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Posts Tagged ‘Chrstian’

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(The little foxes don’t stop tearing at us, do they! I wrote this in 2012 – and they haven’t stopped trying to ruin. It’s God’s Holy Spirit that makes the difference, why the vine of whom I am doesn’t break, doesn’t ruin. Challenges don’t go away, but faith, God and the Holy Spirit – they make the difference in how I live through those challenges. I wanted to remind myself today about letting the Holy Spirit wash over me and through me, cleaning me out and filling me up with things of Him.)

The little foxes had torn at the vines of my heart, nipping, trying to ruin the vines, to break the roots. Those little foxes, I am familiar with them. I recognize them for what they are, and though I know them, am prepared to deter them, they weary me. Yesterday evening found me battle fatigued, bruised, smudged by the dirty tactics, needing a Holy Spirit Rain to wash out these little foxes.

As I stepped outside into the Tennessee heat, the hotness touched me tangibly as though I had slipped on a fine kid merino shrug. My husband joined me to watch the sunset with its pinks, oranges hedged with billowing whiteness. Dark clouds encroached. Sunsets delight us both, drawing us close, this shared sensibility that restores much.

Lightening grew, grumbling bouncing in the North, sliding south. My jaded faith doubted it would dip our way. Usually, our rain was a southerly rain. We walked outside, talking about our crowded hydrangea, dwarfed rose bush, untangling the morning glory from the overgrown butterfly bush. Our garden had changed – and we needed to tackle those changes.

We stopped briefly, looking at the growth behind a burning bush. Surprised, my husband said, “Grape Vine.” His Dad grew grape vines – it was as though he somehow crept into our garden and planted it. But he couldn’t have, though. Another change, a sorrow change for us, during our journey, the loss of my father-in-law. Yet, there was a sweet reminder, wrapped around our bird feeder.

As the lightening bullied its way closer, we retreated inside – and inside, lightning cracked, silencing the katydids and tree frogs.  Lightening is bold where we live.

As bedtime arrived, so did the buckets of rain. “Come and smell it,” I called to the boys, the 2 little guys. The littlest showed up, giving me his 10-year-old incredulous-look followed by the “My-mom-is-nuts” look, but he stood with me sniffing the sweet scent of rain washing the dusty worn air of hotness. He decided to sleep on the floor of his room. “It would be safer,” he reasoned with 10-year-old logic.

I joined my husband on the porch, my pausing place, my favorite place to sit, to knit, to read, to grade essays when I taught, to listen, to watch, to be. . .  and the rain poured, in sheets, wave after wave of sheets.

I thought of an afternoon rain 23 years ago, during a heavy summer drought that stymied my cucumbers for my bread and butter pickles. That afternoon, it rained a downpour – and my first born, freshly 2, danced with me outside, in the rain, faces pressed upward, mouths wide open.

Today, in the darkness, my driveway shimmered like a pond, the water shifting in the breeze, in the pummeling sheets. And the lightening – it wasn’t just jagged bolts. It was like watching God draw in the sky with a thin pen over and over and over.

I thought of the Holy Spirit, the unsung member of the Trinity – and I wanted it to wash through my soul, like rainwater washed the dust, the heat from the air.

“And they waited for me as for the rain; and they opened their mouth wide as for the latter rain” (Job 29:23)

I wanted to be filled, filled like Peter with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, filled so much he never faltered again in his mission.

Sitting in my rocking chair, pushed toward the edge of porch, the rain misted over my legs and arms, cooling, chilling – and I laughed – relishing the moment, the blessing, the washing away.

The rain moved south, and I sighed, wanting more. Like an encore, the clouds backed up, pouring a double portion over our patch of living.

The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” (Isaiah 58:11)

I wanted the Holy Spirit to fill me like that, to fill me with crucifixion courage, overflowing with mountain-moving faith, drawing me closer to the Father, to hear His words to me, His comfort, His power to vanquish the little foxes.

“You care for the land and water it;
you enrich it abundantly”
(9a).

I am not alone, Father. You care for me, your creation, sending me living water, The Holy Spirit, to grow me more than I think I am, that I am not what the little foxes taunt; I am precious to you, valuable to you, like land that overflows abundantly.

The streams of God are filled with water
to provide the people with grain,
for so you have ordained it”
(9b).

