-right coolness fell over the party, and fireflies attended, and evening let twilight linger gracefully: gentle breezes, gentle music and family at its best reaching out to meet each other, reaching to begin friendships.

I’m learning to stop inviting chaos into the daily – whether it’s a big event daily or a regular daily with all its dishes, dirty socks and Sadie needing a walk.

The boys had all  outgrown the jackets, dress pants, shoes and starched shirts and had to be fitted for new ones. All of it had been organized down to the socks days before.  No tuxedos, but how handsome they all looked in suits, jackets, ties and shiny shoes. No last-minute chaotic scrambles.

Home had been mowed, mulched, trimmed and arranged by four of the boys with a team-work camaraderie that was a seen moment born out of a “faith-is-the-substance-of-things-hoped-for,-the-evidence-of-things-not-seen” belief. Brothers in a brotherhood work best when they know they’re needed by each other. Being needed is to be seen.

tablesI tempted chaos, though. The night before the wedding, I finished putting together bright-looking fabric banners for the Friday morning breakfast. The morning of the wedding, my mother used her special brand of magic to create white roses, pink roses and baby’s breath arrangements for dinner table-tops. My husband took the wedding poem I’d written, What are you Doing for the Rest of Your Life II  accompanied by the art work my son’s mother-in-law-to-be had created . He delivered 50 copies  by lunch time for each place setting. I was also prepping for the breakfast the day after the wedding: Blueberry French toast, Pigs in a Garden with country ham, biscuits, sausage gravy and chocolate gravy.

There was so much to think about, about 40 people to think about, and, not the least, were thoughts about my once little boy all grown up and marrying a sweet girl I’d prayed for since he was little.

There were so many people who needed to be seen – really seen, really met – because all who came loved part of this new whole – and love like that deserves to be seen and met.

I pulled the evening bag out of my top drawer, the one my mother had pulled  out of her top drawer for my very first formal dance – because, I guess, every girl needs a handbag to go with a beautiful dress. She always made sure  10 cents were tucked away in the inside pocket in case of emergencies. It was a twenties-looking confection with silver beads and threads around and about a silver-beaded flower embroidered on white silk, lined with satin.

I pulled it out of my top drawer, and paused, thinking of my three-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter who had a new baby sister. Weddings risk being stuffy affairs  for little ones. They have to not spoil their dress clothes, keep quiet at the right times when they don’t even know  what all the right times are yet, and this little one who gets all our attention when she comes to visit, risked not being seen. Since it was a small wedding and she was the first grandchild, she would be the only little one walking around – no playmates for the swing on the big oak tree. No playmates for impromptu tag when the grown-ups aren’t paying attention. Even in big events, like weddings, when all eyes are on the bride and groom – each person still needs to be seen to truly belong.

I carried the purse through the house, pulling a tiny, pink heart-shaped sucker from a vase I’d put sweets in for the next day. I wandered to my thinking room, where there’s a child’s table, a Mrs. Potts tea set and a mischief of tiny mice  waiting for Ava to come play. Since it was going to be a grande occasion, I tucked the Prince and Princess Mouse into my purse, snapping it shut!

What little girl doesn’t want to carry around a sparkly purse filled with a prince and princess mouse. I could just envision it, the snapping open, the snapping close, and the little mice in-between all that elegant snapping. All was ready!

Maybe it’s just me, maybe sometimes you feel it, too – the little bit of Hagar within each of us who so needs to be seen by someone who loves us. Hagar only had God. God didn’t tell her that her life journey would be easy – but the relief she felt is palpable, relief that God saw her,  the realization that she wasn’t alone. He was there, El Roi, the God who sees me – and sometimes the realization that He is the only one who sees us must be enough – for her – and you, and me.

“So she called Adonai who was speaking to her, “You are the God who sees me.” For she said, “Would I have gone here indeed looking for Him who looks after me?” (Genesis 16:13, Tree of Life Translation).

“Yes! He saw me; and then I saw him!” (Genesis 16:13, The Message)

Maybe that’s why it’s so important to reach beyond our inside circle, to reach outside our comfortable companions – and find the Hagars, the ones who don’t know God sees them, who feel invisible, who don’t have a comfortable inside place with someone who loves them. Sometimes we have to realize He sees us – because he stepped right in front of us – either literally, or through you or me, or in the Lord’s own mysterious way of making himself known when our words cannot.

When Ava saw me, she ran, hurtling her little self at me, wrapping her arms around my legs for a hug. I knelt down, and asked her if she’d take care of my purse for me during the ceremony and festivities, if she’d take care of what was inside.

Her face lit up and broke into a smile, her little fingers snapping open her Muddy’s purse, to find her two friends inside. She took care of it all evening, until it was time to leave for bedtime.

weddingbenboysChaos tried to find a way in to the wedding. The wrong cake was delivered. It was forgotten that Brooks and Junior, the two golden retrievers, were to walk down the aisle. A few little things here and there. But those things?  They weren’t seen then. We didn’t realize about the cake and the dogs until the next day – and the next day, well, we laughed about chaos’ attempt to be seen at the wedding.

It was a day of good things seen – a couple saying their vows to God under an oak tree with a swing, family members seen laughing, telling stories, weaving their stories into ours, smiles and joy were seen, love, too – and a little girl snapping open and pulling out a prince and princess mouse from inside her Muddy’s purse.

 “Therefore Yeshua answered them, “Amen, amen I tell you, the Son cannot do anything by Himself. He can do only what He sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows Him everything He does. He will show Him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed” (John 5:19-20, Tree of Life Translation).

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