Luminescent Color

Luminescent Color

Did you know that without clouds there are no colorful sunrises or sunsets?

Pristine blue skies are placid. The sun rises and sets. All is clear and bright.

But the clouds provide depth and texture and brilliant color. 

The darkness of night slowly gives way to shapes, outlines, and familiar daylight. It is good to be alive in clear skies. Life hums along. I hold my breath, subconsciously bracing for the snag.

And the clouds come. I absorb the struggle. I catch my breath in its pain.

The sun rises faithfully. This time my sky holds clouds. They hold the luminescent color of sunrise.

I catch my breath in its beauty. And, yes, there is an ache there too. The ache of inevitable struggle. 

And the ache of hope in God. The pink and orange radiance reflects a fraction of His ineffable beauty. But one day I will see Him face to face. With a supernatural ability to experience His presence. Not yet. I ache for the day. 

He is present in the clouds. He cannot but light the way. He holds the struggles. 

The warm hope of His promise. I am with you always.

I am thankful for the clouds. They hold the struggles and the light and the color. Unleashed, radiant beauty. 

Thank You, Lord of the Clouds. Praise You, Lord of liquid light, glowing color. I am strengthened by Your presence. I am in awe of Your beauty. You are in the clouds, and I am humbled to journey with You. 

Abortion and Election: A Christian Mom Thinks Out Loud

Abortion and Election:  A Christian Mom Thinks Out Loud

I loathe abortion. Abortion is darkness and death. God is light and life. What does light have in common with the darkness?

I don’t hate people who have had an abortion or want an abortion.

I loathe injustice. A constant theme of the Bible is justice. 

King Solomon prayed for himself: 

“Give the king your justice, O God,
And your righteousness to the royal son!
…May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, 
give deliverance to the children of the needy,
and crush the oppressor!”

Psalm 72:1,4

I am truly thankful to live in a country where I can vote for the candidate I feel will lead us best.

But, why do I feel like a hostage to the abortion issue? It’s a no-brainer to choose the candidate that says he is pro-life. Right? But is it possible for a pro-life candidate to stand for death in almost every other way? At what point do I say, no, I can’t vote for you?

For example, what if Hitler were a candidate? (Sorry, I’m definitely not comparing anyone to Hitler. Honestly, I’m just trying to clarify my thoughts.)  And he said that he is pro-life? But, I was aware that all his other policies seemed to promote injustice? Do I vote for him? Or where do I draw the line? If I say no, not Hitler-extreme, how far back away from Hitler-extreme? One-quarter back? Half back?

Is it possible for abortion to be outlawed under a Democratic president? Is it possible for abortions to increase under a Republican president?

I know it sounds like I have made my decision. I honestly haven’t. I am just thinking out loud. I’m the type of person that can’t think quietly inside my head. I need to wrestle with hard things out loud- by speaking or writing. 

And I believe there is value in wrestling with hard things. It is good for me to remember that not every decision is simple and obvious. After all the turmoil, I may land right back where I started. But if I do, I hope I will land there with more wisdom, understanding, and compassion than I had when I started.

I cannot predict the course of leadership under either choice of president. I can only take the knowledge I have now and pray. God is sovereign. I think, I pray, I vote. 

Lord, have mercy.

Strong Women

Strong Women

I am a strong woman.

 

I heard recently that with my particular body type, the hormones and chemicals that are my make-up, I am like a Warrior Princess. Like an Amazonian woman. I am Wonder Woman!

 

That struck me as true.

 

Physically, I can do hard stuff. I can run far. I can lift heavy things. I can fast for a long time. I can push myself to get things done.

 

My personality is robust!

 

I love meeting new people. I am happy to go places alone. I am fine with talking to people that have different views. I am resilient.

 

So, reading that I am a Warrior Princess set off a cascade of emotion and thought. It felt like a relief! I realize that I default to holding back. To keeping myself at bay. To holding myself in check as much as I can. 

 

It’s not bad to keep myself in check, but it may also be good to embrace the strength itself. Rather than regret my strength of character, how can I make it available to the stuff God calls me to do?

 

All these bubbling thoughts have unexpectedly crept into my daily living. 

 

I notice that I am a bit more impatient. A bit more prone to boldly speaking my mind. 

