Sunday, July 17, 2016

an invitation to be held.

For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength."

Isaiah 30:15

I hear this verse with a child on my lap, fighting me. The other kids are sitting by my side, doing their best to use their "church manners" and not to be distracting.  It's not working.

Rest and quietness!?  
I wish. 
Grumble. Resent.

But do I?
Do I really wish I had a quiet house and a short list and all the time in the world to rest, relax, and be still with God?  Or, if I had a quiet house and a short list, would I simply add things to the list until I had a noisy house and a full day again?

I'm driven, busy, and task-oriented to a fault.

Rest and quiet are about as natural to me as... well, returning, and trust.

Returning to the Lord. 
Returning, when my life has changed suddenly, to God Who does not change.
Returning, when darkness threatens to swallow me up, to The Light of the World.
Returning, after a failed battle with my own sin, to God Who forgives.

Ceasing from activity, from problem-solving, from justifying myself, and from worry,
and quietly resting in His love for me.

And remembering who I am, Whose I am.

A child of God.
Weak and loved. LOVED.

Mary hears the invitation to rest,  but Martha is distracted with her many things. I understand the distraction, I see the many, many, many things.  But Jesus speaks to me and to you with a rebuke-invitation: there is only one thing necessary!  Sit, child, and let me be your host.  Let me provide that which your soul needs.  You are not the glue that holds the world together: I am.

Let me hold you.

For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength."

Teach my heart to do what does not come naturally.  Open my eyes to the pockets of time in my day when I may rest in You.  I often miss those moments, when the children are quiet and no tasks are urgent, and I fill them up with mental chatter, worry, or little things that could wait.  May I not just breathe and to rest my body, but rest my heart as well, in You.  Fill me with returning and trust, and let Your strength be my strength as I enter this day.

In Jesus' name, Amen

Thursday, June 30, 2016

earthly spirituality

I'm not above this. Any of it. Not the clutter, not the scrubbing of kitchen floors, not the making of dinner again and again and again.

Life in the Spirit doesn't raise me above these little things.

On spirituality- a quote from John Kleinig:

When I speak of spirituality, I do not envisage something extraordinary-- a superior way of being a Christian that is open only to a religious elite or a more advanced stage in the spiritual life.  I have in mind what is given to every faithful person.  Christian spirituality is, quite simply, following Jesus.  It is the ordinary life of faith in which we receive Baptism, attend the Divine Service, participate in the Holy Supper, read the Scriptures, pray for ourselves and others, resist temptation, and work with Jesus in our given location here on earth.  By our practice of spirituality we are not raised to a higher plane above the normal, everyday, bodily life, but we receive the Holy Spirit from Christ so that we can live in God's presence each day of our lives as we deal with people and work, sin and abuse, inconvenience and heartbreak, trouble and tragedy.  We are not called to become more spiritual by disengaging from our earthly life, but simply to rely on Jesus as we do what is given for us to do, experience what is given for us to experience, and enjoy what is given for us to enjoy.

John Kleinig, Grace Upon Grace, p 23.  (Buy this book!)

Sometimes I wish being Christian meant checking out of everything and finding some nice happy place of inner peace and sunshine.  Sometimes, I wish it meant being above the mundane, earthly, repetitive things I must do to serve my neighbor in this place. But God insists on meeting me here, in this noisy house, in my vocation.  His grace does not call me to escape from life, but equips me, draws me deeper into my work on earth by teaching me to love and serve those around me.

Jesus, be with me today in the noise and the bickering and the headache and the mess.  Equip me to work and play, to love and care for these little bodies and souls.  Point them and me to You for strength and joy today, and teach us to see and rejoice in our daily bread.  Amen.

updated from 6/30/11

Monday, June 27, 2016

celebrating Aggie

It's time for her routine MRI. Time to trace around the scars again, hers and mine.
They'll look in her brain for signs of that tumor.  I hope they find none.

I'll look in myself for signs that I could handle any bad news that could come. I already know I will find none.  Not inside, that is- only outside. Only in Him.

A moment ago I said to her, frustrated, "What in the world are you doing?!" She was swinging her body around in the living room, (I can't quite call what she does "dancing," exactly,) and papers were flying off the piano, when she should have been practicing.  "I'm celebrating mama. I just played that hard song through twice!"

Celebrate, dear child.
Celebrate, and remind me and all the world that this fragile slice of life is worth celebrating.

I look at the calendar and do the math. Has it really been almost 7 years since her brain surgery?

We have new friends now, friends who did not know her when she teetered on the cliff that falls down into eternity.  Yet she is really no more a miracle than any other child. Each one here today is here because God sustains; each one a gift of grace, a gift for a moment.

But God knows how this child, especially, shines bright joy into our lives, and her very brightness highlights the shadows.

Hold tightly to your Aggie-Sue-Cook-Peter-Pan.  Sustain her smile, her generous heart, and her body, according to Your will.  Thank you for the gift that she is to all who know her.  In the name of Jesus, who loves her even more than I do,

UPDATE: MRI all clear!
If you don't know her story, start here:

Saturday, June 11, 2016

weak prayers, resting

The architecture of a church points me upward, reminds me of God's majesty.
I am small, God is big. This is most certainly true.

