It Is Well

It Is Well

Though the money runs out before the paycheck comes in…. It is well with my soul.

Though political and social upheaval unsettle my world and even my mind…. It is well with my soul.

Though just the right job that suits my passions and my strengths eludes me…. It is well with my soul.

Though the corn dog casserole flips upside down onto the kitchen floor just in time for dinner…. It is well with my soul.

Though my unconscious, unrelenting commitment to self over others brings relational brokenness …. It is well with my soul.

It is well with my soul.

On the deepest level.

God fills the emptiness.

He imbues with deep, eternal purpose that which seems meaningless and futile.

He Himself pulses peace in the heartbreak of grief.

He radiates brilliant beauty in drab, dirty, darkness.

He supplies unnatural hope when it seems there is no way out.

He inundates abundance over the mean and meager.

When there is nothing left in me He blasts His mighty strength through my feeble weakness.

When anger wells up and threatens to lay waste, His arrows of humility and wisdom level my pride.

When daily living seems like endless drudgery, I light a candle. The single, brilliant white flame reminds me that He is right here. I can hardly avert my gaze. Relief and deep comfort.

May I continue to serve faithfully and gladly by the power of Your presence.

And so.

It is well with my soul.

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Worship

Worship

I pause my dishwashing and savor the old song.

“My son, my son, why are you striving?
You can’t add one thing to what’s been done for you.”

Classic Keith Green.

Brings me back 30 years!

Vivid memories of newfound life in Jesus wash over me.

Looking back to the days when I was alive– for the first time in my life. Reveling in awkward beginnings and church life and Jesus.

These lyrics pack fresh power for me tonight. Even now that I am a middle-aged mama with a husband and kids, a minivan and a dog. It’s good to remember my first love.

Why the subconscious, ceaseless striving?

I can’t add one single thing to the sacrifice of Jesus. Impossible that there is anything at all that would negate the need for His holy blood.

I know this. Of course, I know.

“But when I hear the praises start, my child…”

Ah, relief. My gaze shifts from me to Him.

A breath of fresh air as my yearning heart gives Him praise. The striving and the stress begin to roll away.

The striving ebbs, but the yearning flows stronger. Oh, how my heart is made for Him alone.

“My precious  bride
The day is nearing
When I’ll take you in my arms and hold you…”

We are the Bride of Christ. Yearning for our Bridegroom. To be held by Him– intimate and eternal.

The Lord inhabits the praise of His people.

No wonder the tears come, and I can’t squeak out even words of praise anymore.

He is here. Up close. And my heart brims with His nearness.

A few minutes of worship. I feel filled up, and a little sad. Bittersweet taste of Heaven.

Back to my work I go. Deeply glad to experience again that I am His.

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It seems like it doesn’t matter. But it does.

It seems like it doesn’t matter. But it does.

“Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.”

Wise Yoda! The little, green guy himself was a big example that what’s inside is more important than what’s outside.

My heart matters.

And I discover that it matters to nurture the core of my being.

But, it’s a struggle. It’s more gratifying to tick off the to do list. All the tangible stuff. It feels good to see the before and after of cleaning the house, doing laundry, and buying groceries.

Taking care of my heart doesn’t show. At least not for awhile.

What’s weird is the invisible, spiritual part of me is the part that lasts – right into eternity. That checklist stuff, although it does have value, is fleeting.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18

It seems like a waste of time to cultivate my heart. But it’s not.

My outside world may be in shambles, but my heart can be strong.

“God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26

When I come to Him in private quietness … my heart changes. I open His Word – alive and active- and He opens His mouth. He breathes on Me. He speaks to Me. Tender and beautiful. Heart-strong.

Spiritual disciplines feed my soul and bind my heart to His. Common sense says they are a waste of time.

Honestly, they feel counterproductive. I could get so much more done if I didn’t take the time to pray, read Scripture, fast, and go to church! It’s so against the grain to slow and soak in these things when my tangible, immediate, urgent world screams for attention.

And once again it boils down to faith.

I step off the solid cliff of self-sufficiency and fall into His strong arms of supernatural power. And I realize that what my little world needed all along was what only God can do.