 

Even if God created me to be Wonder Woman, something seems amiss with the way I exude my “strength.” In fact, it doesn’t seem strong at all. It seems weak.

 

“Be completely humble and gentle….” Ephesians 4:2

 

There is the true strength I need!!

 

The strength of God Himself to do what flies against my very nature! Human nature, actually. 

 

Even though I’m Wonder Woman in a way, I am simply a woman. All my good strength comes directly from Him. Therefore, “in humility value others above yourselves.” Philippians 2:3 

 

Jesus is ultimate Strength! He is God! He is also ultimate Humility. He left the rightful vestiges of power and put on human flesh to suffer torture and death. 

 

And gentleness!! 

According to the Baker’s Bible Dictionary biblical gentleness means: “Sensitivity of disposition and kindness of behavior, founded on strength and prompted by love.”

 

The gentleness of Jesus!! He is the Lion and the Lamb! He has ultimate strength, but also unmatched restraint and kindness. 

 

An example of the gentle power of Jesus: “Don’t you realize that I could ask my Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and he would send them instantly? But if I did, how would the Scriptures be fulfilled that describe what must happen now?” Matthew 26:53-54

 

May I be strong like Jesus!! Completely humble and gentle.

 

So, as I navigate the nuances of my daily life, I embrace my inner Amazonian princess!! I am glad to remember that I can do hard things. I can be strong. 

 

But, when my strength becomes weak, impatient, and insensitive, I grab that tiny scrap of Scripture: “Be completely humble and gentle.”

 

I remember Jesus- the amazing power of God to restrain His limitless strength by being so gentle with people like me.

 

Lord, make me like You.

 

Yes, I am a strong woman. By the power of Christ in me, I am strong enough to be completely humble and gentle.

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The Freedom of Humility

The Freedom of Humility

I’d rather not go to church. 

 

It’s easier to be Christ-like when I don’t have to deal with people. 

 

It’s hard to be patient and pious when faced with a brother who can’t contain his strong opinions…  especially when they are opinions I disagree with. 

 

It’s also hard to engage too deeply with a sister who is a lot like me when it comes to self-righteousness. Not that I always recognize myself in her. But the resonance of that sin is particularly galling to me. 

 

And yet, that is why we need each other. 

 

Spiritual formation cannot occur in a vacuum. If I can’t develop the character of Christ when face-to-face with the repugnant sin of my brother, then I can’t develop the character of Christ at all. 

 

The Broadway musical Hamilton gives glimpses of the halting start of our infant country. After the victory of the Revolutionary War, the Founding Fathers were faced with the daunting task of creating a government in which all people would have freedom and mutual respect. Freedom to grant mutual respect. Halting. Screeching starts and squealing stops. But. They. Never. Gave. Up. 

 

Case in point… the disagreement between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton about defending the Constitution:

 

Burr: And if it fails?

Hamilton: Burr, that’s why we need it.

Burr: The Constitution’s a mess.

Hamilton: So it needs amendments.

Burr: It’s full of contradictions.

Hamilton: So is independence.

 

Independence!! Freedom in the Body of Christ!! Full of contradictions!!

 

Paul said, “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful.” 1 Corinthians 6:12

 

The Law of Love (God is Love) governs the global Church. And we must learn the language of Love in the local church. 

 

We must connect with a sister or brother in Christ with whom we have virtually nothing in common. We must look to Jesus, 

 

“Who, being in very nature God,

    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

rather, he made himself nothing

    by taking the very nature of a servant,

    being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,

    he humbled himself

    by becoming obedient to death—

        even death on a cross!”

Philippians 2:6-8

 

As we gaze on Jesus, unimaginable humility and love, He inspires us and empowers us to be humble with our fellow sinners.

 

“Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,  not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philippians 2:3-4

 

We gaze on Him, beloved Jesus, and ask for His own humility to love others in the Body of Christ when it may be hard to like them sometimes. 

 

There is a paradoxical freedom in humility. I let go of my need to control how things “should” be. Exhilarating release of power to love my brothers and sisters just as they are, where they are. 

 

And, I get to walk with Christ more intimately. Step by step, I call on Him for the wisdom and love that I don’t have. I need Him moment by moment- in real life, not just in a song. And He teaches me His way.

 

There is no way to grow into the likeness of Jesus without interacting with the real life tumult of the Body of Christ. 

