5/15/15

Roadrunner



                I’m sitting in my room reading, and I just heard a strange noise outside.  I’m home alone, so I knew it wasn’t one of the kids.  It sounded like a dog whimpering and crying.  I put down my book and searched the tree line.  Perched at the very top of a tall oak tree sat a roadrunner.  If you have been around roadrunners much, you know this is not normal.  I’ve never seen one more than a foot or two off the ground.  I thought my eyes were mistaken.  Maybe a woodpecker?  Similar coloring, but no, this was a roadrunner.  In a treetop.  Then, he tucked his head down, rocked his body back and forth, and bellowed out a mournful sound.  The sound I had heard.  A roadrunner mating cry I presumed, for what else would make a ground dwelling creature climb to perilous heights?  A quick google search confirmed my suspicions.
My dad has a coworker that lives in another country who once said “always I am thinking.”  Though the English may be broken, this is such a true statement for me.  Seeing something as simple as a roadrunner crying out for a mate sparks about ten trains of thought all traveling in divergent directions.  And I have to follow each track, and ponder, and wonder, until at last they all hit a junction and something comes.  Some truth.  Sometimes it takes days, or weeks, but something always comes.  (So if you’re ever around me and I seem totally distracted, this is probably why.  Something is percolating.)  Here are my random thoughts for today.
A couple of springs ago, I sat still and silent on my back porch for a few minutes while my kids napped.  Twitterpated birds danced through the air, dragonflies hummed by, and wasps worked above me building a nest.  The warm breeze blew straight through me, into me, and I felt something, “Love creates life.”  I have always loved the new life of spring, and the symbolism there, but had never thought of it in quite that way.  Simple, yet profound.  Love creates life.  Again my mind wandered… as it often does.  Have you ever noticed that when God planted the garden of Eden, “He caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the eye and good for food.”  This world he created is not just for utilitarian purposes.  He created some things just because they are “pleasing to the eye.”  What love!  A short time later, after Adam and Eve so blatantly disregarded the one thing God asked of them, breaking the fellowship they had, and so much more… “the Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.”  Life giving.  Yes, there were consequences, but HE CLOTHED THEM!  He could have said, “The only reason you need clothes is because you didn’t listen to me.  You disobeyed.  Figure it out.  You’re on your own.”  He could have at least stopped at “Ok, I guess now you’ll need some clothes.  Go kill this sort of animal, and skin it in this way, and you can make some clothes for yourselves.”  This one act so challenges the way I discipline my children!  Love creates life.  In Ephesians 4, Paul writes, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.  It’s hard enough to choose words that give grace when I am frustrated with or disappointed in my children, but to put away all anger, bitterness, wrath, malice?  Like God did.  He had every right to hold onto His anger.  It was justified.  But He clothed them. 
Next random thought… I couldn’t decide at first whether the roadrunner (remember him?) was searching for a mate or mourning the loss of one.  Everything from his bowed-down posture to his rocking to his minor-keyed song suggested loss, grief, pain.  And so we come to train track number next.  Love is a mournful song.  We all long to be known and loved, and that’s vulnerability, and sometimes it hurts.  We love our children, but to love them well is to let go.  Over and over again.  To let go of the urge to step in at the toddler’s first cry when they are frustrated over a toy, to let go of the kindergarteners hand on that first day of school, to let go of your own feelings and truly hear theirs when a friend is unkind, to let go of the urge to protect from disappointment, to let go of the desire to hold fast and instead let them climb, and ride, and soar, to let go of fear and hand over the keys to the car, to let go of all control and send them out into the world, to let go of plans and listen when they call for advice, to hold back said advice when they call for support, and the list could go on…  A poem I love called “Learning the Bicycle” concludes with, “I stop and know that to teach her I had to follow, and when she learned I had to let her go.”  Letting go hurts.  Love is a mournful song. 
We love our spouses, but if we are not careful, that love can lead us to make more of their role than it was meant to be.  Instead of making the Lord our rock and salvation, our strength and song, we can turn to our spouse to meet our need for comfort, stability, reassurance, affirmation, etc.  There is beauty in the marriage relationship.  I’m not feeling well at all today, and I have searched the house for my man several times today just because I needed a hug, or a kiss on the forehead.  I can feel myself being recharged, just like I could from his hand in mine on our first date, and that is beautiful.  But there is a difference in receiving that kind of support and comfort and trying to make your spouse your sole, or even primary Need Meeter and Life Sustainer.  For that you must return to the one who gave you life and breath. 
Let’s go there, though.  Is loving the Lord a mournful song?  A resounding yes!  To love Him means to surrender our rights, our plans, our very lives.  To follow Him is to take up a cross, and to die to self, and dying hurts.  To trust Him is to give up our right to understand.  The first half of Lamentations 3, one of my favorite chapters in the entire bible, abounds with words like “affliction, darkness, wasting away, broken, bitterness, hardship, heavy chain, crooked paths, desolate, rejected.”  But then this happens: “Remember my affliction and my wandering… Surely my soul remembers and is bowed down within me. This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I have hope in Him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the Lord.”  Or this from Habakkuk, “Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.”  I’ll take some mourning to get me some of this.  This joy in suffering.  This hope in waiting.  This strength in weakness.  He promises over and over that we will never be alone, but He never promises that we won’t feel alone.  Love is a mournful song, but His love, and His love ALONE can take our sorrowful chorus and turn it into dancing.  Sorrow to joy.  Beauty from ashes.  Heart of stone to heart of flesh.  Lamentations 3 again, “Let us examine and probe our ways, and let us return to the Lord.” 
Sorry so fragmented… all from a roadrunner.


