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Monday, December 20, 2010

All this fuss about a baby?

     For unto us a Child is born,

      Unto us a Son is given;
      And the government will be upon His shoulder.
      And His name will be called
      Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
      Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  ~Isaiah 9:6


All this fuss over a baby?

It’s the last week before Christmas, and I’m feeling a little antsy. I’m disappointed, because I’m usually better than this.  Long before we became parents, my husband and I committed to celebrating Christmas as a religious holiday, to giving within our means, and to having a peaceful celebration. But admittedly, I’m a teeny bit stressed. 
Last night, we decorated our tree.  Decorating the tree makes me happy.  Our family has collected ornaments, mostly black angels, for nearly 20 years.  Every time we unwrap one, and for the most part they are still in the original boxes, I am transported back to the time that we found it.  Each of our children’s first five Christmases are documented, along with my first pregnancy (a kangaroo with a bottle and rattle), the births of our Godchildren, our first Christmas in the house, our collection of Flakeling Tales, and the brass sun catchers my parents gave us our very first Christmas.  In the years since our children have begun taking over the tree, I’m even less nuts about how things get handled and whether they break.  Something broke last night, one of my favorites.  I was so clear that God was in control when I told my son “things break.  Christmas is about joy.” Not only did saying it calm me down, but I was able to repair the break, and I hung it on the tree. I really don’t want to buy into the craziness. Maybe it is not unavoidable. 
My favorite Christmas lyrics are by Amy Grant and Chris Eaton, “Breath of Heaven.” It is young Mary’s lullaby, and she is so clearly terrified by what has befallen her.  Just listening to it now settles me down; whatever I’ve got going is trumped by her plight.  When placed in this context, I’m much better.  All I want for the Christmas season is peace; in my home, among those I love, and that a peaceful spirit might abide in me and touch those whom I encounter throughout the season. 

Breath of Heaven (Mary's Song) 
by Amy Grant and Chris Eaton

I have traveled
Many moonless night
Cold and Weary
With a babe inside
And I wonder
What I've done
Holy Father
You have come
Chosen me now
To carry your son

I am waiting
in a silent prayer
I am frightened
by the load i bear
In a world as cold as stone
Must I walk this path alone
Be with me now
Be with me now

Breath of Heaven
Hold me together
Be forever near me
Breath of Heaven

Breath of Heaven
Lighten my darkness
Pour over me, your holiness
For your holy Breath of Heaven

Do you wonder
As you watch my face
If a wiser one, should of had my place
But I offer-all I am
For the mercy-of your plan
Help me be strong
Help me be
Help me

I’ve already run, and that makes me feel good.  I’m going to tackle some laundry and house cleaning, and then go find some joy.  Christmas is about the baby.  It is about birthing new things, celebrating friendships and simple joys. I am pledging right here and now to breathe, relax, to seek out and share joy.  Merry Christmas, and may God’s peace be with you.

Lord, I am apologizing in advance if I don’t get it right; it’s not in the intent but in the execution.  I thank You for the baby, and for newness.  Every day brings new mercies.  Every day offers new opportunity; my life abounds with them.

Further evidence that God is good.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Daughter…your faith has saved you…again

25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. 30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” 31 “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ” 32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” Mark 5:25-40 NIV