 

“‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

 2 Corinthians 12:9

 

It is honestly easier not to go to church. But it would be a slippery slope of regression in my journey with Jesus. May I be brave enough to engage with real people in the Body of Christ. And, by the power of the Holy Spirit, may I build spiritual muscle to love like Jesus. 

 

Seven Perks of Being a Mom

Seven Perks of Being a Mom

     1. A healthy dose of humility.

Humility, as C.S. Lewis said, is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. The moment my little guy was born, I decidedly took a back seat to myself. There is something freeing about not worrying about yourself. Whether or not I have enough flattering outfits recedes in importance. Healthy food for my child seems far more essential. My child experiencing unkindness becomes far more heart-breaking than my own feelings of hurt. I definitely enter murky water, though, when I realize that part of my child’s successes become my successes also. But overall, it is wonderful to have an indisputable instinct to put someone ahead of myself.

     2. Slow down.

Especially at first. Bringing home a new baby resets the lifestyle of someone with no kids. You simply must stay home more. Little one needs a regular sleep schedule. There are more duties to keep you home, like feeding and bathing and tummy time. Actually, for someone used to a fast paced working lifestyle where home is just a place to regroup before the next activity, the drastic pace change can be jarring. But, you change in good ways as you slow down. You notice little things like that particular rabbit that visits your front yard every morning. You spend more time washing dishes, that mundane chore that can develop the rare qualities of patience and servanthood. You find yourself singing, thinking, praying more. Your soul becomes richer.

     3. Young at heart.

I doubt that I would be so determined to fly a kite on a windy day if I didn’t have kids. But it seems essential that they fly kites as often as possible before they fly from the nest into adulthood. And because I make that rule that we must fly kites, I get to personally experience the thrill of finally getting that thing up in the sky. And the unrestrained laughter that comes when a sudden drop in the wind makes the kite dive bomb and nearly hit me in the head. What a wonderful byproduct – the joy of playing when I make it a priority to play with my kids!

4. Intolerance for injustice.

Being a mom sears injustice hotly on your heart. Whenever an innocent person experiences injustice, a mom absorbs the pain deeply, imagining such tragedy occurring to her own child. Harriet Beecher Stowe, in writing Uncle Tom’s Cabin, explained in a letter to Lord Denman, “I wrote what I did because as a woman, as a mother I was oppressed and broken-hearted, with the sorrows and injustice I saw.” Hatred for injustice leads to influence and even action on behalf of the vulnerable.

     5. Grace for all.

Conversely, there is a greater, deeper compassion for all people as result of being a mom. Even when a man is justly convicted for a hate crime, there is a part of a mother’s heart that sorrows for such a man. You can see the disfiguring effects of growing up in an inferno of hatred. The results are the loss of a human soul. The loss is devastating for humankind. Each soul is unique and loved by God. And a person who is raised in such twisted darkness is a tragedy. A mother’s heart longs for redemption. 

     6. No illusion of control.

We moms start our momhood with great gusto! We’ll show the world how to raise wonderful human beings… made in our own image! Eventually we relax our grip in dismay. It becomes apparent that all of our fine parenting doesn’t make our children do what we want. They have their own will which they exert to make decisions that we don’t agree with. They may decide to believe or do things that we morally oppose with every fiber of our being. But, whether we like it or not, we concede that we cannot make them do or even want what we want. God Himself allows people to choose whether or not to belong to Him. Even when the decision can break His heart and lead to destruction. As a mom comes to terms with this lack of power, she develops a healthy respect for her child’s will. She realizes that for all her love, he is a unique individual, not a living toy that must submit to her will. 

     7. Nestle into the heart of God.

As the illusion of our own power vaporizes, we grasp for the substance of the reality of God. Though invisible, we find Him to be solid and real. And we search the Scriptures and pour out our hearts in prayer to Him. We relate to the Scriptures where He is angry with His children because they spurn what is for their own good. We identify with His longing, loving heart. And we notice eventually, that although He will not force anyone to submit to Him, He can influence hearts and desires. “I will put a desire in their hearts to worship me, and they will never leave me.” Jeremiah 32:40 NLT So, we drink in the promises of Scripture like living water. We hold them up as we intercede for our children. And we unfurl our fists to release our precious treasures into His care. We do this unfurling often because we notice that our fists keep getting clenched when we don’t notice it. So, He becomes our hope for our most precious treasure. And this deep, difficult path of trusting Him permeates other areas of our life, too. There is more freedom in trusting God with our marriage, our friendships, our finances. And we praise God for the deep joy of motherhood.