10/19/14

Be Subject To


My church is studying Titus, and while reading it this morning, the words “be subject to” stood out to me.  Wives are to “be subject to” their husbands.  Servants are to “be subject to” their masters.  Citizens are to “be subject to” their rulers/authorities.  
 
The word “subject” makes me think back to English class and diagramming sentences.  Sentences have a subject (the who/what) and a verb (the action).  Now, I’m not sure if the Greek word for the subject of a sentence is the same as the word used in “be subject to” (Greek people, find this out for me!), but in my mind, something clicked. 

If I am to “be subject to” my husband, it’s like I am the subject in his sentence, but he’s the one picking the verb.  Like this:
My sentence might read something like “Julie went to bed at 9:00 because she was tired.”  My husband’s sentence would read, “Then, one of the best parts of my day happened—the part where my wife hung out with me, just me, and kicked my butt in Wii Golf.”  

So I’m the subject, but the verb is totally different, and it’s not of my own choosing.  Instead of “Julie slept,” it’s “Julie played a game with her husband.”

You could do this with all of the “be subject to” statements in scripture.

We are to “be subject to” our government.  My sentence would read, “Julie got to bring home her whole paycheck.”  The government’s sentence would read, “Julie gave a considerable portion of her paycheck to the government.”  They choose the verb.  I do the action (pay!)

On earth, Christ was subject to God the Father.  In John 6:38, Jesus says, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”  Based on the agonizing words of Jesus in the garden (Matthew 26), His sentence might read “Jesus prayed to His Father, and at the eleventh hour, God came up with a different plan of salvation in which Jesus didn’t have to die.”  But God’s sentence read, “Jesus died on the cross.”  Because Jesus was subject to God, God chose the verb, and Jesus performed it.

Last one (there are more, but I will stop here)... I am to “be subject to” God (Hebrews 12:9).  He is the author.  He picks the verbs in my story.  Colossians 3 says that I have died, and that my real life is hidden with Christ in God.  In Galatians 2, Paul writes, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.  When I decided to follow Jesus, that was the last page of my story.  I put down my pen, and my story became His story.  Some tiny part of the story He has been telling since the beginning.   

On my own, I wouldn’t be able to carry out the part He has written for me.  He knows that.  That’s why He sent His son to die for me, and that’s why He gives me His Holy Spirit.  

