Wednesday, December 14, 2016

When Rest is Impossible

They told her to enjoy this time before the baby is born.

They said to ignore the hustle and bustle.  Simplify they said. They said to ignore invitations that come, to rest and keep the season calm so they can welcome their new beginning with rested arms.

Then it came.  A letter commanding them to travel to a different city for a census.

I can imagine how I would have reacted, though I'm sure Mary was much more calm and peaceful.

"How in the world am I supposed to travel on a donkey nine months pregnant?  Why do we both have to go?  What if I have the baby?  Who will help me?"

But travel they did, and the rest, as they say, is history.  He had a prophecy to fulfill, you see.

I think of this, or rather a lovely friend encourages me to think of this, when I feel like I am drowning in Christmas.

Parties, cards, cookies, gifts, wrapping, stress.  I try to cram a lot into the season and was beginning to wonder if I should cut back.  Simplify.  Rest during this time.

Then I remember Mary.

I remember that rest is a Person, not a place.  That sometimes an invitation comes that you mustn't ignore.  That sometimes Joy comes through a long journey on the back of a stubborn animal while your uterus is contracting.

Sometimes it's okay to just embrace Christmas for what it is.

It's a busy season and it's hard work.  We can refuse the work, but then when Christmas morning comes and it's time to celebrate Love come down, we may find we are not prepared.

I think maybe it's time we stop telling everyone to stop, relax, and remember "The reason for the season."

"The Reason for the season" decided to show up in the midst of exhaustion and frustration. Understanding the "reason for the season" means understanding that Christmastime is not necessarily a joy-filled season, long days before the fire, resting and anticipating the Lord.  Sometimes it's long days, full of hard work, thoughtful preparation for the ones we love, so that we can wake up on that fateful morning and proclaim His goodness.  So that we can say, "Do you see what this day means?  What it represents? Do you know His name?"

I like to think, when I'm addressing cards and wrapping gifts, maybe this is what it means to prepare for the coming of the Lord.

Mary brought forth the Savior of the world after hours of laborious travel.  Then she spent years raising our King, only to watch Him be executed like a mere man.

Maybe it's time we accept Christmas for what is is - a time of hard work, preparing for the arrival of a Redeemer.  Maybe our kids need to see a month of sacrifice and joy and mess and obligations and then watch us raise our eyes on Christmas Eve and proclaim, O Holy Night.

Weary and run ragged, we take heart - for He is coming.  And on that day, we will bow before Him, filled with hope and exhaustion, and proclaim the Wonder that held us captive for an entire season.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Day the Hummingbird Taught Me a Lesson About Parenting...

I know she thought I was trapping her as I grabbed her gingerly with my gloved hands.  She didn’t know the light she saw was paned with glass.  That she could not break through, no matter how hard she banged her weary head.  Fifteen times per second, they say, a hummingbird flaps her wings.  She thought I was her enemy. She thought I was there to stifle her. To keep her from living her life.  To keep her from all that she loves.  As I walked out into the garage door with her in my grasp, even I was afraid that maybe I had killed her.  Perhaps I was hanging on too tight.  Perhaps her wings could not withstand the pressure.  Just as I began to pry my fingers from her tiny body, she took off, a ray of light shooting into the sunshine.  She flew to the top of the nearest tree…to heights higher than I could ever reach…

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

What It Means to be Real

There is a movement.

It's been a gradual descent.  I understand where it comes from.  It makes sense we would get to this place, what with society's obsession with sensationalism.  

In recent church history, a philosophy arose that we needed to make Jesus more relatable.  And perhaps this was true.  The tall steeples and bells and pressed suits weren't really speaking to the average teenager or the wayward son.  So we set drums on our stages, took away the traditional pulpit, and began to speak to people in the same way Jesus spoke to the people.  We became real.  Relevant.  

In the midst of this innocent shift, something happened and we have all snapped.

"Real" has become its own religion.  "Real" has become its own pharisaical form of idol worship.  

It has become something to be heralded, to be revered.  It's as if using the f-word a few times in an article, topped off by a clear damn or two, makes someone real.  It's as if airing dirty laundry, literally, makes someone more relatable.  

It may be fun to read about, talk about, engage in.  But this kind of gospel brings no one to repentance.  

To admit our shortcomings is biblical.  To stay in that place, refusing to move or grow, is sin.

We have built communities of women where sharing is safe - and for that I am eternally grateful.  We NEED places where we can admit that, some days, we feel undervalued, unloved, and want to burn the laundry in a fire pit in the driveway.  I get it.  But what we desparately need, and what these communities are lacking, is for women to follow up their words of empathy with admonishment and even repentance.