 

The Joy of a Yellow Bird

The Joy of a Yellow Bird

A zing of yellow catches my eye. I am glad for an excuse to stop running, so I slow to a stop and peer up into the trees.

Yes, there it goes again. Darting to another branch. The winged flash of yellow refreshes me with joy, and I continue my run. 

Why does God tint the world so sparingly with vibrant yellow? He brushes giant swaths of green and blue across the planet, sometimes with great puffs of white. Endless shades of brown and gray give definition to His landscape.

But the zings of lemon yellow are rare and breathtaking. And when a bird with this hue catches my eye, it seems only respectful to pause. To marvel at its brilliance. Subconsciously I praise its Creator by loving this little creature, in a tiny way, as He loves it. 

Does this little bird know about the Corona virus? Does it know the scope of the economic impact? The vulnerability of human health, individually and collectively? No, it doesn’t. The cheerful song of all the birds belies that they don’t understand the difficulty of these days. 

What if COVID-19 had an impact on birds? What would the tiny little bird do? What could it do?

“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” Matthew 6:26

The truth is, I am just as dependent as this little bird on my heavenly Father. 

In some ways, the birds have an advantage over us humans. They are not able to worry about the future. They simply live in each moment, and our Father cares for them.

Though it is harder, we have the opportunity to trust our Father like the birds. It is harder for us because it is not our only option. We are able to choose to worry or to put our trust in paychecks or government stimulus money or employers or our own cunning frugality. It is harder to walk past those options, and, with open hands and tremulous hearts, trust our Father to take care of us. And He may provide for us through any of these means, but our hearts are trusting in Him, not the means by which He provides.

I step outside and drink in the song of the birds. I remember to trust my Father. My heart joins the bird song.  And I worship God. 

Photo credit: here

 

On Hats and Silence and Miracles

On Hats and Silence and Miracles

Encouraging HOME

Two years ago today Ben took off his hat.

It was a miracle, really.

“The hat” began when he was seven years old, and it was hair cut time. Hair cut time was terrifying to Ben.  Invasive and startling. Sharp scissors gleaming about his head, snipping bits of himself away.

In his terror he would strategically thrash around so that the hairdresser had to play a mad game of dive bomber, hoping for a decent snip that would harvest hair and not, say, an ear.

When Ben got home from this particular haircut, he looked in the bathroom mirror and filled up with horror. The shock of the before and after was overwhelming. He determined to never leave the bathroom.

In desperation, I offered a baseball cap. His means of escaping from the bathroom. Although the hat bought freedom from the bathroom, it also became his ball and chain for…

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Coronavirus: The Christian’s Response to Fear

Coronavirus: The Christian’s Response to Fear

In these days of coronavirus, fear is justified! It is possible to not have toilet paper or water or meat. It is possible to be out of work for a long time and be low on money for housing and food. It is possible to catch the virus and be very sick.

But these are the very days that invite us to experience the living God! The exhilarating, terrifying adventure of walking by faith, not by sight.

And how can I walk by faith if I don’t have any needs? How can I wholly trust in Jesus’ name if I have a decent paycheck and a well-stocked grocery store?

“Without faith it is impossible to please him.” Hebrews 11:6

This is our time to please God by throwing our weight on Him! We don’t know how we will find chicken for dinner, but we trust Him to meet our needs. We pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” But we mean it, and we fall on His care, not knowing how else to find nourishing food for our families.

“Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7 How He longs to provide for our daily needs! Just like manna, though. Not hoarding for weeks to come. Just for today. That which is hoarded reeks and rots.

We rise in the morning, and trust Him for enough food and water and toilet paper and courage- just for today. “Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation.” Psalm 68:19

We don’t fear for tomorrow. We don’t worry that all the hoarders will rob us of essentials in the future. “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” Proverbs 29:25

The Israelites had an opportunity in the desert to trust God for daily food and water. They really had no choice. There were no stores in the desert. And they cried to God. But the tone of their cry was panicked. Complaining. Demanding. I think that the root of their prayers wasn’t really faith. They were not thinking that God was all-powerful and all-loving and able to meet their needs. They were not thinking about God at all. I know this because that is so often how I pray. Here I am, speaking to the Almighty One about my needs, barely remembering that He is really here. My prayer is not toward Him at all. It is, like most of my life, all about me.