You provide nourishment for my spirit, The Word and The Holy Spirit, enabling me to fight off spirit colds, weaknesses and tormenting situations that wear me out like the dusty, hotness of a relentless summer day. Empower my will to seek Your Holy Spirit Provision; let it not be the little foxes nipping and tearing at me that send me running to you. I want to be stronger than that, more faithful than that.

“You drench its furrows
and level its ridges;
you soften it with showers
and bless its crops” (Psalm 65: 9-10).

Holy Spirit, rain on me, filling the hidden places, the high and lows of my soul, softening the soil of my spirit, allowing the gifts my Father planted before I was born to grow, producing abundant fruit, and sharing the seed of that fruit with others – and if that fruit is not taken as given, let it not become a wily fox to my vine.

Let the rain come. Let it come softly or in a downpour – and let me be like an eager child who runs outside, mouth wide open, to receive the living water, a Holy Spirit Rain.

“O Holy Spirit, descend plentifully into my heart. Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling and scatter there Thy cheerful beams” (St. Augustine).

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I love rain storms. Rain storms are the pause button to my schedule. Maybe it’s baseball or football that keeps you busy – it’s soccer for me. When the rain comes, my schedule comes to a grinding halt.

“I’m bored. What can we do?” the boys always ask.

“Fill the emptiness,” I answer.

“With what?” they persist.

“With big and little thoughts,” I think. “Press in to the quietness. Let its peace be like a soothing balm rubbed into the cracked and worn feet of my soul, soothing my walk, giving me rest.”

“’This is the resting place, let the weary rest’”; and, “’This is the place of repose’”–but they would not listen” (Isaiah 28:12).

“It is important to learn how to handle nothing-ness,” I answer. I go into a great story about back in the day when I was their age, only 3 TV channels existed. On a rainy day we built card houses, watched NASCAR races, played cards or board games. . . read books. On sunny days, porch wall jump-offs, sidewalk roller skating, tree climbing, daisy chain construction, bee catching.

We never uttered the words, “I am bored.” If we gave them a mouth-full of whine, they gave us an afternoon full of chores. We wisely kept our complaints to ourselves.

“Solitude is painful when one is young, but delightful when one is more mature” (Albert Einstein).

Where do you go when nothing-ness comes? Where is your Pausing Place? Pausing Places – a place to sit and let nothingness wash through, like clear water in a rushing stream – clearing away the debris of my soul, clearing away for freshness and new growth.

My back porch, during a rain storm – that is one of my pausing places. Sometimes it is my kitchen when no one is home – and I can throw myself into the cooking and think about life without interruptions – while making something wonderful for my boys.

“Solitude is such a potential thing. We hear voices in solitude, we never hear in the hurry and turmoil of life; we receive counsels and comforts, we get under no condition”
(Amelia E. Barr).

Other times, it is wrapping myself in a blanket, curling up with a good book and my knitting. I would read a bit, knit a bit. That happened the other day. My son flung himself across the end of my bed – and just looked at me.

“There’s nothing to do,” he said, baleful eyes woefully wooing me to create “something” for him out of nothing.

“I’m having a great time,” I said. “I’m loving this. I’m sorry there is nothing you want to do – but there is plenty you can do. But – I am not going to let your frustration mar my nothing-to-do-time.

He sighed.

“One of the most important things you need to learn is how to find peace and joy in the nothingness of a day,” I gently coaxed.

He wallowed a bit more, making sure I knew he was frustrated. I wouldn’t be baited. I sent him on his way.

Filling each moment with him-centered activities does not prepare him to live a fully enriched life. If they do not learn to embrace the quiet times, in the stopping times later, they might fill those moments with harmful activities – just to fill the nothingness.

“In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15)

One of the most important skills in life is to learn how to embrace those pauses. My boys, well, they need to learn how to make something out of nothing. Their day is so chocked full of activities they become bewildered when they face, what they think, is the Great Monster Nothingness – which I have discovered to be a great friend.

Learning to turn nothing into blessing – what a great life-skill. Bring on those rainy days!

 

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feedsheepccc“Do you love me?” Jesus asked Peter – you and me, too.

“Yes”, Peter answered.

Jesus told Peter – and you and me – “Feed my lambs. . . . Shepherd my sheep. . . . Feed my Sheep” (John 21: 15-19)

Last year, my family chose to sponsor through Compassion International an 11 year old boy in Haiti. He is one of those lambs that need feeding, literally and spiritually. My support allows for others to spiritually mother and father this boy – and it allows those spiritual parenting hands to fill bowls and make soul-contact that I cannot because I am so far away.