God forbid that I doom my world and my own heart to only what I can understand and accomplish. May I take time for His strong, fierce beauty to indwell and change me. I long for the beauty that doesn’t come from haircuts and clothes and makeup and cute shoes.

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.  Rather, it should be that of your inner self….” 1 Peter 3:3-4

It’s not a waste of time to nurture the hidden person of my heart. In fact, it seems easier to cultivate vibrant, luminous soul beauty when physical beauty is lacking. Thank you for that reminder, Yoda.

 

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The Free Fall of Faith

The Free Fall of Faith

“In God We Trust.” It says so right there on our money. Ironically, a pocketful of cash makes it very hard to actually trust God.

But when the money dries up – and there isn’t a savings account or IRA in the wings- I realize how much I was counting on it to provide for me.

And that’s when the adventure begins.

As Oswald Chambers said, “On the mount it is easy to say- ‘Oh, yes, I believe God can do it’; but you have to come down into the demon-possessed valley and meet with facts that laugh ironically at the whole of your mount-of-transfiguration belief. Every time my programme of belief is clear to my own mind, I come across something that contradicts it. Let me say I believe God will supply all my need, and then let me run dry, with no outlook, and see whether I will go through the trial of faith, or whether I will sink back to something lower. Faith must be tested, because it can be turned into a personal possession only through conflict.”

It’s the terror of free falling.

Terror because I know that I don’t have the power to land safely.

But then comes the palpable exhilaration of remembering that He is my safety.

That’s what faith can feel like. Terrifying, yet fundamentally solid. It’s not a metaphor.  It is true. He is my safety.

“Without faith it is impossible to please Him.” The words rumble up from my soul. A Bible verse that’s full of meaning. I choke up and thank Him for an opportunity to please Him.

I’m thankful for tight finances. What an elementary way to please Him!

The beauty of “not enough” is that I come to my true, generous, trustworthy Provider. There are legitimate needs that I can’t cover.

I ask for wisdom. And He gives generously without grudging. Oh, He wants healing and growth and joy for my family so much more than I do!

“This I know, that God is for me.” Psalm 56:9

As I come to Him in need, He ushers me down the path of supply. I look back, and I’m thankful that I didn’t have the means to choose the path that looked absolutely necessary. I see now it would have led to heartbreak.

So, worship times at church or in the car or at my bedside are full of true, honest praise.

“Let all that I am praise the Lord;
with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.
 Let all that I am praise the Lord;
may I never forget the good things he does for me.”
Psalm 103:1-2

Confessions of a Helicopter Mom

Confessions of a Helicopter Mom

Okay. Deep breath.

Confession time.

I am a helicopter parent.

Always have been.

You know. The mom who hovers around her kids, trying to insure that everything goes well. Running interference to guarantee my kids’ safety and happiness.

I’m getting better, I think. (Or am I? Is that a thing helicopter parents say?)

And in my journey toward healthy momming (I know. No pressure. My kids are almost grown.), I’ve found some great tools to help me along.

Julie Lythcott-Haims’ new book, How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success is a boon. Fabulous tool for all parents- not just us helicopters. Her unique perspective as a long-time dean of students at Stanford University has helped her to track how ill-equipped high school graduates have become in tackling life, let alone college.

I love that she isn’t judgy or preachy. She actually gives historical context for how my generation of parents got this way.

And, of course, the crux of the matter- how do we change?

She breaks down our over parenting into four main categories:

  • Safety
  • Providing opportunities
  • Smoothing all the rough spots, and
  • Getting them into the best college

One of the mindsets that rings true throughout the book is encouraging a growth mindset. The idea that failure is a stepping stone. That struggle is normal. That life is hard. BUT, we can do hard.

I haven’t overhauled my parenting techniques as a result of this book. But, my perspective has been shifted a bit. It has helped me change my tone. I have changed some little decisions.

I am remembering to slow down my knee-jerk, protective mom reactions. I’m learning to be thankful for the hard things my kids experience.

I do my best to listen and support and pray through those inevitable hard things.  But, I know shielding them doesn’t necessarily help them.