I feel my smallness mightily this week after a depression flare, a reminder that I do not control a single thing that really matters.

I kneel in the pew after communion.

My prayers are weak, quiet, uncertain. I don't know what I even need. I only know that I have need, I am need, I am a huge black hole of need that doesn't even know what to ask for. My thoughts are tired. My prayer is weak.

There in that big church, I am small, and my God is big. But he's not too big.  He's not so far up there, not high in the sky where he can only hear loud prayers or confident prayers.

I know this because I know His Word.
He is near to the broken-hearted, to the crushed, to the tired in spirit.

My God is not way up there, waiting for me to assemble a good prayer and shoot it up to him.
He is with me, even me, even here.

What words do I pray that day after I receive His body and blood?  Were they profound, lengthy, or holy?  I remember only a quiet "thanks" and a weary "help me." But He prays with me and for me, right alongside me.

I imagine him there with me, on the creaky kneeler, His feet like mine resting on the torn coloring pages under the pews. I imagine Him letting me lean right on Him in my weary praying. His arm is around me for comfort and support. His other hand rests on my praying hands, and He prays with me and for me.

He sweeps my prayer up into His; he takes my prayer and amplifies it, sanctifies it.

He untangles all my tangles, and He knows exactly what I need.  He sees me with clear eyes and looks upon me with the love of the Father. He lives to advocate for me, and He does this even when I am too weary to pray.

My weakness takes refuge in His strength.

In His arms, surrounded by His prayer, I wait in safety.


But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
    my glory, and the lifter of my head. (Psalm 3:3)

He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him,
since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25)


For more on depression click here.

Monday, May 23, 2016

moving tips for children / the miracle...

The craziest thing happened today. It was a mini-miracle in my own living room, during our family devotion time.  It almost made my heart stop. My son, with hands folded and head bowed, said in his prayer, “Thank you God for calling us here.”
Read the rest, including tips on helping kids through a movie, over at Katie Luther!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

ride the wave.

"We are marked men, we who have been baptized and received the Spirit.

"We have upon us the imprint of Jesus.

"If we are privileged to bear the mark of Jesus, the obedient Son, and the mark of the life of the world to come which His Spirit has inscribed upon us, we are privileged also to bear the mark of the Servant. By the power of that Spirit, through whom God has raised Jesus from the dead and will give life to our mortal bodies, these mortal bodies of ours can even now become Servant-bodies-- bodies offered to God as living sacrifices. By the power of that Spirit, things deemed impossible can be ours: we can aspire to Jesus' steady composure in the face of all the flickering malice that bedeviled Him and all the fumbling weakness of His followers that clogged His steps; can aspire to Jesus' spontaneous obedience to the Father's Word and will and His unclouded understanding of that Word and will; dare aspire to Jesus; freedom to love with the lavish and reckless generosity of the Father; dare aspire to His willingness to expend Himself for others--all that made His life the beginning and the pledge of the life of the world to come can be at work in us and through us.

"We can ride the cresting wave of God's purpose which will break upon the shore destined to be our everlasting and delightful home."

--M. Franzmann, Alive with the Spirit

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Generosity: receive and reflect

I love to listen to her song, especially in church.  She was once so sick I thought she would be silenced forever, but now, she stands beside me healthy, for no reason except the undeserved mercy of God. And she sings. She receives what He gives with delight and innocence, and she replies with song, even when she doesn't quite understand the words.

One day we sang "God moves in mysterious ways."  She sang those words, then she whispered to me, "You mean like this?" and she shook her hips and waggled her arms right there in the pew.  I got the giggles for the rest of the service. 

Last sunday in church we read about Elijah and the widow 1 Kings 17:7-16

As I listened to the widow's story, I kept thinking with amazement how she must have emptied her stores, every single day, and found them refreshed again the next day, every time.  What was that like?

I imagine the first time she made the cakes, she probably ate with mixed feelings.  Faith moved her to mix the dough, and to share, but faith does not extinguish all wrestlings, all human feelings and worries.  She may have yet wondered if this was really her last meal.  She may have second-guessed herself, wondering if she should have said no, should have held something back.  She may have wondered if God would really keep death away. Would He really fill the jars again? Would He really provide as He promised?

On the second day, I imagine she made the cakes with more confidence, with less fear, and a not little bit of joy.  It is amazing, when God provides. It is a joy to be His child, to be given something unexpected, free, and exactly what is needed in the moment.

Did she come to expect it? Did it get easier to trust God as He proved His faithfulness to her, time and time again?  Did she open her hand gladly, knowing that whatever she shared with one hand would soon enough be given back in the other?

Her story reminded me of Grace upon Grace, when Dr. Kleinig implores us to live lives that "receive God's goodness and reflect His generosity."

Receive His goodness,
reflect His generosity.

How's that for a mission statement for the Christian life?

