Saturday, August 29, 2015

Where do you love?

Last week I got a text from a new friend asking me, "Where do you love?"  I knew it was an auto-correct error, but it made me think...  Where do I love? 
Is my home a place where I cook and clean and sleep or is it a place where I love?  Is it a place where I love the ones closest to me and reach out to those far away,  or is it a place where I retreat to myself. Do I spend more time on Facebook than I do loving? Am I more concerned about the weeds in the yard or about the love in the room?  If the beds are made and the dishwasher is unloaded, but I have not love, I have gained nothing.  If my kids' rooms are clean and I serve gourmet meals, but I have not love, no one will look forward to coming home.
Lord, I don't just want my house to be the place where I live.  I want it to be the place where I love.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Feelings are not facts...

If I don't feel like being a mom, it doesn't change the fact that I have three kids who need my attention.
If I don't feel like being married, it doesn't change the fact that I made a covenant with my husband 21 years ago.
When I was pregnant with my son, I felt like I was having a girl, but that didn't change the fact that he was a boy.
When a girl with anorexia feels fat, it doesn't change the fact that she is so malnourished that her hair is falling out and her period has stopped.  We don't encourage the anorexic to continue feeling fat. Instead we do what we can to help her see herself the way she really is.
This week I heard about trans-abled people who feel the need to be disabled.  Just because you feel like you should be paralyzed doesn't change the fact that you are able bodied. I would not encourage someone who felt like they should be an amputee to cut off their own arm.  I would encourage them to see and accept themselves they way they are.
Suicidal people feel like dying.  We don't encourage them to act on their feelings.  We do everything we can to change their feelings.
 So why is it when a man feels like a woman the world says those feelings are right.  The world says those feelings trump the fact that every single cell in his body has an X and a Y chromosome--which cannot be changed by any amount of surgery.  The world says his feeling are more important than the fact that he has a wife and kids who also have feelings. I do not understand this.
Feelings are not facts.  Feelings can and do change. The world tells us to follow our hearts.  But the Bible tells us,  The heart is deceitful above all things. (Jeremiah 17:9)
We must do what is right... whether we feel like it or not.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Fasting and failing

Today I am fasting.  

Oh, it's not like I'm going without food for 40 days or anything, I'm just skipping ONE MEAL for goodness sake.

Today I am failing.

Today I yelled at Will when the bus was here and he couldn't find the note he needed for school.. the note I had written just a few minutes before.

Today Richard told me I didn't need to yell... and so I yelled at him too.

Today I can't comfort myself with food.  I must deal with my sin on an empty stomach.

So I asked for forgiveness from Will.  I asked for forgiveness from Richard. And I asked for forgiveness from God--the only one who sees the yucky stuff that I am able to hide from others most of the time, but not today.

Then since I couldn't eat, I vacuumed the couch. (I cannot explain this.) What I found was the yucky stuff that had slipped between the cracks.  No matter how many times I have tidied the living room the past few weeks, I have missed the stale popcorn and fuzzy jelly beans under the cushions.  It's much easier to straighten the pillows than to deal with the stuff underneath, but that stuff never goes away on it's own.  It has to be uncovered and swept away. 

Fasting does that too.  It reveals the yucky stuff that I manage to hide most days. It's easy to hide my irritability and self-centeredness... until I'm hungry apparently. But when what is hidden inside comes out and yells at my family, it's time to deal with it.  It's time to admit it's there.  It's time to call it what it is. It's time to realize that as clean as I get the outside of the cup, the inside is what needs a good washing.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. "(Matt. 23:25-26)

Good news! Along with the yucky stuff in the couch, I also found Audra's Ipod that she has been searching for. 

Fasting doesn't just reveal what you are trying to hide, it also reveals what you are searching for. It helps you find your satisfaction in God rather than food. It helps you focus on what is important. It's a reminder that man does not live on bread alone. It's a way to show myself that I want God more than I want a bowl of cereal. 

You satisfy me more than the richest of foods. I will praise you with songs of joy. (Psalm 63:5)

Friday, February 20, 2015

For my wilderness friends

I was reading this morning about the Israelites after they left Egypt.  In Exodus 16 it says they "came to the wilderness of Sin."  Apparently this particular wilderness is located somewhere between Elim and Sinai and it just happens to have the ironic name of Sin.  Your wilderness may be located inside an empty house, a hospital room, a cemetery, a school, or a doctor's office.  It may be caused by sin (yours or someone else's) or it may just be an unwelcome part of your journey.