This year, I have been praying over my selfishness.  I have prayed that God would teach me and lead me to becoming more like Him—more humble, more servant hearted, and more focused on the needs of others.  He has answered that prayer in so many ways, convicting me by giving me verses, conversations with friends, articles online, etc.  It’s sweet to me that this ties in so neatly with that, too.  

I love this hymn.  I pray that someday, I will be able to sing the last verse…

None of Self and All of Thee
  1. Oh, the bitter pain and sorrow
    That a time could ever be,
    When I proudly said to Jesus,
    “All of self, and none of Thee.”
    All of self, and none of Thee,
    All of self, and none of Thee,
    When I proudly said to Jesus,
    “All of self, and none of Thee.”

  1. Yet He found me; I beheld Him
    Bleeding on th’ accursed tree,
    And my wistful heart said faintly,
    “Some of self, and some of Thee.”
    Some of self, and some of Thee,
    Some of self, and some of Thee,
    And my wistful heart said faintly,
    “Some of self, and some of Thee.”

  1. Day by day His tender mercy,
    Healing, helping, full and free,
    Brought me lower while I whispered,
    “Less of self, and more of Thee.”
    Less of self, and more of Thee,
    Less of self, and more or Thee,
    Brought me lower while I whispered,
    “Less of self, and more of Thee.”

  1. Higher than the highest heaven,
    Deeper than the deepest sea,
    Lord, Thy love at last has conquered:
    None of self, and all of Thee.”
    None of self, and all of Thee,
    None of self, and all of Thee,
    Lord, Thy love at last has conquered:
    None of self, and all of Thee.”

9/16/14

To Trust Him More


               With small children, so much energy is spent mastering the obedience of simple commands like “come here” or “stop!”  Requiring an immediate response may seem over the top until you’re in a situation when it matters--when your child is running into an elderly lady in the grocery store, or worse, running out into a busy street.  My four year old has regressed in this area lately.  Yesterday, we were riding bikes.  An older girl was walking home from school and having trouble getting around him on the sidewalk.  He saw her, and was (very unsuccessfully) attempting to get out of her way.  I called out for him to stop, and he didn’t, so I called out louder to no avail.  Wondering if he could hear me (na├»ve, I know), I screamed at the top of my lungs, and when that didn’t work, the bike ride was over and we headed home.  He told me he saw the girl and was just trying to get out of her way.  I told him that no matter WHAT he sees, he HAS to obey when he hears my voice.  Always. 


                Washing dishes a little while later, I thought, “I wish he trusted me enough to follow my voice without question.  I wish he knew the strength of my love for him.  I wish he realized that I have been around longer than he has, and that even when it doesn’t seem like it, whatever I’m asking him to do is the best thing.”  I didn’t follow that train of thought for long… conviction.  


                I know what’s best for my son in this moment, but there’s someOne who knows far more than I ever will, someOne who knows the number of his days—the number of hairs on his head!  My love for him is strong, but there’s someOne who loves him beyond all measure, beyond my comprehension, enough to die for him.  I’ve got my son beat on life-experience, but there’s someOne who has been around since before the beginning.  Do I trust Him?


                Do I follow His voice every time without question?  Do I trust His words and His truth more than what my eyes can see (and more than what my heart can feel)?  Do I know the strength of His love for me?  Do I believe that He is good?  Do I believe that He sees the future, even my future, and has a plan?  Do I believe that He is making ALL things new, if not here, then in the unimaginably glorious future that awaits all those who call on His name?  Is His glory worth it?  Do I trust Him? 
   

                Not as much as I would like to!  So me and my boy, we’re in this together—this journey of learning to trust, to rest in His love, to let go.  There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.



‘Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus
’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
And to take Him at His Word;
Just to rest upon His promise,
And to know, “Thus says the Lord!”



Refrain

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust Him more!

O how sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to trust His cleansing blood;
And in simple faith to plunge me
’Neath the healing, cleansing flood!