What does this look like, exactly?  When I read those worse, I think of my most unusual child: the extremely generous one.  This child loves a bag of Skittles, but more than that, she loves giving Skittles away. She loves making money, and she spends it all quickly, but on the most undeserving of her siblings, and rarely on herself.  A bag of Hershey Kisses makes her happy if she eats them, but not near as happy as she feels when she leaves kisses on our pillows in secret.

Her smile comes to mind, every time I think of "cheerful giving."
You know what else?  She is also amazing at the art of "cheerful receiving."

When God gives a spring day for bouncing on the trampoline, she bounces, and sings, too, and notices the flowers and the blue sky and the birds, and she thanks Him for it.  When God gives her chocolate milk, she drinks it down to the last drop.  In church, she sings hymns with loud voice and full heart.  

Fill up, give thanks, pour out, give thanks, repeat. 

This is the example of the widow, and my daughter, and so many others who live generously.

This is the life of faith, the freedom we have as children living under an open heaven, we who are loved by a generous God.  He did not spare His Own Son; surely He will provide for all of our needs. There is no need to hold back in fear. 

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ 
or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 
For the Gentiles seek after all these things, 
and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
Matthew 6:31-32 

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19 

Friday, May 6, 2016

9 things learned from the Big Move

It is now spring in the new place, and we are on the other side of the upheaval.

Join me over at Sisters of Katie Luther where I'm discussing some things God has been teaching us as He dragged/carried us through these past few months.  

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Big Blooms (on confirmation)

I taught her to walk.
I'd been doing it for years. I bent low and held her tiny hand as she fought gravity, and I taught her how to win against gravity.

I can still remember how it felt to scoop her up after a fall, and the way it felt to carry her on my hip.

Before long, she learned to run, and she'd give me running hugs so strong she'd tip me over and we'd roll in the grass.

We share shoes now.
She's a half-size bigger than me.
I taught her to walk. Then God sent her other teachers: school teachers, piano teachers.

I might borrow those shoes, I think, as I watch her walk up to the piano for her first solo&ensemble performance.

She's been nervous all morning, but you wouldn't know it to look at her.
I have heard her practice this piece for weeks in our living room, in fits and starts, interrupted by brothers, too fast, too slow, and sometimes so loudly it inspired only a snappy "not right now!" from her mother.

But today,
I watch her, in awe.

Where did she get that poise, that grace?  She didn't borrow that from me. As she plays some piece that seems, to me, incredibly complicated and impossible, she does not hesitate, she does not miss a note.

Where did she get that talent, that beauty?
From her fingertips flows a melody soothing and cheerful, and I praise the God whose beauty she reflects.

"Bloom flower!" I have whispered in her ear, and now, she blooms.

The following Sunday:
She whispers to me after communion, "Mom, that's the last time daddy's going to bless me like that." Next time she's here, she will be confirmed.

"In the waters of your Baptism, Jesus has called you by name and promises to be with you always." Pastor-daddy has said this over her head for years, now, and Jesus has been with her.

Last times are sad and scary and wonderful. The last blessing, I think, the last blessing meant for children, that is.  The baby blessing will be replaced by another, greater blessing. "Take and eat, this is my body given for you."

The childish blessing is put aside, not because it is no longer valid, but because God has more for her, and she is now big enough to contain the greater blessing.  God, help me to remember this as I grieve the passing of childish things. 

Confirmation Sunday:

The flowers are blooming everywhere, and she blooms with them. Family and friends gather from near and far to celebrate. Her godparents, who remember her running hugs and hip-riding days, who have prayed for her and spoiled her even from far away, share in our joy at this thing God has done.

God has blessed her since she was little, since He called her by name. Now, she opens her own hands and embraces that blessing with her own heart.

There were Big Feelings on Pastor-daddy's face as he poured on her God's Bigger Blessing:

"Lorraine, the almighty God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has given you the new birth of water and of the Spirit and has forgiven you all your sins, strengthen you with His grace, to life everlasting. Amen."

God, strengthen her and keep her.
Strengthen her for the days to come,
the days of teenage struggles, 
of high school, 
of big feelings and big heartaches,
big growth,
big falls,
and hard lessons.

Be her Big Father,
be stronger than the world's attacks,
and brighter than the darkness she faces.
Be the solid ground in her changing world
and keep her safe in your unchanging love,
In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Monday, April 25, 2016

On Passive Love and the Blessing of Neediness

On Passive Love and the Blessing of Neediness
by Haleigh Morgan
I am watching the family interact with our new member. This member does nothing. Contributes nothing materially to the household. He does not mouse or guard. In fact, at the moment he is a material drain. We do for him. We feed him, wash him, hold him, pay for his needs. He literally does nothing ... Except receive the love we give.
That is a huge nothing. We do all this "work" and feel blessed by it. In fact we *are* blessed. It is more than a perception or a mere feeling. There is real blessing in getting to love. Not just to feel contented, affectionate emotions - to do things that are loving for another who simply receives them.
Does he feel like he is a burden to us? Does he worry that he is not productive or useful? Does he fret that all he does is take? Not at all. He is doing his part for us by simply receiving what we give.
Think about that. His gift to us, his "work" for us is just to receive. He loves us by receiving the love we would give. And we delight to give it and are blessed by the giving.

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