The Bible says children are a blessing. The Bible also says not to complain about anything.  So when we complain about our children, and receive only, "Amen, sisters" and "Hell yeahs,"  what have we done but encouraged each other in sin?

We need to encourage each other with a refusal to remain stagnant.  With a call to change.  How can we be more grateful?  How can we learn to love, yes, even the laundry? How can we bless our kids this week?  Spend more time? Read more books?  How can we love our children unconditionally and how can we enjoy their presence?  If the Bible says they are a blessing, then they are.  We just have to treat them as such.

I feel like this isn't happening nearly enough.  I feel like we are throwing our hands in the air, giving up, asking for another glass of wine, and laughing at how we are all so real, we can't even.

And now I'm going to say something harsh.  Because no one seems to be saying it.  

In the time it takes to take a selfie with a messy room, messy hair, and type that long message about how we are keepin it real, that messy room could have been cleaned.  With half the energy spent justifying the disdain we have for our children and how much mothering sucks and is the hardest thing ever and oh my gosh do I have to keep reading this book over and over, we could have repented of our selfish, ungrateful, complaintive "real selves," and be experiencing growth and a new appreciation and love for our children.  And maybe even that book.

Perhaps we can all take a lesson from The Skin Horse about being real.  
He says to the Velveteen Rabbit, "It doesn't happen all at once.  You become.  It takes a long time.  That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.  Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out, and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.  But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

THIS.  Becoming real.  Being willing to be loved to pieces, and letting God work on our shortcomings is the true essence of becoming Real.  It isn't something we choose or something we can force.  It is something that happens to us after years of service and love and gratitude and stretching and growing and loving.  It's years of becoming like Jesus until one day we lay our head down at night and realize we feel truly alive.

Monday, August 31, 2015

When You Feel Hope Slipping

I read a quote about writing today wherein an established author was admonishing writers to write the story they know.

I've written a lot of things over the years for a variety of reasons and for different types of people.  Magazine articles, blog posts, guest blog posts, letters - oh so many letters - and emails to people in an effort to encourage and exhort them in their current situation.  

So today I thought, what story do I know?  What story could I write?

The truth is, I know only one story.  I've heard a lot.  I've considered many stories, read more, and scratched out outlines of a few.  But only one do I truly know.

I  know a story of broken people.  Of men leaving the wives of their youth and justifying it any way they see fit.  I see articles about hacked websites, each name representing a broken home, a broken family, a broken heart, a broken will, a broken life.  

I see broken women paying professionals to break the bones of their babies, professional liars exploiting these women broken and deceived for the purpose of money and fame.  

I see broken children picking up the pieces of what their broken fathers have left behind, their mothers weeping.

I weep with the broken as I consider their burdens and I find myself wondering what kind of victory this is.  What  kind of Christian lives are we leading, bruised and beaten and where is Joy?

This is the story I know.  The one I see played out over and over.  And over.  

Perpetual is the broken life and the existence therein is desolate and lonely.  Hope weeps and so do I.

It's easy to look around and doubt the Holy Spirit.  Doubt His power, or as our late pastor, doubt His very existence.  If He is powerful, how come He isn't keeping His children from sin?

But there's more to the story.

Christianity is entirely based upon a broken people in need of a Redeemer.   We cannot use the fact that people are broken to disprove or doubt a religion that is based on the very fact that people are broken.

God looked down and said, "You are broken."  Then He came down and they broke His bones and He said, "My body is broken for you."  Then He defeated hell, walked out of a tomb, and said, "Come to Me,"  and we look around at the brokenness and think, "Where are you, O Lord?"

And He looks at His hands, the skin broken on our behalf, and He says, "Don't you see?  It's why I came."

If we weren't broken, we wouldn't need a Redeemer.  If there were no Ashley Madison accounts, no adulterers, no fatherless children, no women being raped, no children being abused, no racism, no women afraid to go to their own homes, no women wishing they could...if we were whole, completely whole, then we wouldn't need Jesus.  Our Bible only rings true if we recognize the hellhole in which we live.  The broken world that spins so rapidly, I fear we are dizzy from the sin soaked ride.  The Bible makes sense only IF His people are broken.  

He knew the story far before we did.  He wrote the story, the broken world pining for holy and falling short.  I look around at the story unfolding in front of me and I feel broken.  I feel lost.  

I feel short on hope.  As if there is none left for the taking.

Then I remember Jesus.  And I remember every story has several chapters.  Every good story has a redemptive theme.  Our Father's story is no exception; it's the only one I really know.  And the only one I herald as Truth.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

While the Scones Were Baking

She thought about the scones that were baking, how they seemed so messy, messier than the first time she made them all those months ago.  The dyed batter, streaked with the heat of a Missouri summer, sizzled on the pan reminding her that her butter was not cut into Saturday's breakfast in the most thorough of ways.

