January 22, 2013

I want to be like Sam

Filed under: Life,The heartbeat of God,Walking the walk — admin @ 6:20 am

I have this dog. His name is Sam. He is a floppy-eared, tail-wagging, roaming and exploring, face-licking, life-loving, black lab. He is also a big, fat scaredy-dog. Every time there is a lick of thunder or any other loud noise he runs for the house, where he high-tails it into the laundry room for a fitting of his “thunder shirt.” He has broken through two cat doors and has literally learned how to operate the front door if it is unlocked. He stands on hind legs and presses down the lever and pushes the front door open letting himself in. If he hears a gun shot, since we live out in the country where people hunt often, he thinks he is a goner. He panics and heads for the house. If we are not home, he roams and roams until he finds a nice person who will take him in and assure him he is loved.

The other morning Sam and I were taking our morning walk, while hunters began occasionally shooting down the road. Each time a shot was fired, Sam would look back at me for reassurance. I could see him shaking in his fur. I would call for him to come see me, and I would lovingly assure him that those “bad old gunshots were not going to hurt Sam” and that “I’ll take care of you, boy” in my best puppy-loving voice. After a visit with me, he would run happily along, until the next shot was fired. Then he would again return to me for declaration of his safety and promise of care. This went on for most of the thirty-minute walk. This dog, whose instinct was to run and hide in the house, felt safe, as long as he was not too far from me. He knew where to go for confidence and for professions of safety and love. And once he had received that, he was okay to venture forth again, not straying too far from the voice of the one he trusts with his life.

I want to be like Sam, returning again and again to the source of my hope and assurance, my safety and foundation of love for my greatest fears. Like Sam, I am scared. Like Sam, I need lots of reminders of love and promises of a plan beyond what my senses tell me is true. Like Sam, I want to be emboldened to go where I feel exposed to danger by the presence of my Strong One.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strenghen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Is. 41:10

January 12, 2013

Greener Grass

Filed under: Funny,Life,Whatever — admin @ 8:52 am

I saw the funniest thing the other day on the way to the store! I always pass a large field with several horses grazing. This day one of the horses had his head and entire neck up to his chest sticking through the middle of the fence and munching away to his heart’s content the grass on the OTHER side of the fence! I guess he knew something I didn’t, or at least he thought he did, because the grass looked exactly the same to me on both sides of the fence. I wish I had stopped for a picture.

What a humorous picture of our human nature! We are always convinced the grass is greener somewhere else. We are always poking our heads out of our field and trying to get a munch of another blade of grass that could be a little bit better. Our God is so kind and patient with us in our humanness. He must have to laugh some days!

January 9, 2013

More on Love

Filed under: Kiddos and pertaining to them,Life,The heartbeat of God — admin @ 6:19 am

Due to some reading I have been doing and the conviction that our family needs to eat more healthy foods and less processed and fast foods, we are embarking on a journey to eat more natural, whole foods, gluten-free, and less sugar. But none of that is the subject of this post. I have been prepping my three children and working with them since before Christmas to have their cooperation in this endeavor. My two older children have been okay with the process, but my youngest has been a different story. Her name is Mollie, which means “jovial one,” and she is a bundle of joy and energy and laughter, with a capital “P” personality. And she loves, loves, loves her sugar! To her healthy food means a yummy apple and some cheese. After that she could survive on coke, ice cream, and candy by the bucket full. My older daughter still had candy from the year before when Halloween rolled around last year. Mollie, on the other hand, had all of hers eaten a week after Halloween!

All of that said, I wanted to tell a story that touched me to the core. The other night we went to my parents’ house, where there is always a huge jar of candy. My mom knew our plan to be on a healthier path, but she had not yet gotten rid of the candy. When we arrived, I told the kids, “no candy tonight.” Now you have to realize that this is “grandma’s house,” and for years when they have gone there, (almost on a daily basis because she lives next door) they have helped themselves freely to candy. And not just one kind of boring old candy – I’m talking snickers, butterfingers, laffy taffy, M & M’s, jelly beans, twizzlers, hershey’s, you name it!

So this sweet, flambouyant Mollie of mine, rather than put up a fuss or put her foot down or protest as she is prone to do, came running to me in a hug. She held out her little pinkie finger and said,”I pinkie promise I will try my hardest.” And then she hugged me profusely and declared her love for me.

It was not her conviction that she would be healthier if she avoided candy that made her want to try. It was not a change of taste or preference. Nor was it a threat or fear of strict punishment. No, it was love. Pure and simple. Love for her mother who wanted this for her, even though she wasn’t sure it was a good idea.