Refrain

Yes, ’tis sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just from sin and self to cease;
Just from Jesus simply taking
Life and rest, and joy and peace.



Refrain

I’m so glad I learned to trust Thee,
Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;
And I know that Thou art with me,
Wilt be with me to the end.


Refrain



      These words were written by Louisa Stead in 1882 after she and her young daughter witnessed the drowning of her husband.  What a God we serve—a  God of hope.  O for grace to trust Him more… 

5/26/14

Fear Part 1



“The Lord is my light and my salvation;
    whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
    of whom shall I be afraid?”
-Psalm 27:1

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,[c]
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me”
-Psalm 23:4

                To live in the absence of fear?!?  When I am raising children in a culture obsessed with perfection?  My newsfeed and email inbox are inundated with things like “The Top Ten Books to Stimulate Your Child’s Sense of Adventure”, “Eight Things You Should Never Say to Your Children”, “The Best and Worst Foods For Your Family”, “Is Your Three Year Old Ready to Read?”, “The Rise of the Helicopter Mom, and The Fall of Her Children:  Quit giving your child so much attention—in fact, don’t watch them at all or you will ruin their chances at developing any creativity or self-confidence.”, “Why You Need to Watch Your Child More Closely—or else they will surely die from this common disease/toxic chemical you’ve somehow probably never heard of—don’t ever take your eyes off of them!”, “Most Common Sleep Problems SOLVED!”, “Click Here to Compare Your Child’s Progress with Other Children Her Age”, “Why Activities are The Best Thing for Your Child”, “Is Your Child Over-Stimulated?”, “How You Can Tell if Your 18-Month Old is Gifted!”, and the list goes on and on and on and on and ON!  It’s so easy to become convinced that I’m letting my children down, or maybe even failing them completely.  (And I could just as easily have written this paragraph about spiritual perfectionism—if I read all of the articles I receive, I can become pretty convinced that I’m letting Him down, or maybe even failing Him.  So false!)

                To live in the absence of fear?!?  When I know too many who have lost too much?  I have watched, helpless and heartbroken, as cancer, disease, and accidents of all kinds rip young families apart.  I have wept with friends at the loss of a child.  I have experienced the loss of innocence, and shared stories and shared burdens with many who are on the path from hopeless and broken to heart-of-flesh and made-new.  I have seen what mental illness can do to a person—to a family—to a child.  I have heard countless stories of the death, destruction, disease and depravity that are seemingly ever-present in this fragile world in which we live.  All of this can make me feel like I’m walking through the valley of the shadow of death each and every day, and it doesn’t take me long to start living from fear.  How could I not? 

Yesterday, I read the verse in Psalm 23, quoted above, and I thought, “How?  How could anyone with a pulse not feel fear?”  Then I remembered my childhood.  I remembered walking through rattlesnake country, well before sunrise, with blackness surrounding me.  I remembered hearing noises that, had I been alone, would have given me a heart attack.  Yet I felt completely calm.  I didn’t feel the chill of the winter morning.  I felt the warmth of my Daddy’s hand holding mine.  I didn’t care what that noise was.  I knew he was stronger than whatever was in those woods.  I felt safer there, anywhere, with him than I did alone in the safety and comfort of my room, because I knew two things: he loved me so much he would have laid down his very life to keep me safe, and he was infinitely strong.  His love and his strength were enough to calm my child-fears.  Just his presence.

I know now that my dad’s courage has its limits (though not many--spider bites and bee infestations are his only known fears), and I know that no father loves his children as perfectly as he loved me in my child-mind.  But Someone else I know has infinite power and loves me with an everlasting love.  He already laid down His life for me, and He’s just as real and just as present as my dad was in those dark woods all those years ago.  I can’t see Him like I can see the trouble that surrounds, and I forget so quickly, but He’s here.  And He’s got this.  I don’t want this to sound so tied-up-with-a-nice-pretty-bow.  It will be HARD—often too difficult for words.  He told me it would, but I’m never alone.  His love and His strength are enough.  Just His presence.