When the Israelites got to the wilderness of Sin they were hungry and they grumbled because they remembered how it used to be.  When I'm in the wilderness, I grumble too.  I want things the way they were before.  I'm needy. I'm sad. I'm angry. I'm empty.  And I want God to show up!  Look at God's response to their grumbling, "I am about to rain bread from heaven for you." What?  They just wanted to go back to Egypt.  They didn't know there was another way to survive the wilderness. But in the morning they looked outside and saw something covering the ground and asked, 'What is it?' Moses told them, 'It's the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.'  It was like nothing they had ever seen before and a new supply fell every morning. There was enough for everyone and it kept coming as long as they were in the wilderness.

Manna sounds a lot like grace--new every morning, sufficient for the day and enough for everyone. When I was in the wilderness of cancer, people would say that there was no way they could do what I was doing. They were right. Unless you are in the wilderness, you don't have the manna you need.  Unless you have breast cancer, you don't have the grace God gives to sustain you in that sick bed. Unless your husband has moved out, you don't have the grace that is sufficient for you in that empty house. Unless your child has died, you don't have the grace you need to survive a trip to the cemetery. But when you are in the wilderness--of loneliness, of pain, of depression--that is when God provides the grace to sustain you. You might have to look for it and it may not look like anything you've ever experienced before.  You may not think it's enough. You may be like the Israelites who wondered how they could survive without all the food they wanted.  But God says, 'My grace is sufficient for you.'(2 Cor. 12:9) As you journey through your wilderness, God's grace may not look like what you thought you wanted, but it is all you need.

If you are wandering in the wilderness, keep moving.  In chapter 17 it says that the people moved from the wilderness by stages. Those Israelites moved from place to place to place before they finally got to where they were going.  If you are in the wilderness, press on.  Don't give up. Moses named one of those intermediary places Massah (which means tested) because it was there that the people tested the Lord by saying, 'Is the Lord among us or not?' Excuse me? Did they forget about the manna?  Did they not see God with them every morning when they looked outside their tent?

When you are camped in a place that seems far from where you want to be and you are wondering if God is there, look for the manna. Look for the mercies that are new every morning. Look for the bread. God's response to our need is still bread from heaven. Jesus said, 'I am the living bread that came down from heaven.' (John 6:51)  This is my body which was broken for you... take,eat. (1 Cor. 11:24)

Friday, January 30, 2015

Discontent can kill you

Genesis 30 is an interesting story full of competition, jealousy, and sex.  If you have read the story of Jacob, you know that he married two sisters.  (This was not a good idea then and it's not a good idea now.)  As it was bound to happen, Jacob loved one sister more than the other. (The fact that he was tricked into marrying one might have something to do with his feelings.) The Bible says God took pity on the one who was unloved and gave her sons--lots of sons.  
Now the LORD saw that Leah was unloved, and He opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. (Gen. 29:31)  
Of course this drove Rachel crazy with jealousy so she "gave" her husband her handmaiden to sleep with. (Apparently surrogacy is not a modern concept.)  After the maid gave Jacob two more sons, Rachel said, “I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won." There are many wonderful reasons to have children, but competing with your sister is not one of them.  Although the babies were technically Rachel's, there was still a stigma attached to not being able to bear her own children and she longed for a son. When she finally gets pregnant after her husband has 6 sons from Leah, 2 from Rachel's maid Bilhah, and 2 from Leah's maid Zilpah (but who's counting), Rachel exclaims, "God has taken away my disgrace."  
Her long wait is over.  She has a son! Her heart's desire has been granted.  The thing that she most wanted in life is hers.  She should be happy right?  The child she prayed for is in her arms.  She should be content right?  
I know this because she named the baby Joseph which means "may he add" and then she said, "May the Lord add to me another son."  The birth of Joseph doesn't satisfy her, it only makes her want more.  Shame on Rachel for not being content.  
Shame on me.  
How many times do I desire more than I have?  How many times have I been dissatisfied with the life God has given me and wanted more?  How many times do I get one thing only to want something else?  
Rachel eventually got what she asked for, but it killed her.  She died giving birth to her second son Benjamin.  I'm not saying that she shouldn't have had Benjamin. I'm just saying that she should have enjoyed Joseph.