My point is simple. The most profound changes occur in our lives when we live in the love God has for us and respond to him out of that heart full of love. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:10.

January 6, 2013

The Law is Love

Filed under: counseling stories,Favorite quotes,Life,Walking the walk — admin @ 3:16 pm

I haven’t written on this blog in well over two years. Not sure why, but I just became focused on other things, such as building a house, obtaining horses, working as a child mental health counselor, and being a mom and wife. Sounds like I’ve been busy. But here recently I’ve been hankering to write again. It is a new season in my life. I am again at home full-time, and I am homeschooling our three children, who are 8, 10, and 12 years old. In some ways, I am busier, and in other ways I have more free time. There is at least more time not spent rushing here and there. So here goes nothing.

The other day I heard a Christian radio talk host, whom I enjoy listening to a lot and who my kids think is very funny and entertaining, talk with a caller. The caller was a young father who called in to talk about his New Year’s resolution/ desire for change. The young father was obviously broken over his own failures as a father, and he talked about how he had an abusive father and could not seem to give love to his children. His children constantly reminded him of his own father – it was like holding up a mirror to his hurt and brokenness. The caller was torn up about his own failures and talked honestly about calling out to God for the grace to change and give his kids the love he never had. He stated it was so much easier and more natural for him to correct them or to tell them what they had done wrong than to give them praise and affirmation. The radio host gave the caller encouragement to some extent, and then he hit him with the law.

Here is what I mean. He told this broken-hearted father that is was up to him, that God would not just put love in his heart but that he had to choose love. He told him that in the hard moments where he didn’t feel like being loving toward his children that he simply had to choose love anyway.

What is the problem with that? The problem is that he can’t do it. None of us can. We are told by God in his holy word that his entire law is summed up with two commands – to love God and love others. But all of us fall short. All the time. So, in giving this young father more advice that basically told him to try harder, he was setting him up for failure and despair. This man was seeking God to change his heart, and this Christian minister told him it was up to him, not to just wait for God to drop love into his heart.

So, am I advocating to tell the man to just give up, that it’s okay if he never loves his kids well? No way! Listen to how different this advice would have sounded: “Man, you are so right to ask God to give you grace to love your kids and to put love in your heart and to heal the past hurts you have been given by your own father. There will be times when you know the choice is before you to be loving or not to. As you try hard in the power God gives you, you will find times when you succeed and times when you fail. Those are the moments of truth, when you come again to your need for a Savior and ask him again to cover you with his own loving righteousness. He will always be there, and he will put love in your heart. He will gradually change you into a loving father, one who gets angry less and less often, one who gives praise and affirmation more and more. And it will bring glory to the Father above, because you couldn’t have done it on your own.

This man needs reminding, as I do, and as all of us do, that the gospel is a gospel of faith, not one of trying harder. It is a gospel that says, yes seek to be a loving parent, but remember you will fail often. At those times, don’t lose hope or give up or dig in and try harder. Simply return to me and MY love again and again. And again.

Ambrose from church history sometime around 340-397 AD said it this way:

“Now one who loves undoubtedly believes, and by believing each one begins to love.”

August 12, 2009

Some good truth for tonight

Filed under: Favorite quotes — admin @ 8:46 pm

Many years ago, a friend shared the following quote with me.  I cannot say how many times it has brought me courage and comfort. 

I have failed.  I am failing.  I will fail.

Jesus never fails.

Today has been a hard day.  For five days I’ve been couped up inside my house with three young children, each one taking turns getting flu-like symptoms and becoming whiney and needy and grumpy.  I am out of patience.  Completely out.  Also, I found out last week that my brother, who was being evaluated for placement on a heart transplant list, has colon cancer.  My heart has been aching almost constantly, along with the daily grinding demands of life.   If there had been a surplus of patience and compassion for the needs in my household, (which there was not) the well has run dry by now.   Let me tell you, I am failing a lot.  I am failing to be kind and patient.  I am failing to be the mom I wish I could be.  The wife who is loving and supportive. 

And this truth reminds me that, well, of course I am.  That it is no big surprise.  The surprise is in the goodness and love of the Father who made me and knows my weakness and who will never leave me or fail me.  Never.  Even when I am plagued by guilt and wishes that I could do better.  Even when I feel weary and numb.  Even when I want to give up or give in or give out.  He never will fail me.  Never.  And that gives me pause for a deep breath and a sigh of comfort.  I had a bad day.  A really bad one.  My kids will tell you.  But Jesus never fails.  He never fails to love me.  Never fails to forgive me.  Never fails to keep loving me and giving me his righteousness in place of my filthiness.  Now that’s some good news!