Christians are a faith people commissioned to take the gospel to the world, to love our neighbors as ourselves, to feed God’s lambs. Yet, as we minister to the great needs of those around the world, it is equally important to not neglect the mission fields in our own communities, from backyards to school yards to church yards – all filled with children and young adults who cry out to be fed and shepherded. 

It is a daunting mission-field, filled with the churched and un-churched – wearing rebellion, disinterest, eschewing group-think and God-think, daring others to look beneath the tattoos and piercings, the black clothes and saggy pants – daring you to find the beauty beneath because they have trouble finding it themselves.

“There are teens with bigger problems,” someone once told me about a churched teen, setting on a rebellion path.

“It’s all in the parenting,” someone else said about an un-churched teen not interested in God the Father because maybe he’s never experience a Shaddai-kind of father.

“There are a lot of people around who can’t wait to tell you what you’ve done wrong, but there aren’t many fathers[mothers] willing to take the time and effort to help you grow up” (1 Cor 4:15).

I’m going to tell you straight up – I think it’s easy to send letters and financial support to a little boy in Haiti who needs. It’s not so easy to walk into the neighborhood mission field, where souls not only wear wrappings to discourage, daring you to come closer, but who fluently push back in your own language – who maybe through that pushing back allow you to feel as uncomfortable and graceless as they feel in this big old world.

When our children – yours and mine do this – we push right back, we reach right in, both physically and spiritually. But there are children – regardless of the age – who might not have a parent who is able, for various reasons, to fight that spiritual battle, to stand in the gap, to weather the ugly storm and fight for them.

“Do you love me?” Jesus asked. . . . “Feed my lambs”. . . “Shepherd my sheep”. . . “Feed my sheep.”

Not just my lambs . . . all the lambs: the lambs He puts in our path between our kitchen counter and the school desks our kids sit in or the sports field we walk on or the pew we sit in. It’s not just a one time feeding, a one time foray. It is a continual going back, our footsteps creating a path of familiarity.

“The real religion of the world comes from women much more than from men – from mothers most of all, who carry the key of our souls in their bosoms.” ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Spiritual mothers and fathers care enough to slog through spiritual poverty and hunger, through a minefield of emotions that our country’s children seem to battle, so many inside things that tear at them – these spiritual mothers and fathers slog through to carry soul keys to help youth and adults unlock who they are in Christ.

Are you a spiritual mother or father in your community? Are you willing to reach through uncomfortable barriers? To be challenged? To shepherd through real relationship?

Spiritual Parents do that – love children beyond their own, fight for them, push back, get uncomfortable, don’t give up in the ugliness of the challenge.

You don’t have to buy a plane ticket. You don’t have to take foster classes – though both are good. You just need to make your hearts available from your kitchen counter into the school rooms, the sports fields, the church pews and in-between. God will bring them – if you will love them.

“Do you love me?” Jesus asked. . . . “feed my lambs. . . shepherd my sheep. . . feed my sheep.”

 

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italy2cI’m in a quiet season right now—which is totally at odds with releasing my children’s books—but that’s where God has me. It’s the quiet before a big change – kind of like the quiet before my children were born. It’s been hard for me to visit my blogging friends this last year – and, in the quiet, that’s one of the things I want to do. I want to read your words and savor your God-messages! During this quiet – I’m re-posting one of my very favorite series I’ve written: Frayed Threads in a Holy Tapestry. Merry Christmas Blessings sweet friends!

Christmas is a celebration of the greatest gift since God gave man dominion over the earth: a savior born in a manger, God become man in his most helpless form.

He sat with the church people and those not welcomed in the churches – the sinners, the outcasts, the unvalued.

Mary’s son grew up to hang out with the sinners, pulled them to his table, touched them to heal them.

I wonder if it scared her. I wonder if she told him as a boy, “If you lay down with dogs, you get up with fleas.”

“Tell me thy company, and I’ll tell thee what thou art” – Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616)

Proverbs even tells us to choose carefully our companions:

“He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed” (Proverbs 13:20).

Yet, even Jesus closest circle of friends in ministry experienced moments of great failure.