Another example of someone who let what he didn't have steal the joy of what he did have is Haman. If you read the book of Esther, you'll know that Haman is a bad guy.  For some reason the King elevated him above all the nobles, gave him a seat of honor and commanded all the officials to bow to him.  Haman was probably very smart and very rich (or perhaps just very manipulative.)  He was also very prideful.  There was one man who refused to bow down to him and that drove him crazy.  It made him so angry that he didn't want to kill just the one man (who was a Jew), but he wanted to kill the entire Jewish race.  He got the King to endorse his extermination plan, not knowing that the Queen was Jewish.  
Haman had everything he could ever want.  But when he saw Mordecai at the king’s gate and observed that he neither rose nor showed fear in his presence, he was filled with rage... Calling together his friends,  Haman boasted to them about his vast wealth, his many sons, and all the ways the king had honored him and how he had elevated him above the other nobles and officials... "But all this gives me no satisfaction as long as I see that Jew Mordecai sitting at the king’s gate.
Haman bragged about what he had, but said NONE OF IT MATTERED as long as Mordecai refused to honor him.  Shame on Haman for being discontent.
Shame on me.
Yet all this gives me no satisfaction as long as I...
I struggle against this when I fail to be content with what I have and instead focus on what I don't have. If I think I can't be happy without Anna, then I can never be happy.  How would you fill in the blank? What is it that you don't have that is keeping you from enjoying what you do have?  What are you so focused on getting that you fail to see what is in front of you? Can you enjoy what you have even if you never get... that promotion, that boyfriend, that car, that house, that job, that dress, that part in the play, that award, that recognition, that vacation, that WHATEVER.
Haman's discontent led to his downfall and his death when he was hung on the gallows he built for Mordecai. 
Discontent probably won't kill you like Rachel and Haman, but you will be miserable. It is possible to live a long discontent life... but why?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Seven years

I’m thankful to have had the life changing experience of being Anna’s mom.
I’m thankful that after 7 years, I wake up with joy.
I’m thankful for a marriage that survived the storm.
I’m thankful for deep friendships grown in the rich soil of suffering.
I’m thankful for the chance to comfort others with the comfort I’ve received.
I’m thankful for a God who can make beauty from ashes.
I’m thankful for the people who remember and those who can never forget because their lives were also changed.
I’m thankful for the knowledge that life on this earth is temporary.
I’m thankful for a future and a hope that does not depend on my circumstances.
I'm thankful that Anna is safely home.

Monday, September 8, 2014

By these things

This summer I read Isaiah chapter 38 which chronicles King Hezekiah's response to God healing him and giving him 15 more years to live,
But what can I say?  He has spoken to me, and he himself has done this.  I will walk humbly all my years because of the anguish of my soul. Lord, by these things men live; and my spirit finds life in them too... Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish.            (vv.15-17)
I have read those words before and I confess that I have struggled to make sense of them.  Does it really mean that suffering is for my benefit?  How do our spirits find life in suffering?   Can anguish be good for me?
I have seen spirits languish from a life of prosperity and ease.  I have noticed that when things are good, we still find things to complain about... the neighbor's car parked in front of our house; my friend not calling me back; the price of gasoline; the weather.  When times are good, we take life for granted.  When  there is no suffering, we can get petty and picky.
But when we are humbled by suffering, we start being thankful for small mercies... hot tea with honey; a sunrise; a day at home and not in the hospital; being able to breathe.  When we are humbled by suffering, we become kinder and more generous.  When we are humbled by suffering, we are forced to let go of our pride and self-sufficiency.  When we are humbled by suffering we become better people than we were before.
I  know I am a better person because of Anna and the grief that I suffered.  My brother-in-law is a better person because of the physical injuries he suffered.  Joni E. Tada is who she is today, and able to help millions of people,  not in spite of, but because of what she suffered.
Unless we choose bitterness and despair, we can become better because of our suffering. And even though we wish that bad things never happened, we can be thankful for the good that results from them. That does not mean that I will ever desire suffering.  It's hard; it hurts; and it's humbling.  I don't seek it, but when it comes (and because we live, it will come) I can lean into it and learn from it and be transformed by it.

On July 23 we left Virginia for our vacation at Beaver Lake.  We were looking forward to a week of boating and fishing with my sister and her husband.  There was another family there doing the same thing and on July 25, on a huge lake with 500 miles of coast line, our lives intersected.  We were taking turns with the wakeboard and we had just paused to switch skiers when we heard screams.  A young man had been thrown off a jet ski and run over by a boat just a few yards away from us.  Because our boat was faster than theirs and because my brother-in-law knew the lake, we told the man's family that we would take him to the marina (18 miles away) and they could call 911 and have the ambulance meet us there.  We pulled the man (and his mother) onto our boat, wrapped him in our towels and tried to stop the bleeding.  It seemed like it took forever to get to the marina. Although the young man was talking and struggling to get comfortable during the ride, by the time the EMTs got there they had to start CPR.  We didn't know if he would make it.  But he did!  He is still in the hospital, but he is out of a coma and he will be transferred to rehab soon.

I read Isaiah 38 on July 23 and on July 25 I wrote in my journal, "I trust that E's accident will also be for his good." That's a lot of trust.  That's a big order.  But I have a big God.  I don't know the rest of E's story... yet, but I expect that this will change his life forever and that someday he will be able to see good come from his suffering and his spirit will find life in this too.