July 18, 2009

Be an Organ Donor

Filed under: Cool Things,Whatever — admin @ 9:03 pm

Last night I watched the profound film, Seven Pounds, starring Will Smith.  When I heard about the movie last year, I honestly did not want to see it, fearing it would be too sad or gruesome for my melancholy self.  Finally watching it, I found it to be extremely meaningful and redemptive, even though sad.  It was not one of those movies that leaves you feeling depressed and hopeless about life, even though the content is intensely serious and fraught with tragedy.  If you have no idea what movie I’m talking about, check out the synopsis.

Without giving too much away, the film is about a young man plagued by guilt and sorrow because of the death of his wife and six other strangers in a car crash at his hands.  He decides to commit suicide so that he can save the lives of others he deems more worthy of living.  The movie appears to some to be condoning suicide.  I do not feel this is the case.  If anything, the movie is a tribute to living and the value of life.  The main character, played by Will Smith, is a wealthy success, and his life is turned upside down by tragedy.  He wrongly assumes he is not worthy of living and decides he will take his life and give his organs to others.  He then births an elaborate plan to research and find out the character of possible recipients before his planned time of death. 

The tricky part is that during the process of finding worthy recipients, he finds reason and desire to live himself.  In the end he still sacrifices his life for a greather love.  He begins his quest as someone who doesn’t deserve or want to live, and he ends as a real hero, dying for another to live.  In a way he points to the redemptive story.  Let me explain.

My brother, in real life and real time, needs a heart transplant.  Twelve years ago he suffered from a complex immune reaction , which caused his own body to attack his heart tissue, leaving it badly damaged.  He has had many life-threatening conditions since that time, and he has faced each one of them with courage and a positive outlook.  He truly is a hero to me because he never complains, even though his life has been significantly limited by his health condition.  This damaged heart of his has undergone open heart surgery to repair damaged valves, and now years later, it has almost gone as far as it can go.

This puts me in a unique position as I hope for a heart for my brother.  I want him to have a new heart.  I yearn for him to have a new leash on life.  I dread the process and fear the possibilities at times, yet I cannot deny that I hope he will have a successful heart transplant.  For this to happen means that someone, someone whom I will never meet, someone who is alive now with people who love them, someone with a life and a family and hopes and dreams, will have to die.  Someone will have to die for my brother to live.  What a sobering reality.  I do not want another someone to die, but I want my brother to live.

It was in this context that I watched Seven Pounds last night.  And it is with deep gratitude that I will thank God for a new heart if and when my brother receives it.  If I ever get the chance I will thank the family of the person who is an organ donor, so that my brother will live. 

By the way, I have become an organ donor through this experience of watching my brother’s heart issues.  I figure, if I die by some tragedy, why shouldn’t someone be able to live through the gift of my organs.  It is important to let your loved ones know if you want to be an organ donor.  If you would like to find out more about how to become a donor, read about it at OrganDonor.gov.  And if you want to watch a movie that will make you think about life and what it is all about, watch Seven Pounds.  I’ve written about my thoughts on suicide here, so please do not take this movie as an encouragement to take your own life.

 

July 14, 2009

Adventures in Metamorphing

Filed under: Cool Things,Kiddos and pertaining to them — admin @ 4:18 pm

I’ve always loved tadpoles, ever since I was a little girl and would see them in streams and ponds.  I especially loved to watch them in my Aunt Eunice’s goldfish pool.  This year I decided to try watching some of them metamorph into frogs.  This was after two failed attempts a couple of years ago.  We ordered a couple of tadpoles from a biological supply company.  We also caught a few others in a huge puddle in the woods this spring when we had so much rain.  I watched and cared for them best I could, while all but one died.  I figured it was almost time to count this as another failed attempt and watched daily, expecting to find the little guy dead.

After about three months, the strongest one still survived.  One happy morning I looked in on him and noticed tiny, almost see-through hindlegs.  They grew quickly over the next week, and almost overnight front legs emerged.  He still had a long tail, and I figured it would take awhile for it to shrink.  But it shrunk to a stubby little thing overnight and was gone completely in three days.  What a wonder of nature to watch a frog emerge from a polywog!  And our little treefrog (no larger than half an inch) is the cutest thing you’ve ever seen!  Check out what it looks like here, best I can tell.  Funny thing is, it started thriving and transforming when I stopped feeding it the “tadpole” food from the company and began giving it goldfish food! 