Did anyone ever say, “Look who that Jesus is hanging out with?” and shake their head while another person answered, ‘What do you expect from a boy with his family history – the curse He probably carries – nothing good can come from a family tree that laden with sin.”

The thread of his family tree, though, frayed, probably damped with tears – those threads tell a story of not only missing it in big and little ways – but of God’s faithfulness and redemption, of not giving up on the sinner, of reaching in to their lives and hearts and pulling them out.

Frayed threads in a genealogy tapestry that messages each of us – no sin is too great for me to pull you out – just reach for me.

Red – the thread of sin

Eve’s thread started the story – beautiful reds, yellows, greens and blues. Perfect threads until frayed by sin, by loss of so much – paradise, children, innocence. But Shaddai, He loved her, probably had started the wheels of this salvation story long before she even sinned.

Yellow – the thread of compromised accountability, doubt and disbelief

Sarah, Abraham’s wife – stunningly beautiful, barren – in a marriage where she and her husband have trouble holding each other to accountability in decisions that affect their marriage.  Yet, God visits Abraham, sits outside his tent, eats food made from her husband’s hands, and under the stars, Shaddai makes such big promises that Sarah laughs incredulous, doubting. Yet God knows her heart, loves her enough to call her on it – and fulfills His promise as she struggles with faithfulness in His promises. He knows her heart – and I think that her heart must have continued reaching, despite not always making the best decisions.

Green -Hope in the asking, Hope in the journey of a prayer answered, not always perceiving God’s intent.

Rebecca’s twins were a direct result of Isaac’s hope and faithfulness in God’s answered prayer. Yet, answered prayers are sometimes much more complicated than we can imagine, without a how-to manual for handling.

” God says to  her ““Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples from within you will be separated;
one people will be stronger than the other,
and the older will serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23)

And, just like me, she thinks she needs to do something to make it happen, instead of letting God take care of it – and so she helped Jacob trick his brother and father.  Was that God’s intent? Or did it make things more unnecessarily complicated? One son left and she never saw him again – and the remaining son? How did he treat her betrayal?

She, like me, needed to realize that God has a much bigger tool bag than I do – with tools I never imagined, with journey plots more amazing than I can invent.

Orange – Unfavored, unwanted, un-valued  yet redeemed and given a genealogical place of honor through Praise and Relationship with the Father

Of Jacob’s two wives, only Leah actually cleaves to her husband and His God. She doesn’t sell her night with him to her sister for some mandrakes – yet she buys that night with him with mandrakes.

Unfavored, Leah who learns to walk in faith and praise of the one true God, the God who had compassion with her grandmother-in-law who laughed at His promises.   The names of her first 3 sons show a focus on pleasing, gaining her husband’s favor and love. Why is it that the harder we try sometimes to get someone to love us, the further away their affection moves?

The last son, though – we see that instead of pursuing Jacob, she pursued Yahweh. In the naming of the last son, Leah gives us a glimpse into an alive relationship with Yahweh: “She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” So she named him Judah.Then she stopped having children” (Genesis 29:35).

From the Lion of Judah would our Savior come – from a mother rejected, un-valued by a father but so valued by the creator of the world. He didn’t place her love for Him in second place:

“Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed” (Rev 5:5).

weavingccFrayed threads in a Holy tapestry –  imperfect marriages, imperfect parenting.  God loves these imperfect marriages, these imperfect parents – when they reach for Him in their imperfection, in their belief struggles, their lack of understanding struggles and their value struggles – when they reach for Him, it changes everything.

Jesus came to redeem the imperfect. He wants you and me to reach out to those that are missing it – who need to sit at your dinner table, who need hands reached out in prayer and welcome, who need Jesus but aren’t quite ready to embrace Him yet, who aren’t cleaned up yet – frayed threads woven together into a greater story, woven through grace into a greater Holy family history.

Please join me next Wednesdayfor a continuation of Frayed Threads in a Holy Tapestry: A Christmas Genealogy Part 3.

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A few weeks ago, on a Sunday morning, my son left for Army Reserves Basic Training. He will be gone 25 weeks, for both basics and additional training.

My aunt said I was going to cry when I dropped him off.

I didn’t.

I felt like I’d been driving with a caged, ornery grizzly bear. When he climbed out of my car, he walked to his sergeant’s car who was driving him a half a state away where he would catch a plane to take him to another state. Another officer called out, “You can still change your mind. If you don’t you’ll end up like me. . . You haven’t taken the last oath yet.”