Daughter…your faith has saved you…again.
Drain cleaner…the real stuff.  Not the foams, not the max gel, I’m talking lye crystals.  Sometimes you’ve got to go old school to get the job done.  Sometimes your belief in something’s ability to work, dare I say faith, goes beyond all reason or logic. Sometimes you’ve got to walk out on faith.
After all the glamour of Thanksgiving, the food, the fellowship, I had a slow-clearing drain.  It’s not unusual; since we bought this house the kitchen sink has always been a little peculiar. When I’m on my game, a bottle of drain cleaner once a quarter does the trick.  (I plan to become that woman who always does everything that needs doing before it HAS to get done someday real soon….) More than likely, however, it’s when I notice that the drain is draining ever so slowly that it’s time to take some action.  This time, my usual routine didn’t seem to be working, and what I really didn’t want to have to do was call the plumber.  Now I respect our plumber.  When we need him, he always does the job well, efficiently, cleanly, and not terribly expensively, though I rather not have to pay than pay.  Sometimes, you’ve gotta pay. Our plumber has come to the rescue when rescue was what we needed, but this just wasn’t one of those times.
This time, I decided to do everything I could do on my own BEFORE calling the plumber.  It wasn’t procrastination, or postponing the inevitable, I just knew it wasn’t going to be necessary.  I went to the grocery and bought that newfangled foam recommended for slow drains. The commercial shows an animated jackhammer effect, where all the crud you should clear off your plates before putting them in the sink is blasted away by simply pouring this stuff down the drain.  I was optimistic.  Two bottles later, it hadn’t worked. 
I tried the gel too, to no effect.  I even took the trap off (my husband loved that one, since I mentioned it to him this time…I’ve done it several times before but this is the first time I confessed….oops….clearing out a lot of stuff, but not getting the results I needed.)  I was resolved to call the plumber, a rational woman, after all, after committing to one last strategy; lye.  Did you know that you can’t even get lye at grocery stores anymore? I even went to a Dollar store, where it seems everything they sell is contraband, (no disrespect to Dollar stores, I LOVE them) and THEY didn’t have lye. Finally, feeling the effort was futile but inevitable, I went to Home Depot.
I love Home Depot. Home Depot reminds me of spending time with my father as a little girl, God rest his soul.   Long before my dad entered the ministry, he was a contractor, and the great deal I know about building, repair, and tools is because of the time I spent watching and working with him growing up.  Love you dad, but back to my clog.  I guess I had faith, like the woman with the issue of blood, that what I believed would work was going to work, and I wasn’t giving up until I got it. Well, at Home Depot, I got it.  I excitedly took it home and read the directions to ensure I knew what I was supposed to do.  I believed it would work. I knew I’d found my solution.  Well, it didn’t work right away, and for me, this is the real lesson in faith. 
Very often we fool ourselves into thinking that ours is a formulaic God, and if we do just what we’re supposed to do the way we’re supposed to do it, prayers will be answered.  Here’s the tricky part, and it was best taught to me in a sermon by TD Jakes, when he said, “every prayer does not get answered.” Wow.  That’s deep.  It’s also disconcerting, because we’re taught to pray and believe that our prayers will be answered.  But faith is larger than formula.  Faith isn’t just relying upon the practice, the process.  Faith is beyond process.  Process speaks to our logical minds.  Faith can feel like diving off a cliff.  Prayer is earnestly believing that God works it ALL out, according to His purposes, whether that ultimately agrees OR disagrees with what we think is supposed to happen. 
So back to my drain cleaner. It didn’t work right away, but I truly believed, undeterred, that this was the solution to clearing my drain, not a plumber.  So, where two applications are supposed to suffice; I kept going.  With tenacity that might have bordered on the fanatic for anyone else, I kept at it, and my faith was rewarded.  I cannot explain why I was so certain that it would work, except to say that I was always clear that it would. 
I’ve heard people discuss faith like that.  I do not intend to diminish faith in any way by making the analogy about my clogged drain, except to say, as my BFF always does, I knew, deep down in my KNOW, that lye was MY solution.  I never wavered.  I wasn’t worried, not panicked, didn’t reach for the plumber’s number, never considered that lye wouldn’t be the end game.  Maybe, just maybe, God sent a message to me in a clogged drain….”I never gave up on you, so don’t ever give up, not when you know I will never leave you.” Maybe someone else sees lightning bolts, or hears a voice, but my messages are clear, quiet certainties.   I just know.  Thank You Lord, for the just knowing. Clogged drains, challenges beyond my capacity, too much to do and no chance of getting it done, I am so thankful that You don’t give up.  Even when I don’t follow the directions.  Further evidence that God is good.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Would you treat God like that??

Certainly, we live, move, and exist because of him. As some of your poets have said, 'We are God's children. ~Acts 17:28 GOD'S WORD® Translation 
Would you treat God like that??

We are made in the image of God.  We claim to love Him,  desire to serve Him, to be His children.  If that is so, then I have a question for you.  Would you treat God the way you treat yourself?
Hmmmm.  I had this conversation with my mom one day and my best friend the next, but I suspect it is a theme.  Both these women excelled professionally, married well, raised families, and have given care to both parents and grandparents. They are awesome women.   However, they each fail dismally at consistently loving themselves.  They are not alone.
Why do we eat too much and work out too little? Why do we give of ourselves until there’s nothing left? I’m guilty too, but committed to getting better.  I had change handed to me, had my life turned upside down.  Instead of giving up and shutting down, I earnestly tried to learn the lessons.  What have I learned?
I am learning that less is better.  I eat less food because a) I ate too much, and b) sometimes I ate just to have something to do.  Now, if I’m not hungry, I don’t eat.  If my body is a temple, I should treat it like a mansion and not a shack.  I am trying to use nervous energy to get things done.  Goodness knows there’s always something to do. Goodness knows I seldom lack for nervous energy.
I am learning that although getting new things may make you feel better, you may not always need them.  Donating what you have and do not use not only gives you space, it may additionally provide you the good feeling that you are helping someone who will appreciate the stuff you have not used/worn/noticed in far too long.
I am learning that while money is good, time is far better.  When I worked full-time outside the home, I spent less time with my family.  We tried earnestly to make the best of the time we had, but now that we have more time, we make better use of it.  Should it be God's Will that I go back to a full time career, I will think differently about quality time.  It’s a lesson I would never have learned otherwise. It is a lesson for which I am deeply grateful.
If you were taking care of God, how would you do it?  Would you serve meals on the good china? Would you dress up? Would you give your best, do your best, take your time? Or would you try to make time, squeeze it in, or promise it later, knowing it probably wouldn't get done? Isn’t that how we treat ourselves?
An empty pitcher cannot pour.  Busy caring for spouses, children, loved ones, friends, colleagues, strangers, our careers, who does for us? What example are you setting for the people who look up to you, even those you may not notice watching? What one change will you make today to model loving the God in you? 
I’m headed upstairs to clean out my drawers, because clutter makes me frustrated, and frustration is not good.  I’ll sort what’s out of season for storage, sort the laundry, and donate today what I no longer need so that someone else makes good use of my blessings.
Finally, Lord, I’m apologizing for not taking the best care of You and I.  It isn’t You, it’s me, and if I focused more on the loving You part, I know I'd do better.  I’m so thankful that You love all of us not according to what we earn or deserve.  So, for all the times I’ve run myself down, not gotten enough rest, exercise, quiet time, or indulged too much in whatever I’ve had more than my share of, I am blessed that You are in control instead of me. Further evidence that God is good.

OneWord 2015

OneWord 2015

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