July 13, 2009

Catechism Blues

Filed under: The heartbeat of God,Walking the walk — admin @ 9:07 pm

I loved, loved, loved being part of a “reformed” church and learning the catechism.  For me this was new, though I did grow up being “catechized” but not with the rich Westminister Catechism.  Even now, though I might enjoy reading through the questions and answers, I only really remember and think about the first few, and these are the children’s version, which suits me fine.

Who made you?

God made me.

What else did God make?

God made all things.

Why did God make you and all things?

God made me and all things for his glory.

How can you glorify God?

By loving him and doing what he commands.

Okay, I’ll be honest.  This is where it gets fuzzy for me.  I glorify God by loving him and doing what he commands.  This is obviously a Biblical truth.  It is also an underlying truth Biblically that I cannot  “love him and do what he commands.”  No matter how hard I try, no matter what resolutions I make or how many sermons I hear or worship songs I sing to try to pump me up, I simply cannot do it.  This is the part of the gospel we most often miss, and it is a huge loss to try to live the Christian life without it.

I can’t be good.  And the really wacky thing is that the more I think I am good and the more I try to make myself good, the less I really am glorifying God.  Huh?  Say what?  It is NOT my goodness that glorifies God. Let me say that again.  It is not my goodness that glorifies God.  It aint. 

Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick.”  It is the sick among us, the “not good” ones, who know we need a doctor.  And it is this need that is critical in glorifying God.

How do I glorify God?  By getting my wings broken one too many times and realizing I can’t fly without him.  By falling flat on my face until I stop trying life on my on terms, even if those terms were a very religious life.  By being bruised so much by a life that hurts so that I finally listen and believe when he says he loves me, just because.  These things glorify God.

How can I make such a shocking claim?  How can my failures, my lack, my need glorify God?  It really is a strange idea to our preconditioned ears and minds.  But what does it mean to “glorify” anyway?  It means to make big or to honor or to make shine.  Well, how exactly does our trying to be good glorify God’s goodness?  It can be (and often is) argued that we are supposed to try to reflect the goodness of God by our actions.  As a skilledcounselor (ahem) would ask, “How’s that working for you?”  I would argue that when we do this, we often delude ourselves into believing we are good in and of ourselves and we get the glory for it.  Not much lifting up or making big of God in that, is there?  I would also argue that this kind of living isn’t often very attractive to others, because it seems unattainable. 

On the other hand, when I fail, when I am weak, when I can’t love, can’t see, can’t understand, can’t even believe, in other words, when I need God, he is glorified.  He becomes bigger in my life, not bigger than he already is.  That is impossible.  But he is bigger in my life.  He can be seen a little brighter in my darkness.  I have been so freed up by this truth that I just want to shout it from the mountain tops!

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.  1 Cor. 1:27-29

We glorify God most when we need him.  When we have nothing to boast of before him.  That way he looks good, not me.  He is strong, not me.  He is wise, not me.  He alone is God.

 Listen to this beautiful song by David Ruis entitled “Sweet Mercies.”  It says it all.

July 12, 2009

Red

Filed under: Book Reviews — admin @ 5:36 am

I just finished the second book in Ted Dekker’s Circle trilogy.  The first book was Black, which I wrote about here.  The above image comes from the Books-a-Million website where you can purchase the book and read a review.  It tells the redemptive story of the Bible in a fresh, captivating way, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  If you’re looking for something different to read, and I mean really different, and if you enjoy fantasy, you just might like this trilogy. 

I’d Rather Have Jesus

Filed under: My story — admin @ 5:21 am

How weird is this?!  I woke up this morning and opened my phone to see it randomly on the screen with the song “I’d Rather Have Jesus.”  I pushed “play” and listened to this song while remembering a special time in my life and a unique story.  Back in college I used to sing this song for Sunday schools and other groups.  I sang it with an interpreter to an entire church in Tokyo, Japan on a missions trip.  After the song, a sweet little Japanese lady came up to me and told me she had trusted Christ during the song.  Apparently, friends had been telling her about Christianity and Jesus for a long time, and the song is what God used to finally capture her heart.  Anyway, I have no idea why this was on the screen on my phone this morning, but I listened and it reminded me of this special event in my life.  More importantly, it reminded me what a treasure Jesus is.  I really would rather have Jesus than anything, but it isn’t because I’m so good, but because he is.