He was in the officer’s car without a backward glance and gone. I felt empty.

Some ask, “Aren’t you scared?”

My response, “If this is the road my son is supposed to travel, I would be more concerned if he didn’t.”

After all, Jonah tried to run away from God’s plans ending up camping out in the belly of a whale. Running away from where you are called to go just creates discomfort physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Moms of soldiers don’t ask questions. The first thing they say, with conviction, “They are going to break him down. Then they’re going to re-build him up.”

At first, I think of my blue bicycle with its big, white basket that I had when I was a little girl. I rode it everywhere, to my aunt’s house up the street, to the pool – and then when I was older, to all my jobs.

My brother, 2 years older, took it into his head he wanted to be an engineer. To commemorate this recognition, he wanted to take my bicycle a part and put it back together. I was 10 at the time. I had total confidence in him.

My confidence cost me $14 of my own money to have someone else fix my bicycle. $14 in 1972 was big money. My brother grew up to be an engineer. He has more success with X-Ray machines than he does blue bicycles with big white baskets.

I trust that the military is better at this taking apart and putting back together than 12-year-old boys. I am confident they know all about breaking and re-building tanks, buildings . . . and men. Unlike my 12-year-old brother, they are experts at this.

For weeks, I have turned over this idea of my son being broken and rebuilt, studied it from all angles, breaking down and building up of my son, of this soldier-in-training.

“He will come home a different person, a better person,” my friend with a military son said.

And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make” (Jeremiah 18:4)

God loves these rebellious sons. He pursues them. Often, he favors them – Like Jacob, Samson, David and Saul.

Like Jacob, my son has been raised to know God, and like Jacob, he has wrestled against the nobleness of God.God found Jacob in the desert. He broke him – and then rebuilt him over the next 20 years. Jacob returned home, repented behaving ignobly to Esau and lived a contented life.

Like Samson, my son has been raised to seek God’s plan, to honor his parents. Though, the word says that God needed Samson to rebel for His plan to work, he turned away from his parents’ wise advice and trusted foolishly. Ultimately, Samson was broken and God rebuilt him into the hero and martyr he created him to be.

And Saul. . .  Saul who persecuted the followers of Christ. Saul who did not want to believe in Jesus Christ. God broke him and rebuilt him into Paul who told the gentiles, “You are God’s children, too.”

Even David was broken through the loss of a child, to be rebuilt, redeemed by God.

“I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered. Heart-shattered lives ready for love don’t for a moment escape God’s notice” (Psalm 51: 17) The Message

Nobody ever wants their children broken. Nobody ever wants to be broken. Yet, if in the breaking, wholeness is built – then by all means break and rebuild, break and rebuild me, too.

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10)

Sometimes, we become like the marred clay, marred by choices we made – marred by choices others made. Because of that, we need to be broken down and rebuilt.

As the Army breaks down my son, I pray that God is in the rebuilding.

“Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.” (Psalm 127:1)

Everyday for almost 3 weeks, I listen for the mail truck – and when I hear it, I walk out to collect the mail. The last time I was so eager for mail was about 29 years ago when I was dating my husband, separated by a summer and different towns.

The mail man would tease me about the letters I received. I miss mail men like that.

Today I pulled 2 letters from the mail box.

I read them, and I cried – all the way through each one. He used words like learning to be a leader, making it through the gas chamber, 2 minute showers, putting fear in the back of your mind, studying to save lives.

He said he loves this path. We’ve both put that fear away.

I have been praying this soldier’s prayer I adapted from Luke 7:1-10. It put into words what my heart couldn’t as I studied this breaking and rebuilding.

Prayer for My Soldier Son

I pray my son will become like the centurion who had such great faith in Jesus that Jesus marveled.

I want him to understand authority like the soldier, whose understanding enabled him to grasp the mighty power and authority of Jesus.

I want him to be humble like the soldier who said that he was not worthy of Jesus coming to his house – though Jesus was coming, thought him worthy of coming – this soldier who probably recognized the sin within him – it didn’t stop him from reaching out to God – I want my son to be like that soldier.

I want him to be a soldier, like this soldier, who loved the Jewish Nation, who helped build churches – because then my son will love both our country and Israel – and he will seek to build good things.

This son who I have called “Faithful” since he was littler than five, I want it said, “When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” ~ Adapted from Luke 7: 1-10

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