She smiled, remembering the gathering, the parting of the leaves, the morning sun turning to a fire that poured sweat out of all those brave enough to bear its love for fruit of the same.  She remembered the first time she went blackberrying, or the first of the times wherein she went every year, and she had a stroller at her side.  Bumping through the rows, little hands underfoot helping, her own hands pointing and gently reminding them how the ripe ones looked.  That middle child with her laughter and chubby fingers, the oldest inspecting carefully the berries and running swift through the grass.  

I sat on a bench that first day and nursed the baby while the other two went swinging into the blinding light.  Every time they swing, I say it, louder some times than others, "How would you like to go up in a swing, up in the sky so blue...oh don't you think it the pleasantest thing ever a child can do?"

I think I probably chanted it to the baby, her little eyes closed, and never dreamed how fast her little hands would  unfurl.  Never did I think I would be the one to walk down the aisles alone while the children ran to their own rows, up to the blueberries, to the car for water, and back again.  Never did I imagine that these scones, streaked with love and traditions of years gone by, would be the fruit of years of dreaming.

The oven beeped and she saw that mess had faded into breakfast.  The berries stood hot against the dough, the mess of the morning now baked into something sweet and beautiful.

And she dreams again.  

Of another blackberrying day, of future scones, and of messes redeemed.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Where Do We Go From Here?

We read about it all the time.  

The stories are all the same.

A leader in the church leaves his family behind, his faith in shambles, his flock confused and wandering.  I've read the articles and the headlines and I always am sad and hurt and confused.  But from a distance. 

This weekend, the truth of a fallen soldier hit home.

Our pastor announced that he no longer believes in the God of the Bible and also that he was having an affair and leaving his wife for another woman who is also married.

The amount of emotion this left me with was inexplainable.  The weight, the tears, the anger, the sadness.  I ache for his family, for the other woman and her family, for him.  For our church.  For the explanation I had to offer my own children.  

My heart is grieved.  Our hearts are grieved, all of us who called our pastor friend and teacher.

The question that has been asked a lot is, "What now?"   

Good question.

What DO you do when you pastor fails?  When he walks away from everything to which he's spent years encouraging his sheep to cling?  When he abandons his family, his friends, and his God?

As my fallen pastor always said, it is to the Scriptures we cling and find our hope.  When Jesus wanted to explain to us the deep truths of the universe, he did it through story.

He told the story of the one lost sheep and how the Shepherd would leave the flock and go bring back the one who strayed.  He told the story of the prodigal son and how his Father held out hope and showered love upon his return. 

Then he walked on water.  He was carried into a tomb and walked out three days later.

He showed us that the laws of this world are His. 

So to these things we cling:

1.  We remain patient.  Our Good Shepherd will never leave His sheep astray.  If our pastor belongs to the Lord, He will bring Him home.  

2.  We love the victims in this tragedy disguised as decisions.  They are victims, but they are not casualties.  They are children of God, His righteous remnant, and they will be restored.  We love them.  We love them unconditionally and in whatever way we have been gifted to love.

3.  We do not doubt the truth we have been taught.  For years, our pastor taught the Bible.  He no longer believes the truth that fell from his lips, but truth it was and truth is remains.  We never doubt the ability of God to deliver a message.

4.  We spend time in the Word.  His Word is a lamp unto our feet, a light unto our path, the Flesh that dwelt among us, a sword in the hands of His people.  We never stop reading.  We never stop running after the heart of our God, the Good Shepherd, the One who will never leave or forsake us.  

5.  We pray.  We pray without ceasing for the lost, the broken, the weary, His church, His will, His people.

And in these things, in these truths, we stand firm.  With our heads held high, we pray without ceasing that the glory of God may be manifest even in this.  That His Word would be exalted, His will clear, His place on the throne evident to all Who call upon His name.   

And upon His name we call.  

"Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint."

-Isaiah 40:30-31

For His glory,

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Fridays Unfolded #151

It's Friday again.

The brightest and darkest one there ever was.

Today we celebrate the King, mourn His death, await His resurrection.

This...the's why I follow Him, this Humble King.

Many prophets lived.

And died.

Many Kings reigned.

And lay in their graves.

Many gods and men are worshipped.

Though they no longer live.

Only our God walked out of a tomb and left it empty.  Let this truth reign with us always.

May you be blessed this weekend as you celebrate this most joyous occasion...the one that separates our religion from countless others.  He lives!

How about some features?

Eliza showed us how to make some bunny art and I think the girls will enjoy trying it:

I, however, will enjoy trying this from Pattie:

And I think I might add something like this to the girls' Easter baskets this year.  Adorable!

Let's party again, shall we?

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