How did God respond to their complaining hearts, that really didn’t think He would miraculously provide for them? “When the Lord heard them, he was furious… for they did not believe God or trust Him to care for them.” Psalm 78:21-22, NLT

And there it is. That is where I am convicted of my sin. My lack of faith is sin. How I hurt the heart of my glorious, almighty, ineffable God- His actual, very heart- when I refuse to believe that He will take care of me. And His anger is aroused because, in essence, I don’t believe He is God. In my heart I believe He is powerless and only good for Sunday morning country clubs and platitudes. He isn’t real enough to go with me through fear and suffering.

I am so sorry. My heart breaks for how I’ve hurt You, God, and defamed Your Name.

And I realize that to trust You for food isn’t just about me and my precious family. It is an act of worship. It is a defiant belief that You are Good and Completely Powerful. No matter what. And I cling to You and resist buzzing around, crafting frenetic back-up plans, thinking that You will more than likely not provide.

And when He provides, I will praise Him, privately and publicly. To remind myself and others that He really is God. He really is alive. He really is good. He is completely powerful.

Thank God, literally, for tough times that remind me that I can wholly trust in Jesus’ name.

Photo credit: here

 

 

Just Love Your God

Just Love Your God

“Don’t lie to yourself, O my soul.

Love your God.”

~ Audrey Assad, “O My Soul”

Listen here.

 

Lying to myself….

Deeply buried is the belief that I can affect (control?) the wellness of my kids. Actually, not so deeply buried.

Even saying that opens the floodgates of thoughts, feelings, plans to help them.

 

Not my job.

 

Breaks my heart, but it also gives freedom.

 

My job is to love You, my God.

Oh, I love You.

 

In that yearning, longing aching way. Full of joy and pain.

 

My friend Lois describes C.S. Lewis’ experience with that longing: “Sehnsucht (a German word that embodies a huge theme in all of Lewis’s writings: Sehnsucht is the sense of deep, inconsolable longing, yearning, the feeling of intensely missing something when we don’t even know what it is. It is also related to his experiences of joy).”

 

“My soul thirsts for God,

for the living God.

When shall I come and appear before God?”

~ Psalm 42:2

 

I love You here enough to ache for eternity- Perfect Love! Where there is no more yearning. Only the realness of Emmanuel, God with us.

 

So, my job is not to make life good for my kids.

My job is to love my God.

Billy Graham, when he was 92, said “If I had it to do over again, I’d spend more time in meditation and prayer and just telling the Lord how much I love Him and adore Him and [am] looking forward the time we’re going to spend together for eternity.”

 

Sitting in Your presence.

Meditating on Your living Word.

Not rushing away.

Listening….

Open to obedience.

 

What shall I do, Lord?

You name it.

Because of the power that raised Jesus from the dead in me, I will obey You.

Name it. I will obey You.

I Love You.

 

So, my job is to love You.

To linger long in Your presence.

That Living Water may soak to the very deepest roots of my soul.

Abiding in You.

 

“Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” ~John 15:5

 

And I want to do nothing apart from You!!

I rest in You.

I love You, my God.

 

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A Sparrow’s Home

A Sparrow’s Home

May I be a sparrow, finding joy in the wide sky.

The unending blue is exhilarating!

But instinct calls me “home.” A place to nestle my smallness and vulnerability. A spot where I feel safe and free to be me.

“Even the sparrow finds a home…
where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O Lord of hosts,
my King and my God.”
Psalm 84:3

My heart exults in your nearness, Lord!

My home is Your home.

In You I find my refuge, my launching pad, my joy, my peace.

I settle my flock at Your altar. May they imbibe life from You!

I will not cage them in my worried care. No matter my love and good intentions. Their souls would shrivel.

You made them like me- gasping for freedom and meaning and purpose.

So I lay them freely at Your altar. The deepest sacrifice of my heart.

They may choose to fly away in wild disregard of unperceived love and freedom.

But You have planted the melody of truth in their hearts. A homing device.

May they return home, thriving in your truth and freedom. Exhilarating, unending blue.

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