Ms. Lythcott-Haims highlights the following list that was composed by the authors of GIST: The Essence of Raising Life-Ready Kids, Michael Anderson and Tim Johansen. It’s a tough list for kids and adults, but I’m shifting my attitude to welcome these types of situations as rites of passage and tools of growth for my kids.

  • Not being invited to a birthday party
  • Experiencing the death of a pet
  • Breaking a valuable vase
  • Working hard on a paper and still getting a poor grade
  • Having a car break down away from home
  • Seeing the tree he planted die
  • Being told that a class or camp is full
  • Getting detention
  • Missing a show because she was helping Grandma
  • Having a fender bender
  • Being blamed for something he didn’t do
  • Having an event canceled because someone else misbehaved
  • Being fired from a job
  • Not making the varsity team
  • Coming in last at something
  • Being hit by another kid
  • Rejecting something he has been taught
  • Deeply regretting saying something she can’t take back
  • Not being invited when friends are going out
  • Being picked last for neighborhood kickball

Yeah, that stuff is hard to stomach. But, it honestly helps me to remember that hard stuff is good for them. May they thrive on hard stuff! May it give them something to push against and build their emotional and spiritual muscle.

This week my daughter was frustrated about something, but I remembered the author’s exhortation to allow my kids to figure out their own way of coping with disappointment so when they get to college and experience hard things they won’t need mom to help them through it. So, I intentionally let her struggle. It was hard, but I kept thinking, “This is for college!”

Parenting is hard. But we can do hard! And I’m thankful for tools like How to Raise an Adult to navigate it with purpose and hope.

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What To Do With My American Grief

What To Do With My American Grief

This week my heart has broken like yours with the violence in Louisiana and Minnesota and Dallas.

I ache. For the victims. And their families. And our reeling country….

And my heart breaks a little bit because I wonder what I would have done if I were the police officer in Minnesota.

What if he is just like me?

I hate racism. I love justice.

But what if fear and adrenaline pull the trigger?

John Ortberg once said, “The evil that is in the world is the evil that is in me.”

I’m sure he could explain the theological nuances and context of that thought. I can’t. But it resonates deeply with me.

If I’m honest, I can imagine myself as a terrified police officer in Minnesota or a terrified black man in Dallas.

Unrestrained fear can lead to ugliness.

King David went against the flow and mourned for the “bad guy.” His personal enemy, in fact. Saul overtly tried to murder David many times. And David could have destroyed him. But he believed that it wasn’t his place. God alone knew the big picture. And when Saul inevitably fell, David mourned.

May our country change. The scary truth is: may I change.

I have unconscious – and sometimes conscious- bias against young African American men in certain settings.

Lord, may Love cast out fear.

Give me courage to change my attitude one situation at a time.

Give me opportunity to love my brother when it feels vulnerable.

May Your Holy Spirit ignite the life and power of Jesus in me. That unconscious and conscious bias would dissolve in the magnitude of Love.

“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.” Proverbs 10:12

One decision at a time, may we cover the hurt with love.

 

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Unsatisfied

Unsatisfied

To be human is to want.

In his book Soul Keeping, John Ortberg points out that the whole “want” thing is a deep, human drive that is given by God.

Weird, right?

Because it seems to be the root of such turmoil. Jealousy, competition, dissatisfaction. Eventually emptiness.

Even my jaded nine-year-old has gotten to the point that her most coveted birthday presents lose their sparkle in weeks or even days.

How could it be from God? Is there anything that we desire in this life that actually imparts lasting joy?

No.

Seriously, tell me if I’m wrong, but I can’t think of anything.

If anything, getting the thing I have longed for stokes up more rumblings of discontent. Disappointment.

Even when I marvel at the gift of pink and orange sunrise clouds. The beauty and joy are almost palpable. But there is an edge of heartbreak to it always.

It goes back to the famous C.S. Lewis quote, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

There it is. The reason that even the purest gift of sunrise leaves a deep ache. It’s just a taste. A tantalizing glimpse of the true eternal gift.

“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12

There comes a day when we will know Him fully, even as He fully knows us. And every glimpse of goodness and truth and love remind our deepest soul that we aren’t there yet.

So, I will accept the gifts of laughter and kindness and flowers and chocolate even though a tinge of ache comes with them. I am glad to remember that this is just a taste.

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